Spotlight Review: THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE by Rachel Linden

August 2, 2022

From the publisher:

An uplifting novel about a heartbroken young pie maker who is granted a magical second chance to live the life she didn’t choose. . . . from the bestselling author of The Enlightenment of Bees.

Lolly Blanchard’s life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother’s tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner’s famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she’s lost.

As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn’t passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn’t broken up with the only man she’s ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present.

This is an engaging story with a touch of magic realism that works really well here. Lolly is a good and dutiful daughter. The eldest of two girls with several years between them, she takes family responsibility seriously. When her mother dies unexpectedly, she feels compelled to take her mother’s place in the family business, a Seattle diner. She wants to be there for her devastated father and to try and mother her little sister as best as she can.

Lolly and Rory met as kids and became best friends, as did their mothers. As they grew up, that friendship turned into something much deeper. They were engaged to be married when Lolly lost her mother. Rory was a brilliant student who had dreams of becoming a sports medicine doctor for as long as he could remember. When he is offered a residency at Johns Hopkins, he is torn and doesn’t know how to tell Lolly. She ends things between them and breaks both their hearts in the process.

Several years later, Lolly’s middle school diary makes an appearance, and she sees the list of goals she had set for herself. She realizes she hasn’t completed anything she wanted to do in her life. The diner is barely hanging on by a thread, but she feels trapped there. Rory is married, has a son, and is living in Tampa, lost to her forever. Despondent, she talks to her great aunt, whose advice is to “follow her bliss.” Then her aunt gives her three lemon drop candies and tells her they are very special. When she goes to bed, she should eat one of the candies and wish to look at whatever she thinks she’s missed out on, which will give her a glimpse of the life she could have had for one day, then she will return to this life.

Looking at what might have been is educational yet devastating, but so is her present. Lolly is determined to live her best life and perhaps learn what her bliss is by eating the candy and seeing what she’s missed. “What if” can be two dangerous words. When I couldn’t possibly see a way forward for her, she finds one and that leads to her happily ever after.

This was such a compelling and emotional story. I don’t like paranormal romances (vampires and whatnot) but I enjoy a touch of magic. This is an unputdownable magical story, and I loved it.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE by Rachel Linden. Berkley (August 2, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593440193. 352p.



THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen Hawkins

July 30, 2019

I don’t mind a bit of magical realism in my books so Sarah’s having books talk to her was fine by me. I loved that the books insisted they be read and by whom and Sarah was just the conduit, putting said books into the hands of said readers. But that is just a minor plot point. This story is really about Grace.

Grace is new to town but arrives with her foster mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and her late sister’s young daughter. So Grace has her hands full, to say the least. She had to leave a high powered, high paying job to care for them, to move to the small town of Dove Pond, where her foster mother was from, in hopes that the familiar surroundings and people will help her. She lands the poor paying job of town clerk, but with a bargain basement rental from a relative of her foster mother, her low salary is not as big a deal as one would think. Grace plans on sticking around for only a year, then finding a better paying job somewhere else. But of course, the small town of Dove Pond sinks into her soul.

The Dove family, Sarah included, all have gifts of some sort. Sarah’s is the talking books, her sister brews magical teas. Not sure about the rest of the family but probably will find out more as the series progresses. My only quibble is that this book was really about Grace. She has the romance with the happily every after, yet the book was named for Sarah, who, I would bet, has her own romance coming up (and I’m looking forward to it.)  I liked these characters and definitely will be back to visit Dove Pond.

7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen Hawkins.  Gallery Books (July 30, 2019). ISBN  978-1982105549. 368p.




October 27, 2018

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This was a recommendation from one of my library members who knows I enjoy a touch of magical realism now and then. I do, but this book really pushed my limits. Allow me to explain.

The main character is Jane Williams. She has been under the care of a neurologist since she was a young child, making monthly treks to the doctor who had become a second mother to her after she lost her actual mother. Jane’s birthday is on Christmas, and she is turning 29. She receives a mysterious card via her doorman, inviting her to meet a woman she has never heard of, at her home, for tea, so she may explain the gift that Jane has been given.

Jane is nervous and takes her best friend along with her. Turns out that this woman was at the hospital on the day Jane was born, and gave her a gift. This gift is the ability to see true love, and has been passed down for generations from one green-eyed woman to another. She tells Jane that she has one year to identify the six kinds of love and record them in this old book that has been kept by all the women with this gift. If she fails, she will never find her own true love.

So far, so good. I did have a couple of issues then. First, there was no explanation for the six kinds of love, just some odd names. Maybe I was supposed to look those up? I don’t know, they aren’t explained until the end of the book when Jane is recording them. The bigger issue is that her six friends all neatly fall into one of the categories. I really had to suspend my disbelief here. That said, the story was compelling enough to keep me turning the pages.

For every drop of drama, there was a fairly immediate resolution. At the end, I did like the book but felt it could have been so much better had the characters not been so neatly categorized.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE LOOK OF LOVE by Sarah Jio. Plume (November 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0142180532. 304p.




June 22, 2017

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A delicious read filled with magical realism, pie and wishes fulfilled – what’s not to like?

Rachel Monroe has a special gift, or a curse as she thinks of it. She can fulfill wishes. She first learned she had this as a child when her younger brother was annoying her and she wished him gone. He disappeared along with everyone’s memories of him – except her. Her parents took her to one psychologist after another, and eventually she was hospitalized until she agreed that he never existed.

While hospitalized, she met her best friend, the only one who really understood. As she got older she refused to wish for anything and refused to hear wishes, but nonetheless, as people around her wished for things, little pieces of paper, like the fortunes from fortune cookies, would float into her orbit. If she read them, the wish was granted so she tried very hard not to. Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore and by the time she was 26 years old, she knew she had to escape.

Rachel takes off in her car until it breaks down in the small town of Nowhere, North Carolina. The car dies in front of an old Victorian home and the owner comes out, offers to call for help and invites her to stay until her car is fixed. Her name is Catch.

Catch also has a gift. She’s a terrific baker and supplies pies for the town’s restaurants and residents, but her real gift is the ability to make people keep secrets. A neighbor will appear at her back door and ask for help and Catch bakes them a special pie and the secrets are kept.

These two women forge a friendship based in understanding one another. Rachel is attracted to Catch’s neighbor, a young, good looking man who befriends her. But as the town learns about Rachel, things take an ugly turn. Rachel has to decide if this is where she belongs after all.

Fans of Amy E. Reichert or Menna van Praag will love it. I did.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES by Susan Bishop Crispell. Thomas Dunne Books (September 6, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250089090.  304p.


CATACOMB by Madeleine Roux

September 24, 2015

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Asylum (Book 3)

Dan, Abby, and Jordan have survived Brookline Asylum and Warden Crawford and his henchmen twice now and are due some downtime. Plus, they’ll all be headed off to college soon – or at least Dan and Jordan will, Abby is still undecided. So when Jordan packs up to move to New Orleans where he’ll be living with his more accepting uncle, the three decide it’s a great opportunity for a road trip. What they don’t know and can’t even begin to suspect, is that they are still yet to be free of the shadow of Brookline Asylum.

This third title in the series finally answers some of the questions Dan and the readers have had about his parentage. And what better place to set that tale than one of the most mysterious cities in the United States?

I loved the fact that the book brought the trio to New Orleans, but I honestly expected something of a different story. We already knew that there was a character in Sanctum connected to Louisiana and that character does ultimately play a hefty role in this third story just not in the way I’d expected (meaning I kind of expected some of the plantation stuff hinted at in Sactum). That aside, it was definitely a welcome return to Dan and his friends.

The story does loosely connect to Brookline Asylum, but is less asylum and experiments and more voodoo and conjuring (appropriate for the setting). And of course we do have more of my favorite aspect of the series – the weird photos to set the tone of the story. While this third installment didn’t take the exact route I thought it would, it was a nice surprise in terms of the change of direction in keeping the series going.

9/15 Becky LeJeune

CATACOMB by Madeleine Roux. HarperCollins (September 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062364050.  336p.




September 18, 2015

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Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience, the last of the Sparrow line, are quite well respected in their little town of Granite Point. Together the three run a nursery that supplies plants and arrangements for folks near and far, and Patience sells holistic and natural remedies made from the herbs and flowers of her medic garden.

For newcomer and doctor Henry Carlyle, Patience’s potions defy most everything he believes in. Sure plants are the basis for many medicines, but Patience has no formal training and, to his mind, can’t possibly be a reliable substitute for a licensed medical practitioner. Of course that’s before Henry meets Patience and gets to know her. The doctor soon falls head over heels for the healer and even begins to see the merit of her work.

But then Patience is blamed for the death of a young local boy. Suddenly, the townspeople who have relied on her help begin to turn against her and even as her most staunch supporters rally to her side, it may not be enough to help the Sparrows or Granite Point get through this tough time.

The Sparrow sisters are enchanting characters. Three sisters who were orphaned early on and ultimately never married – not that there isn’t time for that – they’ve relied on one another to get themselves through hard times in the past and are determined to do so once again. But this time they’re facing something that could ruin everything they’ve built in Granite Point.

The Sparrow history is so tightly woven into that of the town itself that it’s not just the nursery or the sisters’ reputations that are at risk. The town also suffers because of Patience’s fear and sorrow. And it’s not the first time in Granite Point or Sparrow family history that such a thing has happened.

Ellen Herrick’s debut is a mesmerizing and gorgeous read. With its lush and vibrant detail, strong sisterly bonds, romance, and just a hint of magical realism it brings to mind the works of Sarah Jio and Sarah Addison Allen, making The Sparrow Sisters the perfect read for fans of both authors. And while this tale stands on its own, there’s more than just a hint of possible additional Sparrow sisters’ tales – something I certainly hope we get to see in the very near future.

9/15 Becky LeJeune

THE SPARROW SISTERS by Ellen Herrick. William Morrow Paperbacks (September 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062386342.  384p.



LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

July 28, 2014

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Win a copy of the Landline audio book!

Macmillan Audio has offered up an audio book on CD for one lucky reader! Check out this excerpt read by the extraordinary Rebecca Lowman.

Send an email to with “LANDLINE” as the subject. You must include your snail mail address in your email.

All entries must be received by August 12, 2014. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.


Rainbow Rowell seems able to shift between Young Adult and Adult books seamlessly. This is her latest, and while ostensibly for adults, those who love teen books will undoubtedly enjoy this one too.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, who also narrated Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.  She does a fine job here.

Georgie McCool is a comedy writer working with her writing partner, Seth, on a hit TV show she hates. Seth and Georgie have their own idea for a sitcom and a week before Christmas, finally get a call from the network looking for several scripts.

Georgie panics as she, her husband Neal and their two young daughters are supposed to go to Neal’s parents for Christmas, out in Omaha.  Georgie needs to stay home and write, so an unhappy Neal takes the kids to Omaha himself.

When Georgie calls, her calls all go directly to voicemail until the mailbox is full. Her daughters call her sporadically, but she never talks to Neal. That is, until the night she crashes at her mother’s house and uses the landline in her old bedroom to call Neal’s house, not his cell. Somehow, she ends up talking to Neal – but not present day Neal, this is Neal back in 1998, a week before he proposes to her.

Suspend your disbelief and go along on an adventure through Georgie & Neal’s past to their present, and let me warn you that you will be laughing and crying along the way. Rowell writes these amazing characters that are warm and loveable yet still feel real,  but most of all, they are simply unforgettable. Teen book or adult, all her books are just a joy to read.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell. St. Martin’s Press (July 8, 2014). ISBN 978-1250049377. 320p.
Audiobook: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (July 8, 2014). ISBN: 978-1427239327
Downloadable: Audible Audio Edition. Macmillan Audio. Listening Length: 9 hours and 3 minutes.


March 21, 2014

The devil has come to town and for Leo Kreutzer and his friends life will never be the same.

Theirs is a small town, one that relies on the local logging industry for much of its economy. For years, native girls have been going missing but until now it’s never directly touched Leo and his friends. Recently graduated, they all find themselves in a bit of an odd spot: Leo is taking summer correspondence courses at his mother’s behest while also helping care for his ailing uncle, Jackie has taken a job in the kitchen at the logging camp, Ursie is working in housekeeping at one of the town’s few motels while her brother Bryan does the occasional work for the local drug gang, and Tessa spends her days looking after her sister’s kids. It’s this break—the time between school and really entering the real world—that leaves Ursie, Jackie, and Bryan particularly vulnerable to two strange newcomers: Hana Swann and Keven Seven.

Adrianne Harun’s debut is an oddball of a read. The story itself is a blending of mystery, folklore, and magical realism and Harun’s style is not only intriguing but somewhat hypnotic. The narrative is interspersed with legends and tales as told by Leo’s Uncle Lud. Each of the stories serve as little interludes that not only give the readers perspective into Leo’s character and the local culture, but also influence both the reader and Leo in teasing out the truth about Swann and Seven.

It’s a fascinating book that likely won’t appeal to everyone, but is a magical and engaging read for just the right audience.

3/14 Becky Lejeune

A MAN CAME OUT OF A DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN by Adrianne Harun. Penguin Books (February 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0670786107. 272p.