Win the December ’17 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

December 1, 2017

Welcome to the December bookshelf of signed thrillers! As 2017 comes to a close, I want to let you all know how much your support means to me. My regular readers who come back all the time to read reviews, share your thoughts and of course, try to win some books! New readers who find the site through their friends or social media. I appreciate every one of you, and welcome you all.

This month the International Thriller Writers have provided some excellent thrillers for you to win. To enter, go to the Win Books page. More books will be added throughout the month, so check back often.

Best of luck!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

NIGHTBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson: A U.S. release of an international best-seller follows the murder of a policeman with a haunted past and the arrival of a mysterious young woman whose own secrets threaten the safety of everyone in a tight-knit Northern Iceland fishing village.

STRONG TO THE BONE by Jon Land:  Fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong pursues a killer who eluded her grandfather more than half a century earlier, a case that reveals a conspiracy connecting a World War II-era Nazi POW camp and a modern-day neo-Nazi gang.

A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS by Victoria Gilbert: Librarian Amy Webber must archive overdue crimes and deadly rumors before a killer strikes again in her new Virginia home in Victoria Gilbert’s charming series debut.

ACCIDENTAL OUTLAWS by Matt Phillips: Three linked crime novellas that follow working class antiheroes as they indulge in theft, murder, and lawless shenanigans.

MEAT CITY ON FIRE (and Other Assorted Debacles) by Angel Luis Colon: Colón invites you on a short tour of the world as a literary mix tape…sometimes you’ll crawl through the fire and smoke for a chance at a semi-decent score and a way out of working in a place called “Meat City”.

KILLMAN CREEK by Rachel Caine: After her ex-husband, a serial killer, escapes from jail, Gwen Proctor must protect her children and teams up with the brother of one of his victims to try to beat her ex at the sick and savage game he’s playing.

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 to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Best Books of 2017: Paul Lane

December 15, 2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1) Column of Fire by Ken Follett – Third book in series by the author revolving about the fictional city of Kingsbridge in England. Set during the Elizabethan period and is masterful description of that age and the rise to power of Elizabeth I. As always characterizations are masterful, plot mesmerizing.

2) Charlatans by Robin Cook – Latest book by Cook. Similar to all prior novels talks about an error occurring during a routine medical procedure, the death of the patient and the fault attempting to be laid on the wrong person. Medical information well executed to be understood by us laymen.

3) Execute Authority by Dalton Fury – Novel concerns the actions of Kolt Rayner and his Delta Force squadron. Action galore in solving attempted assassination of the American president while on a visit to Greece. Unfortunately the final book about Rayner since the author Dalton Fury passed away from cancer prior to publication. He will be missed by his readers.

4) Red Swan by Peter Deutermann – Deutermann finished a career in the navy emerging with the rank of Captain. Since his retirement he has dedicated himself to writing novels based on his knowledge of things military. “Red Swan” describes the efforts of both the FBI and the CIA in their constant efforts to protect America from it’s foreign and domestic enemies. A swan is an action taken against a person or group in which the perpetrator takes the attitude that they know nothing about what has happened. One of Mr Deutermann’s best plots.

5) When You Disappeared by John Marrs – Fascinating plot about the ramifications of a marriage during which the husband disappears for 25 years. Action starts when he suddenly returns home. The happenings to both the husband and wife form the crux of the book and leave the reader with a sigh and a feeling of having undergone a major event.

6) The Irregular by H.B. Lyle – Novel about the founding of the British Secret Service during the early years of the 20th century. Investigations have been started against Germany and Russia with the probable advent of WWI. Actual Persona that lived during that period are incorporated into the book and long mention is made regarding Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character of Sherlock Holmes. Reason being that Holmes was one of the earliest characters using close examination and sound reasoning to solve cases.

7) Fever by Deon Meyer – Meyer is a South African author who has begun reaching readers in the United States. Fever is a monumental work by him describing actions by people surviving a 21st century black death plague that has killed off most of the world’s population. Surviving and than taking on the task of rebuilding civilization as best as they could. Plenty of heroes as well as villains make for a fascinating read.

8) Poison by Galt Niederhoffer – Niederhoffer enjoys a very rewarding and satisfying career as a first line maker of award winning films. She also has time somehow to write novels such as this one that are very well done. The book is a look at the second place that women seem to be awarded vis a vis men. A wife finds that her husband is trying to kill her in order to get out of the marriage. She attempts to get help from other people, the police and even her own mother who all seem to take the attitude that her husband is not in the wrong.

9) Weycombe by G.M. Malliet – A murder mystery set in an upscale community. The book is set in first person narrative, somewhat tongue in cheek but also a character study of witness testifying. Each person questioned about the murder has seen the same things but offers a different narrative describing those events.

10) The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow – A book that is in every way beautiful revolving around the search for a libretto of an unknown piece of music by a famous writer. Starting at the end of World War I in Czechoslovakia moving through World War II and the subsequent the later occupation by Russia. Later following one of the two principal characters to London and than the United States it brings her together with the other principal in a search for the missing Sonata. Leaves the reader with the feeling that they have just experienced something wonderful.


December 14, 2017

Click to purchase

Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

Yes, it’s that Anne of Green Gables, most recently reimagined as a Gothic nightmare on Netflix as “Anne with an E.” The Montgomery book was one of my favorites in childhood. Then I reread it in my children’s lit class in library school and loved it even more. Gothic nightmare is so not for me, but this book, this original, most certainly is.

The original (and subsequent sequels) are ostensibly children’s books but adults will certainly find much to enjoy as well. I was super excited to see this beautiful new edition from Penguin. It’s a lovely paperback with high quality paper and a cover with flaps – yes, these are things that excite me, I admit it. There is a new forward and included are some additional writings from the author.

Anne Shirley is one of the most beloved characters in literature – and it’s not just me. I recently caught the 1934 movie based on the book and was totally confused when I saw that the main character, Anne Shirley, was portrayed by an actress named…Anne Shirley. So I Googled it, and according to Wikipedia,

The actress Dawn O’Day who played Shirley in the 1934 film adaption of Anne of Green Gables liked the character so much she legally changed her name to Anne Shirley.

If you haven’t read it, this synopsis is from the publisher:

The beloved coming-of-age tale of a spunky heroine named Anne “with an E”, for the first time as a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, with a foreword by bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan. 

L. M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan mistakenly sent to a pair of siblings who intended to adopt a boy to help work on their farm in Prince Edward Island. Yet Anne’s quirky personality and good-natured spirit causes the siblings to grow to love her anyway, and soon the entire town falls for the precocious little girl with bright red hair.

Cherished by both children and adults, Anne of Green Gables is a celebration of fierce individualism, and the families we create, rather than the ones we are born into. This Deluxe edition is enhanced with a foreword by bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan, and an introduction and suggestions for further reading by Benjamin Lefebvre, as well as a selection of early writing by L. M. Montgomery about the process of writing Anne.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

If you want to buy a wonderful book for a child or an adult who might need a beautiful, escapist read, I highly recommend this book. Thank you so much to Penguin Classics for sending me a copy, I will treasure it!

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery. Penguin Classics; Deluxe edition (November 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-0143131854.  368p.


Best of 2017 | Six Picks

December 13, 2017


December 12, 2017

Click to purchase

Studies in Scandal, Book 2

Due to an illegal marriage, Alexander Westcott finds himself the new Earl of Riverdale. This was not something he coveted, especially when he finds that the previous Earl has let the estate go into disrepair. Alexander didn’t inherit money in addition to his title, so as the gentry is wont to do, he must marry money.

Wren Heyden is a neighbor of the new Earl. She has been a recluse for most of her life. Born with a large strawberry birthmark covering half of her face, she was scorned and abused by her parents until a kindly aunt took her in. The aunt married well, and they adopted Wren, giving her a comfortable life, albeit a lonely one of her own choosing. When her aunt and uncle die, she inherits everything.

The young heiress only wants for one thing; a husband. She invites a few of her unmarried male neighbors to visit, hoping to find a husband in one of them and is quite taken with the Earl. But as much as he needs to marry for money, he isn’t going to rush into anything. They agree to start a courtship, and Wren finds herself in way over her head. He has social obligations, a large family, and wants her to participate in his life. She is very much afraid, but takes small steps to that end, and finds herself falling for Alexander.

Alexander is not looking for great passion, just companionship, and affection. But the relationship deepens, much to their surprise. But Wren has to learn to get past her abusive childhood, and with Alexander’s help, she does.

This is an interesting, lovely romance from Balogh. The sex is more sensual than explicit, but the romance rings true. Another wonderful entry into the Westcott series.

11/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DUKE WITH BENEFITS by Manda Collins. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (June 27, 2017). ISBN 978-1250109880.  320p.



December 11, 2017

Click to purchase

Southern Eclectic Series, Book 1

This is a contemporary romance with oodles of charm and laughs. This author is new to me as her previous bookls were paranormal, which I just can’t get into for whatever reason. But this book, the first of a new series, is paranormal free and right in my wheelhouse.

Margot is a top flight party planner in Chicago until disaster strikes. Of course it is all caught on video and goes viral, causing her to lose her job and consequently her home. Margot has lost her mother, and her father took off when she was a toddler, and the only family she has left is her stepfather who adopted her as a child. Then he pulls the rug out from under her, telling her he was never really married to her mother. While she is reeling from that bit of news, she gets a job offer.

Margot’s great Aunt on her father’s side calls to offer her a job at the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop in Lake Sackett, Georgia. Margot has always believed her father, an alcoholic, wanted nothing to do with her but she is definitely curious about him and his family, so off she goes. She is sending out resumes everywhere trying to get a job as a party planner in a city, but then she meets Kyle, the principal of the elementary school, and things start looking up in Georgia.

Lots of small town charm including every Southern stereotype from sweet tea to bless her heart, but who cares when a book is this engaging. The characters are quirky, the setting brought skillfully to life, and there is just enough romance and drama to keep it all interesting. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SWEET TEA AND SYMPATHY by Molly Harper.  Gallery Books (November 21, 2017). ISBN 978-1501151224. 320p.


ON SECOND THOUGHT by Kristan Higgins

December 10, 2017

Click to purchase

Kristan Higgins has become one of my favorite authors. I love her writing style, her sense of humor and her characters. (see my review of her Blue Heron series)

This is a stand-alone novel set in New York. Kate finally has everything she’s always wanted and never thought she’d have, especially since she’s pushing 40. But four months into her story book marriage to Nathan, she loses him in a bizarre accident. This is not a spoiler, from the first chapter you know this is going to happen. But it is what happens after that makes this story.

Kate’s younger half-sister, Ainsley, has only ever been with one man and they’ve been together for eleven years. He’s just beaten cancer, and she is waiting for him to finally propose. Instead, he dumps her and blogs about it, and of course it goes viral.

The sisters end up being a support system for each other, and then they meet new men – Daniel the hot firefighter, and Jonathan, Ainsley’s sourpuss boss. The exploration of grief, from death and a breakup is intense and feels so real – as does the guilt that comes with finding joy.

This book brought me to tears more than once, yet also had me laughing out loud. I loved it.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ON SECOND THOUGHT by Kristan Higgins. HQN Books (January 31, 2017). ISBN 978-0373789252. 480p.


Sarah Jessica Parker on how she became a reader

December 9, 2017


December 8, 2017

Click to purchase

Difficult Dukes, Book 1

This first book of a new series from perennial favorite Loretta Chase introduces the three “dis-Graces,” dukes who have been so badly behaved that they are barely welcome in society. But one of the dis-Graces, the Duke of Ashmont, has fallen for Olympia, especially after his uncle pushes him hard into the relationship. But on the morning of their wedding, he is left at the altar. The bride has run away.

The best man, another of the dis-Graces, the Duke of Ripley, takes off after the bride, determined to bring her back to his best friend. Ripley has noticed her over the years but kept his distance as he was and is not ready for marriage. The chase takes them on a road trip of sorts and leads to all kinds of complications, not the least of which is their growing attraction for one another.

Ripley may have a bad reputation, but his sense of honor is strong and he knows he cannot have his best friend’s affianced. Or can he? Olympia knows she needs to marry Ashmont to bring in money that her family desperately needs. Yet she can’t quite bring herself to do it.

Chase brings her trademark wit to this delightful romp. A wonderful start to the new series and I can’t wait for the next installment.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR by Loretta Chase. Avon (November 28, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062457387. 400p.


The Blue Heron Series by Kristan Higgins

December 7, 2017

I’ve been reviewing these books individually but decided to just do a series review at this point. I started reading this series, as I am wont to do, out of order. I actually read book 5, Anything for You, first. Then I sort of forgot about it until my work daughter, Caitlin, told me how much she loved this series and thought I would, too. So I got the first book, The Best Man, and that was it. I was planning on saving the rest to read over my Christmas vacation, but I couldn’t wait. I read them all in a week, and yes, that includes re-reading book 5, reading on my work breaks, reading on my phone in line at the supermarket and at traffic lights, and occasionally (guiltily) during slow times at work.

Here are brief synopses of each of the books, along with links to the reviews I’ve already posted:

The Best Man: After being left at the altar years ago, Faith is ready to return to her family’s winery, but when she finds herself drawn to local police chief Levi, she cannot forget the role he played in breaking up her wedding. Review

The Perfect Match: After Honor Holland agrees to a marriage of convenience to help British professor Tom Barlow stay in the country, she begins to wonder if there isn’t something more between them. Review

Waiting on You: When Lucas Campbell, who broke her heart ten years earlier, returns to town, bar owner Colleen O’Rourke is tempted to give him a second chance, but wary of being hurt again.

In Your Dreams: When she asks Jack Holland to be her escort to her ex-fiancâe’s wedding and they end up in bed together, Emmaline Neal dismisses it as a one-night stand, but Jack is determined to convince her that it could be something more.

Anything for You: When Connor O’Rourke proposes to his long-time on-again, off-again secret girlfriend, Jessica Dunn, and she says no, he gives her an ultimatum–marry him or their relationship is over. Review


After reading them semi-out-of-order, I have to say they are best read in order, unlike some other romance series. While each book can and does stand alone, following the relationships as they develop adds something to each book. The setting is a small town in upstate New York with the Blue Heron Winery at its center, and all the characters are inter-related in one way or another.

Higgins strength as a writer, besides her terrific storytelling ability, is her sense of humor, her ability to create strong, believable characters, and enough drama and romance to keep the pages turning. Best of all, she does it all seamlessly. Her books are emotionally satisfying, which I deeply appreciate. She literally makes me laugh and cry in each and every book; the crying is rare and special, and the humor is sometimes surprising and often laugh out loud funny. I actually laughed until I cried reading Waiting on You.

So let’s call this what it is, a love letter to Kristan Higgins. And Caitlin. Let me add she has terrific stand-alone novels as well – On Second Thought was fantastic (review forthcoming,) and I’m saving her upcoming Now That You Mention It for that aforementioned Christmas vacation, along with whichever other titles my library has in digital format. I can’t wait!


RUNNING WILD by J.G. Ballard

December 6, 2017

Click to purchase

A short novel; perhaps even a short story containing the elements Ballard usually included in his writings. There is a new edition (a reprint) scheduled for release inj 2018. In it are Ballard’s undisguised feelings about the ills he feels are inherent in modern society and his disdain for our vaunted civilization; social protest and then some.

The story is about a murder investigation of killings in a very upscale community in London. All the adults are killed. This includes married couples, servants, single people and security personnel, 32 in total. All of the children living in the subdivision, 13 in total are missing with no sign of them, nor any clue about where they were taken.

Dr. Richard Greville is Deputy Psychiatric Adviser to the London Metropolitan Police, and through his forensic diary on the case brings us the details of the investigation into the crime. What the crime entails and what the motivations were of the killers forms the crux of the entire novel and certainly represent J.G. Ballard at his best. It is for the reader to reach conclusions based on the events described and to do so requires a very open mind.

12/17 Paul Lane

RUNNING WILD by J.G. Ballard. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (April 30, 1999).  ISBN 978-0374525460. 112p.