Win the May ’19 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

May 1, 2019

Welcome to the May bookshelf of signed thrillers!

This month the International Thriller Writers have provided a bunch of exciting new thrillers to help fill your bookshelf! More books may be added throughout the month, so check back often.

Best of luck!


STRONG AS STEEL by Jon Land: Tough-as-nails Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in this electrifying tenth installment of one of my favorite series. Douglas Preston said, “This is one hell of an adventure—fast paced, compelling, and heart-stopping, involving a train robbery, a massacre, and dark secrets emerging from the mists of time.”

THE BETTER SISTER by Alafair Burke: Coming off of last year’s The Wife (one of my favorite books of 2018,) psychological-suspense master Burke traces the uneasy relationship between two sisters and how its’s tested in the wake of a grisly murder.

SUCH A PERFECT WIFE by Kate White: True crime writer Bailey Weggins heads to Lake George to investigate the disappearance of Shannon Blaine, a case that appears to be straightforward until Bailey uncovers the work of a serial killer.

THE LAST SECOND by Catherine Coulter & J.T. Ellison: When an eccentric treasure hunter finances a private space agency and augments its first satellite with a nuclear device, special agents Drummond and Caine race to prevent a corrupt scientist’s apocalyptic plot.

THE PARIS DIVERSION by Chris Pavone: Kate Moore from The Expats partners with a French agent to investigate a bombing threat in Paris, a race against time that is complicated by her husband’s missing nemesis and a suspicious absence of orders from Langley.

IF SHE WAKES by Michael Koyta: Two women fight for their lives against an enigmatic killer in this electrifying novel from a New York Times bestselling author and “master” of thriller writing (Stephen King).

BELOW THE FOLD by R.G. Belsky: When the battered body of a homeless woman is found on the streets of New York City, her murder gets largely ignored by the media. TV journalist Clare Carlson decides to dig deeper and uncovers mysterious links; more murders, more victims, more questions. Will Clare survive as she chases her biggest story ever?

BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND by Heather Gudenkauf: The Edgar Award-nominated author of The Weight of Silence presents a high-suspense thriller involving three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa community.

THE NIGHT BEFORE by Wendy Walker: Parallel accounts of the days before and after a fateful blind date follow Rosie Ferro’s revelatory investigation into the disappearance and complicated nature of her sister, Laura.

THE TIME COLLECTOR by Gwendolyn Womack: A psychometrist who can experience the past of anything he touches searches for a close friend who goes missing after uncovering several “out-of-place” objects in this new magical thriller.

GIRL GONE MISSING by Marcie Rendon:  Nothing in Renee Blackbear’s world had prepared her for college or for the hurt that happens in the Twin Cities. In between classes and hauling beets, drinking beer and shooting pool, a man who claims he’s her brother shows up, and she begins to dream the Cities and blonde Scandinavian girls calling for help.

THE FOURTH COURIER by Timothy Jay Smith:  Suspenseful, thrilling, and smart, The Fourth Courier brings together a straight white FBI agent and gay black CIA officer as they team up to uncover a gruesome plot involving murder, radioactive contraband, narcissistic government leaders, and unconscionable greed.

THE SECRETS WE BURY by Debra Webb: After her fathers murder, Rowan Dupont returns to Winchester, Tennessee, to run her family’s funeral home, where she tries to stop an obsessive serial killer and reconsiders her mother’s and sister’s earlier deaths.

You can win autographed copies of 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.

Penguin Random House books for giveaway were provided by the publisher. #PRHpartner

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 can enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

WHITE PEAK by Ronan Frost

May 25, 2019

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Frost presents a novel with both high adventure and some science fiction. The book is exciting, a fast read and one geared towards keeping the readers glued to the pages until finished.

The story opens as Rye Mckenna is holding onto a telephone listening to his wife being murdered when she is caught in a shooting at the mall she was shopping at. Rye is devastated. He is approached by a man representing the multi billionaire Greg Rask and asked if he would like to exact revenge for his wife’s murder.

Rask is assembling a team to search out a map that, if real, will point out where Hitler’s Ahnenerbe hid the three stones that have mystic curative powers. Hitler was a firm believer in the occult and did have this organization make many expeditions searching for the stones. Rask, who has a terminal illness, believes that the map will prove useful to him in curing the disease and has already spent a fortune looking for a miracle.

Rask does arrange for Rye to meet with his wife’s murderer even with the individual in prison. Rye has his chance to exact revenge and does so after which he agrees to join Rask’s team. Along with the other members of the squad journeys are undertaken both to France and than to Tibet where the search is centered on discovery of a lost city where the map is thought to reside. The action is fast, the writing compelling and the reader experiences the feeling that he or she is with the group and traveling in some of the most exotic places on earth.

The ending is one based on a science fiction theme and I felt that it was a bit out of kilter with the rest of the book. It does cause the novel to become more than a little off balance and might even spoil a good book with a poor finale. But again the beginning is compelling and the description of an exotic land well done. This factor could very well negate the ending.

5/19 Paul Lane

WHITE PEAK by Ronan Frost. St. Martin’s Press (May 21, 2019). ISBN  978-1250130082. 336p.




May 24, 2019

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson. Sarah Crichton Books (April 16, 2019). ISBN  978-0374156022. 368p.



THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren

May 23, 2019

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From the publisher:

For two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime—maybe even love—in this romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling authors of Roomies.

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

With Christina Lauren’s “uniquely hilarious and touching voice” (Entertainment Weekly), The Unhoneymooners is a romance for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.

Christina Lauren has become one (two) of my favorites. The writing duo does fast paced stories with great characters, lots of heart, lots of laughs and lots of love. And usually some sex, as is the case here.

The trope of enemies becoming lovers is not new, but feels new here. They mine the comedy of a seafood buffet with a serious microbe on the loose and believably explain the two members of the wedding that avoid it. Twins are always fun, especially identical(ish) twins, and they sure are fun here. At least Olive is; Ami is too sick to be funny much. But I loved the idea of winning everything to make the wedding and honeymoon super easy on the budget and I bought into the no changes,  no refunds on the honeymoon prize and the big switcheroo so that Olive and Ethan end up taking the trip.

You can see what’s coming from a mile away, but who cares when getting there is so much fun. If you like a lot of laughs with your romance, then you won’t want to miss this book. I loved it.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren. Gallery Books (May 14, 2019). ISBN 978-1501128035. 416p.



DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen

May 22, 2019

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Neah Bay, Book 1

With the publication of “Deception Cove,” the author introduces two very unique and quite interesting characters while doing his normal job of capturing the attention of the reader and holding it.

The first is a lady named Jess Winslow who a) got married b) joined the Marines and c) did two tours in Afghanistan seeing all the action one can see. Jess’s husband was killed while she was serving her country and she was discharged from the corps and sent home. Due to the combination of her time in action and the untimely death of her husband, she was diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, released from duty and sent home. She was given a dog especially trained to work with and help returning veterans suffering from PTSD.

The second person is Mason Burke, who is nearing the end of a 15 year prison term for taking part in a robbery that saw the owner of the store shot dead. Towards the end of his sentence, Mason is allowed to train a dog for the purpose of helping those veterans suffering from PTSD, and of course, the dog named Lucy is awarded to Jess. Getting out of prison Mason makes inquiries about Lucy, finds out who she was awarded to and also learns the disturbing news that the dog will shortly be put down for attacking a man. He decides that the only course open to him is to travel to where Jess lives and try and save the dog. This is in a remote but quite beautiful area in the state of Washington. Mason travels there, manages to make contact with Jess and both work on making sure that Lucy is not destroyed.

The story is well done, quite engrossing with the protagonists defined, and that includes the villains of the piece. The best part is an afterward. Laukkanen indicates that he is currently working on future books featuring Jess, Mason, and of course, Lucy. My recommendation is to read this book, find out what happens and what events shape the future. Enjoy a good read and make note of looking for the future novels promised by the author. Readers will not be disappointed in the events depicted in the book and certainly welcome the news that there will be more in the near future.

5/19 Paul Lane

DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen. Mulholland Books (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-0316448703. 384p.



Reading Dangerously

May 21, 2019


Laurie Halse Anderson joins Colson Whitehead in ‘Reading Dangerously’ at the Freedom to Read Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

New York Times bestselling author and intellectual freedom advocate Laurie Halse Anderson will speak at the Freedom to Read Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, D.C. on June 22, 2019.  Anderson, recipient of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her young adult titles “Catalyst,” “Fever 1793” and “Speak,” has been recognized for her ongoing advocacy against censorship.

Anderson is known not only for her award-winning works, but also for her willingness to tackle challenging – and often challenged – topics.  Her book “Speak,” a young adult title that deals with sexual assault, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. “Speak” has been challenged numerous times and is still touching lives and making waves despite progress and the #metoo era.

Anderson will be joining keynote speaker Colson Whitehead, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Underground Railroad,” on the stage at the 50th Anniversary celebration. The celebration will take place during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in the Renaissance Washington D.C.’s Grand Ballroom, 999 9th St NW, Washington, D.C. and will begin at 6 p.m. The event is open to the public, and appetizers and a cash bar will be available. Tickets are $25 and available for purchase on the FTRF website or through ALA conference registration.

To mark its 50th Anniversary, the Freedom to Read Foundation has commissioned a limited-edition commemorative book, “Reading Dangerously,” to highlight its 50 years of advocacy, education and litigation on behalf of the freedom to read.  The book features an introduction by author Neil Gaiman and an essay by former FTRF director James LaRue that looks forward to the foundation’s next 50 years.  Supporters of the foundation can reserve a copy of the book and purchase tickets to the celebration through its Kickstarter campaign, online at

The Freedom to Read Foundation is a nonprofit legal and educational organization founded in 1969 to promote and protect the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press; protect the public’s right of access to information and materials stored in the nation’s libraries; safeguard libraries’ right to disseminate all materials contained in their collections; and support libraries and librarians in their defense of First Amendment rights by supplying them with legal counsel or the means to secure it.

In addition to its litigation and legal advocacy in defense of First Amendment freedoms, the foundation supports projects and programs to educate librarians and the public about the importance of defending the right to read and speak freely by providing grants to libraries, schools, and community institutions across the country. FTRF also supports and funds initiatives and scholarship programs to improve intellectual freedom education for LIS professionals and students.

The Freedom to Read Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Celebration is sponsored by Penguin Random House LLC, Penguin Random House Publisher Services, Avenue4, Gale, a Cengage Company, Association of American Publishers Foundation, EBSCO, OCLC, Bound to Stay Books, ProQuest, HarperCollins, Rakuten OverDrive, Inc., Hachette Book Group, Simon and Schuster, Author’s Guild, Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA), Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), American Association of School Librarians (AASL), SAGE Publishing, Public Library Association (PLA), Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), Association of Specialized Government & Cooperative Library Agencies (ASGCLA), Visiting Librarian Service, Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and the trustees, members, and friends of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

For additional information regarding the 50th Anniversary Celebration, please visit or contact Yumeka Brown at







THE 45TH by D.W. Buffa

May 21, 2019

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The 45th in the title is the 45th president of the United States who in actuality is Donald J. Trump. The story begins at the Republican national convention which is meeting to select a candidate to run against Hillary Constable, the nominated selection of the Democratic party. Trump makes a short appearance when he talks with the man who is indicated as the kingmaker at the Republican convention. But, this is not to be.

The kingmaker, who is the majority whip of the party, turns to Julian Drake, a man that left politics 10 years prior to the story to raise his sister’s children.They had been made orphans due to the untimely deaths of their mother and father and it was felt that Drake on leaving politics missed a chance to possibly rise, even as far as the presidency. Drake is called upon to write the keynote speech for the whip and than is deviously forced into presenting it.

Drake does and moves the convention into the position of selecting him, an unknown, as it’s candidate. He wins the election and begins the process of changing the country over. The novel than becomes a recap of philosopher’s and politician’s thoughts from the past.

Buffa has turned his novel into a compendium of his own thoughts and feelings about what is best for the country. Without summarizing the ideas the reader, like it or not, is thrust into the past to learn about writings and thoughts of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. In addition to the actions and ideas of John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill, we learn about the political manipulations of Disraeli, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The scenario is that the world has completely moved away from the glorious past when great men were able to guide the populations into wholesome lives. The reader of this novel might like the idea of learning about Buffa’s political ideas, but if not it is going to be a tedious situation to plow through pages and pages of idealized philosophy. I finished the book because I felt an obligation to do so. But 1984 it is not.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE 45TH by D.W. Buffa. Polis Books (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-1947993532. 308p.


Guest Blogger: Claire Legrand

May 18, 2019

I am so excited to welcome the fiercely feminist fantasy author, Claire Legrand, to the blog!

The Music That Inspired the Empirium Trilogy

by Claire Legrand

I’ve told this story before—how I came up with the idea for the Empirium Trilogy when I was eighteen and a recent high school graduate. How, while listening to Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I daydreamed the character of Rielle Dardenne. How I worked on the trilogy for fourteen years before the first book, Furyborn, was published.

What I haven’t talked about quite as frequently is the specific music that took me beyond that first moment of inspiration. The apocalyptic choral bombast of “The End of All Things”—the music that accompanies the climactic scene in Return of the King—ushered in the character of Rielle. But what about the days after that, once the heady rush of initial inspiration had passed, when I actually had to sit down and figure out how to write this thing?

In middle school, high school, and the first two years of college, I studied music with determination and fervor. My goal was to become a professional orchestral musician, and my instrument was the trumpet. But even before my official study of music, which took my love of instrumental music to the next level, I was obsessed with film scores.

I remember obsessively listening to Danny Elfman’s score for Black Beauty when I was in elementary school, and using it to daydream up all kinds of weird and often dark stories—always infused with magic and always centering around some kind of love story. A girl and her horse. A princess and her knight. Two best friends on the adventure of a lifetime. If music has been my greatest source of inspiration in terms of the Empirium Trilogy, then I can trace that inspiration all the way back to Black Beauty, and the hours I spent listening to it on repeat as a child. (Thanks, Danny.)

Another important piece of music in the process of writing the Empirium Trilogy was Fantasia On a Theme By Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a haunting, bittersweet work for string orchestra that I listened to on repeat while writing the original prologue of Furyborn. I can still remember the nervy, giddy feeling that came over me as I sat down to write that opening chapter. I had been planning the trilogy for a few years by that point, and I remember feeling like the moment I began writing this story for real would be pivotal, and that I would remember it forever. I was right. (Side note: The Furyborn prologue has stayed virtually the same over the years.)

Originally, the world of the Empirium Trilogy was our own. Rielle existed in a forgotten/concealed past, and Eliana lived in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic version of the southern United States. You can see a nod to this original concept in the name of Orline, Eliana’s home city. In the first version of the story, she lived in New Orleans. I spent a lot of time writing her opening pages in my university library, tucked away in various quiet corners. Hans Zimmer’s score for The Da Vinci Code was—and still is—a huge part of the musical soundscape of the book, and one particular track, “L’esprit Dès Gabriel,” helped me establish the look and feel of that post-apocalyptic New Orleans, which remains very much the same, even now that it’s Orline.

Last but certainly not least (though I could honestly keep going through my extensive original playlist for several thousand more words), is John Powell’s score for X-Men: The Last Stand. Seeing this movie in the theater was my introduction to the character of Jean Grey/Phoenix, and since I had at the time already started developing the character of Rielle, I was fascinated by this powerful, incredibly dangerous character, who was similar to Rielle in many ways. Say what you will about the movie itself, but Powell’s score is truly deserving of the overused “epic” descriptor. The three-track sequence “Entering the House,” “Dark Phoenix Tragedy,” and “Farewell to X” imprinted on me in a big way. The all-female chorus, the sense of mystery and encroaching doom, and the feeling of rage—it’s basically Rielle in musical form.

These are only a few of the musical pieces that inspired me in the early days of writing the Empirium Trilogy. For more music like this, check out my book playlists on Spotify!

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Empirium, Book 2

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller Furyborn, two queens, separated by a thousand years, connected by secrets and lies, must continue their fight amid deadly plots and unthinkable betrayals that will test their strength—and their hearts.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.

About the Author


Claire Legrand

Claire Legrand is the New York Times-bestselling author of FURYBORN, the first book in the Empirium Trilogy, as well as the YA horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS and the Edgar Award finalist SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS. Her other novels include THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, WINTERSPELL, and FOXHEART. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction. She lives in New Jersey, where she works as a librarian. Visit her at and on Twitter @clairelegrand.


May 16, 2019

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From the publisher:


What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

To pigeonhole this book is to do it a great disservice. Yes, it is a gay romance. It is also very political, but in a sweet, fantasy sort of way that really appealed to me. In the world McQuiston has created, America moved on from Barack Obama to a Latina woman president, continuing those almost forgotten themes of hope and change instead of the torrent of hate and divisiveness that we are currently living through. That definitely worked for me. And she’s from Texas!

I loved the family dynamics, both in the American first family and the British royal family. Alex and Henry both have siblings that are also their best friends, until they find each other. They also have Secret Service (and the British equivalent,) live in very large houses that actually belong to the people of their respective countries, and have been living a public life for years, especially Henry. Alex, at least, had his formative years in relative obscurity.

The royal family has been changed enough to make them unrecognizable yet thoroughly believable. Prince Henry is gay, and no one knows it or is allowed to know it. It is his responsibility to be the millennial face of the crown family, and, of course, to reproduce. Learning the machinations of the PR machines that drive both the royal family and the American presidency was fun and actually a little darker than I expected.

Alex and Henry’s story made me laugh and made me cry and especially made me wish for a better America. And if that surprises you, you must be new here. Feel free to comment.

This was a super fun summer read, and I can see why it made the LibraryReads list. It’s fantastical and idealistic and I loved it.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston. Griffin (May 14, 2019).  ISBN  978-1250316776. 432p.



THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang

May 15, 2019

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From the publisher:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Kiss Quotient comes a romantic novel about love that crosses international borders and all boundaries of the heart…

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

I loved Hoang’s first book, The Kiss Quotient, so much that it made my best books of 2018 list. It is entirely possible that this new one will end up on this year’s favorites list as well. It topped the LibraryReads list for May, and with very good reason.

Hoang has created a niche in the romance genre, or maybe even two; one of her protagonists is autistic, the other is of mixed race.

In this book, she switched things around so our hero is the one on the spectrum, and our heroine is half American, half Vietnamese. But Hoang takes it a step further and really delves into the immigrant experience in America.

Khai is a complex character, as is Esme and I love the character development, it definitely adds to the story and I couldn’t help but root for this couple. Even the secondary characters are interesting,  especially Khai’s mother and his brother. We don’t get to know much about Esme’s family as they are still in Vietnam, but we learn her backstory, about the poverty she grew up in and still lived in until this opportunity arose. Esme is no fool and she seizes every advantage to try and build a better life for her family, hopefully in America.

We know that Khai is very successful but I would have liked to learn a bit more about that. It is suggested that is very frugal which Esme takes for lack of funds, not understanding what is going on and frankly, neither did I. But that is just a minor quibble.

There are some really funny moments in this book, as well as some heartbreaking ones. It was an emotional read for me, and I know I won’t be forgetting these characters any time soon.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang. Berkley (May 7, 2019).  ISBN 978-0451490827. 320p.



LADIES WHO PUNCH by Ramin Setoodeh

May 14, 2019

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The Explosive Inside Story of “The View”

From the publisher:

Like Fire & Fury, the gossipy real-life soap opera behind a serious show.

When Barbara Walters launched The View, network executives told her that hosting it would tarnish her reputation. Instead, within ten years, she’d revolutionized morning TV and made household names of her co-hosts: Joy Behar, Star Jones, Meredith Vieira and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. But the daily chatfest didn’t just comment on the news. It became the news. And the headlines barely scratched the surface.

Based on unprecedented access, including stunning interviews with nearly every host, award-winning journalist Ramin Setoodeh takes you backstage where the stars really spoke their minds. Here’s the full story of how Star, then Rosie, then Whoopi tried to take over the show, while Barbara struggled to maintain control of it all, a modern-day Lear with her media-savvy daughters. You’ll read about how so many co-hosts had a tough time fitting in, suffered humiliations at the table, then pushed themselves away, feeling betrayed―one nearly quitting during a commercial. Meanwhile, the director was being driven insane, especially by Rosie.

Setoodeh uncovers the truth about Star’s weight loss and wedding madness. Rosie’s feud with Trump. Whoopi’s toxic relationship with Rosie. Barbara’s difficulty stepping away. Plus, all the unseen hugs, snubs, tears―and one dead rodent.

Ladies Who Punch shows why The View can be mimicked and mocked, but it can never be matched.

By the time I heard about this book, it was too late to get a digital galley, always my preference. I love reading on my Kindle or iPad, especially at night, because I don’t have to wear my reading glasses. By the end of the day I’m tired and I find glasses annoying at best. Anyway, I requested a review copy from the publisher and they were kind enough to send me a finished copy (hardcover) and much to my surprise, the book on CD.

I don’t listen to very many audio books because I find my mind wanders, but nonfiction I can do. I also used to have a ridiculously short (8 minute) commute to work. My new job is a 20 minutes commute which works much better for book length material. But then I was stumped by this 20th century technology. Did I have anywhere to even play a CD? I am all in on digital technology and love Audible and my library’s digital audio books. Much to my surprise, my car (2 years old) had a CD player in it. Who knew! So I decided to listen.

I was also trepidatious about the reader – the author reads the book and that is often a recipe for disaster. The best readers are professional, often actors, often famous actors, and know how to read to keep the listener’s attention. Most authors know how to read. Period. But Setoodeh did a really good job. He sounded just dishy enough to give the book the flavor he intended and I was pleasantly surprised. My only complaint was that disc 6 (out of 8) was defective, I had to wait to get the printed book back from my mother-in-law (who loved it, by the way) to read the bit I was missing. But all in all it was a very positive listening experience.

I am a long time fan of The View; I’ve watched it, off and on, for most of the 20+ years it’s been on. I was usually working when it aired, so I recorded it for many years, especially the Rosie-then-Whoopi-then-Rosie&Whoopi years. I’m not sure when I stopped but it’s been at least a few years I would say, so now I just catch it when I’m home, or occasionally when the ladies make the news and I can find clips on YouTube. So I definitely had opinions on the show and its hosts and was looking forward to reading all the dirt. Why not, life is short – you may as well have fun now and again!

The biggest takeaway for me was twofold; Barbara is an excellent liar and no one, not one single host, ever left on their own accord. They were all fired and Barbara, despite her protestations to the contrary, had a hand in most, if not all of them. Even Barbara’s retirement seemed somewhat sketchy to me. My take: it seemed like she was goaded into doing things that made her lose control of the show. Then she was coerced into retiring, which turned into a year long retirement extravaganza during which she reconsidered and did not want to retire. But retire she did. There were definite intimations of her frailty, both physical (her “shuffling”) and mental (memory loss.) I can’t feel too sorry for her though, her career was longer than almost anyone else in television except for maybe Tom Brokaw (and that’s just a guess.)

All that said, Barbara is given full credit, and rightly so, for creating a new daytime television dynamic, changing the landscape of daytime talk shows forever. The most obvious clone is “The Talk” but it seems to me all the daytime political shows, even the cable network shows like “Morning Joe” and Trump’s fave, “Fox and Friends”, all seem to have been gleaned from “The View.”

If you are/were a fan of “The View” you won’t want to miss this book. If you like celebrity gossip, the same. I enjoyed it.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LADIES WHO PUNCH by Ramin Setoodeh.  Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1250112095. 336p.



Audio CD