Win the September bookshelf of signed thrillers!

September 1, 2014

Sept14 Collage 3

Breaking news! Two more thrillers up for grabs, NO TIME TO DIE by Kira Peikoff and BONES NEVER LIE by Kathy Reichs!

I updated the Win Books page for September with some terrific new thrillers! This month there are a few NY Times bestsellers, several follow ups, and a newbie.

Jack Reacher is back in PERSONAL and it’s signed by the thriller master himself, Lee Child. Reed Farrel Coleman steps into some big shoes by taking on the Jesse Stone series since Robert B. Parker’s passing, and is offering up the latest entry into the New York Times bestselling series with BLIND SPOT. Barry Lancet is back with his sophomore effort, the fabulous TOKYO KILL.

The formidable Steph Cha brings back her hard bitten heroine, Song, in BEWARE BEWARE, which Booklist calls, “prime L.A. noir with a feminist slant.” Adrian McKinty, the author of the Troubles Trilogy and the Detective Sean Duffy novels has something new, sure to appeal to history buffs; THE SUN IS GOD is set in 1906 Colonial New Guinea.

In a coveted starred review, Publishers Weekly says about EVERYONE LIES, “AD Garrett balances the intricacies of forensics with the cerebral instincts of crime investigation.” Karen Harper introduces the Cold Creek Trilogy, set in Appalachia in “a small town where the enemy is us.” She offers up the first book, SHATTERED SECRETS, with two more to come in the next six months.

The debut this month is SABOTAGE, Matt Cook’s thriller for those who love the puzzles of technology, cryptology, and people. Finally, DEADOUT is the thrilling follow-up to Jon McGoran’s highly acclaimed eco-thriller, Drift.

If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers group. We put together a list of books including bestsellers and debut authors, 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.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!


PINES by Blake Crouch

September 20, 2014

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The Wayward Pines Trilogy Book 1

Special Agent Ethan Burke was investigating the disappearance of two fellow agents when the car he was riding in was broadsided by a Mack truck. When he woke, he had little to no memory of the crash at all, nor could he recall how he wound up lying next to a river in the small town of Wayward Pines.

As his memory returns, though, he begins to realize there’s something strange going on. His phone and ID are missing, his phone calls to his boss go ignored, and he can barely remember his home phone number. What’s more, it seems someone or something is intent on his staying in Wayward Pines.

I kind of loved Blake Crouch’s Pines. It first caught my interest when I learned that FOX had picked up the small screen adaptation (produced by M. Night Shyamalan) for 2015. The trailer is quirky and the cast is a literal who’s who of big name Hollywood stars. In short, I was sold. When I found out it was based on Crouch’s trilogy, I knew I had to start reading. What a ride it turned out to be.

Part of the appeal in the book is the wondering and to tell much more would be to ruin that for potential readers. I can’t wait to see how it comes across on TV and really do hope that they’re able to pull it off.

09/14 Becky LeJeune

NOTE from the editor: This book made my Best of 2012 list:

PINES by Blake Crouch: This is a genre-bending, completely riveting thrill ride, which mixes suspense, horror, science fiction and dystopian nightmare all rolled up into one unputdownable book. Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

PINES by Blake Crouch. Dutton Adult (September 9, 2014). ISBN 978-0525954026. 496p.

ASSASSIN’S GAME by Ward Larsen

September 19, 2014

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David Slaton was a “kidon” for the Israeli Mossad. Kidon are assassins doing the work called for by the agency. He left the service to marry a girl he was very much in love with and settled down in Virginia in the U.S., expecting to live an ordinary life.

Unfortunately, the Mossad finds they need his particular talents once more. A scientist in Iran has brought that country to the brink of perfecting a nuclear tipped ballistic missile.

Several attempts to assassinate him, all unsuccessful and resulting in loss of life on the part of the assassins, were tried. The head of the Mossad believes that a source within the organization has been leaking information to the Iranians to prevent the assassination.

In order to circumvent the leak, it is decided to reactivate David. Aware that he would not be willing to come out of retirement the decision is made to kidnap his wife and return her only when the job is done.

Larsen makes the search for David’s wife, and the attempt to kill the Iranian scientist into one of the most exciting novels in a long time. Action runs from Sweden to Switzerland and of course, Iran in a torrid pace. This is not a book that can be put down without finishing it.

There are surprises, all within the scope of events depicted and are logical,and at several points just stunning. I’ve read previous novels by the author and never been disappointed, but Assassin’s Game might be his best. Highly recommended for a great read.

9/14 Paul Lane

ASSASSIN’S GAME by Ward Larsen. Forge Books; First Edition edition (August 26, 2014). ISBN 978-0765336729. 384p.

WHAT A DUKE DARES by Anna Campbell

September 18, 2014

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Sons of Sin #3

I found this title on the Top 10 Romance Fiction: 2014 list by Donna Seaman for Booklist. I had read a couple of titles on the list and liked them, so thought I’d give this one a try. I’m glad I did.

Yes, once again I am starting a series in the middle, this is the third book, but I didn’t feel like I missed a thing.

When Camden Rothermere, the Duke of Sedgemoor, proposes to Penelope Thorne, she turns him down and he is not happy about it. They grew up together, Penelope’s brother is Cam’s closest friend, and she’s been in love with him for years. But he has some serious dysfunctional family stuff going on, and love is not in any equation for marriage for him. Pen takes off, travelling through Europe until her brother passes away several years later. Cam’s made a deathbed promise to bring Pen home, and finds her under attack in the Alps.

Cam rescues Pen, and begins an arduous trip back to England. Along the way, they are forced to travel as husband and wife to avoid scandal, but when they run into some trouble, they really have to get married – but can they make this marriage work? Will Pen have her heart broken by a loveless marriage? Will Cam keep on avoiding love despite their passion?

I really enjoyed this Regency romance. The characters are believable, the settings are interesting and the romance is hot in this fast, fun read.

9/14 Stacy Alesi

WHAT A DUKE DARES by Anna Campbell. Forever (August 26, 2014). ISBN 978-1455557905. 432p.

HOUNDED by David Rosenfelt

September 17, 2014

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This is the twelfth entry into one of my favorite series featuring attorney Andy Carpenter. I fell in love with this character in the first book, Open and Shut and have loved every book since.

Andy gets a phone call from one of his closest friends, police captain Pete Stanton. He asks Andy to hurry over and to bring Laurie. They arrive at a home with multiple cop cars out front and when Andy hears a dog barking, he knows why he was called. Turns out a friend of Pete’s has been killed, leaving his young son and his dog behind. Pete not only wants Andy to take the dog, he wants them to take the kid too, in hopes of keeping him out of the system.

Andy feels like a kid himself but Lauri agrees and then things get really complicated when Pete is arrested for the murder. Andy thinks Pete is being set up, and all the regulars are there to help – Laurie, his long time girlfriend, and an ex-cop turned private investigator; Marcus, top notch security; Hike, a lawyer who helps out Andy when he takes a case; Sam, the accountant and computer hacker extraordinaire; and Willie, an ex-con who partners with Andy and runs their dog rescue foundation.

This is a complicated case, and Andy definitely will need more than his usual courtroom antics to keep Pete out of jail. Someone with a lot of money and a lot of reach is trying to have Pete discredited and jailed. The more they dig, the deeper they get into something really sinister until the shocking ending.

Hounded is a fine addition to the series. If you like legal thrillers, or dogs, or humor along with your murder and mayhem, don’t miss it.

9/14 Stacy Alesi

HOUNDED by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (July 22, 2014). ISBN 978-1250024749. 3208p.

ONCE UPON A HIGH-RISE by J. Allan Woodard

September 16, 2014

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This  ebook only is actually Mr Woodard’s second book, although there has been a good deal of time between the first and this novel.  The author has put together an interesting story centered around a New York City Captain of police and an attorney he meets during the pursuit of two serial rapists.

Mark Winslow left his job as a Sheriff in Montana after his wife and son were killed in an auto accident there. He moved to New York to  try and escape the memories of his family permeating  his life and brings his six year old going on 25 daughter Pamela. Joining the police he rises to the rank of Captain.

Most of the book centers around his meeting and falling in love with Kristen Miller,  the attorney.  The pursuit of the two serial rapists he is after takes second place in the author’s scheme of things with the development of his romance as number one.  Woodard captures the rapists in what is a secondary part of the narrative and his major flaw here is making what should be a well described police chase of very dangerous criminals an “oh yes”.

The author has a style and command of the language to cause the reader to look for a future book by him. Hopefully, in the interim he will have learned that he must decide if he will write crime novels, which includes some romance or romance period.  He does flesh out the two main characters quite well and if his plan is to use them in the future his readers will know who they are.

Read the book to meet a new author that shows potential for more.  It will allow a good reading experience and the creation of an interest in seeing more by him shortly.

9/14 Paul Lane

ONCE UPON A HIGH-RISE by J. Allan Woodard. iUniverse (September 10, 2014). ASIN B00NHHPNZU. Print Length: 240p.

The Vicious Cycle of Giving

September 15, 2014

I was in Costco and they were putting out Christmas merchandise. In September. Such is life, but it reminded me that we are heading into the season of giving, and I have something to say to all the worthy organizations that need our help.

For my birthday last year, my daughter made a donation to Feeding America in my honor. Their website shows some pretty impressive statistics. “For every dollar donated, Feeding America secures and distributes 9 meals on behalf of food banks.” They claim to be a Better Business Bureau accredited charity, and a “Four Star” charity according to Charity Navigator. I was touched that my daughter did this on my behalf, and proud of her for thinking of others when she thought of me.

And then the phone calls started. Every night. We have VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service, which means when the phone rings, the caller’s name pops up on my TV as well as on the caller ID. Night after night, the same name called. It was, as you may have guessed, someone from Feeding America, asking for my daughter, and looking for another donation. This lasted for several weeks before they turned to the U.S. Mail service. The mail still comes regularly, and now, a couple of months before my birthday rolls around again, the phone calls have started up again.

I don’t mean to pick on this particular charity. They are not alone in their harassment. My son was born six weeks premature and I decided to volunteer with the March of Dimes because of their work with preemies. The first few years of my son’s life, I walked my neighborhood, handing out envelopes seeking donations from my neighbors. I stopped after a few years because I wasn’t comfortable with the way the organization kept after me to do more, to give more. If my neighbors weren’t making donations, it was suggested that perhaps I wanted to make up that shortfall. I did not.

I told them why I stopped, in hopes that they would stop. My son is 29 years old. I am still getting phone calls and letters asking for my help from the March of Dimes, more than a quarter of a century after I complained about the harassment.

My son and I are both University of South Florida alums which means, you guessed it, twice as many phone calls soliciting us for money. To add insult to injury, he hasn’t lived at home in many years. On the somewhat dubious bright side, when I’ve asked, I’ve been told the person calling is not paid staff but rather a student volunteer.

NPR? Sends out occasional emails and letters seeking donations. PBS does the same, not to mention their pledge weeks – but at least I can change the channel. That seems reasonable to me.

This list is by no means complete. And let me also add, in case you were wondering, that I am not a big money donor by any means. I’m a librarian – I don’t make much so I don’t give much. I hate to say it but almost every charity I’ve ever made a donation to has left me feeling like my $20 or $50 or $100 has simply been used to pay staff to solicit even more money from me. I know that may not be true, but it feels true.

I am happy to say that there are exceptions. I’ve made many donations over the years to the Red Cross, and never got anything other than a thank you. Same with Doctors Without Borders, the PanMass Challenge and those emergency funds that I’ve texted donations to, like Hurricane Sandy relief. I think St. Jude’s Childrens’ Hospital only sends one or two letters a year looking for money as does a local charity, Boca Helping Hands. That seems reasonable to me. United Way does an annual presentation at my place of employment that I can attend if I want, and occasionally sends a letter about some immediate need in my community. And by occasionally I mean that’s happened a couple of times in all the years I’ve been giving to them.

I’ve always abided by Winston Churchill’s wise words, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” I understand that charities run on donations. I know that when the economy tanked several years ago that charitable organizations took a big hit. But I don’t think soliciting money should feel like harassment, and most of the time it does. Calling people night after night is just way beyond the bounds of common sense and decency. Sending letters weekly or even monthly is irksome to me, all the paper going into the trash (or even the recycling bin) is just a waste of resources.

I don’t claim to know what the answer is. I won’t stop making donations, but I do stop making them to organizations that I feel are squandering their limited resources. If I contribute $25 and in return, get dozens of phone calls and several letters, I feel like I’ve completely wasted my money. I don’t make donations so that the organizations I donate to can use my money to harass me.

I’d love to know how other people feel about this, even better, how to handle this. Please feel free to share you thoughts in the comments below, or by email if you don’t wish to make your comments public.


September 14, 2014

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Read by Sile Bermingham

Emily is a middle aged woman with no real ties to America after her father, an alcoholic, passes on, so she decides to take an extended trip to visit her aunt and uncle in Dublin. Their son Noel is living at home and spending his days working in an office, sneaking drinks before lunch, and wandering aimlessly through life. But he really likes Emily, everyone does, and in her very subtle way she starts steering him towards the future.

Then he hears from Stella, a girl he barely remembers since all they did was drink and party together. She informs him that she is dying of cancer and oh, by the way, she’s pregnant with his child. After denial comes acceptance, and Stella puts his name on the birth certificate and asks that he raise her daughter, Frankie. Noel can barely take care of himself, but he agrees to become the baby’s guardian.

Emily helps him find a place to live and offers to pay if he’ll enroll in college. There he meets Lisa, a graphic designer with a serious crush on Anton, a celebrity-chef wannabe. After some trouble at home, Lisa ends up moving in with Noel and helping out with Frankie while trying to make herself indispensable to Anton and quitting her job in the process.

Noel joins AA and falls in love with his daughter. A ferocious social worker, Moirer, is assigned to his case, and everyone in town is petrified that she will take Frankie away from him. His parents help out, and all his friends and neighbors in the area where he grew up are eager to help mind Frankie. Her first year of life she is surrounded by people who love her, and Noel sorts out his life.

There is a cast of quirky yet lovable characters of the sort that often frequent Binchy’s novels. I haven’t read her for a while, and listening to this book was a delight. Bermingham’s narration with all the different accents – American, Irish, even Australian, adds even more depth to this charming story. I have a short commute, so I found myself listening at home while doing the dishes and so forth. This was one of the longer audio books I’ve listened to, and I really enjoyed every minute of it.

9/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MINDING FRANKIE by Maeve Binchy. Anchor (December 27, 2011). ISBN 978-0307475497. 512p.
Downloadable: Audible Audio Edition. Random House Audio. Listening Length: 13 hours and 23 minutes. ASIN: B004Q3G4EI.

THE MARCO EFFECT by Jussi Adler-Olsen

September 13, 2014

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Marco Jameson is in an impossible situation. Brought to Denmark as part of a clan led by his uncle, he has no legal citizenship, no legal identity, and no real education. Everyone in the clan is at the mercy of Marco’s uncle, including Marco’s own father. So when Marco makes a dangerous discovery that threatens his very life, he has no one to turn to. Alone and on the run, Marco vows to do the right thing but now the very people he once called family are out for his blood.

Meanwhile, Department Q is about to undergo a bit of a change. The head of homicide is stepping down and Carl Mørck’s own worst enemy has been put in charge. Mørck is pretty well determined to continue on as usual until ordered otherwise. After all, his department has a highly successful solve rate and is the frequent praise of local media.

After solving yet another case, one bungled by Department A, Mørck reluctantly allows his assistants to choose their next case. It’s a missing persons almost three years old involving a ministry employee who vanished after returning from a trip to Africa. The case is as cold as can be and there are no real leads to speak of. Not until Marco Jameson crosses their paths, that is.

My favorite grumpy detective and his crew are back! Yes, Mørck’s gruff and brash nature is one of the things that makes this series a favorite of mine. He’s just a fascinating character – one that Adler-Olsen does a truly wonderful job giving the reader real insight into. Mørck’s own inner monologue throughout the narrative shows that in spite of being a clever detective, he’s a bit clueless when it comes with interacting with other people.

Part of it, of course, comes from the events laid out in The Keeper of Lost Causes – the case that cost him a colleague and left his partner paralyzed from the neck down. Since then, Mørck has taken it upon himself to give Hardy a home and plays a pretty big role in the man’s recuperation. He does have redeemable characteristics after all.

And while all three of the main characters – Mørck, Assad, and Rose – continue to grow and evolve as the series progresses, Adler-Olsen always has a great cast of supporting characters in each book. In The Marco Effect it’s Marco himself who really shines.

Another excelling addition to the Department Q series, and one that can easily be read as a stand alone if you’re new to Adler-Olsen’s work.

09/14 Becky LeJeune

THE MARCO EFFECT by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Dutton Adult (September 9, 2014). ISBN 978-0525954026. 496p.

THE CHOPPED COOKBOOK by Food Network Kitchens

September 12, 2014

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Use What You’ve Got to Cook Something Great

If you’re not familiar, “Chopped” is a competition cooking show on the Food Network. The ground rules are deceptively simple; four chefs square off and have to prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert, using a basket of preselected and often bizarre ingredients, plus anything else available in the Chopped pantry of staples. They get 20 minutes to create an appetizer, then comes judgement from a rotating cast of preeminent chefs. The chef who prepares the least accomplished dish gets “chopped,” leaving the remaining chefs to compete. They get 30 minutes to prepare an entree, and so on. Whoever survives to the end wins $10,000.

In my opinion, this is one of the most entertaining yet difficult cooking competitions on TV. Creativity is a must, as is speed. Who hasn’t had the fun of sticking your head in the fridge and trying to figure out what’s for dinner? That was the inspiration for the show and this book.

The cookbook foregoes the bizarre ingredients, “fish heads and gummy worms,” and instead tries to help the home cook put together a quick dinner based on ingredients you might actually have. There are quick tips with many of the recipes, like this tip for “ultra-crisp chicken and potatoes” for the Greek-Spiced Wings and Potatoes with Yogurt Dipping Sauce; “preheat a roasting pan to jump-start the process.” Simple, effective and delicious. Or to wrap a stack of tortillas in a clean dish towel and steam for five minutes, or microwave for 1-2 minutes to help make them pliable for the Marinated Tilapia Tacos.

Some of my favorite sections in this book are the “Go-to Guides,” for  Cooking Grains, Getting Good Vegetables, Vinaigrettes & Salad Dressings, and Ten Fun Pan Sauces. Using a simple chart method, these few pages can help turn standard home fare into really delicious restaurant quality food. Sauces include Mustard Pickle, Sweet Vinegar Garlic, Mexican Beer, and so forth, with recommendations for coordinating proteins, i.e. Creamy Apple Dijon is recommended for chicken or pork. Vinaigrettes are broken down into a couple of simple steps and then flavors such as the Classic, Herb and Ginger-Sesame, for example.

I love that they offer up basic pantry ingredients to keep on hand, but stress that “you definitely don’t need every single thing on this list.” The book is divided into traditional sections with whimsical names like “Completely Fun Ways to Cook Vegetables,” “Fishing for Compliments” and “Chickens Gone Wild.” The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow.  I found this to be an inspirational and truly useful cookbook.

Oh, and try the Warm, Salted Caramel Banana Pudding – delicious!

9/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CHOPPED COOKBOOK by Food Network Kitchens. Clarkson Potter; First Edition edition (April 8, 2014). ISBN 978-0770435004. 240p.

INAMORATA by Megan Chance

September 11, 2014

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Joseph and his sister Sophie are all set to begin fresh in Venice. They’ve left New York under a veil of scandal – something they plan to keep to themselves – but they know that Joseph has what it takes to become the next big thing in the art world. If he can get noticed by the right people, that is. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for Joseph to get the right kind of attention.

Nicholas Dane once had high hopes for his own career, but thanks to losing his muse (literally) he now spends his time on the hunt for artists like Joseph. See Nicholas’s talent has fallen prey to one Odilé Leon, a longtime patron of the arts.

Odilé has a knack for spotting a particular kind of talent and when they’ve served their purpose she moves onto another. Nicholas knows Odilé’s secrets; he knows what she needs to survive. Nicholas knows that Joseph is exactly what Odilé has been looking for and he intends to do whatever it takes to bring her down.

Megan Chance’s latest is a bit of a twist on historical fiction. Set in nineteenth-century Italy, the story is a compelling and hypnotic one spun around the historic city and the art scene of the time. There are some famous faces, some well-known names, and a web of intrigue with an interesting and somewhat unexpected twist.

Inamorata is a truly captivating read, one I feel works best if the reader is left to learn its secrets themselves. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise and give too much away. Know this, though, Chance’s storytelling is entrancing and Inamorata is the kind of book that’s hard to put down once you’ve begun.

9/14 Becky LeJeune

INAMORATA by Megan Chance. Lake Union Publishing (August 1, 2014). ISBN 978-1477823033. 420p.


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