Win the February ’17 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

February 1, 2017

Welcome to the February bookshelf of signed thrillers! Lots of new books to win – some favorite authors or find a new author. To enter, go to the Win Books page. Best of luck!

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WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman: Investigating the brutal murder of a wealthy businessman’s granddaughter, Gus Murphy navigates a minefield of hostile police, street gangs, and a Russian mercenary with ties to heinous crimes committed decades earlier in Vietnam and Russia.

THE TRAPPED GIRL by Robert Dugoni: When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle.

INTO THE FIRESTORM by Kat Martin: Luke Brodie meets his match in fellow bounty hunter Emma Cassidy, as both of them try to hunt down a vicious criminal with whom Emma has history.

THE EXCOMS by Brett Battles: From best-selling author Brett Battles comes the first book in a spinoff series from his award-winning Jonathan Quinn thrillers.

THE FREEDOM BROKER by K. J. Howe: Kidnap-and-rescue negotiator Thea Paris’ worst nightmare comes true when her father is kidnapped and the only way to rescue him may involve an unthinkable sacrifice

DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb:Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong.

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY by Claudia Rowe: A New York Times journalist traces her psychologically provocative, four-year conversation with a young serial killer who murdered eight women and hid them in the basement of his family home, a relationship that dangerously challenged her sense of self.

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!


DARE YOU by Jennifer Brown

February 24, 2017
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Nikki Kill Series, Book 2

Jennifer Brown’s synesthete heroine returns in this follow up to last year’s Shade Me.

In the months following her discoveries regarding Peyton Hollis and her murder, Nikki Kill has tried to live a fairly normal life But really, how normal can you get when you discover your mother had another child who was murdered by her own shady (but ridiculously rich) family. And considering said family then set their sights on Nikki, killing yet another Hollis child (Nikki’s boyfriend) instead… But crazy Luna Hollis is behind bars and the rest of the Hollises have fled the country, so Nikki is seemingly safe.

Safe enough to graduate, anyway.

When Nikki is arrested at a post-graduation bash, however, she finds out Luna is free once again. Not only that, but the DA’s office has now turned to Nikki as their number one suspect in Peyton’s murder. It’s clear Nikki’s being framed and it’s also clear Luna is the one responsible. But that doesn’t mean Nikki will have an easy time proving it.

Nikki’s story is a tangled web of secrets and lies, and she only barely scratched the surface in Shade Me. Considering her investigation seemed to be at a dead end, though, I was interested in seeing just how Brown would continue the tale.

Brown does a great job with this sequel. A witness allows Luna to be released, leaving Nikki once again the focus of crazy Hollis rage and obsession. And it turns out Peyton’s clues from before have more meaning than Nikki originally gleaned from them.

Nikki is a bit like a darker, more troubled Veronica Mars. No, Nikki doesn’t have a cop turned PI for a father. But Brown works the story in a way that it does make sense for Nikki to be investigating a murder and (as she has by now) to gain the trust of an actual cop in the official investigation. Her synesthesia isn’t a super power, but it does allow her to see things differently than those around her, giving her an added set of clues on top of anything the police might have at hand. And considering Peyton used it as their own secret language, it also makes sense that Nikki would uncover revelations the police aren’t clued into.

This is technically a teen series, but it absolutely has cross over appeal for adult mystery/thriller fans. Dare You does satisfactorily address some of the remaining questions left from Shade Me but also leaves the current duology open to continuation. And given how this second outing ends, I definitely hope to see more of Nikki Kill.

2/17 Becky LeJeune

DARE YOU by Jennifer Brown. Katherine Tegen Books (February 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062324467. 480p.

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Writing Advice: Author Clare Mackintosh

February 23, 2017

Author Clare Mackintosh (I SEE YOU) discusses the writing lessons she learned from twelve years as a police officer.

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I SEE YOU by Clare Mackintosh

The author of the New York Times bestseller I Let You Go propels readers into a dark and claustrophobic thriller, in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world…
 
Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her…

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose…A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

“Mackintosh scripts a hair-raising ride.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A well-crafted blend of calculated malevolence, cunning plot twists, and redemption that will appeal to fans of Sophie Hannah, Ruth Rendell, and Ruth Ware.”—Booklist (starred review)

Mackintosh’s meticulous detail to investigative accuracy and talent in weaving a thrilling tale set her work apart from others in the field.”—Kirkus Reviews

I SEE YOU by Clare Mackintosh. Berkley (February 21, 2017).  ISBN 978-1101988299. 385p.


VICTORIA by Helen Rappaport

February 22, 2017
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The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen: Official Companion to the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS

From the publisher:

The official companion to the Masterpiece presentation on PBS, Victoria delves into the private writings of the young Queen Victoria, painting a vivid picture of the personal life of one of England’s greatest monarchs.

From the producers of Poldark and Endeavour, ITV’s Victoria follows the early years of the young queen’s reign, based closely on Victoria’s own letters and journals. Now explore this extensive collection in greater depth, and discover who Victoria really was behind her upright public persona.

At only eighteen years old, Victoria ascended the throne as a rebellious teenager and gradually grew to become one of the most memorable, unshakeable and powerful women in history. The extensive writings she left behind document this personal journey and show how she triumphed over scandal and corruption. Written by author and Victoria historical consultant, Helen Rappaport, and including a foreword by Daisy Goodwin—acclaimed novelist and scriptwriter of the series—Victoria details the history behind the show. Revealing Victoria’s own thoughts about the love interests, family dramas and court scandals during her early reign, it also delves into the running of the royal household, the upstairs-downstairs relationships, and what it was like to live in Victorian England.

Full of beautiful photography from the series and genuine imagery from the era, Victoria takes you behind the palace doors and discover the girl behind the queen.

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This is a beautiful book made with heavy paper and stunning photographs. I loved seeing portraits of the real Victoria and the other characters, and all I can say is the casting and the makeup are amazing. Victoria’s diary entries are fascinating, as are the reproductions of letters. This is a treasure trove for any fan of the TV series and of British history.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

VICTORIA by Helen Rappaport. Harper Design (January 31, 2017). ISBN 978-0062568892. 304p.


Paula Hawkins on 3 Real Books, 1 Fake?

February 21, 2017

Author Paula Hawkins (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN) guesses which book is fake. Categories include books by Sue Grafton, John Grisham, YouTube stars, and the Star Wars universe. Good luck, Paula!

 


THE PRISONER by Alex Berenson

February 20, 2017
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A John Wells Novel, Book 11

Alex Berenson, who is a reporter for the New York Times, introduced the character of John Wells in his first published book. Wells stood out as one of the most amazing personages presented for readers in a novel. He was an American working for the CIA who had succeeded in joining a unit of the terrorist group Al Qaeda. They had gotten to trust him making him privy to their plans. John became so rapt in his role that he even learned to appreciate Islam’s religion and converted to it.

After leaving the group with this mission accomplished, further books described the deeds of this dark individual in fighting terrorism. The Prisoner returns full circle to the beginnings of Wells’ career.

A high level mole is thought to be active at the very top levels of the CIA. To find this traitor John is forced to repeat his actions of the first book. He must be arrested by Americans or their allies and be imprisoned with a terrorist who is thought to know who the mole is.

Wells gets himself captured in circumstances that would point to him being a member of ISIS, allowing him entree to the terrorist organization. What happens to John during his capture and while imprisoned is described graphically enough to follow Berenson’s thoughts of the U.S. handling of terrorist suspects held outside of our country.

This book, like its predecessors, moves rapidly and keeps the reader glued to the pages following the process to its conclusions. There should be further novels featuring John Wells. He is just too interesting a character to let go without maximum development during the current conflicts with Islamic Terrorists. All Berenson’s novels featuring Wells are all-nighters, and there is no reason not to assume that those following will be any different.

2/17 Paul Lane

THE PRISONER by Alex Berenson. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (January 31, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399176159. 432p.

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KILLER CHEF by James Patterson

February 19, 2017
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Contributor: Jeffrey J. Keyes

James Patterson is hands down the world’s most prolific, traditionally published, adult fiction author. I’ve read many of his early Alex Cross books, and it is my understanding that he stills writes those. I also read the first half dozen Women’s Murder Club books. But all the other books over the years, the Women’s Murder Club, Private, Michael Bennett series and most of the standalones carry another author’s name. I am not finding fault here, in fact Patterson has turned many midlist authors into international bestsellers, and that is a good thing. Another good thing is his new imprint, BookShots.

BookShots were conceived as a way to get people who don’t read to pick up a book. I pulled this from the BookShots website:

Welcome to BookShots by James Patterson. Life moves fast—books should too. Pulse-pounding thrillers under $5 and 150 pages or less. Impossible to put down. Read on any device. Visit BookShots.com

Last summer, Alexandra Alter wrote an interesting piece about it in the New York Times, and she said, “Mr. Patterson’s plan: make them shorter, cheaper, more plot-driven and more widely available.” The books are all less than 150 pages and less than $5. If he’s right, and so far it looks like he may be on to something, more people will be reading books, and that makes this librarian (and former bookseller) happy.

So I decided to try one out. Killer Chef is set in New Orleans where a serial killer is targeting upscale couples and somehow poisoning their dinners at different restaurants. But the Killer Chef is not the murderer; he is the detective in charge of solving the crime, who works a second job as a partner/chef of a food truck.

The story moves quickly, the hallmark of all James Patterson books. Likewise, the undeveloped characters and plot, also trademark Patterson, but it feels almost deliberate. The book is entertaining in the way of a mediocre TV show, which I think was kind of the point.

I have recommended these Bookshots to high school students through adults who are reluctant readers, and have gotten mixed feedback. But I really like the idea of these books, and there are already quite a few available, and in every genre from romance to mystery to sci-fi to thrillers.

Not sure what the difference between co-author and contributor is, but it doesn’t matter. It has the Patterson name on it and it will sell.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KILLER CHEF by James Patterson. BookShots (November 1, 2016).  ISBN 978-0316317245. 144p.

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THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL by Billy Collins

February 18, 2017
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Poems

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has a new book of poetry and I couldn’t be happier. I got to chat with him a bit last summer at the American Library Association annual conference and he was as charming as ever.

I’ve loved his poetry for a long time, and when the Palm Beach Poetry Festival got going, he was one of the first guests of honor. To hear him read his work is just, well, fantastic, and now I hear his voice, his inflections, when I read it myself.

Here is a clip of Billy reading three of these poems on A Prairie Home Companion:

This is his twelfth book of poetry, and it made me laugh and think and cry, all the sorts of emotional response that good writing, especially good poetry, will imbue. Some of my favorites…

“Lucky Cats” begins:

It’s a law as immutable as the ones
governing bodies in motion and bodies at rest
that a cat picked up will never stay
in the place where you choose to set it down.

So true!

I have felt this sensation when traveling but have never been able to express it as succinctly and beautifully as this, from “Bashō in Ireland”:

The sensation of being homesick
for a place that is not my home
while being right in the middle of it

“Early Morning” made me laugh out loud. Another cat poem, it begins:

I don’t know which cat is responsible
for destroying my Voter Registration Card
so I decide to lecture the two of them
on the sanctity of private property,
the rules of nighttime comportment in general,
and while I’m at it, the importance
of voting to an enlightened citizenship.

“Speed Walking on August 31, 2013” was written as a memorial for the brilliant Seamus Heaney (if you haven’t read his translation of Beowulf, do yourself a favor and get it – this illustrated edition is spectacular.) That was followed by “December 1” which is a poem celebrating what would have been Billy’s mother’s birthday:

If my mother were alive,
she’d be 114 years old,
and I am guessing neither of us
would be enjoying her birthday very much.

This poem reminded me of my mother and my loss and made me cry.

turkey-vegetable-platterI sent my son the poem “Thanksgiving” because he spent this past holiday with his girlfriend’s family in Chicago and sent me a picture of this beautiful vegetable platter laid out to look like a turkey. I’d seen pictures online (like this one) but hadn’t known anyone who actually went to all that trouble, and here Billy gently poked fun. He reads it in the YouTube video above.

Poetry is such a personal thing – I will end with a poem (that Billy reads in the video) so you can decide for yourself if you want to read more. I hope you do.

On Rhyme

It’s possible that a stitch in time
might save as many as twelve or as few as three,
and I have no trouble remembering
that September has thirty days.
So do June, November, and April.

I like a cat wearing a chapeau or a trilby,
Little Jack Horner sitting on a sofa,
old men who are not from Nantucket,
and how life can seem almost unreal
when you are gently rowing a boat down a stream.

That’s why instead of recalling today
that it mostly pours in Spain,
I am going to picture the rain in Portugal,
how it falls on the hillside vineyards,
on the surface of the deep harbors

where fishing boats are swaying,
and in the narrow alleys of the cities
where three boys in tee shirts
are kicking a soccer ball in the rain,
ignoring the window-cries of their mothers.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL by Billy Collins. Random House; 1St Edition edition (October 4, 2016). ISBN 978-0679644064. 128p.

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PASTA WARS by Elisa Lorello

February 17, 2017
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Whoever said you can’t judge a book by its cover didn’t mean this book – I just couldn’t resist the title or the cute cover, and it lived up to both.

After a slowish start where we learn Long Islander Katie Cravens is craving more than she already has – the big house in Dix Hills (where I went to high school,) the career of a lifetime as CEO of Pasta Pronto, a frozen diet food company, and the engagement to the perfect man – it picks up steam. Steamy steam, if you know what I mean.

The oh-so-perfect life isn’t. Perfect man is cheating on her in their own bed (yuck) and Katie’s company is having some financial troubles. Enter the Caramelli family of Italian restaurant fame.

Luca Caramelli is the super hot but temperamental chef and his twin sister runs the company and they are hurting. A joint venture will help both their bottom lines and Katie dumps her cheating fiance and jets off to Rome.

Lots of conflict, heated glances and eventually some hot sex keep the pages turning until the deal is struck. Publicity is called for and a televised “pasta war” should do the trick – can CEO Katie outcook the hot Italian? And how will that affect the business merger, not to mention their personal merger?

You must read to learn all, but it’s a lot of fun getting there. (Skip if you’re carb free, this book will kill you!)

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

PASTA WARS by Elisa Lorello. Adaptive Books (January 17, 2017). ISBN 978-0996488754. 256p.


ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE by Jill Shalvis

February 16, 2017
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Heartbreaker Bay #3

Archer met Elle when she was a teenager and got caught in a drug sting. He hustled her out of there, blew his cover and ended up quitting the police force. Over the years he kept tabs on the troubled teen, watching her grow into a strong, beautiful woman. He even helped get her the dream job – managing an office building where Archer runs security.

Forced to work together, the heat that comes off these two scorch everyone in sight, but they are both stubborn and refuse to give in to their mutual attraction. But when Elle tries to date, Archer keeps interfering until finally they get together.

That doesn’t mean they will have anything more than a physical relationship – or does it?

I’ve really enjoyed this series, and I believe this book ends it. But I’m sure Jill Shalvis will keep on writing and I look forward to whatever comes next.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE by Jill Shalvis. Avon (January 24, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062660138. 272p.

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MIRACLE ON 5TH AVENUE by Sarah Morgan

February 15, 2017
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From Manhattan With Love Series, Book 3

I am sad to say this is the last book in this series. I read the first book, Sleepless in Manhattan, so I was all excited when I got this one. But then I realized I missed book 2, Sunset in Central Park – but I reserved it at my library so I have something to look forward to.

This series is about three women, best friends who get downsized from their jobs and form their own company, a sort of concierge service for Manhattanites, called Urban Genie. Each book centers around one of the women. Miracle is about Eva Jordan.

Eva is a chef and events planner for the company. One of their regulars, an elderly woman named Mitzy, asks Eva to go to her grandson, Lucas Blade’s apartment, fill the freezer with some home cooked meals, and decorate for Christmas while he is busy working in Vermont. Eva is happy to help and plans on spending the weekend at his apartment to get it all taken care of. Except when she gets there, she is assaulted.

Eva finds herself dialing 911 while an intruder has her pinned to the floor. When the cops (and the doorman) show up, she quickly learns that she is the intruder. The man who has her pinned is Lucas.

Lucas is suffering from a severe case of writers’ block. A best selling thriller/horror writer, he lost his wife in an icy accident a few years earlier and hasn’t really recovered. He is hiding out in his apartment and no one knows he’s there until Eva shows up. She is determined to complete the job she was hired to do, and reluctantly Lucas allows it so he won’t have to tell his grandmother he is really in town.

Turns out that Eva is more than just a great cook and holiday decorator, she also becomes Lucas’s muse, and he is on a tight deadline. After an argument, Eva walks out but he hires her back, paying her company enough money to keep them in the black for the following year, so she feels she doesn’t have a choice.

There is quite a bit of sexual tension between them, which both are trying to ignore until they cannot. Eva is a romantic and Lucas is too hurt to even think about marriage again, so they are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Until they’re not.

As a thriller reader and fan, I know a lot of thriller writers and can definitely see some characteristics here. I loved these characters and how they interacted.

Treat yourself to this red hot romance this Valentine’s Day!

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MIRACLE ON 5TH AVENUE by Sarah Morgan. HQN Books (November 29, 2016). ISBN 978-0373789344. 384p.

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