April Fools’ Day, 2020

April 1, 2020

I know I am not the only one who feels like we are living in some farcical, dystopian novel! May I suggest you escape into a good book?

Hello, my lovely readers! As regular readers are aware, I post a new giveaway on the first of every month in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers. Due to the pandemic, we discussed and decided to skip April for now. No one wants to be handling anything that has been touched by anyone, anywhere, nor do we want to ask anyone to go to the post office or anywhere else. Did you know the coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours? And 2-3 days on hard surfaces?

For now, I am extending the deadline for the March bookshelf of thrillers, including all those terrific thrillers pictured here. It is a fantastic list so go for it! I am also suspending the one entry per email – go nuts! Enter as often as you wish, but just for April, okay?

A peek behind the scenes on how these contests work. The authors send their signed books to a central location in California, but they trickle in sporadically. Sometimes authors need a gentle reminder to send them, they get busy or are on tour or whatever. ITW generally waits until all the books for the month are in hand to send them out in one box. Sometimes they have to wait a month or two or three for all the books to show up. So there are piles of books waiting to be shipped out for previous months’ contests. At this point, we are going to wait to send those until it is safe to do so.

I wish I could say April Fools’, but I cannot. I can say I hope you are taking this pandemic seriously. I know it is hard to stay home or shelter in place, but for your safety and the safety of your community, that is the best thing you can do right now.

If you are going to listen to anyone you see on TV, I strongly suggest it be smart people who know what they are talking about, because they have advanced degrees or medical degrees, or know enough to ask smart people what to do and actually listen to the answers. Listen to people like Dr. Fauci, Donald G. McNeil (NYT,) Governor Cuomo, (even if you don’t live in NY,) or Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over someone who just has an “opinion,” or “a feeling,” or wants to give us all “hope,” about how this is going or what we should be doing.

Just because someone is in a position of power does not mean they should spout whatever nonsense they “feel.” That is not helpful. In fact, it is the opposite of helpful, it is dangerous. Social distancing is not a joke, it is apparently the only way to stop the insidious spread of this disease at this time. And handwashing. And don’t touch your face. (I need a doggie cone for that!) Please, please be careful and stay safe. Thank you; rant over.

For up to date, accurate information and statistics on Covid-19, check out any of these sites:

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University

WORLDOMETER COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

nCoV2019.live

This one is just for Florida:

Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection

Finally, if you are an author who is also a member of the International Thriller Writers, and your book is being published in April or May, and you would like to participate in the next contest I run, please let me know. You can email me at bookbitch @ yahoo dot com, or put your email in the comments here and I will contact you.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

 


THE ANCESTOR by Danielle Trussoni

April 9, 2020

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From the publisher:

From the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of the Angelology series comes a bewitching gothic novel of suspense that plunges readers into a world of dark family secrets, the mysteries of human genetics, and the burden of family inheritance.

It feels like a fairy tale when Alberta ”Bert” Monte receives a letter addressed to “Countess Alberta Montebianco” at her Hudson Valley, New York, home that claims she’s inherited a noble title, money, and a castle in Italy. While Bert is more than a little skeptical, the mystery of her aristocratic family’s past, and the chance to escape her stressful life for a luxury holiday in Italy, is too good to pass up.

At first, her inheritance seems like a dream come true: a champagne-drenched trip on a private jet to Turin, Italy; lawyers with lists of artwork and jewels bequeathed to Bert; a helicopter ride to an ancestral castle nestled in the Italian Alps below Mont Blanc; a portrait gallery of ancestors Bert never knew existed; and a cellar of expensive vintage wine for Bert to drink.

But her ancestry has a dark side, and Bert soon learns that her family history is particularly complicated. As Bert begins to unravel the Montebianco secrets, she begins to realize her true inheritance lies not in a legacy of ancestral treasures, but in her very genes.


Alberta “Bert” Monte is the daughter of immigrants living in an area of upstate New York. She is found at a moment when she is on the “outs” with her husband, but both are giving some consideration to giving the marriage another try.

Out of the blue Bert receives a letter from an attorney group from the European Italian section that her family is from and addressed to Countess Alberta Montebanco. She is advised that she is the sole heir of her family and is requested to come to Italy in order to go over the bequest and take title to what is a huge estate, complete with a castle, a title, and a lifestyle befitting a member of the aristocracy. Bert takes leave of her husband indicating that she is certainly willing to try and make the marriage work after she checks into what her inheritance brings.

Her trip over to Italy to see her bequest starts off with a flight on a private jet, champagne, and a meeting with lawyers presenting her with a picture of a life filled with the trappings of royalty. She is asked to stay at what is now her castle while going over the assets and the obligations that are now hers. The property is located in a remote area of the Alps and as Bert settles in for a few weeks of luxury a dark side of the bequest appears. She finds that her family is not exactly as she believes and events move into a story that is absolutely mesmerizing and unlike anything the reader expects when beginning to read the book.

A dark side of her familial background appears and brings the reader into a story of ancient roots, unlike nothing that is normal. Trussoni expertly draws her readers into another world. She does so in a manner that guarantees that the book cannot be put down with surprise after surprise keeping the reader glued to the pages. A definite five-star novel and one that will assure that succeeding books by Trussoni will be grabbed up as soon as published.

4/2020 Paul Lane

THE ANCESTOR by Danielle Trussoni. William Morrow (April 7, 2020). ISBN: 978-0062912756. 368p.

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YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle

April 8, 2020

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From the publisher:

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves—and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.


On the surface, Naomi Westerfield is planning the perfect wedding to the perfect fiancé. But Naomi has a secret, she is actually sick of her fiancé, and suspects that Nicholas feels the same way about her. It is not as easy as calling off their elaborate wedding though. Whoever cancels the wedding will have to pay Nicholas’s parents back for the lavish ceremony and reception they have planned. Naomi and Nicholas are soon locked in a battle of wills, pranks, and sabotage to see who can push the other to their breaking point first.

I picked up You Deserve Each Other hoping it would capture some of the enemies to lovers and romantic comedy charm as The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.  Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me.  The couple’s increasing efforts to one-up each other often feel over the top. You Deserve Each Other is told entirely from Naomi’s point of view, but I think it would have benefited from a dual point of view with Nicholas.  Without getting a look into Nicholas’s thoughts and feelings his character often came across as one dimensional, and uncaring towards Naomi. Even with getting the benefit of Naomi’s inner monologue her character does not fare much better.

Though Naomi has some legitimate grievances (her future “monster-in-law” chief among them) her tactics to get Nicholas to break up with her are immature and selfish. In any romance, it is essential that you want to root for the couple’s eventual happy ending.  If you find yourself yelling, “Just break up already, you are both horrible people,” it is probably not a good sign.  There is eventually a turning point, with Hogle giving Naomi and Nicholas’s relationship and their characters more depth. At this point, the humor of the story is finally able to outshine their juvenile antics, and I actually started to enjoy the final portion of the book.

Overall, despite a much stronger final third, I could not get past the fact that it was not much fun to read about a couple arguing and doing horrible things to each other for over 200 pages.

4/2020 Caitlin Brisson

YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle. Putnam (April 7, 2020). ISBN 9780593085424. 368p.

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TOUGH TALKING COWBOY by Jennifer Ryan

April 7, 2020

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Wild Rose Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

Return to Montana as a tough-talking cowboy meets his match in Jennifer Ryan’s newest Wild Rose Ranch novel.

Ex-Army Ranger Drake McGrath has come home to Montana, locked in a battle with himself, lashing out at those who love him most—driving away his ex-fiancée and alienating his family. But Adria Holloway sees beyond Drake’s tough talk to the raw pain beneath.

Raised with her twin sister Juliana by a neglectful mother at the Wild Rose Ranch, Adria also struggles to put the trauma from her past behind her. To help them both, she makes Drake a shocking deal—a no-strings relationship that’ll help them both face down their demons. Maybe it’s a way for her and Drake to heal each other, one sizzling night at a time…

The heat between them is instant and incredible. But the biggest challenges are yet to come. With Juliana battling her addiction and Drake working on his issues, Adria realizes she can’t save everyone. But Drake and Adria discover love can survive tragedy and loss—and they can have the life they never thought possible if they just hold on.


This is the third book in a series that has turned into one of my favorites, and this may be the best book yet.

Drake is a veteran suffering from physical ailments after being shot up while overseas. He is also suffering from PTSD, has hallucinations, paranoia, you name it. And need I say he is not exactly a joy to be around? Luckily, his brothers love him and are putting up with his grunting instead of talking, and his hair-trigger temper.

Adria also has survived trauma and recognizes that bit of herself in Drake. They have an immediate connection and decide on a relationship that will help them overcome their issues in the bedroom, but with no strings. As if. Adria is also dealing with her identical twin sister, who she gets into rehab after she almost dies. Drake is a good distraction from worrying about her sister.

All these characters need to overcome a lot and the struggle is real – or at least, it feels real. This was a very layered story and one that will be staying with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

4/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TOUGH TALKING COWBOY by Jennifer Ryan. Avon (March 31, 2020). ISBN 978-0062851925. 400p.

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SHAKEDOWN by Newt Gingrich & Pete Earley

April 6, 2020

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Mayberry and Garrett, Book 2

From the publisher:

Mayberry and Garrett, introduced in the national bestseller Collusion, are caught in the middle of a deadly crisis with a pending nuclear bomb attack and little help from the government that sidelined them both.

When an exiled Iranian scientist is assassinated in Washington, DC, the former FBI counterintelligence agent and ex-SEAL are pulled back into the world of clandestine ops—and the fate of the entire East Coast is at stake. Joining ranks with a heralded Mossad agent, Mayberry and Garrett pursue a skilled international killer hired to murder a legendary Israeli spymaster.

Their pursuit draws them into an international conspiracy led by a power-hungry Russian oligarch intent on destroying Washington, DC, and the Navy’s most important Atlantic base. The oligarch plots to unleash a nuclear onslaught first devised by the KGB but shelved by Kremlin leaders during the Cold War. On top of this, Iran’s sudden offer to help the United States raises suspicions about its possible role in a global shakedown.

With too many enemies emerging and too little time, the two Americans are forced to operate outside official channels to stay ahead of naive US politicians and foreign enemies out to entangle their efforts in red tape. Operating in an international tinderbox, Mayberry and Garrett must decipher which players are allies and which are posers—in time to thwart a cataclysmic nuclear attack on US soil and prevent an international incident that could ignite a third world war. And they must keep themselves alive.


The writing team of Gingrich and Earley return with another of their action-filled novels based on current world events. All of these books are well written, enjoy interesting plotting, and have realistic protagonists involved in taking on the enemies of the United States.

In this book, Valerie Mayberry and Brett Garrett are idled by circumstances beyond their control. Valerie, leaving the FBI on bad terms, and Brett, receiving a dishonorable discharge from the Navy where he was a Seal.

A neighbor of Brett’s is killed outside of the building they live in. He was formerly an Iranian scientist and through this event, Valerie and Brett are pulled back into action with a plot discovered that indicates Iran is planning to explode a nuclear device somewhere on the coast of the U.S. The plan is that the explosion will cause a tsunami, which will move inland doing immense damage and causing major loss of life.

While Iran argues that they do not possess any nuclear weapons, the Israeli Mossad knows they do and sends Esther, an agent of theirs, to work with the Americans. The information obtained is that an Iranian father and his daughter are working to get the bomb to the US and explode it. Their rationale is that the mother and son were killed by an Israeli raid and they want to punish that country by an attack on their ally- The Great Satan – the U.S.

No doubt based on the authors’ keen awareness of world events, the movement of the story is as real as can be imagined. An all-night read and then some, with both winners and losers among the characters on both sides of the story. Easily a five-star novel and the authors’ normal incentive to get their readers to eagerly await and pick up their succeeding books when published.

4/2020 Paul Lane

SHAKEDOWN by Newt Gingrich & Pete Earley. Broadside Books (March 24, 2020). ISBN: 978-0062860194. 368p.

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THE EARL NOT TAKEN by A.S. Fenichel

April 5, 2020

THE EARL NOT TAKEN by A.S. Fenichel. Lyrical Press (March 17, 2020). ISBN 978-1516110544. 219p.

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A ROOM FULL OF NIGHT by TR Kenneth

April 3, 2020

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From the publisher:

Stag Maguire, a burnt-out journalist hardly able to prop himself up in the wake of tragedy, agrees to help a friend move. They find an urgent message—HELP ME—written on a piece of silk tacked behind a long-forgotten portrait.

The message from an address in Berlin is urgent; though it had to have been written pre-World War II. Curious, Stag and his friend begin to research the address and whomever might have written the message. They trace the address to an apartment, a sealed time capsule that has not been lived in since 1942. And from one phone call to that apartment, the men unleash a nefarious plot and brutal security forces long thought vanquished.

Events begin to cascade without mercy, and Stag—a broken man from the Midwest—finds himself pitted against a vestige of the Third Reich with powerful forces ensuring the propagation of Heydrich’s infamous SD—Nazi’s intelligence agency—in today’s world. Will ordinary-man Stag Maguire prevail in his lone stand against evil?


Indicated as the author’s first published book, it certainly represents the completion of a monumental, well researched and written novel, and a definite introduction of Kenneth to the top of the literary world.

Stag Maguire, the principal protagonist is first met as he approaches rock bottom in a less than successful career as a journalist. He is filled with inertia and not motivated to publish any articles that can enhance his reputation. A friend asks Stag’s help in moving out from the bar he had run and our reluctant hero agrees to do so.

The task opens up an enormous can of worms and provides the basis for a story that is quite distinct from most novels. A portrait taken down from a wall in the bar reveals a piece of paper from long ago saying “help me”. The two are galvanized into action in attempting to find the origin of the paper and determine that it was written by the long-dead mistress of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi official that was infamous as the architect of the Holocaust which guided the Third Reich into the systematized slaughter of millions of Jews.

Following clues from a variety of sources, the two find that the paper was probably written while the woman that was Heydrich’s mistress was living with him in an apartment in Berlin during WWII. Stag obtains the phone number for the building which is still up and places a call to it, gets no information other than someone offering to deliver a message. The next thing that happens is that someone comes looking for those that made the call, finds Stag’s friend and kills him.

Instead of backing off in the light of his friend’s death, Stag plunges headlong into a situation that includes a worldwide company buying and selling information and the existence of cells of Nazis still active and scattered around the world. From an opening that appears to prelude a story about World War II the novel ramps up to a head rush of events that run through the midpoint of the second world war to today’s world and move from New York to Germany, England, and Bali. A very welcome entree for the author who has already set up the ending in this book to become the basis for more Stag Maguire novels.

4/2020 Paul Lane

A ROOM FULL OF NIGHT by TR Kenneth. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (March 17, 2020). ISBN: 978-1538748145. 352p.

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BAD BACHELOR by Stefanie London

April 2, 2020

BAD BACHELOR by Stefanie London. Sourcebooks Casablanca (March 3, 2020). ISBN 978-1728213774. 368p.

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COWBOY FOR HIRE by Victoria James

March 31, 2020

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Wishing River Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

When a shy woman inherits a ranch, she’ll have to find an inner strength to succeed―and open herself up to love―in this heartwarming novel from New York Times bestselling author Victoria James.

Sarah Turner has led a very sheltered life. So when her parents pass away tragically, suddenly she’s left in charge of the family ranch with little know-how but plenty of will to keep it afloat. Determined not to lose her parents’ legacy or her newfound independence, she needs a hero fast―not to save her, but to show her how to save herself. But she’s unprepared for the ruggedly handsome cowboy who answers her ad.

“Cowboy for Hire,” the ad said, and Cade Walker is quick to respond. Betrayed as ranch manager by his former boss, he’s looking for a new place to put down roots―without the pressure to prove himself again. Except when he meets his new boss, it’s clear he’s not only there to run a ranch but to also teach Miss Independent how to run it. But as they struggle to make the ranch flourish, they’ll both need courage if they hope to find a family…together.

Each book in the Wishing River series is STANDALONE:
* The Trouble with Cowboys
* Cowboy for Hire


This is the second book in the series, and even though the publisher proclaims each book to be a standalone, I was a little lost in the beginning. I didn’t fully understand why Cade was leaving his job for this new one, and there was definitely a story behind his best friend’s marriage. But that’s just the first few pages and in the long haul, it didn’t matter and some of that became clear. I wouldn’t even have thought about it or mentioned it here except for that publisher proclamation.

Sarah is a young woman who has been extremely sheltered for most of her life. When she was a child, her brother died, and that caused the family to just implode. The only stability came in the form of their housekeeper, who is still watching out for Sarah now that her parents are gone. Sarah inherited the ranch where she grew up, except she was never allowed to have anything to do with it. When her foreman takes off, she is desperate to hire someone immediately, and hopes to learn from them. She gets real lucky when Cade enters her life.

Cade also has a lot of baggage, and like so many men, chooses to keep it all a secret. But some of his friends have pieced together the gist of it all, and luckily, they step in when he needs it most. Sarah and Cade grow very close, but Cade knows his place and it’s not in his boss’s bed, no matter how much they both want that.

I really liked how the story played out, I thought it was very well done. There were some laughs, and some tears as well. I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

3/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COWBOY FOR HIRE by Victoria James. Entangled: Amara (March 31, 2020). ISBN 978-1640638211.  359p.

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THE K TEAM by David Rosenfelt

March 30, 2020

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K Team, Book 1

From the publisher:

From bestselling mystery author David Rosenfelt comes a new series – a spinoff of the much beloved Andy Carpenter mysteries – about a dynamic new investigative team featuring a determined former cop and his loyal German Shepherd.

Corey Douglas and his K-9 partner, Simon Garfunkel, have recently retired from the police force. Not ready to give up the life yet, they come up with a proposal for fellow former cop, Laurie Carpenter, and her investigating partner, Marcus. Laurie and Marcus – who help out Laurie’s lawyer husband Andy on cases – have been chafing to jump back into investigating on their own, so they are in.

They call themselves the K Team, in honor of Simon. Their first job as private investigators comes to them from Judge Henry Henderson, who’s known as a very tough but fair judge, and they’ve all come up against him in court at one time or another. Though it’s hard to believe, Judge Henderson is being blackmailed and extorted, and he doesn’t want to involve the police–he needs the K Team to figure out why.


The novel is advertised as a spinoff of the very popular Andy Carpenter stories. It is, but not much changes. Andy’s wife Laurie, a former policewoman, the very vocal Marcus and Corey Douglas, a retired policeman, form an investigatory company and decide to take on cases in order to make money.

Corey was introduced in one of the latest Andy Carpenter books when he filed suit against the department he worked for demanding that they retire into his care the K9 that he had worked with. The lawsuit prevailed and the dog named Simon Garfunkel also becomes a member of the team. The group takes the name the K team thanks to Simon and their first job is to investigate a blackmail campaign against a judge with a reputation of being tough but fair. They must find out why he is being blackmailed, put a stop to it and get evidence against the blackmailers.

Corey is the only character that is not a regular in the Andy Carpenter series but takes Andy’s place as the source of wisecracks for the group. Using some personnel from the regular Carpenter family as well as an appearance by Andy himself, the writing is reminiscent of the storylines of the Carpenter series. For fans of those books, the reward is that additional plots not necessarily revolving around court trials can be utilized and still maintain the delightful styling that the reader looks for in a David Rosenfelt book.

A welcome addition to the author’s long list of entertaining fiction and also keeping in the practice of featuring beloved dogs that move in and out of the stories. And yes, the ending is the satisfying one we are accustomed to.

3/2020 Paul Lane

THE K TEAM by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (March 24, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250257192. 304p.

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