Win the December ’15 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

December 1, 2015

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Can you believe 2015 is coming to an end? I’m not sure how this snuck up on me but here we are with the last International Thriller Writers contest for the year. But no worries, January will bring even more! Best of luck, and don’t forget to check back…you never know when new titles will be added. To enter, go to the Win Books page.

TRICKY TWENTY-TWO by Janet Evanovich
A Stephanie Plum Novel
This 22nd entry into the Stephanie Plum series brings back all the beloved characters, from Joe and Ranger to Grandma Mazur. GQ says, “Among the great joys of contemporary crime fiction.”

In the depths of her blue eyes, he glimpsed… murder. “MWA Grand Master Block adds a generous dollop of eroticism to this ingeniously plotted study in criminality and corruption. Noir fans will be pleased that the book contains not a single likable character.”  Publishers Weekly

GUILTY AS CINNAMON by Leslie Budewitz   
Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

BACKSTABBLING IN BEAUJOLAIS by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Anne Trager
Winemaker Detective Series
Do you know a better combo than French wine and a mystery? Perfect for a cozy end of the year. “Summer in French wine country with murder on the list… a classic vintage.” Fresh Fiction

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! Books with multiple authors will be signed by at least one of the authors.

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!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2015

Happy-ThanksgivingThank you all for reading, for sharing my reviews with your friends and family, and for letting me know how much you’ve enjoyed (or hated!) a book I’ve recommended.

Thanks to those of you who click through the links I provide when you want to buy a book online that I recommend. I didn’t make enough money this year to break even on website fees, but I’m always hopeful.

Since a few of you asked, here is my Thanksgiving menu this year, which we are calling, “The year Daniel comes home!” I make everything from scratch, which is why I take the week off from work, but it’s a labor of love. If you want any of the recipes, just ask, I’m happy to share.

Melody Scalera’s Hot Clam Dip with Trader Joe’s Brioche Toasts
Friendsgiving Cocktail

The Main Event:
Turkey, Stuffing, Gravy
Cranberry Sauce Two Ways
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Marsha Gilarmo’s Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Bobby Flay’s Parker House Rolls

White Wine: Conundrum
Red Wine: not sure yet, either a Barolo or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Apple Pie 
with Jeni Britton Bauer’s Milk Chocolate and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream

 I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving,

filled with love, good food, and gratitude!

HEADS IN BEDS by Jacob Tomsky

November 25, 2015
Click to purchase

Click to purchase

A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality

Jacob Tomsky works the front desk of high end, luxury hotels. Here he offers up the inside dirt on what really goes on, how to get the most bang for your buck, but really his point is how to beat the system – all told in a most entertaining fashion. Think of it like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential for the hotel industry.

Not all of his tips are, how shall I put this…ethical? But he explains why you shouldn’t worry about it. Personally, I have to sleep at night so his tips on how to avoid paying for in room movies and the minibar just didn’t sit right with me. But I will definitely use his tips on how to avoid paying the cancellation fee, how to get upgrades, why and when you need the concierge, and why you should always use and tip the bellman.

I listened to the audiobook, which the author reads, and he does a really good job. I actually had to stop it a few times to take notes! But for the most part, the note taking portion is in the appendix. The book itself is by turns funny, horrifying and always interesting –  at least to anyone who has ever stayed or is planning to stay in a hotel. A fun and informative read.

11/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HEADS IN BEDS by Jacob Tomsky. Anchor (July 30, 2013). ISBN 978-0307948342. 320p.





November 24, 2015
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Seduction Diaries, Book 2

Lucy Westmore has no interest in getting married. She vaguely remembers a spinster aunt, long estranged from the family, who dies and leaves Lucy her farm in Cornwall and her diary.

Lucy’s father decides to sell the farm but Lucy rebels and reminds her father that she is the proper owner. Then she takes off for the farm, determined to see her property and perhaps live there as well. On her journey, she reads her aunt’s diary that is filled with advice on men, being a spinster, and more.

Lord Thomas Branston has been taking care of the property and is the potential buyer. He is determined to convince Lucy to sell, but she is just as stubborn as he is. As she adjusts to life in Cornwall, romance ensues with the young, damaged Lord.

As usual, I missed the first book in this series but I’m going to find it. This was terrific!

11/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SPINSTERS GUIDE TO SCANDALOUS BEHAVIOR by Jennifer McQuiston. Avon (November 24, 2015). ISBN 978-0062335128. 400p.

Mystery Writers of America Announces 2016 Grand Master

November 23, 2015

EdgarAwardLogoA.20105538_stdMystery Writers of America Announces 2016 Grand Master Walter Mosley

2016 Raven and Ellery Queen Award Winners

November 23, 2015 – New York, NY – Walter Mosley has been chosen as the 2016 Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA’s Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Mr. Mosley will receive his award at the 70th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

When told of being named a Grand Master, Mosley said, “Receiving the Grand Master Award is the apex of my career as a crime writer; as a writer. It is, joyfully, one of the seminal events of my life.”

Walter Mosley is one of the most acclaimed and prolific crime writers of our time. He started writing when he was thirty-four, and since then has published over forty novels. He is also the most successful and well-known crime writer of color.

He is perhaps best known for his Easy Rawlins series, beginning with Devil in a Blue Dress, which was made into a film starring Denzel Washington. He has also written three other series, featuring Fearless Jones, Leonid McGill, and Socrates Fortlaw. In addition, he has written science fiction, non-fiction, social criticism, young adult fiction, plays, graphic novels, and numerous short stories.

Previous Grand Masters include Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Two Raven Awards will be awarded in 2016: one to Margaret Kinsman and the other to Sisters in Crime.

As a mentor, teacher, scholar, and editor, Margaret Kinsman has supported and promoted both the mystery genre as a whole and many individual writers. As senior lecturer in popular culture at Southbank University in London from 1991 – 2012, she played a leading role in making crime fiction an important and legitimate field of study. She has worked hard both to expand readership of our genre in the general public and to expand understanding of the genre as a powerful form of social commentary.

From 2004 to 2011, Kinsman served as Executive Editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection, the only American scholarly journal dedicated to the mystery. She continues to serve Clues as a consulting editor. She is an international authority on Margery Allingham and has published extensively on other American crime writers. She is a U.S. citizen who divides her time between London and Iowa City, Iowa, where she is conducting research in the Nancy Drew archives at the University of Iowa.

When told that she would receive the Raven Award, Kinsman said “”I am thrilled to know the MWA is giving me the Raven award this year – such recognition is indeed an unexpected, and very exciting, honour!”

At the 1986 Bouchercon in Baltimore, Sara Paretsky convened an initial meeting of woman writers who were concerned about both the rising tide of graphic violence against women in mysteries and the lack of equity in review, award nominations, advances, and other measures of a writer’s success. The following year during the Edgars Week, a group of woman writers met in Sandra Scoppettone’s SoHo loft for breakfast and formed Sisters in Crime. Initial steering committee members were a who’s who of woman mystery writers, including Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, Betty Francis, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard and Susan Dunlap.

The mission of Sisters in Crime is to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. Membership is open to all persons worldwide who have a special interest in mystery writing and in furthering the purposes of SinC. The organization has approximately 3,600 members in some fifty regional chapters in the United States and Canada.

When informed that the organization would receive the Raven Award, current SinC President Leslie Budewitz said, “Sisters in Crime is thrilled with this award, honoring nearly thirty years of work in the trenches, promoting the advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers. That it comes from one of our partners in crime and advocacy makes the honor doubly sweet.”Previous Raven winners include Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry”. This year the Board chose to honor Janet A. Rudolph.

Rudolph is the director of the fan-based Mystery Readers International, editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, a teacher of mystery fiction, and has been a columnist for most of the mystery periodicals. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in Berkeley California, where she completed a master’s degree in art history, a credential in secondary education, and a Ph.D. in religion and literature specializing in mystery fiction. She has received two Fulbright grants—one to India and another to Brazil.

Mystery Readers Journal, her brainchild, is the official publication of Mystery Readers International. Originally started as a newsletter to update the local mystery community on fun events, it is now one of the most important periodicals in the field. A quarterly, each issue focuses on a specific theme with major articles, author essays, special columns and a calendar of events. Members of MRI award the coveted Macavity for excellence in mystery writing.

On learning she would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Rudolph said, “I am astonished, delighted, and humbled to be included in the company of such illustrious past recipients of the Ellery Queen Award. I feel so privileged that over the past 31 years of publishing the Mystery Readers Journal, I was able to create and curate a forum in which over 1500 mystery authors contributed with essays offering different angles on shared themes in their writing, thus extending and increasing mystery reader awareness and enjoyment.”

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.

The Edgar Awards, or “Edgars,” as they are commonly known, are named after MWA’s patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website:

# # #

The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.


November 23, 2015
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Seduction Diaries, Book 1

Clare Westmore is the eldest daughter of a Viscount and entering her second season.  She has her sights on Mr. Alban, heir to a dukedom, and thinks she is pretty and popular enough to snag him.

Shortly after the season begins, she has a nasty fall while walking in the park with her younger siblings and badly sprains her ankle. Determined to dance anyway, she attends a ball when she is spied by the head-turningly handsome young doctor, Daniel Merial. He realizes she is limping and approaches her, and she is haughty but really hurting.

Merial ends up attending her and insists on several weeks of bed rest. As his visits continue, Clare starts having feelings for him but fights them off, as he is not a suitable suitor. Meanwhile, her friends, and I use the term loosely, have been spreading rumors about her, trying to sabotage her relationship with Mr. Alban.

This is an interesting look at society and the classes with even a bit of politics thrown in. Lots of twists make this a fun read before the invariably happy ending.

This is the first book in the series, and the second book is even better.

11/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DIARY OF AN ACCIDENTAL WALLFLOWER by Jennifer McQuiston. Avon (February 24, 2015). ISBN 978-0062335012. 384p.


November 22, 2015
Different Lie

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The norm for a couple when having a baby is for one to be working, and if financially possible, the other to take some time off to get the child off to a healthy start. All well and good unless you have the type of occupation that the “Silver Bear” AKA Columbus and his partner Risina have. Both were introduced in previous books by Derek Haas. They are a contract killer and his “fence,” who is the planner and guide in the assassinations.

An interesting new assignment arrives for the duo.  They are to kill someone named Castillo, who is strangely another assassin currently on the rise in the field. Castillo is aware of them and is as qualified as Columbus and looks forward to taking him out, reducing the competition. He is also aware that Columbus has a partner and a baby to take care of.  And the part that is of most interest is that Castillo has studied the methods of his rival and models himself after him.

Columbus’ orders are clear, i.e., kill Castillo and in an extremely choreographed battle of wits goes after him.  The book is short, but manages to keep the reader glued as one move results in a counter move throughout the descriptions. The ending is not telegraphed by any means and leaves a cliffhanger that just must be resolved in a later novel.

11/15 Paul Lane

A DIFFERENT LIE by Derek Haas. Pegasus (November 16, 2015).  ISBN 978-1605988993. 272p.


Book on CD


November 21, 2015
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Let me start off by saying I didn’t love this book. I was not a huge fan of The Fault in Our Stars; frankly, by the end, I wanted them all to die. But a young co-worker recommended this one and I had a couple of hours to kill, so I read it. In my own defense of not loving this extraordinarily popular author, he does write books for young adults, traditionally defined as teens. But the explosion in popularity of these books has led me down this path, and while I love some of them, I don’t love them all. Feel free to comment.

So far this is the third John Green book that is being made into a movie, after the aforementioned The Fault in Our Stars and this year’s Paper Towns, which I didn’t read or see. Looking for Alaska is actually Green’s first book, and film is supposed to be released sometime in 2016. Here is the trailer:

The book won the Michael L. Printz award (highest honor for YA books), was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, and was a NY Times bestseller. I can understand its appeal, and I liked it better than Fault, but that’s the best I can say.

Here’s a brief synopsis from the publisher:

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

So we have a character, Miles, who is the schlubby kid who gets picked on. With a fresh start at a boarding school, his roommate befriends him and introduces him to smoking, and Alaska. Is that a thing now, naming kids after places? Brooklyn, London, Alaska. Why not.

This is a coming of age story about young adults living away from home with the freedom that’s implied. These kids were tame compared to what me & my friends were up to at that age (and you know who you are and what we were doing!) but nonetheless, there are serious ramifications and devastation before the book is done. Lesson learned, I suppose. It was a quick read, if that is enough of an inducement.

11/15 Stacy Alesi

LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green. Speak; Reprint edition (December 28, 2006). ISBN 978-0142402511. 221p.

ONE MAN’S FLAG by David Downing

November 20, 2015
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Downing has written a series of novels about Jack McColl, a spy working for his Majesty’s Secret Service during World War One. One Man’s Flag is the second in this series and picks up McColl when he is working in India for the British government.

In the first book, McColl meets and falls in love with Caitlin Hanley, an American-Irish journalist looking to make a name for herself during a period of momentous events including the First World War, as well as the planning and initiating of an Irish revolution against Great Britain. That book ends with Miss Hanley’s brother thwarted when involved with Irish separatists by her lover, Jack McColl.

McColl’s supervisor sends him to Ireland to look into the probability of an uprising during a period when England is involved in a major war with Germany. Jack and Caitlin, of course, meet again and find that their love continues, especially when it comes out that McColl made an attempt to help Caitilin’s brother escape.

Their adventures are recreated using an extremely well researched knowledge of events and places that existed during the period. Caitlin uses her American citizenship to visit Germany as a neutral, and actually gains her way very close to the front lines. It is her opinion, (and obviously that of David Downing,) that the people were very much with the military and the soldiers, feeling that their cause was the right one.

Her postings from the war zone assure her of success as a journalist. McColl, on the other hand, takes a trip to visit his brother who is serving on the western front in Europe. Downing, through the avenue of McColl, states the opinion that England had a cadre of incompetent officers leading their army. They tossed away lives by ordering massive charges against artillery and machine guns. And if the first charge failed, they would simply order another one. The comment is made that the loss of life approximated 5000 men a day, resulting in a stalemate of monumental proportions. Both sides worked to entice the United States to enter the war on their side and this second book ends at the end of 1916, with the widening war soon to include America.

Downing’s books are very clearly tailored to bring out the probable thoughts and opinions of an era now a century away from us. I have no doubt that these novels will allow readers to sympathize with people living and acting in those days.

11/15 Paul Lane

ONE MAN’S FLAG by David Downing. Soho Crime; First Edition edition (November 3, 2015).  ISBN 978-1616952709.  384p.


November 19, 2015


Hot in Chicago #2

This is the second book in the series but my first Meader read, and I’ll be back for more. This title made Publisher’s Weekly list of the best romances of 2015, so I requested a copy from the publisher and they sent it out immediately. A contemporary romance bordering on erotica but not quite crossing the line, Meader excels at heating things up page by page, and I couldn’t turn them fast enough.

I loved her main character, Alexandra Dempsey, Alex to everyone, a newbie firefighter in Chicago. She’s built like a real woman, has a big mouth and often acts on impulse – hey, she reminds me of me! At least when I was that age.

Alex comes from a mixed up family of firefighters, with foster brothers, half brothers, I think – not entirely sure how they were all related. She has two sisters-in-law, maybe, and they are also her best friends. Alex’s impulsive ways get her national fame when she chops up a $400,000 car after the occupant goes on a homophobic, misogynist rant while she is trying to save him. The mayor steps in and keeps the ranter from suing her, but there is a lot of history between the mayor, his family and Alex’s family – not much of it good.

Later Alex responds to a call at a hotel, and while checking the building finds the mayor close to unconscious. She gives him her air, and in the process saves him but then he has to save her when she faints from the smoke inhalation. But that meeting sets something ablaze besides the fire. The mayor becomes obsessed with Alex, and finagles her into “fake dating” him while he’s running for reelection. They have real chemistry but Alex puts the brakes on until her sister-in-law convinces her to just use him for sex.

I liked how the mayor respected her boundaries, and I loved their chemistry. This was a sizzling romance for sure and I’m looking forward (and back) for the rest of the series.

11/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

PLAYING WITH FIRE by Kate Meader. Pocket Books (September 29, 2015). ISBN 978-1476785929. 384p.




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