Win the September ’17 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

September 1, 2017

Welcome to the September bookshelf of signed thrillers! There are terrific 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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SLEEP LIKE A BABY by Charlaine Harris: Stricken with flu while her husband is on a business trip, Roe accepts the help of an in-home nurse who goes missing on a stormy night at the same time a body is found outside the house.

Y IS FOR YESTERDAY by Sue Grafton: Kinsey Millhone monitors the release from prison of a sociopath who is determined to exact revenge on a fellow perpetrator who went missing after they sexually assaulted a fourteen-year-old classmate in the penultimate installment in the best-selling series.

VINCE FLYNN’S ENEMY OF THE STATE by Kyle Mills: In the aftermath of a secret non-aggression pact that America will cover up evidence of Saudi involvement in the September 11 attacks in exchange for oil, evidence of hostile Saudi activity forces Mitch Rapp to resign from the CIA and assume the guise of a traitor as part of a covert mission to keep the peace.

ENIGMA by Catherine Coulter: Agents Savich and Sherlock network with agent Cam Wittier and New York Special Forces agent Jack Cabot in a race against time to catch an international criminal and solve the enigma of the man called John Doe.

A CASUALTY OF WAR by Charles Todd: Caring for an increasingly unstable soldier who believes his cousin is responsible for multiple injuries, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford investigates the patient’s claims, only to find herself in unexpected danger.

WICKED DEEDS by Heather Graham: A romantic weekend for historian Vickie Preston and special agent Griffin Pryce is interrupted by the murder of a popular author in a literature-themed restaurant, a case with disturbing parallels to the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

LIE TO ME by J. T. Ellison: When his wife, Sutton, disappears while they are having marital problems, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her, Ethan Montclair becomes the target of vicious gossip as friends, family, and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton.

CLOSE TO HOME by Robert Dugoni: When a young boy dies from a hit-and-run accident, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite realizes it is not just a case of the military protecting own of its own who was the lead suspect, but also part of a larger conspiracy related to a spate of heroin overdoses

TRACE EVIDENCE by Diane Capri: In a race against time to save a child’s life, the best heir hunter in the business is determined to find Josh Hallman, the boy’s father – if he’s alive – to provide a hoped-for match before two relentless killers do.

RELOAD by David McCaleb: To save his family—and the free world—Red Harmon is back in the line of fire in book two of the Red Ops Thriller Series.

A TALE OF TWO KITTIES  by Sofie Kelly: When one of two estranged brothers is found murdered, Kathleen Paulson and her highly attuned feline helpers are challenged to dig deep into the town’s history to clear a lead suspect’s name and find the real culprit.

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!


RUSH by Maya Banks

September 23, 2017

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Breathless Trilogy, Book 1

Because of the bad review I gave Dirty Little Secret, I decided to read another book in that genre just to see if it was me, my mindset, or the book. I’m happy (sort of) to report it was the book. Rush is a fun read.

Another 50 Shades of Grey readalike, this book has main characters that are fairly well defined and feel like actual people more than just stereotypes. No sirs, no pets, but still BDSM in all of its sexy glory. If you like that sort of thing, and I do when it is done well.

Gabe Hamilton has had a major crush on Mia for years, but she’s his best friend’s baby sister, fourteen years his junior. When she was 16, that was a problem but now that she’s 24, it doesn’t seem so insurmountable anymore. When Mia arrives at a work party looking for her brother, he is nowhere to be found but Gabe dances with her and gets her home safely – after ordering her to be in his office the following Monday morning.

He offers her a job as his personal assistant, but there is a catch – he has her sign a contract basically making her his sex slave. She has a major crush on him, so she goes for it but they both decide her brother can’t know anything about that part of their relationship. Of course, all good ideas go asunder, or what would be the point.

This is an erotic romance with the requisite happily ever after and it was a good read. My faith in erotica is now restored.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RUSH by Maya Banks. Berkley; 1 edition (February 5, 2013). ISBN 978-0425267042.  416p.

Kindle


DIRTY LITTLE SECRET by Kendall Ryan

September 22, 2017

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Forbidden Desires, Book 1

I don’t read a lot of self-published books, primarily because they generally aren’t edited properly, and this book just reinforces that.

I was stuck at home for several days because of Hurricane Irma, and I had gotten an advance copy and it was on my Kindle so I read it. The best thing I can say about it was it was a quick read.

I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t understand them and they felt entirely two-dimensional to me. The main character is Gavin, who owns an escort service with his brothers, and Emma, a librarian. Of course.  I didn’t even like the sex scenes much, they just felt trite and so done already. Like when the dominant calls the librarian, “Pet.” Yech.

It ends in the middle of the story, the better to get you to buy the next book in the series I suppose, but I didn’t care enough about any of it to look for more.

Ryan has hopped on the 50 Shades of Grey/E.L. James bandwagon, and apparently there just aren’t enough of these books to satisfy demand. To be fair, this book has 4.5 stars on Amazon and other review sites.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DIRTY LITTLE SECRET by Kendall Ryan. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 14, 2017). ISBN 978-1548139148.  354p.

Kindle


BREATHING ROOM by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

September 21, 2017

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Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of my favorite contemporary romance writers, and I thought I had read all of her books. I was wrong, somehow I missed this one.

This is a standalone, set mostly in Tuscany so I was all over that. Isabel Favor is a world famous psychologist with a huge following. She has bestselling books, TV deals, and a perfect life, including her fiancé. Perfect, that is, until he dumps her for another woman and her accountant embezzles all her money and flees the country, leaving her with a whopping multi-million dollar IRS debt, and those boys don’t play. She sells everything she owns to pay her back taxes, and then she flees the country, going to Italy to lick her wounds and reinvent herself.

While in Rome, she is at a cafe and sees a very good looking man who seems to be watching her. He makes his way over to her and she decides to try something she’s never done before; have a one night stand with a stranger. Isabel is more of a fall-in-love-then-have-sex kind of woman, so this is way outside her comfort zone. The sex isn’t great, and in the process, she convinces herself that this man must be a gigolo. She throws some money on the bed and takes off.

Isabel got a two month rental of a Tuscan farm house through a friend, but when she gets there they try and tell her she can’t stay, she needs to move into town. But this is the calming paradise she has been seeking and she refuses to move. She marches herself up to the villa at the top of the hill where the owner resides. Much to her surprise, the owner is a famous actor – and the man she had the one night stand with while he was in disguise.

She stays, he thinks she is a stalker, and something weird is going on with the farm help. Eventually, they form a friendship and then decide to become lovers, but to keep it to a physical relationship only. As any romance reader knows, that idea never works out and they fall in love, but both are too hell bent on keeping it casual that they almost lose each other – almost being the key word here.

This was another wonderful read from Phillips. It’s only $5 if you buy the Kindle version so if you are looking for a sure bet, this one is highly recommended..

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BREATHING ROOM by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Avon; Reprint edition (April 29, 2003).  ISBN 978-0061032097.  400p.


FINAL STOP, ALGIERS by Mishka Ben David

September 20, 2017

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Any course or instruction on how to write successfully will indicate that the author should write about what he knows and/or has experienced. Mishka Ben David certainly does just that. His background includes 12 years in the Mossad (the Israeli Secret Service organization.) Ben David rose to the level of a high ranking officer during his time with the group.

Mickey Simhoni, an Israeli citizen, had served in the army and after discharge took a vacation which included a stop in Japan. He met Niki, a beautiful Japanese Canadian girl then working in Tokyo and had a short but torrid romance with her. Before anything could happen Mickey leaves for Tel Aviv to take up his normal life. There he falls in love with a girl only to see her killed in a suicide bombing. Faced with this horrific loss he becomes very open to an invitation to join the Mossad.

The training and guiding of an agent described in the novel is obviously the way it is due to Mishka Ben David’s experience with the group. Mickey is also sent on increasingly complex missions until the point where quite by accident he meets up with Niki for the second time. The romance is rekindled with Niki becoming a part of Mickey’s Mossad team in order to be with him again. Mickey faces the challenges of his job with the problem of what is more important to him; his love or succeeding as a Mossad agent with the necessity of possibly taking lives to complete an assignment.

The dark world of international espionage becomes alive for the reader with the horrible necessities of Mickey’s job becoming reality for him and for those reading the book. It is very well done and concentrating on the action described does take the reader into a world very far from the one most of us live in. Certainly, other similar novels will appeal to the reader that enjoyed this book.

9/17 Paul Lane

FINAL STOP, ALGIERS by Mishka Ben David. Peter Halban Publishers (January 26, 2017).  ISBN 978-1905559848. 429p.

Kindle


THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE by Zoe Whittall

September 19, 2017

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Avalon Hills is a small, wealthy enclave in Connecticut and home to the Woodbury family, one of the founding families of the community. George Woodbury is a much-beloved teacher at the local private school who became a hero several years earlier when he took down a gunman in the school hallway. But now George is in trouble – he’s been accused of sexual misconduct and attempted rape on some of his students. Bail is denied and George insists that he is being framed.

George’s wife Joan is the head nurse in the emergency room at the local hospital. She feels their marriage is strong, and she wants to stand by her husband. Their children, Andrew, a lawyer in New York and 17-year-old Sadie, who is at the top of her class at the same school, are devastated. Andrew starts spending quite a bit of time at home, and Sadie hides out at her boyfriend’s house. There, his mother’s live-in boyfriend, a writer, is inspired to write a novelization of the sex scandal that has rocked the town – but doesn’t tell anyone what he is up to.

The family each have to deal with this in their own way, but these characters are not given a whole lot of information and neither is the reader. We get to see the after-effects of such a devastating claim on the family, but it isn’t until almost the end that we learn what probably happened.

I don’t know that there is ever a right or wrong answer to how a family deals with something like this, but by the end, there should be, at least in my mind, and I was not happy with the ending of this book. Maybe it is just too much like real life for my taste. Either way, this book will be terrific for discussion.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE by Zoe Whittall. Ballantine Books (September 19, 2017). ISBN 978-0399182211.  448p.

Kindle


FINDING OUR FOREVER by Brenda Novak

September 18, 2017

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Silver Springs, Book 1

This is the first book in the new Silver Springs series. As usual, I didn’t start here but rather with the second book, which I liked so much I hunted down this one.

This is a small paperback and a very fast read, but not a whole lot of intrigue. Cora knows she was adopted and has always been curious about her birth mother, but her parents don’t know anything since it was a closed adoption. And they are not comfortable with the idea of her looking for her birth mother, either, it makes them uncomfortable. But Cora is determined, and six years of research has finally turned up her mother.

Aiyana runs a school for troubled boys in the small California town of Silver Springs, two hours from Cora’s home in Los Angeles. As fate would have it, the school is looking for an art teacher and after several years of substitute teaching, Cora applies for the permanent position and gets it. Aiyana’s adopted eldest son, Elijah, is the one who interviews and hires her and Cora is strongly attracted to him but afraid of getting too close to her birth mother’s offspring, even if there is no blood relation between them.

But Eli is just as attracted to Cora and proposes a physical relationship. Eli has had a horrific childhood, and even though Aiyana is a wonderful mother to him, he has emotional scars that still haven’t healed, leaving him closed off emotionally. His previous relationships all ended because of it. Cora is so attracted to him she agrees, thinking this is the perfect solution – no emotional entanglement, just a physical one. Of course she falls in love with him and tries backing off, trying to protect her heart, but surprising himself, Eli can’t let her go.

Meanwhile, Cora loves teaching at the school and especially loves getting to know her mother. But the longer she is there and involved with Eli and his family, the harder it gets to tell them her real reason for being there.

This was good and I’m glad I read it, but I liked the second book better. It is longer, the characters more developed and lots more plot twists. Nonetheless, this was a very enjoyable read and a great introduction to the series.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FINDING OUR FOREVER by Brenda Novak. Harlequin Special Edition (March 21, 2017).  ISBN 978-0373623389. 224p.

Kindle

 


THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson

September 17, 2017

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I haven’t found a thriller this dark and funny in a long time. Hanson is a TV writer who has developed many books into TV series, most notably “Bones,” based on the Kathy Reichs books. His skills with pacing are evident here as this is a real page turner.

Michael Skellig owns Oasis Limo, and he is the driver. A decorated veteran, he has hired extremely damaged vets and an illegal alien, an Afghani translator, to work for him. I haven’t seen characters this damaged in a very long time, but this is no pity party. Instead, it is a lightning fast, clever thriller interspersed with black humor that helps lighten the darkness.

Skellig is hired to drive Bismark Avilla, a skateboarding, rapping God in L.A. Skellig happens to hear voices, ghosts of the people he has killed and while waiting outside a club for Avilla, he hears a voice warning him of impending danger. He races through the club and foils a murder attempt on Avilla’s life that gets one of his bodyguards killed, and Skellig is injured.

That is just the beginning of a roller coaster ride of good cops, bad cops, gangs, torture, parrots, skateboarders and more. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and the laughter outweighed the violence more often than not. If you love the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay, or are a fan of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey, take a trip out to California with Hanson. I hope this is the first book of a series but haven’t heard anything further, yet…

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson. Dutton (August 8, 2017).  ISBN 978-1101986363. 336p.

Kindle


CASA MARCELA by Marcela Valladolid

September 16, 2017

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Recipes and Food Stories of My Life in the Californias

Not a Saturday passes by without my looking forward to tuning in to Food Network’s The Kitchen. Hosted by Jeff Mauro, Sunny Anderson, Katie Lee, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Marcela Valladolid, the show is my weekend wake up and the thing that gets me excited about cooking through the next couple of days. That paired with my fondness for Mexican food, and the fact that I was a fan of Valladolid’s previous show, Mexican Made Easy, meant that of course I had to get my hands on a copy of Casa Marcela for my own kitchen.

If you like Mexican flavors and comfort food, you’ll love Valladolid’s new cookbook. Packed with tasty dishes, fabulous photography, and personal stories, the book is a wonderful blend of traditional flavors and Valladolid’s own favorites. And while some might say this isn’t a wholly traditional Mexican cookbook, recipes like Roasted-Cauliflower Steaks with Pickled-Jalapeno Vinaigrette, Roasted Salmon and Pesto-Stuffed Anaheim Chiles can be found alongside Tamales de Pollo en Salsa Verde, Green Hominy and Pork Soup (Pozole), and Conchas.

Valladolid’s recipes are seated in tradition and adapted for ingredients local to Tijuana and San Diego, perfectly reflecting Valladolid’s own influences. There are Tuna Empanadas and Coke-Braised Pork Tacos. There’s even a Mexican Ramen recipe.

The first dishes I dove into were the Creamy Beer Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Chiles (using poblanos from my garden), a decadent and cheesy dish that we served alongside the White Rice with Basil and Corn; the Peppercorn-Crusted Flank Steak with Mustard Cream (the sauce really made this dish.) that we served with Pickled Poblanos; and the Ground Pork Patties in Tomatillo Salsa served, as per Valladolid’s recommendation, with rice and avocado slices.

The book is divided into eight sections: Small Bites/Botanas; Salads and Soups/Ensaladas y Sopas; Entrees/Platillos Fuertes; Sides/Guarniciones; Salsas; Breakfast/Desayunos; Drinks/Bebidas; and Desserts/Postres. Recipes range from easy family friendly/weeknight meals to more elaborate dishes perfect for entertaining. Saying that, though, none of the dishes I’ve tried so far have been beyond a home cook’s skills, something I definitely appreciate. Another thing I loved about the book was the abundance of produce-heavy recipes, which I especially appreciate during the summer months as there are plenty of dishes that make use of ingredients from my own home garden.

Whether you’re a fan of Valladolid or simply a fan of gorgeous cookbooks with approachable and appealing recipes, Casa Marcela will make a great addition to your cookbook collection.

9/17 Becky LeJeune

From the publisher:

Creamy Beer Shrimp–Stuffed Poblano Chiles from Casa Marcela

Serves 4 to 6

This is a showstopper right here. If you are lucky enough to travel through Mexico, you’ll find that there are countless versions of stuffed peppers: with cheese, with meat, with beans, with dried fruit, and here with seafood. This simple, rich, creamy perfection fills the optimal pepper for stuffing: the poblano. Be careful, though, because depending on the crop, they can range from totally mild to pretty darn spicy. Don’t be afraid to smell them at the market: if it stings your nose a little, you’re probably gonna get some fire from the pepper. If spice is what you are looking for, you can certainly use a jalapeño. They are smaller, so you’ll have to purchase a few more to use up all the stuffing, but they also come out great.

Ingredients

4 to 6 fresh poblano chiles

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 dried chiles de árbol

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, and quartered

Salt

1/2 cup dark lager beer

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup shredded Oaxaca cheese, or any other white melting cheese

Directions

Turn a gas burner to high. Char the poblano chiles directly on the burner, turning with tongs, until blackened all over. (Alternatively, roast in the oven under the broiler.) Place the chiles in a plastic bag and let steam for 10 minutes.

Gently rub the chiles with paper towels to remove as much skin as possible. Using a paring knife, make a slit across the top of a chile just below the stem, leaving the stem intact. Starting from the middle of the slit, slice lengthwise down to the tip of the pepper (cut through only one layer). Open the chile like a book and pull out the seeds and inner membranes. You may need to use a paring knife to loosen the top of the seedpod. Repeat with the remaining chiles.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chiles de árbol and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until lightly pink, about 1 minute. Season with salt to taste. Stir in the beer and cook until lightly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream and bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove the shrimp from the sauce and cook the sauce until thickened, about 6 minutes more. Return the shrimp to the pan and add 1/2 cup of the cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Turn off the heat.

Preheat the broiler to high.

Fill each chile with about 1/4 cup of the creamy shrimp and transfer to a large glass baking dish. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup cheese among the chiles and broil until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 6 minutes.

CASA MARCELA by Marcela Valladolid. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 25, 2017). ISBN 978-0544808553. 288p.


WHEN YOU DISAPPEARED by John Marrs

September 15, 2017

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An explosive narrative about a long time married couple that experiences a rupture in their marriage lasting 25 years, then the agonizing starts when they finally get together again.

Catherine and Simon have been married for enough time to have three children and one more that didn’t make it past his first few months. They have the appearance of a very happily married couple looking forward to the rest of their lives sharing both good and bad times. Suddenly, out of the blue, Simon disappears with no trace. Searches are launched for him, police bulletins are posted and Catherine is positive that something bad has happened.

Time passes,twenty five years go by, and suddenly out of the blue Simon appears at the door of the house that they had shared and where Catherine still lives. The story of where he has been and why he left is presented in the most brilliant fashion that I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time.

The narrative of the 25 years apart is told in turn by each of them and in a manner that grabs the reader’s interest and keeps it. The manner that each has grown apart from the other is well delineated and assures that the actions and thoughts of the two become clear to the reader. An understanding of how each has acted and what has taken place in their lives is very clear in Marrs’s hands. To complete our understanding of what has motivated the two, the action swings effortlessly back and forth in time at the beginning and then at the twenty five year point.

An extremely well done novel; definitely an all-nighter in every sense of the word.

9/17 Paul Lane

WHEN YOU DISAPPEARED by John Marrs. Thomas & Mercer; Reprint edition (September 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-1611097511. 348p.

Kindle


Author Spotlight: Norm Macdonald

September 14, 2017

Norm Macdonald convinces you to buy his book “Based on a True Story” – Norm Macdonald tells different groups of people why they should buy his memoir.

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BASED ON A TRUE STORY: Not a Memoir by Norm Macdonald

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Driving, wild and hilarious” (TheWashington Post), here is the incredible “memoir” of the actor, gambler, raconteur, and Saturday Night Live veteran.

Don’t miss Norm’s new Netflix special, Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Treachery!

When Norm Macdonald, one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time, was approached to write a celebrity memoir, he flatly refused, calling the genre “one step below instruction manuals.” Norm then promptly took a two-year hiatus from stand-up comedy to live on a farm in northern Canada. When he emerged he had under his arm a manuscript, a genre-smashing book about comedy, tragedy, love, loss, war, and redemption. When asked if this was the celebrity memoir, Norm replied, “Call it anything you damn like.”

Praise for Based on a True Story

“Dostoyevsky by way of 30 Rockefeller Center . . . the best new book I’ve read this year or last.”The Wall Street Journal

“This book is absurd fiction. . . . Scathing and funny.”The New York Times

“Hilarious and filled with turns of phrase and hidden beauty like only a collection of Norm Macdonald stories could be.”Esquire

“Raucous . . . a hilarious, innovative work.”A.V. Club

“Part personal history and part meta riff on celebrity memoirs, the book, it quickly becomes clear, is also just partly true (and all hilarious).”Vulture

“Very, very, very funny! Thanks, Norm, for letting me be part of this Booker Prize–for–literature–quality effort.”—David Letterman

“Norm is brilliant and thoughtful and there is sensitivity and creative insight in his observations and stories. A lot of comics over the years have been compared to Mark Twain, but I think Norm is the only one who actually matches the guy in terms of his voice and ability. I seriously f**king love Norm Macdonald. Please buy his book. He probably needs the cash. He’s really bad with money.”—Louis C.K., from the foreword

“Norm is one of my all-time favorites, and this book was such a great read I forgot how lonely I was for a while.”—Amy Schumer

“I always thought Normie’s stand-up was the funniest thing there was. But this book gives it a run for its money.”—Adam Sandler

“Norm is one of the greatest stand-up comics who’s ever worked—a totally original voice. His sense of the ridiculous and his use of juxtaposition in his writing make him a comic’s comic. We all love Norm.”—Roseanne Barr

“Norm Macdonald makes me laugh my ass off. Who is funnier than Norm Macdonald? Nobody.”—Judd Apatow

“Norm Macdonald is more than a triple threat—he’s a septuple threat. He is smart, funny, wry, rakish, polite, rakish . . . no, wait. He is polite, insightful, and . . . aaaaah . . . warm. No. He’s exciting. Yeah. Exciting! You never know what he’ll do. Okay, then make that unpredictable. Add that up. He’s amazing.”—Alec Baldwin

“Norm is a double threat. His material and timing are both top-notch, which is unheard of. He is one of my favorites, both on- and off-stage.”—Dave Attell

“Letterman said it best: There is no one funnier than Norm Macdonald.”—Rob Schneider

BASED ON A TRUE STORY by Norm Macdonald. Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (June 13, 2017). ISBN: 978-0812983869. 272p.