Win the April ’17 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

April 1, 2017

Welcome to the April 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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THE LOST ORDER by Steve Berry: When rival factions of a dangerous clandestine organization begin a race to find billions in stolen treasure hidden by their progenitors, Justice Department agent Cotton Malone finds the case complicated by his unsuspected ties to the organization and the political schemes of an unscrupulous politician.

THE RED HUNTER by Lisa Unger: Tackling a house restoration project and blog in the hopes of escaping a traumatic event that ended her marriage, Claudia uncovers an ugly history in the crumbling house, where another woman, Zoey, survived a home invasion and pursued the martial arts to find security and healing.

THE BURIAL HOUR by Jeffery Deaver: A return to Deaver’s successful series finds Lincoln Rhyme investigating the abduction of a traveling businessman from an Upper East Side street, a case that is complicated by an 8-year-old girl who was the crime’s only witness.

BUM LUCK by Paul Levine: When trial lawyer Jake Lassiter becomes fixated on killing a client he believes he helped get away with murder, Jake’s friends Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord suspect his raging obsession is caused by concussive brain injuries from his previous football career.

THE OUTSIDER by Anthony Franze: Intervening in a violent mugging and catching the eye of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, young law clerk Grayson Hernandez becomes caught in the crosshairs of a serial killer when the FBI asks for his assistance in hunting for a murderer.

DUPLICITY by Jane Haseldine: Detroit crime reporter Julia Gooden struggles to overcome past demons and support a high-profile case against a drug trafficker who has orchestrated a bombing that has left Julia’s assistant district attorney husband critically injured.

THE RED LINE by Walt Gragg: World War III explodes in seconds when a resurgent Russian Federation launches a deadly armored thrust into the heart of Germany.

SILENT CITY by Alex Segura: Succumbing to heavy drinking, unemployment and a broken engagement after the loss of his father, Pete Fernandez reluctantly agrees to search for a friend’s missing daughter and finds himself in a tangle of murder, drugs and betrayals in the heart of the Miami underworld.

 

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!


MARRYING WINTERBORNE by Lisa Kleypas

April 22, 2017

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The Ravenels, Book 2

This book put me in mind of the PBS series, Mr. Selfridge, about the American who built the glamorous department store in Great Britain at the turn of the last century. Rhys Winterborne is a self made Welshman, son of a grocer, who has built the world’s largest department store in London.

Winterborne may be one of the richest men in England, but he is still considered working class. So when he meets Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to have her. As wealthy as he is, he knows the only way into the gentry is to marry into it.

The become betrothed, but when he kisses her she gets scared. Helen is shy, virginal and beyond naive, and she ends up crying in her room. Her sister-in-law goes to Winterborne and breaks off the engagement, but when Helen finds out she is determined to get him back. She sneaks out on her own and barges into his office, telling him she wants him back. But he knows her guardian will not be pleased with this turn of events, so he makes her a deal – if she’ll sleep with him, thoroughly ruining her reputation, that will force her guardian to allow them to marry and convince Rhys that she is serious. She agrees.

They make their plans but as we well know, the best laid plans often go awry, and they do here. Helen finds out there is a big family secret about her parentage, and she is convinced that Rhys will not want to marry her once he finds out.

As always, Kleypas creates engaging, well drawn characters and an interesting storyline, fraught with the great pitfalls of romance. But fear not, there is, of course, a happy ending. If only life could come with the same guarantees. Another terrific read from one of my favorite authors.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MARRYING WINTERBORNE by Lisa Kleypas. Avon (May 31, 2016). ISBN 978-0062371850. 416p.

KINDLE


DINNER by Melissa Clark

April 21, 2017

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Changing the Game

Eric Wolfinger, Photographer

As promised (in my review of Sheet Pan) here is a review of Melissa Clark’s latest. No thanks to Clarkson Potter, who failed me on this one, but thanks to my library, who did not. Got it!

FYI, if you are not familiar, Melissa Clark is a food columnist (“A Good Appetite”) for the New York Times. She contributes lots of recipes, too, many of which I’ve made. (See her recipes here.) She is a working mom and apparently understands that not all of us want to come home from work and spend hours in the kitchen to get dinner on the table. Nor do we want take out every night. So here she offers us a terrific compromise – easy dinners, often in one pan. I like it!

This is a big, heavy book with over 200 recipes but it is also a beautiful book with lovely photos. The heft is from high quality paper, and when you are cooking out of a cookbook in the kitchen, shit sometimes goes flying and lands on said book. It’s always nice to know that if that happens, the book will still be usable, albeit a little less pretty.  (No worries, library lovers – I don’t drag library books into the kitchen, I know how messy I am.) The chapters:

Introduction & Ingredients to Keep on Hand
Chicken
Meat: Pork, Beef, Veal, Lamb, Duck & Turkey
The Grind
Fish & Seafood
Eggs
Pasta & Noodles
Tofu (& a Touch of Seitan)
Beans, Legumes & Vegetable Dinners
Rice, Farro, Quinoa & Other Grains
Pizzas & Pies
Soups
Salads That Mean It
Dips, Spreads & Go-Withs

I don’t know about you but the first thing I noticed after perusing the table of contents was that there was no desserts chapter. Which is fine. I never make dessert on a weeknight. Fresh fruit is always available and sugar-free Fudgsicles is as fancy as it gets at my house.

The ubiquitous pantry list is available in “Ingredients to Keep on Hand” and it is a practical list. Included are the usual suspects, olive oil, garlic, various vinegars, mustard, and so forth, plus a bunch of things I rarely have like Sichuan peppercorns, pomegranate molasses, preserved  lemons and Indian pickles. On the other hand I was delighted to see za’atar included. Za’Atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. This was a recent acquisition for me that I got for a Passover recipe and I was wondering where else I would use it. The only recipe I could find in the index was for Za’Atar Chicken with Lemon Yogurt, so guess I’ll be making that soon. And she also tells you how to make it yourself if you don’t want to buy it. Also I’m wondering why she considers it a pantry staple if it’s only used in one recipe out of 200. Or maybe it’s just a crappy index?

So to chicken. There is a two page spread on how to roast a chicken and it’s got some great advice, like choosing a good bird, preferably organic and air chilled, whatever that is. She also explains how to spatchcock or splay a bird. These instructions are followed by several roast chicken recipes. One of the nice things about roasting a whole chicken is that it’s usually quick prep and then just hanging out waiting for dinner. Plus the delicious smell fills the kitchen and gets everyone hungry. Except my husband, who hates chicken. There are lots of other chicken recipes besides the whole roast chicken, so no worries if you have boneless breasts you’re wanting to cook up or some thighs. Melissa’s got you covered.

There are a variety of meat recipes, some of which give you the option of selecting the cut you want, like Peachy Pork or Veal, you decide. The Grind refers to ground meat, like Chorizo Pork Burgers, Kibbe-Style Lamb Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt and Thai Lettuce Wraps. There are some interesting fish recipes, like Vietnamese Caramel Salmon (sweet and spicy, always a fave,) a really good recipe for Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage, Jalapeno, and Lime Slaw, and a Shrimp Banh Mi that you make in your food processor, which works for me.

Eggs gets its own chapter including the basics of frying, boiling, scrambling, poaching, etc. including how to poach an egg in the microwave. If you haven’t turned your family on to “breakfast for dinner” you should. Super easy and my family loves it. Try Spanish Tortilla with Serrano Ham (or sub whatever ham you like.) I love that while the instructions call for two pans, she explains how one pan will work just fine. The Asparagus Frittata with Ricotta and Chives is delicious, just add some good bread and maybe a salad and dinner is done. I’m dying to try the Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby, after Passover ends I guess – how can I resist, “a giant gougère-style cheese puff meets Yorkshire pudding, with a crisp outer crust and a soft, cheesy, custardy interior.” I can’t.

The pasta chapter has some good recipes like Cacio e Pepe with Asparagus and Peas, Fettucine with Spicy Anchovy Bread Crumbs and Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Almonds, although I subbed some purple broccoli I had gotten from my CSA. I’ve never cooked with tofu (yes, I admit it) but I am determined to learn. My son’s girlfriend is mostly vegetarian and I’d like to make something besides pasta and veggies when they visit. Sweet and Sour Tofu with Corn (and cherry tomatoes, it is beautiful) may be my first attempt. Or Crispy Tofu with Ginger and Spicy Greens – crispy means deep fried and deep fried generally means delicious. There are some interesting legume and veggie recipes as well, like Smashed White Bean Toasts with Roasted Asparagus and Sumac, Asparagus Carbonara and more delicious fried goodies like Fried Halloumi with Spicy Brussels Sprouts.

There are lots more recipes, I haven’t even touched on soups, pizza, salads, etc. (although I can tell you Rustic Shrimp Bisque is going to make an appearance the next cool day we have.) I like this cookbook a lot. I have made many of Melissa’s recipes over the years and she has become a go to for me. Highly recommended.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DINNER by Melissa Clark. Clarkson Potter (March 7, 2017). ISBN 978-0553448238. 400p.


Guest Blogger: John Beyer

April 20, 2017

I am delighted to welcome guest blogger, author John Beyer! 

Many years ago as a rookie patrolman, I happened upon a little pink bicycle dumped in a dirt field. It had been the mode of transportation for an innocent eight year old girl named April, murdered by a villain just two days earlier.

It was my first venture into the evilness that sometimes overtakes humans. The thought of taking a life for a thrill – as was the case with April’s murder – was almost more than I could bear.

The pain people cause others never dulled me from my humanity; the job had to be done. Patrol work led to my becoming a training officer, and ultimately I joined the SWAT team.

After serving nearly ten years in law enforcement, I made the decision to leave and move to the field of education and serve in a different capacity. A public servant to the end.

I went back to college to study humans in more depth. Since I was in education, I earned a doctorate in educational management to move up the proverbial ladder in administration and then later a doctorate in clinical psychology. That degree was designed and intended to help me understand people. Did it help? To a point. But can anyone understand the true depravity of certain humans? We would like to say we can, but some aspects remain shrouded in mystery.

Writing had always been a passion of mine since time immemorial, and over the years I have written a number of non-fiction pieces for various magazines and newspapers but had never tried my hand in fiction until I met a writer by the name of Ray Bradbury. It was one of those meet and greets with a famous author in the small town of Lucerne in Southern California. After listening to him inspire the guests of the evening, I asked him for an interview and he agreed.

The piece was published and we stayed in contact until his death in 2012. He was a mentor and encouraged me to try fictional writing. I did and was rejected more times than I could count.

But I persevered.

Then in 2010, I completed my first novel. Nearly thirty years after I had found April’s bicycle, I penned, Hunted. It didn’t have much to do with the innocent girl’s murder except to inspire me to write about and try to understand – if anyone can – what truly goes on in an evil person’s mind.
The turn to fiction was a change of pace, but isn’t that what we need sometimes in this often crazy world?

Hunted (about a spree killer who decides to hunt the detective who is after him) was purchased and published in 2013 by Black Opal Books, who also subsequently published my second novel, Soft Target in 2014 (about an Islamic terrorist group that takes over a middle school in America) and Operation Scorpion in 2017 (about a rogue military officer trying to sell nuclear waste to the highest bidder).
All deal with the dregs of society – those who wantonly take advantage of those who are weaker, both physically and mentally.

But there is always the protagonist(s) who, perhaps does not exactly save the day, but does put a stop to the path of destruction the antagonist(s) are weaving. My ‘good’ characters are wounded by their past, but they put aside personal feelings and emotions to do what is right. They become real for the author and the reader even though they are fiction. And the bad guys? Well, they usually get put away – permanently.

I like happy endings.

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About the book: Operation Scorpion

PI Frank Sanders is “blown away” by the woman who strolls into his office one morning. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also rich and willing to pay whatever it takes for him to find her missing father, world-famous geologist Dr. Stephen Jaspers who went rock hunting in the desert and hasn’t been heard from since. A retired Riverside California Police Department detective, Frank is used to searching for people. He takes the case, assuming it’s a simple missing person. But what he uncovers is more than he bargained for, leading him to suspect that he’s about to be blown away–literally, this time–along with everyone else in Southern California.

Excerpt:

I downshifted the Jeep. We ran through the cloud of exploding dirt clods and continued toward the dry lakebed Alicia had told me about. In the distance, I could see the opening of the canyon. I also could hear another missile being fired, but this time it was a lot closer and nearly ripped the front of the Jeep off, if I hadn’t instinctively yanked the wheel to the right and skimmed the fenders off the west wall of the ravine.

I looked over at Alicia and saw a slight trickle of blood escaping from a small wound on her forehead but couldn’t make out the words she was yelling. I was stone deaf at that moment.

Daylight broke in on us like a waterfall as the Jeep shot out of the canyon and sped across the dry lakebed. My hands were trembling on the steering wheel and my concentration was nearly shot as I heard the roar from above getting closer. I started to zig-zag across the bed of the dry lake, trying to make us a harder I was looking at the high walls around us as the Jeep drove through the ravine. “We’re sitting targets here.”

I wasn’t psychic but it was a pretty good guess since Alicia screamed, and I heard the unmistakable sound of a rocket being fired from behind us. A good half-ton of mountain blew skyward thirty yards in front of us.

My hearing was still off but the loud explosion beside me crashed into my eardrums. I turned and saw Alicia kneeling on the seat, shooting the Glock at the approaching Apache. This is really starting to get dangerous.

About the author:

Former street cop, training officer and member of SWAT John Beyer has been writing most of his life. He’s traveled to at least 23 countries (and was actually shot in the head in Spain in 2000 during a march between Neo Nazis and Communists two days after running with the bulls in Pamplona). He was caught in a hurricane off the coast of east Baja (Bahia de los Angeles) while kayaking and lived to tell about it. Essentially, it’s hard to tell where experience leaves off and fiction takes over. You’ll want to read his books.

Website URL: http://johnrobertbeyer.weebly.com/

Blog URL: http://jandlresearchandexploration.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @Drjohnrbeyer

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-john-r-beyer

 

Operation Scorpion by John Beyer. Black Opal Books (January 14, 2017).  ISBN 978-1626945968.

 


THE ENGLISH DUKE by Karen Ranney

April 19, 2017

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The Dukes, Book 2

This was my first book from Karen Ranney, and I will be reading more. The first book in this new series is The Scottish Duke, the one following is The Texan Duke, and I’m not sure how many more there will be but this one was really good. These books are not related like most series with overlapping characters, the only thing they have in common are the titles. The Texan Duke was originally supposed to be called the American Duke, so maybe there will be more stories set in America? Just a guess.

The English Duke in question is Jordan Hamilton, the new Duke of Roth. He is an unusual duke as he is a second son so shouldn’t have inherited the title, except his older brother died. Jordan was in the Navy and then with the War Office, AKA British Intelligence, and is a scientist and an inventor who is working on torpedoes. He has been corresponding with Matthew York, an acclaimed inventor and they have enormous respect for one another.

When Matthew dies, he leaves all his notes and models from his inventions to Jordan. Matthew’s daughter Martha has been assisting her father for years, and they worked very closely together. So she is familiar with the correspondence between her father and Jordan, and is surprised that when her father asked for him to come, he ignored the letters. A year after Matthew’s death, Jordan still hasn’t responded to her letters regarding the bequest so Martha decides to deliver it to Jordan personally.

Martha, her half sister Josephine and their grandmother set off for Sedgewick, the Duke’s estate. Martha plans to deliver the materials, stay overnight at a nearby inn, and return home the next day. However her grandmother becomes quite ill, forcing the Duke to put them up in his home and when the doctor says she needs several days rest, they are all forced together. Josephine is a conniving little wretch, sure of her beauty and her ability to manipulate men. She decides she will be the next Duchess and plots and schemes to get her way.

The reason the Duke hadn’t answered any of the letters or visited the Yorks was that he suffered a horrific fall, shattering several bones. He walks with a severe limp and is often in terrible pain. Josephine thinks him “lame” and tells him so, but she is not interested in dancing with him, just in acquiring the title and the home.

Martha is a wonderful heroine. She’s smart and independent, and not looking to get married to anyone. She just wants to continue her father’s work. The Duke is a loner, happiest when tinkering in his workshop. Since they are stuck together, they end up working together and both soon realize they are meant for each other. But Josephine has other ideas.

This was a torturous read for me as the horrible Josephine almost gets away with her plot, and it isn’t resolved until the very end. I wanted to throttle Josephine, to use a term of the day, but the requisite happy ending was finally, finally reached. That said, I did end up enjoying the book, and found the torpedo plot line really interesting. One of the things I like best about historical romances, the really good ones anyway, is that I learn something about the time period and this was a good example. In fact, the author includes notes at the back of the book about her research. Highly recommended.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ENGLISH DUKE by Karen Ranney. Avon (March 28, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062466891. 384p.


Tribute to Elizabeth Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

April 18, 2017
It’s part of a video series from Penguin Random House called Kick-a** Characters, which are salutes to some favorite characters in literature. I will warn you ahead of time it’s a two minute video, and can’t possibly include every plot point from Pride and Prejudice, but I think it functions as a good overview!


MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY by Fredrik Backman

April 17, 2017

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Backman surfaced in America as the author of the word-of-mouth-runaway-bestseller-turned-into-an-Oscar-nominated-film, A Man Called Ove. It’s been on the bestseller lists for a couple of years now with no sign of letup. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry joined it well over a year ago.

If you haven’t read this Swedish author, let me start by saying if the only Swedish author you are familiar with is Steig Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) just put that out of your mind. Larsson may have been Sweden’s biggest selling author but Backman is pushing him off the list. Backman is the yin to Larsson’s yang, the lightness to his darkness, and I, for one, most welcome this new voice.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is written from the point of view of the granddaughter, Elsa. She’s seven years old and beyond precocious, and her grandmother is her best friend. They share a secret language, stories about the Land-of-Almost-Awake and all the kingdoms within. Elsa doesn’t really have any other friends, her grandmother is her world. She basically puts up with her mother. 

When her grandmother passes away, Elsa is devastated. Then she learns her grandmother has left her a sort of scavenger hunt, a series of letters that she wants Elsa to deliver for her. Letters of apology.

This is a hard book to describe. The plot doesn’t really matter; suffice it to say there are some people who don’t like the fact that the narrator is a child. Get over it – it’s so worth it. All the people who live in apartments in the house with Elsa’s family are unique individuals, to say the least. And eventually it all makes sense.

Backman has a unique voice and I think you either love it, and then you will love all his books no matter the subject or protagonist, or you don’t. And I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t (at least not yet).

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY by Fredrik Backman. Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (April 5, 2016).  ISBN 978-1501115073.  372p.

Kindle

 


Guest blogger: J.L. Abramo

April 16, 2017

I am delighted to welcome my guest blogger, author J. L. Abramo

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WHY CRIME FICTION
by J. L. Abramo

Crime fiction, film and television are extremely popular among readers and viewers worldwide.  Fiction writers are often categorized, listed and known for their particular genre—be it crime, mystery, romance, horror, science fiction.  Genre is defined by Merriam-Webster as a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.  And as stated by Joyce Carol Oates in The New York Review of Books, “In genre fiction there is an implied contract between writer and reader that justice of a kind will be exacted; ‘good’ may not always triumph over ‘evil’, but the distinction between the two must be honored.”

I have often been asked why I chose mystery and crime fiction as my literary genre.  It might be more accurate to say that the genre chose me; and to add that a particular genre is simply the vehicle in which the writer journeys through the landscape he or she is compelled to explore.  In my experience as a reader it is the theme and not the plot of a novel that carries universal and lasting impact; making the particular genre secondary to the thoughts and feelings which the writer is consciously or unconsciously driven to express.  Crime and Punishment, Les Misérables, A Tale of Two Cities are, on the surface, crime novels; classic literary works that greatly influenced generations of readers and future writers; not as a consequence of their genre, but for their examination of the trials and tribulations of the human experience.  Similarly, the same holds for visual art and music.  A timeless painting or a lasting musical composition is one that leaves a profound impression on the viewer or the listener; be it renaissance, religious, impressionist, avant-garde, symbolic, dada, classical, folk, country, blues, jazz or rock and roll.

That being said, the selection of crime fiction as my vehicle of choice was a consequence of my exposure to literary works which examined crime and its ramifications and which greatly influenced me as a young man and adult—Dostoyevsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain.  And by exposure to films like The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, On The Waterfront, Anatomy of a Murder, Witness for the Prosecution, The French Connection, The Godfather and countless others.  And I have always found it to be the genre I am most adept at and most comfortable in—something akin to the well broken-in pair of shoes you prefer slipping into.

In the latest work, Coney Island Avenue, I employ the crime fiction genre to revisit the Brooklyn neighborhood of my youth.  It is a continuation of the novel Gravesend, which moved my focus from the San Francisco and Los Angeles of the Jake Diamond private eye novels to the Sixty-first Precinct in Gravesend, where I was born and raised.  Once again I take the journey in the vehicle I feel most comfortable travelling aboard.

So, the question arises—are we, practitioners of the written word and members of professional guilds like the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers, novelists or crime novelists.  And the simple answer is we are writers, willing to use any means of transport which will help us tell our tale and help entice readers to come along for the ride.

About Coney Island Avenue

THE DOG DAYS OF AUGUST IN BROOKLYN and the detectives of the 61st Precinct are battling to keep all hell from breaking loose.

Lives are taken in the name of greed, retribution, passion and the lust for power—and the only worthy opponent of this senseless malevolence is the uncompromising resolve to rise above it, rather than descend to its depths.

The heart pounding sequel to the acclaimed novel GRAVESEND—from Shamus Award-winner J. L. Abramo—CONEY ISLAND AVENUE continues the dramatic account of the professional and personal struggles that constitute everyday life

for the dedicated men and women of the Six-One—and of the saints and sinners who share their streets.  Coney Island Avenue is an emotionally packed chronicle of good and evil, triumph and tragedy and—just below the surface—Abramo’s narrative is a universal tale of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

About the author

J. L. Abramo was born in the seaside paradise of Brooklyn, New York on Raymond Chandler’s fifty-ninth birthday. Abramo is the author of Catching Water in a Net, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America prize for Best First Private Eye Novel; the subsequent Jake Diamond novels Clutching at Straws, Counting to Infinity, and Circling the Runway; Chasing Charlie Chan, a prequel to the Jake Diamond series; Gravesend, Brooklyn Justice and Coney Island Avenue.

Abramo’s short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies including Murder Under the Oaks, winner of the Anthony Award.

Circling the Runway was the recipient of a Shamus Award presented by the Private Eye Writers of America in 2016.

www.jlabramo.com

www.facebook.com/jlabramo


TOGETHER IS BETTER by Simon Sinek

April 15, 2017

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A Little Book of Inspiration

I don’t generally read inspirational books, and I rarely read business books but I make an exception for Simon Sinek.

Sinek was the closing speaker at a conference I attended a few years ago and he just blew me away. Since then, I’ve watched his TED talks and occasionally check in at his YouTube page. Whatever he has to say, I’m willing to listen. He has several books as well, and this is his latest.

It’s a tiny little book, cleverly illustrated in the style of classic children’s literature that was reminiscent of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or Caps for Sale. The theme of togetherness is one that is predominant in business today, and the idea that teamwork is best that has been scientifically proven (check out Margaret Hefferman’s TED talk, Forget the Pecking Order at Work – fascinating stuff.)

Sinek offers lots of pithy thoughts, some with further explanations at the back of the book. My favorites:

Bad teams work in the same place. Good teams work together.

Leaders give us the chance to try and fail, then give us another chance to try and succeed.

Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan (a variation of the oldie but goodie, “man plans and God laughs.”)

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.

This is probably not going to change your life but it may give you fresh perspective on a day you really need it. Enjoy!

Bonus: Simon Sinek (public speaker and author of START WITH WHY: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action) dissects the United Airlines controversy.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TOGETHER IS BETTER by Simon Sinek. Portfolio (September 13, 2016). ISBN 978-1591847854. 160p.


ONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline

April 14, 2017

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It’s always a happy day in my house when a new Lisa Scottoline book appears on my doorstep. While my heart truly belongs to her series (Rosato & Associates which turns into Rosato & DiNunzio) I also enjoy the nonfiction books she writes with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, which are collections of the columns they write for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Then a few years ago (probably more than a few at this point) Lisa started writing standalones, sort of ripped from the headlines thrillers and family dramas that are most reminiscent of Jodi Picoult books. This one is a real suburban thriller, so if you like Harlan Coben or Jodi Picoult, add Scottoline to your reading list.

One Perfect Lie starts out one way and then takes a sudden, shocking turn. Set in a small, Pennsylvania town, Chris Brennan applies for a teaching position, taking over for a teacher out on leave. He also applies to be the assistant coach of the baseball team, and through the application process and then his starting days at the high school, he comes across as creepy and evil.

The story really focuses on some of the kids on the baseball team. One of them is suspected of stealing fertilizer that is used for explosions. And this is just days before the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. There’s Raz, who lost his father earlier that year and whose mother is having trouble adjusting. Jordan’s mom is a struggling single mother, but he never knew his father. And Evan is the golden child, son of a surgeon and a mom who lives for Facebook, posting one perfect family picture after another.

The teachers, students and their families all accept Chris and for the first time in his life – a life that seems to have been very difficult – he feels a sense of being at home. But it may all blow up – literally and figuratively.

Scottoline excels at character development and they propel the story along. And the ending was exceptionally gripping. This was a one night read for me and I really enjoyed it. Another winner from one of my favorites.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press (April 11, 2017). ISBN 978-1250099563. 368p.

Kindle


HIS COWBOY HEART by Jennifer Ryan

April 12, 2017

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Montana Men series, Book 7

This is a modern day cowboy romance with a significant twist.

Ford Kendrick and Jamie Keller have been sweethearts forever, dreaming of moving away from their small Montana town and starting their own ranch somewhere. But when Ford’s family runs into some financial problems and his grandfather’s health is precarious, he knows all his savings have to go into the family business and that he’ll have to stick around to help out.

Ford pushes Jamie away, telling her she needs to go and make her own way somewhere else without telling her why. Heartbroken, she heads to Georgia and ends up enlisting in the army.

Jamie returns home to Montana with severe PTSD – and this was quite an unusual twist. I’ve read romances where the men have come home from war with issues but this was a first for me. Jamie is in a very bad way. She’s got serious physical issues and scars, but it’s her mental problems that are really crippling.

At lunch with her mother, a woman who is completely devoid of empathy, Jamie loses it and causes a scene. Ford is at the same restaurant, and sees her. Determined to help, he shows up at her house and she almost kills him, blasting gunfire through the front door in a drunken, drugged haze. This just makes him more determined to find their happy ending, but that’s only half the story.

The other half of the story is what happened to Jamie. She knows she was burned and shot, and that one of the men in her group saved her life. But they were the only two survivors and she lost the rest of her friends that day. Understandingly, she has completely blocked out her memories of that day. Getting psychiatric help from the Army via Skype, she is not making much progress with her memory of that fateful day.

I must admit this was not that big a mystery, even I figured out what had happened pretty early on. But this deep dive into PTSD and the repercussions after soldiers return home felt brutally honest – especially in light of this article I had read about it in the New York Times Magazine a while back. Well, that article just won the Pulitzer Prize and I highly recommend reading it, and this book.

For more information on PTSD, read this Pulitzer Prize winning piece from the New York Times: The Fighter

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HIS COWBOY HEART by Jennifer Ryan. Avon (February 21, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062435408. 416p.

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