Win the July ’15 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

July 1, 2015

Celebrate Independence Day with these terrific reads! And don’t forget to check back, more titles may be added…stay tuned.

BROKEN PROMISE by Linwood Barclay
From the New York Times bestselling author (and one of my favorites!) of No Safe House comes an explosive novel about the disturbing secrets of a quiet small town.… The New York Times Book Review says “Some days, all you really want is for someone to tell you a wicked-good story. Linwood Barclay answers the reader’s perpetual prayer.”

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor brings back Scot Harvath in his greatest thriller ever, an action-packed literary tour de force! says, “Thor tops himself again and again.” The Associated Press says, “Feels like the TV show 24 on the page.”

BUM RAP by Paul Levine
I couldn’t have been happier when I heard that Levine was bringing together rugged trial lawyer Jake Lassiter with squabbling law partners Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. Publisher’s Weekly says, “Levine effectively blends a puzzling crime, intelligent sleuthing, adroit courtroom maneuvering, and a surprising attraction between Victoria and Jake in this welcome addition to both series.”

THE ASSASSINS by Gayle Lynds
Six master assassins — each a legend in the dark corners of international espionage — band together to steal a fortune from the middle of a war zone. But the mission goes tragically wrong, and they retreat into the shadows in the latest Judd Ryder book. David Baldacci says, “Everything a reader could possibly want … will surely stand with the year’s best thrillers.”

AS NIGHT FALLS by Jenny Milchman
From the acclaimed author of Ruin Falls and Cover of Snow comes a breathless new novel of psychological suspense about a dark, twisted turn of events that could shatter a family—a read perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Chris Bohjalian, and Nancy Pickard.

You can win autographed copies of all these books! If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. We put together a list of books from debut authors to bestsellers, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author!

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter. Check out the Win Books  page for more information on all these books and how you to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Just wanted to add congratulations and thanks to the

November winner for sending in this picture!

Nov14 Winner

YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler

July 30, 2015
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Narrated mostly by Amy Poehler (with help from Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Kathleen Turner, Mike Schur, Patrick Stewart et al)

Amy Poehler is funny and nice, and apparently a lot of really funny people like hanging out with her. This is one of the best audiobook memoirs because of all the readers – they really add something to the reading experience.

I was not a “Parks & Recreation” fan. We watched the first season, thought “eh” and stopped watching. Apparently (according to friends and family members who LOVE it) it got a lot better after that initial season. So after listening to this book and my friends and family, it is in my Netflix queue.

Amy talks about her life, her friends and her work. She talks about growing up outside Boston, motherhood, SNL, Parks & Rec and more. She also talks about her family, but sadly, she is divorcing (already divorced?) so that was in the back of my mind as she spoke lovingly about her husband.

I couldn’t help compare it to Bossypants (best of the comedic memoirs) and the Mindy Kaling book and frankly, it didn’t quite measure up. Nonetheless, it was definitely an enjoyable read, probably more so as an audiobook.

7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler. HarperAudio; Unabridged edition (October 28, 2014).  ISBN 978-0062350886. Listening Length: 7 hours and 31 minutes



ANGEL KILLER by Andrew Mayne

July 29, 2015
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A Jessica Blackwood Novel

Jessica Blackwood is a Special Agent with a unique set of skills. As the youngest member of a well-known family of magicians, she cut her teeth on stage. But, after an incident left her dangerously close to dying, she gave up the limelight to join the police force and then the FBI. These days her job as a forensic accountant may not be all that exciting, but it’s a respectable one that won’t endanger her life. Yet.

Someone calling themself Warlock has hacked the FBI system, leaving behind a clue to a gruesome and bizarre crime scene. The grave of a murdered girl has been desecrated, the body left to appear as though it’s been digging itself out of the ground. But the grave is that of a girl who was murdered two years ago and the body looks impossibly fresh, leaving everyone completely stumped. Given the exceptional circumstances, Jessica’s mastery of illusion and misdirection makes her the perfect choice for the investigating team. And when the media catches wind of her involvement, Warlock notices.

Andrew Mayne kicks off a stand out new series with Angel Killer. Jessica is probably the first ex-magician lead I’ve ever seen in a mystery/thriller (outside of paranormal reads, that is). And while Mayne has certainly established her as the perfect investigator for a crime involving illusion, he does also develop her as an investigator who thinks beyond what those around her do – meaning the series is not boxed in by having to feature cases involving “magic” at all.

7/15 Becky LeJeune

ANGEL KILLER by Andrew Mayne. Bourbon Street Books; Original edition (September 23, 2014).  ISBN 978-0062348876.  368p.



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.





July 27, 2015
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Narrated by Mindy Kaling

There is something that is just so likeable about Mindy Kaling, and after listening to this book, that feeling has just been reinforced. She is, or at least appears to be, nice. Not an airhead for sure. Not a Hollywood egomaniac either – or if she is, she hides it well. And I don’t mean that she isn’t self confident because she is, and she definitely is self aware and smart, qualities that I greatly admire. And she’s funny as hell. This book is laugh out loud funny and also really smart, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mindy put together a collection of essays from her childhood, when she first started out writing for television, lots of inside info from The Office, and lots more. I loved the stories about her first writing job in Queens, her People magazine photo shoot, her family, Hollywood gift bags and well, pretty much all of it.

This is a fun read, especially to listen to as she reads it herself. Her next book, Why Not Me?, comes out Sept. 15. I am looking forward to it!

7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME? by Mindy Kaling. Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (November 1, 2011).  ISBN 978-0307939807. Listening Length: 4 hours and 37 minutes



MADAME PRESIDENT by Nicolle Wallace

July 26, 2015
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Narrated by Tavia Gilbert


I read Nicolle’s first two books in this series years ago, and enjoyed them. So when I heard about this new one, I tried the audiobook. The reader was good, but didn’t really add much to the story.

The premise is that there is a female Republican president in her second term, with a newish vice president, another woman who is a Democrat. Did I mention this is fiction? It goes from the ridiculous to fairytale; one of the White House staff had a two year affair with the President’s husband. They broke up, the President knew about it and promoted the mistress to Press Secretary. Spoiler alert: The White House Chief of Staff, probably the second most powerful person in Washington after the President (yes, I watched The West Wing) is leaking information to the press. Does he get fired? Of course not. He is just trusted not to do it anymore. Call me a cynic but I just couldn’t get past any of this stuff. Especially the press secretary. Would Hilary make Monica Lewinsky her press secretary? Not on a bet. ‘Nuff said.

The story is centered around a 9/11 style attack on five cities concurrently.  Lots of deaths, lots of sadness, but that’s just the beginning and ending of the book. The middle was just ridiculous.

I like Nicolle on The View. I think she is a smart Republican, and that is not something that often comes out of my mouth. I don’t agree with her politics, or many of her opinions, but I respect her. I am at the point in my life where if I don’t like a book for any reason, I generally put it down and move on. But I kept on going, hoping it would get better, hoping for some kind of reasonable explanation for the unexplainable, but never got it. I stayed with it until the bitter end, and I’m sorry I did.

7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MADAME PRESIDENT by Nicolle Wallace. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (April 28, 2015).  ISBN 978-1476756899. 352 p.

Audio Book: Listening Length: 9 hours and 18 minutes


THE TOURNAMENT by Matthew Reilly

July 25, 2015
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Matthew Reilly sets up a unique novel with an unusual plot incorporating two different themes. The first subject is the use of Queen Elizabeth I as a young girl of 13 and the third in line for the crown when her father Henry VIII passes away. During this period of her life, possibly due to the small chance of becoming Queen, little was written about her and Reilly freely postulates her presence at the other event the book is concerned with.

The Sultan of Constantinople (now Istanbul) Suleiman, sends an invitation to  rulers of several nations inviting them to send contestants to a Chess tournament to be held  at his court. King Henry selects an individual to send and invites Roger Ascham, a noted scholar of the period and Elizabeth’s tutor, to accompany England’s contestant.  Elizabeth begs for permission to travel with the group and goes along. While historical records seem to indicate that she never traveled very far from London during her lifetime, Reilly takes a long leap with literary license to chronicle her trip. The adventures the party encountered during the trip as well as those experienced during the visit to Constantinople, if really occurring, would have certainly contributed to Elizabeth’s worldly attitude towards her subsequent rule.

Elizabeth’s friend and companion Elyse goes with her and seems to be seeking sexual adventures at every turn. She manages to capture the imagination of the heir to the Russian throne and sleeps with him, imagining that he will select her as his bride. The unfortunate turn of events in Elyse’s adventure is suggested as being the reason for the  later designation of Elizabeth as the virgin Queen.

The chess tournament is described in a way indicating the deep feelings adherents had about a game that mirrored battles and required skill and not luck. Murders of leading people occur during the tourney and Suleiman asks Roger Ascham to solve the mystery of who the murderers are. Ascham does so and introduces the probability of unethical and certainly evil conduct on the part of the sultan and members of his court.

Obviously there is a free use of literary license Reilly both in the events postulated as well as the interjection of world famous personages such as Michelangelo attending the tourney, but the novel is an entertaining read. It should be read as “possibly” occurring and providing a picture of events and action in 1546 with a young Elizabeth experiencing a set of circumstances which would have molded her later character and actions.

7/15 Paul Lane

THE TOURNAMENT by Matthew Reilly. Gallery Books (July 21, 2015). ISBN: 978-1476749549. 320p.

GREY by E.L. James

July 24, 2015
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Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian

The announcement of this new book, a mere 18 days prior to publication, took the publishing world by storm, and that includes bookstores and libraries. I had gotten an email early in the morning so I was aware, but when I got to work a co-worker told me she had been asked for the “Christian Fifty Shades” and thought there was, somehow, a religious version of the book out there! A quick internet search revealed the new book, but that sure was a fun way to learn about it.

I read the Fifty Shades trilogy back in 2012 (and reviewed here) and these were my final thoughts…and they still hold true for Grey. The appeal of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (and now just a series, I guess) lies with the characters and their great love affair. We can’t help but root for the insecure girl who lands the gorgeous rich guy, and the damaged man she brings out of the dark.

Ana and Christian save each other, inspire each other so that their sum together is greater than their parts. Their torrid love affair, the “mommy porn” aspect is candy to some, inflaming imaginations and libidos, while others will fly past those pages. Nonetheless, Ana and her 50 Shades bring to mind other great loves in literature like Romeo and Juliet, and Scarlett and Rhett, with apologies to Shakespeare and Mitchell. Most romance readers are looking for that, and those that don’t usually read romance are perhaps surprised at how they are swept away with Ana and Christian, enough to overlook the abysmal writing, the lip biting, the smirking. I know I was.

All that said, I got the feeling that James wrote Grey by pulling up the manuscript of the original, and changing the “she thought” to “he thought” and adding in a bit more of Christian’s background. But the writing seemed much better to me, not nearly so repetitive and deplete of those awful series of superlatives and multiple mentions of Ana’s “inner goddess.” So I’m thinking Random House got to put a strong editor on this since it hadn’t been previously self-published.

I liked seeing Christian’s point of view. The character development was better, the story was better if somehow still the same, and I am glad I read it. It probably helped that there were three years between books. Whatever her faults, E.L. James created a hot romance with lots of sizzling kinky sex, and that was all still there. It isn’t nearly as shocking, unless you haven’t read the other books, I guess. If you’re a fan of the series, enjoy. If you haven’t read them, this is a good place to start. And don’t get me started on the movie! (Love to hear your comments about any of this.)

7/15 Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch

GREY: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James. Vintage (June 18, 2015).  ISBN 978-1101946343. 576p.




July 23, 2015
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Narrated by Kathleen McInerney

I had seen the Judy Blume interviews on TV and knew that this was a book set in the early 1950s, when Blume was a teenager in Elizabeth, New Jersey, when three airplanes crashed in her town within 58 days. But I wasn’t thinking about that on my five hour flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco, until the first plane crash (in the book!) As my oh-so-smooth Virgin America flight (thanks, guys!) was an hour or so in, I decided maybe listening to this book wasn’t the best idea I ever had. I set it aside and didn’t finish it until I got home.

Right up front I have to say that I didn’t love this narrator, mostly because of her pronunciation, from the main character, Miri Ammerman, who I heard as “Mary” and couldn’t understand at all – I’ve never met a Jew named Mary – to the synagogue, B’Nai something or other, which after hearing B’Nai pronounced as “Buh Nye” when it has always been “Buh Nay” in New York and Florida, and a few other mispronunciation of Jewish phrases all just sort of confused me and frankly, pissed me off. Someone is supposed to check these things.

But the story, the story! It’s wonderful, and not only because it’s Judy Blume and I don’t think she can write a bad book. The beginning sort of sets the tone and time period; women were mostly housewives, kids were respectful and kept in the dark a lot. We meet our main character, Miri, a 15 year old in Elizabeth, NJ who lives with her single mom, Rusty, with her grandmother and her uncle right next door. Mary’s uncle Henry is a newspaper man, and covers the plane crashes in great detail. Her best friend is Natalie, and Miri guiltily fantasizes about her mother marrying Natalie’s father (with nothing too terrible happening to Natalie’s mom) and having that comfortable, upper middle class life. And then the plane crashes start happening.

The plot is out there, you don’t need me to rehash it. Instead, let me tell you about the wonderful characters that Blume creates here,  unforgettable people who experience incredible tragedy. The survivors and how they dealt with it all. The brothers who lost their mother and their father is an alcoholic, so they live in a fairly nice orphanage – no foster care tragedy here. The families, some torn apart, with real problems and real solutions. The setting of this New Jersey town and how the people there come together because of these plane crashes is completely relatable to all the tragedies that have been in the news lately. The time period is portrayed in an almost romanticized way, yet it always rings true, from 1950’s Elizabeth, then later on, the new city in the desert, Las Vegas.

I am sorry I didn’t read the print (or Kindle) version and probably will on my next vacation. In the Unlikely Event was a completely fascinating and emotional read and listening to it (albeit briefly) on a plane gave me sharp recognition of where the title came from, even with the Virgin America music video version of the pre-flight safety instructions: “In the unlikely event/ We need to get you outside/ Your exit is equipped/ With an inflatable slide.”

If you like a good character driven story, good writing, and an interesting premise, then you will love this book as much as I did. Just read it, don’t listen to it.


7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT by Judy Blume (Audio book.)  Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (June 2, 2015).  ISBN 978-1101914045. 11 discs.



WHO LET THE DOG OUT? by David Rosenfelt

July 22, 2015
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An Andy Carpenter Novel (Book 13)

Andy Carpenter is a very wealthy man due to a large inheritance and is also a lawyer. He works at the law as little as possible as his interests lie mainly in his partnership with Willie Miller. In a previous book, Andy had saved Willie from death row and proved his innocence. The two formed the Tara Foundation, which is involved with saving dogs.

Willie calls Andy and tells him that there has been a break in at the foundation. It turns out that the only thing missing is a rescue dog they named Cheyenne. With the help of a chip that is placed in the body of all dogs, they have Cheyenne traced to a location in downtown Paterson, New Jersey.  When Willie and Andy go to that location they find the dog, and a dead body of someone obviously recently and brutally murdered.

The two notify the police and take Cheyenne back to the Tara Foundation thinking that their part is now over. But Andy’s curiosity keeps him looking at the case, and when the police arrest a man named Tommy Infante and charge him with the murder, Andy has his doubts. He takes Infante on as a client and in looking for evidence to clear him finds that the murder is just one cog in a much larger and more dangerous wheel.

The story is told in first person by Andy Carpenter and showcases the wise cracking personality he has. His wife Laurie helps with advice. The usual associates are there – his secretary who is practicing for a crossword puzzle tournament and Marcus, a man of very few words but the ability to take care of the physical work. He also has contacts that help him with the local police and the FBI.

Each of the Andy Carpenter books is an enjoyable treat into some brilliant legal work coupled with a lot of humor, and the presence of dogs. All are fast reading and keeps the reader awaiting the next one in the series.

7/15 Paul Lane

WHO LET THE DOG OUT? by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (July 21, 2015). ISBN: 978-1250055330. 336p.

MOVIE STAR by Lizzie Pepper Giveaway!

July 21, 2015

I’m really excited to offer this terrific book plus some goodies!Movie Star_Giveaway

MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER is the book to bring to the beach this summer and has already been causing quite a splash. People magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter,, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan have all already selected it as one of the best books of the summer.

Included in the giveaway is a copy of the book, a pair of branded sunglasses with a Lizzie Pepper hangtag, and popcorn all packaged in a gold envelope!

This is a fun prize and I have one of these to offer. Read on for all the details on how to enter.

About the book:

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The “It” book you absolutely must pack in your beach bag—an addictively juicy novel of celebrity love gone wrong

Chosen by USA Today, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and as a Great Summer Read

“Liftin, who’s cowritten memoirs with celebs including Tori Spelling, presents her first novel as a tell-all by a star she calls Lizzie Pepper. Married young to an actor involved in a cultlike religion, Lizzie ends up leaving him and…Sound like someone we know? Liftin’s not saying, but her book is dishy fun.”
People Magazine

“A hilarious, tabloid-trashing gotcha novel.”
Vanity Fair

“A juicy work of shocking betrayal.”
Us Weekly

“I’ve had a million meetings in my acting career, and I had no idea that this would be the one that would change my life forever. I walked into the room, and there was Rob . . . in the flesh.”

Actress Lizzie Pepper was America’s Girl Next Door and her marriage to Hollywood mega-star Rob Mars was tabloid gold—a whirlwind romance and an elaborate celebrity-studded wedding landed them on the cover of every celebrity weekly. But fame, beauty, and wealth weren’t enough to keep their marriage together. Hollywood’s “It” couple are over—and now Lizzie is going to tell her side of the story.

Celebrity ghostwriter Hilary Liftin chronicles the tabloids’ favorite marriage as Lizzie Pepper realizes that, when the curtain falls, her romance isn’t what she and everyone else thought. From her lonely holidays in sumptuous villas to her husband’s deep commitment to a disconcertingly repressive mind-body group, Lizzie reveals a side of fame that her fans never get to see. Full of twists and turns, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is a breathless journey to the heights of Hollywood power and royalty and a life in the spotlight that is nearly impossible to escape.

About the author:

Hilary Liftin is a ghostwriter/collaborator specializing in celebrity memoir. Since 2006 she has worked on fifteen books, ten of which hit the New York Times bestseller list. sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling was a #1 New York Times nonfiction bestseller, stayed on the list for 19 weeks, and won the 2009 Bravo A-List Award for Best Celebrity Autobiography. Miles to Go by Miley Cyrus was a #1 New York Times children’s bestseller. Other bestselling titles include High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips and It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh.

Hilary has also written three books under her own name. The first, Dear Exile, is letters that she exchanged with her co-author, Kate Montgomery, when Kate was in the Peace Corps in Kenya and Hilary was in New York. It was published by Vintage in 1999 and is still in print. Candy and Me: A Love Story is Hilary’s memoir told through different kinds of candy.

Hilary Liftin grew up in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Yale University, where she was the editor of the Yale Literary Magazine. Before becoming a full-time writer in 2006, Hilary worked in the publishing industry for ten years, holding positions in editorial, marketing, and business development at Houghton Mifflin, Barnes &, and the ebook division of Time Warner Books (now Hachette). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

To win this fabulous MOVIE STAR book & gifts, please send an email to with “MOVIE STAR” as the subject.

You must include your U.S. street address in your email.

All entries must be received by Aug. 1, 2015. 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. Your prize will be sent by the publicist.

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.

7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch


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