Win the August ’17 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

August 1, 2017

Welcome to the August bookshelf of signed thrillers! Amazing books this month from some of my favorite authors and some new-to-me authors. To enter, go to the Win Books page. Best of luck!

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I KNOW A SECRET by Tess Gerritsen: Investigating the death of a horror film producer whose murder scene has been gruesomely staged, detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are baffled by an apparent lack of a cause of death, a case that is further complicated by a second, equally bizarre murder.

DARK LIGHT by Jon Land: Navy SEAL Max Younger finds himself involved with a sinister plot to release a deadly disease of epic proportions and must rely on his ex-girlfriend, a brilliant infectious disease expert, to help save the world.

THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter: Decades after a shattering confrontation that left her mother dead and her sister traumatized, a New York-based lawyer returns to her Atlanta hometown to help her father save the life of a young woman accused of a school shooting.

THE LYING GAME by Ruth Ware: In the wake of a woman’s horrifying discovery of human remains along a scenic tidal estuary, the members of a once-inseparable clique from a second-rate boarding school near the English Channel reflect on their participation in a dangerous game of deception that contributed to the death of a teacher.

FOX HUNTER by Zoë Sharp: Unable to forget the men who brutally ended her military career, special forces soldier-turned-bodyguard Charlie Fox finds herself on a mission to the Iraqi countryside amid suspicions that her boss may have pursued a twisted vendetta on her behalf.

LITTLE BOY LOST by J. D. Trafford: When eight-year-old Tanisha Walker comes to attorney Justin Glass for help in finding her missing brother Devon, his inquiry comes to a halt when the bodies of Devon and twelve other African American boys are discovered in a mass grave.

THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson: A debut thriller by the award-winning creator of Bones traces the experiences of an Army special forces sergeant turned limo driver who, after hearing a ghost’s warning of imminent danger, finds himself implicated in a murder, a situation that is further complicated by his crush on the case’s lead detective.

THE LAST GIRL by Danny Lopez: When he is accused of murdering the wealthy retiree who hired him to find his missing daughter, down-on-his-luck newspaper reporter Dexter Vega, on the run from the police, soon discovers that nothing is what it seems as he is immersed in a web of blackmail, greed and revenge, becoming the target of evil predators

AMONG THE DEAD by J. R. Backlund: Former North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agent Rachel Carver must hunt a group of killers on her own before time runs out in this gripping debut, perfect for fans of Tami Hoag.

ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER by Connie DiMarco: The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder.

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.

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!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter

August 16, 2017

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Most review copies I receive these days are digital, and I never thought I’d say this but I actually prefer it. Particularly because I don’t need to wear my glasses, but also because I don’t need a light on, and if I don’t care for something or I’m not in the mood for what I am reading I can easily switch to another book. It was not that long ago when a receptionist at a doctor’s office inquired why I was carrying two books and I had to explain that I only had a chapter left in one and would probably need the other before I saw the doctor. I know she thought I was crazy, and I didn’t really care, but two hardcovers are especially annoying to carry around. I usually have several books going at once, and to be able to carry them all around with me so easily (thank you, Kindle Paperwhite!) is truly a joy.

I tell you all this because I made the mistake of putting aside a pretty good book (that was women’s fiction) because I was in the mood for something grittier. The problem was that it was 9:00 at night, and this – The Good Daughter – was the book I picked up. Almost immediately I realized the error of my ways, this book was too good to put down and it was going to be a very late night, with an early morning at work to follow. Eventually, I had to go to sleep but I finished it the next day, spending every break and my lunch hour to do so. This is a standalone but also set in Georgia like Slaughter’s terrific Grant County/Will Trent series.

Charlotte and Samantha Quinn are sisters living out in the country in rural Georgia. Their father is a lawyer, a defense lawyer to be more precise, who repeatedly vexes the townsfolk by defending, well, criminals. And usually getting them off. To the point where two armed men come to their home one day to kill him – but he’s not there. Instead, they kill his wife and take the girls out into the woods. One is shot and buried, the other takes off running but is attacked by one of the men. That is all the story we get as the book opens, and then it is 28 years later.

The girls are both alive, both lawyers, but estranged. Charlie is working in her father’s practice, Sam is a patent lawyer in New York City. Then tragedy once again rears its ugly head in this small town, this time a school shooting. And Charlie is there.

As that story unfurls, so does the girls past and we get more details, a bit at a time. The stories are intertwined, but we don’t learn how for quite a while and the tension keeps growing. This is suspense at its best, with characters we care about and a complex storyline that is truly gripping. The violence is brutal; as Slaughter fans know, she holds nothing back. But never is it gratuitous, either.

This is an excellent read and one of my favorite thrillers this year for sure. Don’t miss it!

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter. William Morrow (August 8, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062430243. 528p.


EXPOSED by Lisa Scottoline

August 15, 2017

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A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel, Book 5

I always look forward to a new Scottoline book, especially this series, and the reward is inevitably worth the wait.

This book has a very interesting premise at its heart, an ethics question. Can a partner in a law firm represent someone in a civil suit against another client of the same firm? This dilemma pits Mary against Bennie, and it looks like the partnership may not survive it.

Most of Mary’s clients are from South Philly, where her family lives. They are all so close, even friends feel like family so when Simon gets fired from his job, he goes to Mary for help. His daughter is suffering from leukemia and needs a marrow transplant. The company where he works is self-insured, and his boss keeps making comments about the medical costs. When his sales territory is cut and he misses his quota, he is summarily fired.

The parent company is one of Bennie’s oldest clients, and she doesn’t want Mary to take the case. But Mary can’t see how she can say no to this man she has known all her life, especially when she knows she has the company dead to rights.

It turns out there is more to the story than originally thought. When Simon’s boss is murdered, he is the prime suspect and Mary and Bennie end up working together to help him. There are a lot of twists to this story that really keep the pages turning, especially when Mary & Bennie get too close to solving the murder and have to fight for their lives.

I love the direction that Bennie is moving in – her personal growth is tremendous in this story. This was a one night read for me and now I have to wait another year for the next book in this series, but I comfort myself because it is totally worth the wait! Another excellent addition to the series.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

EXPOSED by Lisa Scottoline.  St. Martin’s Press (August 15, 2017).  ISBN 978-1250099716. 352p.


Mayim Bialik on where she loves to write

August 12, 2017

Author Mayim Bialik (GIRLING UP) tells an anecdote about her experience working on a final edit for her latest book.

GIRLING UP: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular 

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Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory, puts her Ph.D. to work as she talks to teens about the science of growing up and getting ahead. A must-have book for all teenage girls.

Growing up as a girl in today’s world is no easy task. Juggling family, friends, romantic relationships, social interests and school…sometimes it feels like you might need to be a superhero to get through it all! But really, all you need is little information.

Want to know why your stomach does a flip-flop when you run into your crush in the hallway? Or how the food you put in your body now will affect you in the future? What about the best ways to stop freaking out about your next math test?

Using scientific facts, personal anecdotes, and wisdom gained from the world around us, Mayim Bialik, the star of The Big Bang Theory, shares what she has learned from her life and her many years studying neuroscience to tell you how you grow from a girl to a woman biologically, psychologically and sociologically.

And as an added bonus, Girling Up is chock-full of charts, graphs and illustrations — all designed in a soft gray to set them apart from the main text and make them easy to find and read.

Want to be strong? Want to be smart? Want to be spectacular? You can! Start by reading this book.

Praise for Girling Up:

“Bialik is encouraging without being preachy . . . many teens will be drawn to this engaging and useful book.” —Booklist

“Ultimately, the author stresses that ‘Girling Up’ does not end with adulthood—it is a lifelong journey. Thanks to Bialik, readers have a road map to make this trip memorable.” —School Library Journal

“Written in conversational style . . . the tone remains understanding, supportive, and respectful of the reader’s individuality throughout the text.” —VOYA

GIRLING UP by Mayim Bialik.  Philomel Books (May 9, 2017). ISBN: 978-0399548604. 192p.

THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

August 10, 2017

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If you are not familiar with Joshilyn Jackson, you should be. She writes Southern stories with a touch of mystery and memorable characters, and this book is terrific.

Leia Birch Briggs is an author – she wrote a graphic novel that was a mega success and went on to write for many of the superhero series. At comic book conventions, she is a superhero herself, but her family doesn’t get it, they think she is barely scraping by with her doodles.

At one such convention, Leia has a bit too much tequila and goes back to the hotel with Batman – a black, good looking Batman. A few months later she finds out she is pregnant, and she doesn’t even know the father’s name.

Before she can tell her family or do anything about it, she receives word that her grandmother, who she is very close to, has apparently lost her mind. She immediately heads down south, with her niece in tow. Her almost perfect stepsister is in the middle of a knock down, drag out fight with her husband, and needs some time alone.

Turns out grandma Birchie, as she is best known, does have an illness but her closest friend, daughter of the black maid that raised her, has been taking care of her. The two of them are over 90 years old, so it is a bit of the blind leading the blind, but they have been managing, until now.

When the two old ladies talk their neighbor into moving a trunk out of the attic and into Leia’s car and they try to steal said car before crashing it, all hell breaks loose. There is a skeleton in the trunk, and the cops are investigating.

This is a story about racism and family and love and Dixie. The characters are all well developed, interesting and real and I was so sorry this story had to end. It is at times, laugh out loud funny and often touching. The process of creating a graphic novel is fascinating, too, adding another dimension to this story. That aspect put me in mind of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, but that was a book for young adults, and this book ultimately has more depth. If you are new to this author, try it, and if you are a fan, you will love it.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson . William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 11, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062105714.  352p.



THE SCANDAL OF IT ALL by Sophie Jordan

August 9, 2017

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 The Rogue Files, Book 14

I know I’ve read at least some of the books in this series, but I don’t remember any of them being this hot. Smoldering hot!

Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, is originally from Spain and has been widowed for a long while. The marriage was abusive but for the children’s sake, she has kept alive the fairytale version. The ton never really accepted her as one of their own due to her Spanish background, and her dark, sultry looks don’t help.

When Graciela’s closest friend tells her about a club where she can find a lover, she is tempted. It has been a very long time since her husband died. So she goes, but to her horror, her stepson and his best friend, Lord Strickland, are there.

Mortified, she tries to hide but Strickland finds her. He has always been drawn to her but their relationship and their age difference doesn’t work. Strickland helps her hide from her stepson, but takes advantage of her – until he has her begging for more. They become lovers, despite her reservations about their age difference, but circumstances conspire to leading them down a different path.

I like Sophie Jordan’s books, and if you enjoy historical romances that pretty much cross over to erotica, this is the book for you.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE SCANDAL OF IT ALL by Sophie Jordan. Avon (July 25, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062463623. 384p.


ANY DREAM WILL DO by Debbie Macomber

August 8, 2017

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I’ve been reading Macomber for years, and I’ve really enjoyed her Cabot Cove and Blossom Street series and especially her Christmas stories. Her books are all sweet, escapist reading with an occasional kiss but never any sex. I’ve met her a couple of times, and I get her newsletter, and I know that she is a Christian, and all of her books reflect her values.

To me, this book crosses the line from women’s fiction and/or romance, which she has been writing throughout her career, to Christian (or “Inspirational”) fiction. As a Jew, I am not always comfortable with that genre and I was not comfortable with this book.

The premise is that a young woman, Shay, has grown up in an abusive home. She turned to drugs at an early age, and her boyfriend was a drug dealing, violent abuser. But Shay never liked drugs so although she lived in that world, she didn’t really use, but her brother did. She got a job as a bank teller and her brother talked her into embezzling money for him, saying that her boyfriend would kill him otherwise. She does it and goes to prison for three years.

I’m not giving away anything here, all of this occurs in the first twenty pages or so. When Shay is released, the bus lets her off in front of a church. She goes in, and the pastor, Drew, offers to help her. He gets her into a reentry program where she excels.

Drew lost his wife a few years earlier, leaving him with two young children. He is doing the best he can but he is suffering from depression. Helping Shay helps him, as well. Their connection keeps leading them back to one another and while there are difficulties in their relationship along the way, they eventually find their happily ever after.

Much of this story really stretched the bounds of credibility, but I liked the characters enough to keep reading. The bigger issue here for me was all the praying going on, and a lot of “God’s plan” filling in the story, along with the political machinations of the church, which just made it too Christian for this Jew. I hope Macomber goes back to her heathen ways and leaves the praying for her personal life instead of injecting it into her books. I will be leery of reading this author again.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ANY DREAM WILL DO by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (August 8, 2017). ISBN 978-0399181191.  336p.



An Evening with Jenny Zhang and Lena Dunham to launch LENNY Books

August 7, 2017

Lena Dunham and author Jenny Zhang launch the Lenny book imprint with a discussion of SOUR HEART, Zhang’s debut story collection. Recorded live at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City on August 1, 2017.

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SOUR HEART by Jenny Zhang

A sly debut story collection that conjures the experience of adolescence through the eyes of Chinese American girls growing up in New York City—for readers of Zadie Smith, Helen Oyeyemi, and Junot Díaz

A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.

Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.

Praise for Sour Heart

“Jenny Zhang arrives as a Chinese-American voice we haven’t heard yet.”—W Magazine

“Compelling writing about what it means to be a teenager . . . It’s brilliant, it’s dark, but it’s also humorous and filled with love. . . . You’ll feel compelled as a human.”Isaac Fitzgerald, Today

Sour Heart is a revelation.”—Goop

“Bursting at the seams with honesty, reality, and a tremendous amount of heart.”—PopSugar

“Zhang portrays the courage, humor, and complex emotions of these young women struggling to come to terms with who they are, their families, their bodies, and growing up in poverty, in seven stories that feel true to life.”—BuzzFeed

“Zhang’s version of honesty goes way past the familiar, with passages that burst into bold, startling, brilliance.”—Miranda July

“No terrain is more fraught than the inner world of a girl fighting to define herself, and no writer is better suited to serve as our guide than Jenny Zhang.”—Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness

“I emerged from Sour Heart bleary-eyed and in love.”—Tavi Gevinson

SOUR HEART by Jenny Zhang. Lenny (August 1, 2017). ISBN: 978-0399589386. 320p.

CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman

August 6, 2017

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Anyone who’s ever been a class room mother or even a PTA volunteer will easily identify with the hell these women go through. But here Gelman brandishes humor like a weapon, (ok, more like a Nerf gun,) gently making fun of all the archetype parents we’ve come to know and love this century – the lesbian moms, the helicopter parents, the mom with the highly allergic child, and so forth. If you are looking for an escape, a light read that is pure fun, you have come to the right book.

I was never the class mom, but I often volunteered, chaperoned field trips, was secretary of the PTSA when my son was in middle school, was team mom for Little League and softball and basketball, etc. Plus my kids are almost eight years apart in age, so I got to do it all over again with my daughter. So let’s just say I really related here.

Jen Dixon is not your typical kindergarten mom; for one thing, she already has two kids in college. When her best friend, also the president of the PTA, recruits her to be class mom, she rebels, then acquiesces, leading to a lot of really snarky,  funny emails sent to the class.

There are moms who do not appreciate the snark and a coup is attempted. Another of the class parents is Don, Jen’s high school crush, a single dad who she starts a flirty text relationship with. You know that is going to blow up in her face but it’s so much fun getting there. Jen and all her family drama justs makes us root for her all the harder.

Laurie Gelman is married to Michael Gelman, and if that name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the long time producer of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” “Live with Kelly and Michael,” and actually goes back to the Regis & Kathy Lee days of the show (I actually heard about this book when she was on Live recently.) Gelman really captured this lovely suburban community well in her debut, plus I always love a good epistolary novel – the emails and texts bring it home. Nepotism aside, this was an afternoon read for me, and it truly did make me laugh out loud.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman. Henry Holt and Co. (August 1, 2017).  ISBN 978-1250124692.  304p.




August 4, 2017

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A Bitter Creek Novel, Book 15

Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne is visiting America with his best friend when he witnesses a horrifying sight. The Sioux have a young American girl, Josie Wentworth, tied to a post and are whipping her within an inch of her life. The Duke approaches and offers his knife and a gold watch for the girl, and manages to get her away. He takes her with him on a ship back to England and nurses her as best as he can. When he gets home, he asks his friend to take care of her and make sure she gets home to America once she is healed. The Duke is about to be married.

Unbeknownst to the Duke, his orders are not followed and she ends up as a maid at his property far from London. The Duke’s wife dies in childbirth and a few years later, the Duke realizes that unless he marries an heiress, he will lose all his property. He advertises for a wife but can’t find anyone suitable and the clock is ticking.

One day a Pinkerton detective shows up at Josie’s residence to tell her that she is an heiress. He helps her to London where she answers the Duke’s ad for a wife. He doesn’t recognize her, but falls for her anyway.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this romance and I really enjoyed it. It is easy to see why Johnston has so many fans! I haven’t read any of the books in this series and I don’t think it mattered one iota. Johnston offers an unusual story (at least to me) and it was a good one.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE by Joan Johnston. Dell (July 25, 2017). ISBN 978-0399177743. 432p.


Author Spotlight: Matthew Desmond

August 2, 2017

How housing is ignored in the poverty discussion | Author Matthew Desmond – Matthew Desmond (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning EVICTED) looks at the troubling statistics around housing and evictions in America, and the demographics that are disproportionately impacted.

EVICTED by Matthew Desmond


In Evicted, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. It’s unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.