Win the February ’19 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

February 1, 2019

Welcome to the February bookshelf of signed thrillers!

This month the International Thriller Writers have provided some excellent thrillers for you to win including signed books from Lisa Gardner, Lee Goldberg and not one, but two books from Allison Brennan, among several others. To enter, go to the Win Books page. More books may be added throughout the month, so check back often.

Best of luck!

NEVER TELL by Lisa Gardner: #1 New York Times bestseller Lisa Gardner returns with an unpredictable thriller that puts fan favorites D. D. Warren and Flora Dane on a shocking new case that begins with a vicious murder and gets darker from there.

KILLER THRILLER by Lee Goldberg: In #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg’s action-packed sequel to the Washington Post bestseller True Fiction, a hapless writer is pitted against an enemy nation mounting a treacherous plot lifted from one of his thrillers.

TRIGGER by David SwinsonIn the latest novel from David Swinson, “one of the best dialogue hounds in the business” (New York Times Book Review), Frank Marr, a good cop with a bad habit, must choose between justice and loyalty to an old friend.

PAST DUE FOR MURDER by Victoria Gilbert:  Has a curse fallen on the small town of Taylorsford, Virginia? After a young woman goes missing during a spring bonfire, library director Amy Webber must wade through the web of lies only to find a truth that she may not want to untangle.

THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict: What if you came home to find a stranger living inside your house? An “oustanding, ever-twisting, surprise-filled” psychological drama (Publishers Weekly), in the tradition of Shari Lapena and Liane Moriarty, from Edgar- and Thriller Award-nominated author Laura Benedict.

FREEDOM ROAD by William Lashner: Oliver Cross is fresh out of jail. His plans for the future are to live out his days in regret, back pain, and a bottle of Lone Star. But when he finds out his granddaughter, a wild child who reminds him of his late wife, has vanished—bless her hell-raising heart—Oliver jumps parole. He’s taking a dangerous path in search of his missing granddaughter—the only part of his life worth saving.

TOO FAR GONE by Allison Brennan: With everything finally falling in to place, FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid is assigned to investigate the death of a mentally unstable man during a hostage situation who used to be an upstanding citizen and whose story is more complicated—and dangerous—than she thinks.

ABANDONED by Allison Brennan: Max Revere investigates the disappearance of her own mother several years earlier, tracing her activities in a small Chesapeake Bay community where witnesses are keeping dark secrets.

ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt: When her son causes a fatal accident and flees the scene without reporting it, a single mother makes a fateful decision that irrevocably changes their lives.


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!


THE MOROCCAN GIRL by Charles Cumming

February 18, 2019

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Cumming’s novel is a throwback (and a welcome one) to the spy and espionage stories of the near term past. Kit Carradine is an author who’s forte is writing well received spy novels. He is known for researching locales for the books he writes. He is also known for being bored with his sedentary life and envies the spies he creates for their extremely active existences Instead of writing about them he would really enjoy being one of them. And that is where he is taken.

Kit is approached by an officer in MI6 who he has never met before with a proposition. He is asked to travel to Morocco and find a woman MI6 wants and just point her out to that officer. She has last been seen in the city of Marrakesh. ​Kit is offered a large sum of money for the job which is indicated as being one with no real danger involved. He jumps to take it and journeys to Morocco. Upon arrival he quickly is made aware that the woman,Lara Bartok, is actually a fugitive with ties to international terrorism. She is apparently a member of the “Resurrection” terror group that has attacked persons and places all over the world with murder as part of the scenario.

The author depicts Kit traveling all over Morocco after arriving in Casablanca as well as other cities in that country in order to locate Lara. The action is typical of the stories and happenings in many of the best spy novels of the past. Danger, a lot of it, with other spy agencies as well as “Resurrection” relentlessly after Lara.
There is a vast difference between Kit and other principals involved in spy and espionage tales. He is not infallible, he can be hurt, is bewildered by the actions of the different groups after Lara. He does have moments when he responds to a situation as many people would do if confronted with it showing strength and bravery. All and all Cumming gives us a good picture of a real hero in others. He has created a real person moving into the world of spies and agents and coming to grips with it as realistically as most of us might do in a like situation.

I am like most people in expecting leading characters in spy novels to behave like supermen. But certainly the change in pace depicted in “The Moroccan Girl” is a welcome one. The reader is of course faced with the question of what would they expect in a future novel about Kit Caradine in a situation again involved with spying and espionage. The ability of the author to create a book that is concerned with a situation involving spy-craft leads me to think that he would have Kit adapt to situations as they arrive; again as a normal individual, but with more real experience under his belt.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE MOROCCAN GIRL by Charles Cumming. St. Martin’s Press (February 12, 2019). ISBN 978-1250129956. 368p.

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THE WAY YOU LOVE ME by Miranda Liasson

February 17, 2019

I read the first book in this series, Then There Was You, and really liked it so I was excited to read this one. I liked this one too, but not quite as much as the first one. The series is set in the small town of Angel Falls, and it’s a good little town and the setting works for these types of stories. The people in the first book are briefly mentioned but this story revolves around other characters in the town.

Gabby and Caden have their difficulties, there would be no plot otherwise. Caden went through a horrible divorce, and is now a single dad raising his daughter mostly on his own. Gabby is a woman who is constantly searching for something. She’s taken all types of classes over the years, to the point where her family teases her about it. Losing her mother at a fairly young age left her with more questions than answers, especially when she finds out her mother was writing a book. Gabby’s always wanted to write and finding that out gives her the impetus she needs to take a step in that direction, especially when a renowned author is teaching the course. It’s a sticky situation when a professor gets involved with a student, no matter the age, and Caden is about as ethical as they come.

This story is sweet and meanders along with an occasional hiccup along the way. I enjoyed the escape to Angel Falls.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE WAY YOU LOVE ME by Miranda Liasson. Forever (January 29, 2019). ISBN 978-1455541829. 496p.

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I OWE YOU ONE by Sophie Kinsella

February 16, 2019

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From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella comes an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything.

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?

It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?


It took me a little while to warm up to this book. The main character, Fixie, grew on me eventually but I found her sort of stupid and irritating for the first 15 chapters. But I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. Once I got there, the rest of the book just flew for me and I ended up loving her. I guess I liked watching as she grew as a person, got smarter about herself and her world. The romance aspect was one of those back and forth, back and forth things but it worked. The secondary characters were fairly well developed but I never quite got a handle on Fixie’s sister for some reason, but maybe that’s just me.

I enjoy Kinsella’s humor and there were many laughs to be found among the necessary angst. I ended up really liking this book and if you are a Kinsella fan, don’t miss it. If not, give it a try anyway!

02/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

I OWE YOU ONE by Sophie Kinsella. The Dial Press (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1524799014.  448p.

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WHEN YOU READ THIS by Mary Adkins

February 15, 2019

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From the publisher:

A comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts, for fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell.

Iris Massey is gone.
But she’s left something behind.

For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss.

 


I was hooked as soon as I saw “for fans of Maria Semple (love!) and Rainbow Rowell (LOVE!) So I had high expectations that were just barely met. I liked this book a lot but I didn’t love it.

I do love epistolary novels. My all time favorite is Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger. If you haven’t read it, click through, buy this book and thank me later.

Back to this one. I enjoyed the email aspect of the book, but it took a while for me to warm up to the characters. But eventually I did, and even the secondary characters were good. I admit it took me a little while before I realized that Smith was a man. Guess I should have continued reading the synopsis, I stopped after the Rainbow Rowell comment. Carl, Smith’s assistant, lent comic relief and many funny yet cringe worthy moments to a book that is essentially about life, death, and how we deal with it all. Heavy topics that needed that relief.

Kudos to the illustrator and to Amazon; Iris’s blog has many drawings and I loved that I could tap on them on my Kindle and blow them up to see the fine details. They added another layer to the blog and the book.

Taking a difficult topic and turning into a romance is no easy feat, and Adkins achieved her goal. I would have liked a bit more ending in the book, it barely made it to where it needed to be. Maybe an epilogue? All in all, like most epistolary novels, this is a very fast read and I think it is one that will stay with me for a while.

02/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHEN YOU READ THIS by Mary Adkins. Harper (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062834676.  384p.

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ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt

February 13, 2019

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Karen Mayo, estranged from her husband has taken her life into her own hand, studied and became a nurse. She has also watched her beloved son Joshua moving away from the divorce between his parents, now ready to graduate from high school and  accepted to Clemson University. He is also a member of his school golf team and plays frequently with his father.

Suddenly fate takes a hand in the Mayo family’s affairs.  Joshua and his father decide to drive golf balls off a cliff facing a river and located in a large wooded area north of their home.

They finish the driving a little after dark and are on their way back to Joshua’s home when they accidentally hit a man walking alone in the woods. They quickly go over to see how the person is when the man jumps up and attacks Andrew, Joshua’s father. Appearing possible that Andrew could be killed, Joshua picks up a rock and strikes the man on his head. Checking him it is found that he has died from the blow.

There is another half of the events in this well done novel. Three individuals, two men and the wife of one of them have planned and executed a robbery of a bank.  One of the men is purposely left at the scene of the robbery and the other two flee the area with a bag of money stolen from the bank.

The two halves are expertly tied into a very ingenious whole by the author. What happens when the two groups meet and how the events reach a conclusion for all of them is the theme of a very engrossing novel by an author that is a master of developing characters in his books.

The accidental murder in the woods and its consequences is tied very neatly into the actions and fate of the bank robbers, including the one that was stranded at the scene of the crime by the other two. A compelling all-nighter by an author completing only his second book. Certainly one to continue looking for in the  future.

1/19 Paul Lane

ONE FATAL MISTAKE by Tom Hunt. Berkley (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0399586439. 320p.

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THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict

February 12, 2019

Kimber Hanon, a successful sales executive with a leading magazine, is met leaving work and arriving at her home. She is tired and looks forward to dinner and relaxing. Problem arises when she finds that her key does not fit the lock like it normally should.

Quickly finding that the locks have been changed, she rings the bell in order to find out what’s going on. A man answers the door and says that he has an agreement from her allowing him to live in the house for six months. Kimber made no such agreement and calls the police to intercede.

Problem arises when the stranger produces a document attesting to his right to live in the house and duly signed by her.

Benedict weaves a very tight tale about what is going on. Her describing of the characters used in telling the story is masterful and the reader quickly grasps what the events are that encompass the novel’s plot. Kimber is a flawed lady and in the first person narrative admits to the killing of her sister years ago, not being suspected for it, but living with the crime during the years after.

Many novels utilize a surprise ending normally enticing the reader. Benedict skillfully leads the reader event by event into what is a totally logical finale. It becomes more and more logical as the plot unfolds. The book us certainly one that cannot be put down until finished and provides a definite reason to be on the lookout for more Laura Benedict novels. Very well done.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict.  Mulholland Books (February 5, 2019). ISBN-13: 978-0316444927. 352p.

 


THE FALCON OF SPARTA by Conn Iggulden

February 11, 2019

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Iggulden has developed a unique place in writing novels set in various periods in history. He does an incredible amount of research in the era he is discussing and than uses literary license to flesh out characters involved. He postulates their words, reactions, feelings and drives based upon knowledge of the world they inhabited.

This book is set in a period occurring at the approximate ending of the Peloponnesian wars, which took place in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta with most of the remainder of the country coming out on one side or another. It involves Cyrus the Younger, who lived in a period approximately between the stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae taking on the combined army of Persia and the later rise of Alexander the Great.

Cyrus was one of the sons of Darius and vied with his brother Artaxerxes to take the throne of Persia upon their father’s death. Iggulden paints him as the more suited to handle the army but his brother orders him killed in order to assure himself of the throne. The world of the period comes to life in telling the story of Cyrus and his quest to become ruler of Persia. An actual Athenian member of Cyrus’s army was a student of the philosopher Socrates and did write about him bringing the man to life for the reader. The conflict between the two brothers results in a civil war of monumental proportions at an area known as Cunaxa. The battle almost unknown today was an extremely bloody affair between armies of thousands of men. It is described based on the author’s visiting the site and his reading of the events involved.

The presence of Spartans fighting on the side of Cyrus is well documented. These were men whose entire existence and life is dedicated to fighting and war. They were almost superhuman in conditioning and ability to fight battles against any odds; as witness the 300 men taking on thousands of Persians at Thermopylae and holding their ground for three days. Iggulden provides a full description and praise of the Spartan soldiers and credits them with helping to hold out against the vast army that Cyrus’ brother fields.

Make no mistake, the book is not a dry tome of events in another day, but a very well worked historical novel that Iggulden creates based on a good deal of source material that has come down through the ages and can still be read by anyone. Words and feelings are put in the mouths of the people taking part in the story. The ones named were real and occupied the positions ascribed to them by the author. That they speak and act is a real result and study of what they might have said and felt during the period and events described.

A very well done and carefully constructed novel that takes place in a period of history that is 2000 years away from us but brought to life by a gifted author.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE FALCON OF SPARTA by Conn Iggulden. Pegasus Books (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1643130569. 448p.

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COWBOY ON MY MIND by R.C. Ryan

February 10, 2019

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Montana Strong, Book 1

From the publisher:

A heartwarming western romance about a cowboy who gets a second chance with his first love in the rugged beauty of the Montana mountains. . .
Ben Monroe was the ultimate bad boy – and everyone in Haller Creek knew it. But now as a sheriff’s deputy, Ben spends his time breaking up bar fights rather than starting them, and staying away from trouble…until Becca Henderson comes back into town. She’s just as beautiful as Ben remembers – and just as far out of his reach.
Coming home is exactly what Becca Henderson needed. A place of her own, a successful new business, and a chance to reconnect with the sexy cowboy she had a crush on in school. Ben has always blazed his own path and never let anyone stand in his way. It excites-and scares-her. But when an unexpected threat surfaces, Becca will see just how far Ben will go to protect the woman he loves-and fight for their chance at forever.

 


This book started out very dark in the prologue, but quickly moved into the light and a wonderful story. I loved these characters, the back story, and the setting. As a Floridian, I love reading about the seasons, just not living through them! Snow on the pages is beautiful though and Ryan does a really good job of bringing the small Montana ranching community to life. But it’s the characters that really make this story. Even the secondary characters are well developed and have interesting lives indeed.

This is a variation of the childhood sweethearts romance. Ben and Becca grew up in this same small town, but never really dated. But they both harbored secret crushes and are scared to move forward now that they are adults. All that insecurity, on both sides, increases the tension and keeps the pages turning.

There is a also a bit of suspense. There is someone driving through town taking potshots at pedestrians and it happens a few times, with no deaths thank goodness. But who is being targeted and why slowly unfurls and there is quite the dramatic denouement.

I highly recommend this series to fans of contemporary cowboy romances. If you haven’t tried one of these, this is a terrific series to try. I ripped through the first two books in this series in a day and a half. The second book, The Cowboy Next Door, comes out Feb. 26. The review will be posted then.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COWBOY ON MY MIND by R.C. Ryan. Forever (June 26, 2018). ISBN 978-1538711156. .964p.

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THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BOX by James Grippando

February 9, 2019

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A Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 15

This, the latest novel featuring Jack Swyteck, Grippando’s practicing attorney, was written during a period that saw a law enforcement agency of the United States, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (better known as ICE) being subjected to a huge amount of criticism by a portion of the American population. The agency was demonized by its critics as riding roughshod over the immigrants that it had to apprehend, detain, jail and/or deport from the country. The leading critique was that it separated children traveling with their parents as they attempted to enter the United States illegally. In my opinion, adherents of the agency were quick to point out that ICE was simply carrying out their assigned function in attempting to keep out people that did break the law by not complying with the legalities of legal entrance.

Grippando, through Jack Swyteck, makes his opinion very clear in setting up ICE as being over zealous in their administration of their duties. His beloved abuela (grandmother) pushes him into the defense of an illegal alien woman and her daughter. Julia Rodriguez and her daughter Beatriz are illegals that have found a small place in society and are trying to make a life for themselves when Julia is sexually attacked by her boss at the coffee shop where she works. She defends herself but then finds herself detained by ICE after an anonymous tip, locked in prison and set up for deportation. Beatriz stays with an aunt that has completed immigration requirements earlier and is a U.S. citizen.

The novel is replete with the sordid conditions experienced by Julia, the pressure by ICE on the judge supervising the trial that Swyteck requests to present her case for political asylum, and the changes in her daughter when her seemingly happy life is broken up by her mother’s problems. Grippando’s opinions are open and clear. This does not change the fact that the book is the author’s usual well done and engrossing story which can be read as another fine reading experience. The novel reaches an ending which seems to clearly be the beginnings of another book continuing the story. Again, despite this reader’s opinion about ICE and its described methods, this read is a pleasure of an all nighter by an author that is at the height of his literary skill.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BOX by James Grippando. Harper (February 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0062657831. 368p.


A SPY IN EXILE by Jonathan de Shalit

February 8, 2019

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De Shalit, who was at one time in his life and under another name a high ranking member of the Israeli Intelligence community, presents his readers with a monumental portrait of an extremely complex woman. Ya’ara Stein was forced out of her job with the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence agency. Not knowing what to do next she is quietly approached by the Prime Minister of Israel and asked if she will undertake the founding, training and leadership of a secret organization dedicated to finding and killing of the country’s enemies. She and her group will find and eliminate enemies under the supervision of the Prime Minister only.

Ya’ara jumps at the chance feeling that it is right up her alley. A large sequence is devoted to the job of finding candidates whose personalities and temperament suit them for the work of being away from home for long periods, the detective work in finding those individuals that must be eliminated, and above all, coming to grips with their deeds. The people chosen are depicted as being found psychologically fit for the work and also able to take on a life that leaves little time for a personal life. They are real persons, trained by Ya’ara and her second in command.

Their first assignment involving the killing of two enemies of Israel touches all in different ways. Their reactions are not cold-hearted when a young innocent girl is accidentally killed during one of the assassinations. The group agonizes at the lose of the innocent life, but must find the wherewithal to continue.

De Shalit touches on the group’s private lives with the knowledge of how that suffers during their long absences. The ending suits the tone of the novel and indicates a continuation of the group in their tasks without setting any particular prelude to a next book in this series. A definite all nighter, but more so in the questions raised about people involved in the activities that all nations require in order to coexist in our competitive world. These activities always secret and hidden from the majority of the populations of the countries involved.

2/19 Paul Lane

A SPY IN EXILE by Jonathan de Shalit. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1501170560. 384p.

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