Win the August ’16 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

August 1, 2016

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Welcome to the August bookshelf of signed thrillers! I am giving away some terrific books this month, all autographed by the authors. Don’t forget to check back…you never know when new titles will be added. To enter, go to the Win Books page. Best of luck!

STING by Sandra Brown: Changing his mind about his crime partner’s abduction of wealthy party planner Jordie Bennet, seductive bad boy Shaw Kinnard flees with his elegant captive from the FBI and her brother’s corrupt boss while trying to ignore the chemistry that challenges their escape.

DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch: Kidnapped and drugged at gunpoint for inexplicable reasons, physics professor Jason Dessen awakens in a lab and is informed that his entire life has been an illusion and that he is being hunted by a deadly adversary. By the best-selling author of the Wayward Pines trilogy.

KILLFILE by Christopher Farnsworth: A man who can hear other people’s thoughts is hired to track a former tech employee who stole some important and valuable intellectual property. A “clever, offbeat thriller.” Kirkus Reviews

THE ONE MAN by Andrew Gross: When a World War II physics professor with information vital to Allied forces is sent to a Nazi concentration camp, intelligence officer Nathan Blum is sent undercover to infiltrate Auschwitz and bring the professor to safety.

ARROWOOD by Laura McHugh: When Arden Arrowood was four years old, her two-year-old twin sisters were stolen from the front yard of their hometown of Keokuk, Iowa, on the Mississippi River while Arden watched. Twenty years later, she returns home to confront the darkest part of her past. As the mystery unravels, the novel explores the reliability of memory, the stories we tell ourselves, and the power of love.

BRAIN STORM by Elaine Viets: After suffering a series of crippling strokes, death investigator Angela Richman, facing a harrowing recovery, must solve the murder of the neurologist who misdiagnosed her and prove the innocence of the surgeon who saved her life, despite the fact that her brain trauma brings doubts that she will ever recover her investigative skills.



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!

Sister Abegail Ntleko on why we should let go of worry and embrace life

August 27, 2016

Sister Abegail Ntleko (activist and author of EMPTY HANDS) discusses the path we can take to lead a fuller life, and shares stories from her own journey.

Empty Hands: A Memoir: One Woman’s Journey to Save Children Orphaned by AIDS in South Africaempty hands

Empty Hands is the inspiring memoir of Zulu nurse and healthcare activist Sister Abegail Ntleko. Growing up poor in a rural village with a father who didn’t believe in educating girls, against seemingly insurmountable odds Sister Abegail earned her nursing degree and began work as a community nurse and educator, dedicating her life to those in need. “Her story tells us,” says Desmond Tutu, who wrote the foreword to the book, “what a single person can accomplish when heart and mind work together in the service of others.”

Overcoming poverty and racism within the apartheid South African system, she adopted her first child at a time when it was unheard of to do so. And then she did it again and again. In forty years she has taken in and cared for hundreds of children who had nothing, saving babies—many of them orphans whose parents died of AIDS—from hospitals that were ready to give up on them and let them die.

Empty Hands describes the harshness of Ntleko’s circumstances with wit and wisdom in direct, beautifully understated prose and will appeal not only to activists and aid workers, but to anyone who believes in the power of the human spirit to rise above suffering and find peace, joy, and purpose.

“Ntleko’s story, which she tells in simple language, is inspiring and moving. She neither dwells in nor dramatizes the hardships she has faced, preferring instead to focus on ‘fill[ing] her hands with love and then spend[ing] all that love until [her] hands are empty again.’ A brief, genuine, heartfelt memoir of an awe-inspiring life.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A tenaciously hopeful memoir by a South African nurse who mothered hundreds of children orphaned by AIDS, all in the spirit of ubuntu—the Zulu belief that you are only a person because of other people.” O, the Oprah Magazine 

About the Author

Born into extreme poverty in KwaZulu-Natal, Sister Abegail Ntleko overcame tremendous obstacles to obtain an education and become a nurse, eventually becoming one of South Africa’s preeminent community activists. She received an Unsung Heroes of Compassion award presented by the Dalai Lama in 2009. Now 79 years old, Sister Abe has built and managed two orphanages serving hundreds of young people and has helped thousands of children and families affected by HIV. She has also personally adopted and fostered more than 30 children, and her latest project, the Kulungile Care Centre in Underberg, has become home for her large family.


PRESSURE by Brian Keene

August 26, 2016
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The underwater waterfalls of Mauritius – an effect caused by sand runoff into a deeper underwater rift – have always been a fascination. But when the falls begin to grow rapidly and local marine wildlife begins dying off in droves, environmental activists worldwide become concerned. Carrie Anderson, a well-known free diver and marine biologist, is part of a team investigating the incident. Their hope is to understand exactly what’s causing the massive growth of the falls and determine the ramifications if that growth continues.

When a routine dive results in the death of her diving partner, Carrie is the first to admit that she herself was lucky to have survived. But giving voice to exactly what went wrong is more difficult than it might seem. See, Carrie witnessed and experienced something she can’t quite explain. Something that defies everything she’s ever experienced in her dives before. Something so potentially terrifying that it could mean devastating results for everyone.

But she’ll need proof if she’s to have any hope of getting people to listen.

Unknown terrors from the deepest depths of the ocean… Brian Keene’s latest seemed like it would be the perfect summer horror read. Unfortunately, Pressure doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

The story and characters are quite thin. There’s no science, no development of the plot, and no atmosphere. Nautical-based horror should have tons of atmosphere, in my opinion. And as someone with major fears of open water, I’m pretty easy to satisfy in that regard. As for the characters, most of them get a few lines of backstory and that’s about it. No fleshing out, no emotion, and nothing to connect the reader to them and make us care about what happens.

There is, in spite of all of that, a certain amount of simple fun to Pressure. If you’re willing to forgo rich detail and simply appreciate the fact that it’s short and doesn’t require a whole lot of attention or thought. And that’s fine sometimes. I simply hoped for – and expected – something more from Keene.

8/16 Becky LeJeune

PRESSURE by Brian Keene. Thomas Dunne Books (June 21, 2016).  ISBN: 978-1250071347. 288p.



Author Judd Winick on the scariest book he’s ever read

August 25, 2016

Author Judd Winick (HILO Series) talks about the scariest book he’s ever read—Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN.


Sandman 8 Sandman 7 Sandman 6 Sandman 5 Sandman 4 Sandman 3 Sandman 2 Sandman 1


THE ONE MAN by Andrew Gross

August 24, 2016
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Andrew Gross has written probably the most moving novel that I have read.

To say that it is an emotional roller coaster is the truth, but does not do it the justice it deserves. The book involves a lengthy look at the real horrors of a Nazi concentration camp and the daily struggle of the people trapped there just to somehow survive.

I am a fan of Mr. Gross, and in my opinion this novel is far and away the best work among many good works that he has given us.

In 1944, Alfred Mendl is taken away from his family in Poland, and along with many others is sent to a men’s concentration camp. His notes and papers on his work are taken from him and destroyed. The Nazis have no idea that they confiscated work that only one other person in the world has, and which when combined with work done by other scientists could start a war – or win one.

Nathan Blum, a Polish Jew who has successfully escaped from Poland but was forced to leave his family behind to be slaughtered, has certain requisite qualities that make him the ideal man for a scheme to rescue Mendl from the camp. He is Semitic in appearance, speaks both Polish and German. He is assigned to desk work for the U.S. army in Washington but desperately wants to do something more important for the war effort. The plan to rescue Mendl involves actually breaking into the camp he is at, and bringing him out to be sent to the United States to work with the scientists currently at work attempting to build a nuclear weapon. To be successful there must be an almost impossible combination of events that occur.

There is not one single way to put down the book without finishing it, and the reader arrives at a surprising end literally drained of emotion. Vivid descriptions of the horrors prevalent in the camp cannot fail to stir any reader who has only experienced the Holocaust through reading history. Andrew Gross brings us there and creates an ambience that will stay for quite a while.

8/16 Paul Lane

THE ONE MAN by Andrew Gross. Minotaur Books (August 23, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250079503.  432p.



FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

August 23, 2016


First I ramble…

Many years ago I learned a speed reading technique of sorts. It’s not for reading books, but rather looking at books. As a librarian, we get in tons of new books every day and there is no way to read them all. But this technique, that started out as How to Read a Book in Five Minutes then progressed to Ten Minutes, is very helpful at getting a good feel for a book.

I decided to test it out and asked a co-worker, Barbara, to pick out five romances that she was very familiar with, since I hadn’t read a romance in probably twenty years. I locked myself in a room and spent about an hour using this technique and looking at these books. Then I sat down with Barbara and told her about each of the books. We were both astounded at how much I got out of these ten minute reads.

Spring forward a few years and I’m in library school, where my professor assigns us to read a book out of our comfort zone. I chose a romance, again because back then I wasn’t reading any. The book I selected was NATURAL BORN CHARMER, the winner of the American Library Association Genre Fiction Award as the Outstanding Romance of 2007. As I was reading it, I kept thinking it seemed so familiar yet I knew I had never read it. The further I went, the more it kept gnawing at me until I finally realized that one of those ten minute reads was by this same author.

I loved that book and by now I think I’ve read all her books, so I’m always excited when she has a new one. The Chicago Stars series is like most romance series, it is completely unnecessary to read them in any kind of order, they all stand alone beautifully. The series centers around the fictional Chicago Stars football team and each book is about one of the team. Phillips writes smart, sexy books that have a lot of humor, and I would say she is my favorite contemporary romance writer.

First Star I See Tonight is another excellent addition to the series and it has one of the prettiest covers Phillips has ever had.

Cooper Graham was the star quarterback for the Stars, and for some reason, a woman is following him. Piper Dove is that woman and she is determined to live up to her father’s legacy and become a top notch private detective. Except Graham spots her, so she improvises, telling him she’s actually his stalker, albeit a harmless one. And that my friends, is the “meet cute.”

Graham is newly retired from football, and has opened up an exclusive, swanky night club. He eventually hires Piper, ostensibly to help out with security – but she quickly becomes his bodyguard, not that he thinks he needs one. They are a great couple, but face a lot of bumps along the way. But this is a romance and a happy ending is required, and Phillips does not disappoint. Another winner in the Chicago Stars series, and a terrific read. I loved it.

8/16  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. William Morrow (August 23, 2016). ISBN 978-0062405616. 384p.

Poet Tyler Knott Gregson on his writing distractions

August 22, 2016

Tyler Knott Gregson (author of ALL THE WORDS ARE YOURS) discusses how aspects of living in Montana pull him away from his writing, including animals and the weather.


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Here starts the journey

Every day for the past six years, Tyler Knott Gregson has written a simple haiku about love, and posted it online. These heartfelt poems have attracted a large and loyal following around the world. This highly anticipated follow-up to Chasers of the Light, presents Tyler’s favorites, some previously unpublished, accompanied by his signature photographs, which capture the rich texture of daily life.

This vibrant collection reveals the intimate reflections of one of poetry’s most popular new voices — honest, vulnerable, generous, and truly present in the gift that is each moment.


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Author Azar Nafisi on Iran

August 20, 2016

How American conceptions about Iran have changed

After finishing her schooling in America in 1979, Azar Nafisi (author of THE REPUBLIC OF IMAGINATION) moved back to Iran. When she returned to America in 1997 she found that views toward Iran had substantially changed, focusing largely on religious extremism.


A Life in Books

A New York Times bestseller

The author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehranreturns with the next chapter of her life in books—a passionate and deeply moving hymn to America.republic of imagination

Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her multimillion-copy bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics of English and American literature to her eager students in Iran. In this electrifying follow-up, she argues that fiction is just as threatened—and just as invaluable—in America today.

Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite novels, she describes the unexpected journey that led her to become an American citizen after first dreaming of America as a young girl in Tehran and coming to know the country through its fiction. She urges us to rediscover the America of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and challenges us to be truer to the words and spirit of the Founding Fathers, who understood that their democratic experiment would never thrive or survive unless they could foster a democratic imagination. Nafisi invites committed readers everywhere to join her as citizens of what she calls the Republic of Imagination, a country with no borders and few restrictions, where the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.

Azar Nafisi is a professor at John Hopkins University. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal among others, and is the author of Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov’s Novels. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and two children.


August 18, 2016


New York, August 15, 2016 — Otto Penzler, President and CEO of, has announced the finalists for the inaugural Mysterious Press Award, which was established as a contest for a mystery novel to be published as Best E-Book Original by and distributed in the United States and Canada by Open Road Integrated Media and published world-wide.

The finalists are:

ALIBI by Lee Goodman (represented by Janet Reid)
THE DOWNSIDE by Mike Cooper (represented by Janet Reid)
BRIGHT LIKE BLOOD by Leigh C. Rourks (represented by Larry Kirshbaum)

“As electronic publishing has become a significant element of the publishing world, we decided to recognize an outstanding work of mystery fiction by offering a substantial advance and a great opportunity for world-wide recognition,” said Penzler. “We had an extraordinary array of outstanding crime novels submitted for the contest and will be thrilled to publish whichever one is chosen as the winner.”

These top three entries have been circulated to Mysterious Press’s world-wide partners for a final decision. The winner will be chosen based on a variety of criteria, including originality and literary quality.

The winning entry will receive a prize of $25,000 and guaranteed world-wide publication. The $25,000 prize will be an advance against future royalties. will publish the winning title as an e-book original with print-on-demand copies also available. World-wide partners will have all rights (excluding dramatic rights) to publish in all formats.

The winner will be announced at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair.

Contest sponsors are partners who distribute and market its books: Open Road, in North America and numerous countries around the world; Head of Zeus in the British Commonwealth; Hayakawa Publishing (Japan, Singapore, and South Korea), Bonnier (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland); Dutch Media Books (Holland and Belgium), and Bastei Lubbe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Greece, and selected Eastern European countries). e-books are distributed in China by Trajectory.

The contest was open to established authors as well as first-time novelists. Submissions of complete and unpublished novels were accepted from accredited literary agents.

More information about Mysterious Press can be found on

CURIOUS MINDS by Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton

August 17, 2016
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Knight and Moon Series, Book 1

In the first entry of the Knight and Moon series, Evanovich and Sutton have teamed up again (Wicked Charms) to introduce the eponymous Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. Moon is a Harvard MBA with her first job as an analyst for Blane-Grunwald, a large, privately held bank, and Knight is their largest depositor; young, good looking and a bit of an eccentric.

When Knight demands to see his gold deposits, Moon is dispatched to placate him at his home, Mysterioso Manor, which boasts wild animals roaming freely and a classic car collection. The two of them fall into an adventure looking for the missing Grunwald partner that gets significantly more dangerous as they stumble onto an evil plot to steal the world’s gold.

The humor occasionally borders on silly, but the one liners fly as fast and furious as the pages do in this auspicious start to the new series. Evanovich fans will find this series closer in style to the Stephanie Plum series rather than the slightly more sophisticated Fox & O’Hare series.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

8/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CURIOUS MINDS by Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton. Bantam (August 16, 2016).  ISBN 978-0553392685. 336p.



RISE THE DARK by Michael Koryta

August 16, 2016
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Markus Novak Novels, Book 2

Markus Novak lost his wife when Garland Webb killed her and left her body in a ditch in Casadaga, Florida, home to a large psychic and spiritual community. Webb was never caught and Novak is on the hunt, his only clue is his wife’s last entry in her journal, the mysterious phrase, “rise the dark.”

Across the country in Montana, a high voltage linesman is accidentally killed while his best friend, Jay, is just a few feet away. Jay and his best friend’s sister, Sabrina, move away, ostensibly to keep Jay safe and on the ground. When the power goes out, he goes to work but Sabrina is kidnapped while Jay is instructed to take down some heavy duty power lines.

Meanwhile a beautiful young woman is traveling the country on her way to Montana, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind. These disparate stories eventually come together in a frightening story about the holes in the U.S. infrastructure and security, and a villain who seems too smart to be stopped. Novak’s dysfunctional family comes to the forefront in this excellent second book in the Markus Novak series.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

8/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RISE THE DARK by Michael Koryta. Little, Brown and Company (August 16, 2016).  ISBN 978-0316293839. 400p.


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