FOUR WEDDINGS AND AN AUNTIE by Jesse Q. Sutanto

May 6, 2022

Aunties, Book 2

From the publisher:

The aunties are back, fiercer than ever and ready to handle any catastrophe—even the mafia—in this delightful and hilarious sequel by Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of Dial A for Aunties.

Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can’t wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.

Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can’t believe Staphanie and her family aren’t just like her own, they are The Family—actual mafia, and they’re using Meddy’s wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won’t let Meddy’s wedding ceremony become a murder scene—over their dead bodies—and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia.

“Sutanto deftly blends preposterous humor (British slang, mafia posers) with enduring devotion to prove ‘there is no right or wrong way to ‘being Asian.’”—Booklist

“Charming, chaotic, and sometimes ridiculous, this tale will appeal to anyone who both adores and is embarrassed by their family, which is just about everyone.”—Publishers Weekly

“You can’t help but get a kick out of the auntie’s outrageous stunts and their even bigger hearts. Keep your friends close and these four aunties closer.”—Kirkus

https://amzn.to/3KRHxjr

It was so much fun to spend some time with Meddy and her aunties again! This is the sequel to Dial A for Aunties, and Sutanto lived up to the hype and met (maybe even surpassed) expectations.

Meddy is finally getting married and her mom and the aunties are busy planning the wedding. Yes, Meddy is certainly old enough to plan her own wedding, but why deprive her family the pleasure. They meet up with a wedding planner, the grandmother of the family much like Meddy’s, only instead of aunties, there are uncles. The granddaughter is the photographer and makes Meddy feel like she found a new friend, and uncles doing hair and makeup and floral arrangements. Everything is in place and going smoothly until Meddy overhears her photographer on the phone talking about taking someone out at her wedding. Meddy confronts her, and the young woman basically blackmails Meddy and her aunties into letting them do the job and keeping quiet about the possible murder.

This leads to all sorts of shenanigans, along with the aunties taking British slang lessons with hilarious results. There is so much to love here; the humor, the family, and of course, the wedding. It all comes together in an over the top, laugh out loud crime spree of sorts. This series is most reminiscent of early Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, with similar madcap humor and a touch of romance. I loved it.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FOUR WEDDINGS AND AN AUNTIE by Jesse Q. Sutanto. Berkley (March 29, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593333051. 304p.

 Kindle

Audible

 Hardcover

 

 


Spotlight Review: THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY by Brendan Slocumb

March 15, 2022

From the publisher:

Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job at the hospital cafeteria. If he’s extra lucky, he’ll earn more than minimum wage. But Ray has a gift and a dream—he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his mother, who wants him to stop making such a racket; not the fact that he can’t afford a violin suitable to his talents; not even the racism inherent in the world of classical music. 

When he discovers that his great-great-grandfather’s beat-up old fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach. Together, Ray and his violin take the world by storm. But on the eve of the renowned and cutthroat Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—the violin is stolen, a ransom note for five million dollars left in its place. Ray will have to piece together the clues to recover his treasured Strad … before it’s too late.

With the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-great-grandfather asserting that the instrument is rightfully theirs, and with his family staking their own claim, Ray doesn’t know who he can trust—or whether he will ever see his beloved violin again.

GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK!

https://amzn.to/3CyYzAH

This was such a good read! I can’t stop thinking about this book, even though I’ve read a few books since I finished it. This is a debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what this talented author does next!

The main character, Ray, is unforgettable. He loves music so much that he keeps practicing and studying despite the lack of support from his mother, his teacher, and his family. The only one who supports his efforts is his grandmother. Her grandfather, PopPop, also played the violin, and she is thrilled that finally someone in the family is showing an interest. She tells Ray that he can have her grandfather’s violin, if he can find it. It’s buried somewhere in the attic. It takes a while, but he eventually uncovers it and it is in very bad shape. Ray gets an early brush with racism when he takes it to the mall to have it repaired. They do a crappy job, charge him too much money, but at least he now has his own instrument instead of relying on the school rental.

Ray progresses in his music, gets a full ride to college with a wonderful teacher, a Black woman who understands where he comes from and more importantly, where he could go. He is very talented but even more hardworking, pushing that talent until it takes him to the world stage. Ray needs a better violin than the old one he got from his grandmother, but understanding its sentimental value, his teacher helps him take it to a good repair shop where he finds out it is a very valuable violin. From there, they go to New York to one of the premier violin shops in the world. Sure enough, several thousand dollars later, his old violin is completely restored and proved to be a Stradivarius worth about $10 million.

PopPop was a slave and he played that violin for his slaver, and was rewarded with his freedom and the violin. Finding a Stradivarius makes the news, and all of a sudden the slaver’s family has decided they want their violin back and accuse PopPop of having stolen it. Then Ray’s family decides they want him to sell it and give them the money. But Ray is determined to keep the instrument and keep playing it. Eventually, he hires a lawyer and tries to work out the lawsuits.

Meanwhile, he has been accepted to compete in the International Tchaikovsky Competition, the “Olympics” of music competition where Americans are rarely accepted and none has won a gold medal since the 1970s. But shortly before the competition, his violin is stolen and ransomed for $5 million. Devastated, Ray buys another violin to use for the competition, but he is determined to get his violin back.

While this book is marketed as a thriller, it is more a coming of age story, a story about racism in America and in particular, in the classical musical field. The mystery of the missing violin is a plot device that helps moves the story along, but it goes beyond that. I was so invested in Ray and his career that I couldn’t put this book down. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the music terminology, but it didn’t matter. I loved being immersed in Ray’s world and was desperate for him to get his violin back and see his career rocket. According to the author’s note at the end, this is a bit of a bildungsroman as he is a Black man and a classical violinist.

This book was truly such a gift, and I am most grateful for it. It is sure to make my best books of the year (and I don’t say that lightly as it is only March!) Don’t miss it.

3/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY by Brendan Slocumb. Anchor (February 1, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593315415. 352p.

Kindle

Audible

 


FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD by Elle Cosimano

February 18, 2022

The Finlay Donovan Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

From Edgar-Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead―the hilarious and heart-pounding follow-up to Finlay Donovan is Killing It.

Finlay Donovan is―once again―struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…

https://amzn.to/3rQtDYH

This is the sequel to Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, and a worthy sequel it is. It may even be better than the first book!

Finlay has published a bestseller and now her second book is coming due. Once again, Finlay is struggling with it. She thought she was done with the Russian mob but nope, they are back and badder than ever. The women’s forum has a new hit advertised and victim-to-be is none other than Steven, Finlay’s ex. Now she is not his biggest fan by far, but he is a good dad and she doesn’t want to see her kids fatherless, but if she is reading the code right, someone has taken the hit job for some big bucks.

Being a single mom of two preschoolers is no joke. Finlay’s best pal/nanny/accountant, Vero, is happy to help keep Steven alive, as much as she personally wouldn’t mind him dead. Julian, the hot young law school student is still a good friend with benefits, and the smoking hot detective Nick is still trying to worm his way into her heart, and her bed, not necessarily in that order. Finlay has her hands full for sure.

There are a lot of laughs here, but also some gruesome body parts and some scary Russian mobsters, all adding up to another unputdownable read. I’m just sad I’m going to have to wait until 2023 for the next book in the series. If you like fast paced mysteries with a lot of laughs, then add this to your to-be-read pile. I loved it.

2/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD by Elle Cosimano. Minotaur Books (February 1, 2022). ISBN: 978-1250242181. 368p.

Kindle

Audible

 


FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT by Elle Cosimano

February 18, 2022

The Finlay Donovan Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

“Getting the job done” for one single mom takes on a whole new meaning in Finlay Donovan is Killing It.

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

Fast-paced, deliciously witty, and wholeheartedly authentic in depicting the frustrations and triumphs of motherhood in all its messiness, hilarity, and heartfelt moment, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is the first in a brilliant new series from YA Edgar Award nominee Elle Cosimano.

https://amzn.to/3LLVVM6

This was such a fun read! This book came out last year and I promptly lost it somewhere on my Kindle. The sequel came out a couple of weeks ago, so I dug this one up so I could start reading the series in order. Yes, I do that on occasion! The NY Times review said, “Cosimano skillfully combines suspense and laughs in the manner of Janet Evanovich’s early (and best) novels” so I was all in. That was one of my favorite series, at least the first dozen or so books. So I was hopeful here and it did not disappoint.

Finlay Donovan is a mess. She’s recently divorced and fighting with Steven, her ex, about the kids, ages two and four. He left her for a realtor, and is trying to gain full custody. Finlay writes romantic suspense books for a living, but she’s not making much, to say the least. Her bills are piling up, her minivan is breaking down, and she can’t afford a good lawyer to defend her. When Steven decides to fire the nanny since Finlay works from home, she loses it. When she finally gets hold of the nanny, Vero, she learns that the real reason she was fired was because she didn’t want to have sex with Steven. Vero and Finlay bond. become besties and eventually partners in crime. Sort of.

Meanwhile, her agent is breathing down her neck about her next book. The deadline has come and gone and they arrange to meet at Panera. As they are discussing the murders at the heart of her books, a woman sitting nearby keeps giving her strange looks. Turns out she thinks Finlay is a hit man (hit woman? Hit-mom!) and wants to hire her to kill her husband. He is a bad guy for sure, but Finlay isn’t that desperate. At least she doesn’t think she is. But the woman won’t take no for an answer so Finlay decides to check the guy out at least.

Turns out he is worse than she even thought. She meets up with him in a bar at a networking event, where she witnesses him putting drugs into his date’s drink while she is in the restroom. That’s date, not wife. Incensed, Finlay pretends they met at a previous party, gets him close enough to her that she can switch the drinks behind his back. She manages to get him out the back door of the bar and into the back of her minivan as he passes out. She heads home, not sure what to do with him. After contacting his wife, she is given the password to his phone and she realizes that this is his MO; he drugs married women, takes a bunch of pictures of them in very compromising positions and is apparently blackmailing them.

He ends up dead by accident, and the wife tells a friend about Finlay and her new career is born. Sort of. Meanwhile, she had met this very cute bartender/law student, Julian, at the event and even though he is a few years younger than she is, there is some serious chemistry. And her sister, Georgia, is a cop who is trying to set her up with a very hot detective, Nick, and there is chemistry there as well.

Oline Cogdill of the Sun Sentinel neatly sums it up: “Part screwball comedy, part morality tale, the amusing Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is also a tale about parenting, bad divorces, reinventing oneself, rising above misery and, well, becoming a hit woman. It’s a solid, thoughtful and funny yet poignant mystery that never once becomes a one-note story.” This is no cozy mystery though; this borders on thriller with an appropriate amount of gore. It’s a terrific read, and I no sooner turned the last page when I started the second book in the series, Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead. Don’t miss it!

2/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT by Elle Cosimano. Minotaur (January 4, 2022). ISBN: 978-1250830449. 384p.

Kindle

Audible

 


SHIT, ACTUALLY by Lindy West

December 25, 2020

The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema

From the publisher:

One of the “Best Books of 2020” by NPR’s Book Concierge

**Your Favorite Movies, Re-Watched**
New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author Lindy West was once the in-house movie critic for Seattle’s alternative newsweekly The Stranger, where she covered film with brutal honesty and giddy irreverence. In Shit, Actually, Lindy returns to those roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa-WHO IS A LION-to look out for their best interests? Why did anyone bother making any more movies after The Fugitive achieved perfection? And, my god, why don’t any of the women in Love, Actually ever fucking talk?!?!

From Forrest Gump, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Bad Boys II, to Face/Off, Top Gun, and The Notebook, Lindy combines her razor-sharp wit and trademark humor with a genuine adoration for nostalgic trash to shed new critical light on some of our defining cultural touchstones-the stories we’ve long been telling ourselves about who we are. At once outrageously funny and piercingly incisive, Shit, Actually reminds us to pause and ask, “How does this movie hold up?”, all while teaching us how to laugh at the things we love without ever letting them or ourselves off the hook.

Shit, Actually is a love letter and a break-up note all in one: to the films that shaped us and the ones that ruined us. More often than not, Lindy finds, they’re one and the same.


Most people who know me never give me books.. Writers do. Publicists do. But most people know that I get tons of books and I am rarely in need of anything, and they figure I probably have what they want to give me anyway. My immediate family and a few of my closest friends give me books because they know I love books, and as they are coming from people who know me so well, they are usually fairly confident I’ll like the books they give me. My husband brought me back a beautiful book of photographs of Ireland and a book of Irish poetry when he was over there for work. I loved both of those books. Friends have given me cookbooks, and those I love. My son gave me a book called Haikus for Jews that was just adorable and I loved it.

I am telling you all this because my boss, who I have grown very close to through working with such an amazing woman, but especially during this pandemic, gave me a book. This book, by Lindy West. I was shocked. This just doesn’t happen to me! I took it home and immediately started reading. I was laughing out loud within the first couple of pages. This is some funny shit, actually.

West riffs on her perceptions of very popular movies. The title of the book comes from her essay on the film Love, Actually, which is one of my favorite Christmas films, but as much as I love it her interpretation had me in hysterics. It was amazing. She sets the standard with the first chapter entitled, “The Fugitive is the Only Good Movie.” She explains why and although I don’t agree with her analysis, she judges the rest of the films in the book by her unique rating system. For instance, Love, Actually rates 0/10 DVDs of The Fugitive. The essay on the film Twilight called “Never Boring, Always Horny” rated 5/10 DVDs of The Fugitive.

I absolutely loved her take on Harry Potter, entitled “Harry Plot Hole”. She proceeds to point out holes in the story that are so big you could drive a truck through them, as well as smaller foibles. Harry Potter was a big part of our lives for many years. The first book came out when my daughter, Ariel, was five years old. I was working for Borders and no one really knew anything about it, but we got a bunch of copies so I brought one home for her. We read it together, taking turns reading each night, and it took us most of the summer to read it. She went on to reread it several times, and read every book in the series as it came out. Borders did big book release parties at midnight on sale day and Ariel came to all of them, preferring to take her book and start reading over playing wizard games. So when I read this essay, I knew Ariel had to read it, and she just loved it. One of her favorite parts was when West pointed out that the wizards must be Christian because they celebrate Christmas!

Every essay is a gem. I love books like this, especially around the holidays, when not everyone has a lot of time to sit and read. You can pick up the book and read any of the essays, and just know you will be laughing. I had to stop reading while watching football because I knew I was disturbing my husband, not that he would ever say anything. But I felt guilty so only read during commercial breaks and halftime. I also hadn’t seen all of the movies she discusses, like Face/Off and Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but I’d heard enough about those films to understand where she was coming from. If you want a book to just escape into for brief periods of time, and need a little more joy in your life this holiday season, this is your book. I loved it. Apparently, I’m in good company:

NPR’s Book Concierge, “Best Books of 2020” (Staff Picks; Funny Stuff; No Biz Like Show Biz; Short Stories, Essays & Poetry)

Kobo, “Top Nonfiction Titles of 2020”, “Top 20 Ebooks of 2020”

The Buzz Magazine, “Best nonfiction books of 2020”

BookRiot, “Best Audiobooks for Nonfiction November” and Book Recommendations for October 2020″Fortune, “Five New Books to Read in October”

BookTribe, “Editors’ pick for October’s best audiobooks”

LitHub, “14 New Books to Treat Yourself To”

SeattleMet, “11 Localish Books to Read This Autumn”

Up News Info, “5 new books to read in October”

Writers’ Bone, “A book that should be on your radar”

TBR, ETC. “New Books for the Week!”

New York Times, Holiday Gift Guide

Bustle, Holiday Gift Guide

The Globe and Mail, Holiday Gift Guide

Finally, let me leave you with this snippet of a review: “Queen of keenly observed, hilariously rendered cultural criticism, West offers this delicious distraction from reality….a cathartic, joyful exploration of entertainment….in true West form she reads like your smartest, funniest, and warmest friend. A perfect blend of substance, escapism, and laughter – a gift from West to the rest of us.”―Booklist Review (starred)

12/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SHIT, ACTUALLY by Lindy West. Hachette Books (October 20, 2020). ISBN 978-0316449823. 272 pages.

Kindle

Audible


MY DRUNK KITCHEN HOLIDAYS! by Hannah Hart

October 20, 2019

Click to purchase

How to Savor and Celebrate the Year: A Cookbook

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author and Food Network star Hannah Hart is back with her biggest book ever: a humorous holiday cookbook celebrating year-round festivities with food, drink, and friends.

In a world where everyone is looking for some good news and something to celebrate, Hannah Hart is there with almost fifty ideas, arranged into twelve months of themes and recipes for how to celebrate with family and friends.

A collection of recipes, activities, and suggestions about hilarious and joyous ways to celebrate with family, friends, pets, and your entire community, My Drunk Kitchen Holidays! will commemorate holidays from Valentine’s Day to Graduation, Pride Month and International Left-Handers’ Day (really!). The book will culminate with the fall holidays that get much deserved attention: recipes for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and a celebration of Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Christmas that is festive, inclusive, and incredibly hilarious.


As soon as I saw that Hart had a new book coming out, I requested it from the publisher. If you are not familiar, she has a cooking/comedy YouTube channel at MyHarto that my daughter had told me about several years ago. Sort of like Drunk History, but with cooking. She also has a Facebook page. Well, she’s all over social media. The woman is smart and funny and she knows how to cook. Forbes did a profile of her, How Do You Describe Hannah Hart’s Career? It’s Complicated and said this:

How do you sum up someone who’s a YouTuber, podcaster, author, television personality, LGBT rights advocate, “influencer,” the fiancé of one of 2019’s 30 Under 30, and all-around person-on-the-internet…Whatever Hannah Hart makes, regardless of what form it takes, is always kind, comedic, conscious and occasionally culinary. So keep watching, because perfection is pointless, and the best conversations happen in the kitchen – with or without alcohol.

So this is her latest creation, a cookbook that covers holidays throughout the year, and the table of contents goes month by month. So January has New Year’s Day, Trivia Day (1/4,) Play God Day (1/9,) and Vision Board Day: Second Saturday of the Month. Some holidays you know, and many you may never have heard of. And some missing holidays as well – no Ides of March, and probably the biggest surprise, no Christmas. Although Cookie Day (12/4,) includes a recipe for Christmas cookies, so no worries. But December has Hanukkah (!), Winter Solstice (12/21,) and Champagne Day (12/31,) which I believe most of us call New Year’s Eve. There are holidays for everyone, like Walking Day (first Wednesday of April,) Be A  Millionaire Day (5/20,)  Lipstick Day (7/29,) and Cheese Pizza Day (9/5.)

November is taken up by Thanksgiving, which includes recipes for “Garlic-Ass Mashed Potatoes,” “A Great Gravy,” “Black Olive Stuffing,” and what I thought would be the ubiquitous “Green Bean Casserole,” but instead, was green bean casserole made from scratch. You know, fresh green beans, cremini mushrooms, heavy cream, etc. The thing is that the recipes are real, and the directions easy to follow and usually funny. For instance, in the green bean casserole, step 4:

Next sauté your cremini mushrooms in olive oil. If you’re feeling ambitious and want to play with texture, you can cook the mushrooms on one side and then the other. This is a marvelously ambitious task and no one will notice, but I noticed, and now I am praising your for it–WELL DONE!

There are also lots of stories scattered throughout the book that usually tie into the holidays, and are always fun reading. So this is not a cookbook for serious cooks, but if you know a serious cook who you think should lighten up a bit, then this is the book to buy for them. It is a conversation starter for sure, so a good, albeit not too big, coffee table book. Finally, this book is all about pride, from the rainbow sweater Hart wears on the cover to the rainbow border on the back cover to the stories inside. Great pictures, too, always a plus. Bottom line: this is a terrific gift book and a fun cookbook.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MY DRUNK KITCHEN HOLIDAYS! by Hannah Hart. Plume (October 22, 2019). ISBN  978-0525541431. 224p.

Kindle

Audible


BEST. STATE. EVER. by Dave Barry

December 10, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

Florida Man Defends His Homeland

From the publisher:

New York Times bestseller—a brilliantly funny exploration of the Sunshine State from the man who knows it best: Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry.

We never know what will happen next in Florida. We know only that, any minute now, something will. Every few months, Dave Barry gets a call from some media person wanting to know, “What the hell is wrong with Florida?” Somehow, the state’s acquired an image as a subtropical festival of stupid, and as a loyal Floridian, Dave begs to differ.

Join him as he goes in hunt of the legendary Skunk Ape; hobnobs with the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs; and visits Cassadaga, the psychic capital of the world, to have his dog’s aura read (apparently, she’s “very spiritual”). Hitch a ride for the non-stop thrills of alligator-wrestling (“the gators display the same fighting spirit as a Barcalounger”), the hair-raising spectacle of a clothing-optional bar in Key West, and the manly manliness of the Machine Gun Experience in Miami.

It’s the most hilarious book yet from “the funniest damn writer in the whole country” (Carl Hiaasen, and he should know). By the end, you’ll have to admit that whatever else you might think about Florida—you can never say it’s boring.


I’m a long time Dave Barry fan. I read him when he was writing his column for the Miami Herald. I watched “Dave’s World,” the short-lived TV sitcom based on his life. I was delighted when my daughter found his books and read them all in a week, laughing the entire time. But I was surprised, and not in a good way, when I found out that the Literacy Coalition selected this book for Palm Beach County Read Together.

I had agreed to facilitate a book discussion at my library on whichever book they picked, as our publicity had to be in a couple of months before the selection was announced. After the announcement, the 20 or so regulars that attend my book discussions picked up their books, and shortly after that, began a parade of unhappy readers.

The book is cute, it definitely has its moments, but it is not, in any way, shape or form, a piece of literature in need of a discussion. One by one my book club participants returned the book and informed me they would not be attending the discussion. I understood, but my hands were tied. At the end, two of my regulars showed up, and half a dozen women who came because they thought Dave Barry would be there. Not my finest hour.

To make matters even more aggravating, the Literacy Coalition, for the entirety of this series, has made available on their website a downloadable discussion guide. But when I downloaded it, I found blurbs about the book, a brief, funny bio of Dave Barry, a handful of fun Florida facts and half a dozen Florida trivia questions. No discussion questions whatsoever. There is not a discussion question to be found for this book, and believe me, I looked. And it dawned on me that there really isn’t anything to discuss. There is no real substance here, and book discussion revolve around substance.

I didn’t love this book, which had nothing to do with the book discussion debacle. I found the essay on the Keys way too long and in need of serious editing. I liked the essay on the Villages and the one on shooting machine guns, gun hater that I am, because it was funny. But most of it just was Dave pointed out the silly things Florida is home to and the reasons people move here by the thousands. I was surprised to learn that Florida is the third most populous state in the nation so at least I learned something.

If you are a huge Dave Barry fan, then you will probably enjoy this book but then again, if you are that fan, you’ve probably already read it. And FYI, the reviews on Amazon are stellar.

12/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BEST. STATE. EVER. by Dave Barry. G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Reprint edition (September 5, 2017). ISBN 978-1101982617 . 240p.

Kindle

Audible


THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY

August 20, 2018

Click on book cover to purchase

Presented by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; Forward by Jon Meacham

From the publisher:

As seen on The Daily Show, an illustrated portrait of the Donald J. Trump Twitter account, with analysis and “scholarly” commentary from the writers of The Daily Show and an introduction by Trevor Noah

In June 2017, just steps from Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah opened The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, a 4,000-square-foot museum space that gave the 45th president and his amazing Twitter legacy the respect they deserve. In the single weekend it was open to the public, the Library pop-up drew 7,500 visitors and had to turn away countless others.

But the Presidential Twitter Library experience should not be limited to the elite coastal few. Not fair! All citizens, even the Mexican ones, should have the chance to see Donald Trump’s tweets in their rightful context—organized and commented on in the fearless, hilarious, insightful voice of The Daily Show.

This one-of-a-kind exhibition catalog presents the Library’s complete contents, including:

• The Masterpieces: In-depth critical appreciations of history’s most important Trump tweets, from “Very Stable Genius” to “Covfefe” to “Trump Tower Taco Bowl/I Love Hispanics!”
• The Greatest Battles: @realDonaldTrump’s brutal Twitter campaigns against fellow Republicans, Diet Coke, women generally, and Kristen Stewart specifically
• Sad! A Retrospective: a compendium of the many people, events, and twists of fate that apparently made Donald Trump feel this human emotion
• Trumpstradamus: DJT’s amazing 140-character predictions—none of which came true!
• The Hall of Nicknames: the greatest of Trump’s monikers, from “Lyin’ Ted” to “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” accompanied by original caricature artwork
• Trump vs. Trump: You’re going to want to sit for this one. Donald Trump has sometimes been known to contradict himself.
• Always the Best: the greatest boasts of the greatest boaster of all time, ever!

Comprising hundreds of Trump tweets, and featuring a foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham, and even a place for readers to add their own future Trump tweet highlights—because he is making new Twitter history literally every day—The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library is a unique portrait of an artist whose masterworks will be studied by historians, grammarians, and mental health professionals for years to come.


Regular readers of this blog (and my Twitter feed) know which way my political leanings go. The only way I am surviving this presidency is by reading romance (I need the happy endings,) listening to podcasts (bless you, Crooked Media) and laughing (it beats crying.) Books like this help.

Noah introduces the book thusly:

When Donald J. Trump launched his campaign for president in 2015, I laughed at the idea. If there’s one thing I knew about Americans, it’s that they wanted their presidents to be dignified, intelligent, and black. Trump had none of these qualities. Even worse, Trump had tweets!

That made me sad, but it also made me laugh. So if you don’t find it funny, then this book probably isn’t for you.

Meacham takes his forward seriously, compares Trump to previous presidents like FDR and Woodrow Wilson, and simply nails it: “As president, he has raised narcissism to Homeric heights – a difficult thing to do when one recalls that politicians, as a species, consider public notice to be slightly more essential than oxygen.”

The illustrations are terrific, the graphs and charts intriguing and it all made me feel a little less lost in America. The old saying “misery loves company” is a proven theorem here. Thanks to Trevor Noah and the team at the Daily Show.

8/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY by The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Spiegel & Grau (July 31, 2018). ISBN 978-1984801883. 144p.

Kindle


CALYPSO by David Sedaris

July 14, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

So I broke a crown, a molar, next to another crown and they both have to be replaced. In the dentist’s waiting room, I was reading this book and laughing out loud like an idiot despite the pain in my mouth. I was reading on my phone so I don’t know what the other people in that office were thinking and I really didn’t care. There’s nothing like getting bad news and knowing at least you have a funny book to get back to. Feel free to send donations. Did I mention I need TWO crowns?!

I am a long time David Sedaris fanatic. When I worked at Borders, I stumbled across Holidays on Ice, with the original cover showing Santa standing at an urinal. I’m not sure why that cover was changed. That book has the story about when David was a Christmas Elf in a department store and NPR airs that story every year at Christmas. It still cracks me up no matter how many times I’ve heard it. I got to see him in person a few books ago at the American Library Association conference and I laughed until I cried. I probably mention all of this in every review I do of his books because, why not.

So Calypso. A friend/co-worker told me she didn’t especially like it, she thought it was very melancholy. I was shocked. Then she said maybe I’m losing my sense of humor and I assured her that she was. Yes, there are some parts of the book – dealing with his aging father, his sister’s suicide, that are sad. But even in those stories there is humor.

I loved “Your English is So Good,” in which David dreams up the idea to teach foreign business traveler’s visiting America English. He goes off on upselling, buying a magazine at the airport and being asked if he wants a bottle of water then demanding coffee, ONLY coffee, at the Dunkin’ Donuts and the cashier asks if he wants a cup. This is funny stuff! I also liked his collecting words that should be outlawed, like “awesome!”

Another fun essay is called “Little Guy” in which he laments his lack of height and wonders how tall Rock Hudson was. That leads to how his computer is always so wholesome and his sister Amy’s computer is always spewing porn no matter what question Google is asked. The essay that titled the book, “Calypso,” explains how a friend of David’s is an artist but her latest project is just finding pieces of plywood that she sees things in. Like the face on the cover of this book. Which led to a whole diatribe on his seeing various doctors while on book tour across America. The tumor stuff was unbelievable and I will leave it at that.

I loved this book and there are some Trump references in it that also made me laugh.

Thank you, Mr. Sedaris, I sure needed that.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CALYPSO by David Sedaris. Little, Brown and Company; 1st Edition edition (May 29, 2018). ISBN 978-0316392389. 272p.


BIG GUNS by Steve Israel

April 17, 2018

Click to purchase

A completely unabashed tongue-in-cheek look at American big business, big businessmen, Congress, the Senate and of course our president. I knew that this book was a comedy when I started it, but the remarks, the actions described and the characters are truly larger and a lot funnier than I expected.

The story opens with the mayor of Chicago desperate to somehow stop the myriad number of shootings and murders going on in his city. He therefore decides to push the Federal government into passing a law making firearms illegal. We know that this would infringe on our second amendment rights to carry and bare arms and commit mayhem to our hearts content so the blow back begins.

Otis Cogsworth, the wealthy owner and CEO of Cogsworth Arms company who we find enjoying a well deserved time out in the Long Island town of Asabogue, feels that such a law would interrupt his continued surge forward to becoming a multi-billionaire. He therefore directs his lobbyist Sunny McCarthy to get a Congressman to present a bill to force everyone to carry a gun. Complicating the matter, Lois Leibowitz, the mayor of Asabogue, and incidentally Sunny McCarthy’s mother, gets a law passed banning guns in her town. Cogsworth retaliates against Lois by financing an election between Jack Steele, a wealthy resident and former movie star, and her.

What happens and who does what to whom becomes the funniest set of circumstances possible. All I can say is that the reader’s stomach will be tender from laughing so much. In the midst of all the serious happenings in the world today, Big Guns should be made required reading as a necessary time out.

4/18 Paul Lane

BIG GUNS by Steve Israel. Simon & Schuster (April 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501118029. 320p.