Win the July ’18 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

July 1, 2018

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Welcome to the July bookshelf of signed thrillers! Lots of terrific books to win this month from bestsellers to some debuts. More books may be added throughout the month, so check back often.

To enter, go to the Win Books page.

Best of luck!

GIVE ME YOUR HAND by Megan Abbott:  Distancing herself from an intense best friend who inspired her scientific ambitions before divulging a life-changing secret, Kit competes for a dream research job and finds herself in a dangerous game of cat and mouse

WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT by Sandra Block: Years after she was the victim of a brutal sexual attack, Dahlia finds a video of her assault and after finally discovering who to blame she sets out to make everyone pay.

THE DARKEST TIME OF NIGHT by Jeremy Finley: A debut novel by an award-winning Nashville investigative reporter presents the suspenseful tale of a politician’s wife whose efforts to protect her family and rescue her missing grandson ensnare her in a conspiracy involving UFO research and her own past.

THE LAST TIME I LIED by Riley Sager: An artist who witnessed the disappearance of her bunkmates at summer camp as a young girl accepts an opportunity to return to Camp Nightingale as a painting instructor and tries to discover what really happened to her friends.

CAGED by Ellison Cooper: Focusing on her research after the death of her fiancé, an FBI neuroscientist investigates the torturous murder of a senator’s daughter before discovering that her dangerously obsessed killer has abducted a second victim. A first novel.

THE FIFTH TO DIE by J. D. Barker:  While secretly continuing his pursuit of Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, Detective Porter, suspended from his latest murder investigation, becomes obsessed with finding Bishop and is led into a world darker than he could have ever imagined.

FINAL RESTING PLACE by Jonathan F. Putnam:  Twenty-nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln has spent his entire adult life running from his past—from the poverty of the dirt-floor log cabin where he was raised, from the dominion of his uneducated father, and from a failed early courtship. But now, Lincoln’s past is racing back to haunt him.

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 to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

COTTAGE BY THE SEA by Debbie Macomber

July 16, 2018

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Another sweet romance from the Queen of sweet romance, and she is in fine form.

Annie Marlow is living her life when an unspeakable tragedy strikes. Sinking into depression, a friend finally suggests she go to her “happy place,” whatever that is.

Annie decides to go back to the beach town where she spent happy summer vacations as a child. She even manages to find the cottage her family rented every year. The owner is the granddaughter of the original owners, but she is an agoraphobic recluse and not inclined to rent out her cottage. Until Keaton intervenes.

Keaton is a painter/handyman and helps out the owner so she is willing to listen to him. Annie gets her cottage and a new friend in Keaton. As she struggles to find peace, Keaton has his own struggles. Together, they learn to overcome their problems and help each other find happiness.

This is a beautiful story of redemption. The setting is lovely, the characters warm and interesting, and the story line compelling. I loved it.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COTTAGE BY THE SEA by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (July 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-0399181252. 352p.



July 15, 2018

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Highland Brides, Book 6

I continue on my quest for men in kilts and this is a good one if you don’t mind the amnesia trope.

Aulay Buchanan is laird but he’s staying in his hunting lodge. One morning he finds a woman floating in the water, tied to a mast that has broken off of a ship. He pulls her in and revives her, but she doesn’t know who she is or how she ended up there, and to makes things even more interesting, she is deathly afraid of someone.

Aulay names her Jetta so he can call her something. His brother is a healer who recommends lots of rest and Aulay decides to stay at the hunting lodge until he can determine who she is afraid of and why. He sends out a few trusted men to try and find out which ship she came from and that leads to other problems.

Eventually, fleeting memories come back to Jetta but it isn’t until almost the end of the book that she realizes who she is and how she came to be there. But by then, Aulay and Jetta have fallen in love and try as they do to fight it, they get their happily ever after.

This was a one night read for me and I do recommend it, especially if you like Scottish romances. It’s a fast read and a good one.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE HIGHLANDER’S PROMISE by Lynsay Sands. Avon; Reprint edition (June 26, 2018). ISBN 978-0062842671.  288p.


CALYPSO by David Sedaris

July 14, 2018

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So I broke a crown, a molar, next to another crown and they both have to be replaced. In the dentist’s waiting room, I was reading this book and laughing out loud like an idiot despite the pain in my mouth. I was reading on my phone so I don’t know what the other people in that office were thinking and I really didn’t care. There’s nothing like getting bad news and knowing at least you have a funny book to get back to. Feel free to send donations. Did I mention I need TWO crowns?!

I am a long time David Sedaris fanatic. When I worked at Borders, I stumbled across Holidays on Ice, with the original cover showing Santa standing at an urinal. I’m not sure why that cover was changed. That book has the story about when David was a Christmas Elf in a department store and NPR airs that story every year at Christmas. It still cracks me up no matter how many times I’ve heard it. I got to see him in person a few books ago at the American Library Association conference and I laughed until I cried. I probably mention all of this in every review I do of his books because, why not.

So Calypso. A friend/co-worker told me she didn’t especially like it, she thought it was very melancholy. I was shocked. Then she said maybe I’m losing my sense of humor and I assured her that she was. Yes, there are some parts of the book – dealing with his aging father, his sister’s suicide, that are sad. But even in those stories there is humor.

I loved “Your English is So Good,” in which David dreams up the idea to teach foreign business traveler’s visiting America English. He goes off on upselling, buying a magazine at the airport and being asked if he wants a bottle of water then demanding coffee, ONLY coffee, at the Dunkin’ Donuts and the cashier asks if he wants a cup. This is funny stuff! I also liked his collecting words that should be outlawed, like “awesome!”

Another fun essay is called “Little Guy” in which he laments his lack of height and wonders how tall Rock Hudson was. That leads to how his computer is always so wholesome and his sister Amy’s computer is always spewing porn no matter what question Google is asked. The essay that titled the book, “Calypso,” explains how a friend of David’s is an artist but her latest project is just finding pieces of plywood that she sees things in. Like the face on the cover of this book. Which led to a whole diatribe on his seeing various doctors while on book tour across America. The tumor stuff was unbelievable and I will leave it at that.

I loved this book and there are some Trump references in it that also made me laugh.

Thank you, Mr. Sedaris, I sure needed that.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CALYPSO by David Sedaris. Little, Brown and Company; 1st Edition edition (May 29, 2018). ISBN 978-0316392389. 272p.


July 13, 2018

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The Survivors, Book 3

I missed the first book in this series, but after reading the second and third, I just reserved the first at my library. It’s a really interesting series.

I love historicals, especially Regencies, but these books differ in that they don’t focus on high society despite the royalty of the characters. And it’s a refreshing change.

Rafe Beaumont is the fifth son of an earl, so he’ll never inherit the title. That’s okay with him, he inherited the good looks of both his parents and women can’t leave him alone. That does him in good stead as he is a spy, and having women spill secrets in bed is his forte. Until he meets Collette Fortier.

Fortier’s father was an assassin for Napoleon, and now that the Bourbons are in power he has been jailed. The only way Collette can help him is by finding a secret code that the British have and exchanging it for her father. To that end, she is staying with a “cousin” who is sponsoring her at all the social events of the season. Collette is desperate to get these codes and when she meets Rafe,  she doesn’t think he can help her so she blows him off. Rafe has never been turned down by a woman and of course he’s intrigued. Then he is assigned to find out what he can about her, and things get really interesting.

This was a fast, thoroughly enjoyable read. The tension between the two spies really builds and keeps the pages turning. I am looking forward to more from this author.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AN AFFAIR WITH A SPARE by Shana Galen. Sourcebooks Casablanca (July 3, 2018).  ISBN 978-1492638957. 416p.





July 12, 2018

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How to Score, Book 2

From the publisher:

From the author of the critically acclaimed Blue Plate series comes the second novel in the How to Score series about a rescue dog shelter owner and a wide receiver who needs a little rescuing himself.

Caught between the media’s crosshairs and his own questionable decisions, Colorado Blizzards wide receiver Chris Lalonde has a choice: watch his storied career burn to the ground or rehab his bad-boy image at the local dog shelter. His goal: rescue the oldest, saddest, most mange-infested canines in the hopes that the pups can rescue his reputation in return. What he doesn’t expect? Hazel Grant, shelter owner, do-gooder, and beautiful all-American girl next door. She has no time for Chris’s excuses, antics, or cheesy pick-up lines…challenge accepted.

Hazel Grant can’t believe she got saddled with Denver’s cockiest–and most eligible–football player for a volunteer. She needs people she can trust and count on, not a man packaged in abs and wrapped in confidence who thinks scoring touchdowns is an honest day’s work. But since the shelter is in need of some serious TLC, she can’t afford to turn away help.

Chris and Hazel get along like cats and dogs. But when it comes to Chris Lalonde, there’s a new surprise around every corner, and Hazel finds that, like the pups she cares for, Chris has hidden depths, secret talents, and meets every test she throws at him. As the pressure mounts to save the shelter–and Chris’s career–lust bubbles to the surface, and suddenly love becomes anybody’s game…

Football, dogs and romance – this is definitely my happy place. I liked these characters as they were well developed and real. I loved this animal shelter that cares for and rehabilitates abused animals, and wished there was one like it in every neighborhood. Hazel’s money troubles was a bit of a stretch seeing as her uncle owns an NFL franchise, but I went with it because it was such a fun read. I love this whole sports romance sub-genre, and this is an excellent example. Not sure why it’s only available as an ebook but no one asked me. If you have a Kindle or don’t mind reading on a tablet, go for it.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RESCUING THE RECEIVER by Rachel Goodman. Pocket Star (June 11, 2018).  ASIN: B078MD4J5C.

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

July 11, 2018

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The Ravenels, Book 4

Sometimes I do judge a book by its cover, and this was one of those times. Although to be honest, I love Lisa Kleypas so if I had known about this book sight unseen I still would have read it. But I stumbled across it in the library (hello, serendipity!) and here I am.  And the thing is, I have read the other books in this series so I think I missed this because it came out while I was post-eye surgery and not able to read. That’s my excuse and I can live with that.

We met our heroine, Dr. Garrett Gibson, previously in the series but now it is her time to shine. Convinced that no man would possibly be interested in the first and only physician in England, she doesn’t even bother with social niceties. Until she meets Ethan Ransom.

Ethan is a spy who is intrigued by the brilliant and beautiful doctor, and secure enough in his place in the world not to care that she (gasp!) works. Born in poverty, he has worked his way up to his position, by way of Scotland Yard and very hard work. He is also brilliant and more importantly, a man of good character and a silver tongue. That charm really swept me away as it did Garrett, a woman who is not used to it but is used to solitude. Instead, she is caught up in a great romance.

These two unconventional characters really made for an interesting and compelling romance. The story line was intriguing and relevant, and the sex was hot. That’s pretty much all I ask for in a historical romance, and Kleypas delivers once again.

As a note of added interest, Kleypas named her character after Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first physician in England. She was a fascinating and accomplished woman and I really appreciated this nugget of truth that had me searching out the real deal. Well done.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas. Avon (February 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062371911.  400p.


THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK by Jonathan Santlofer

July 10, 2018

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A Memoir

Jonathan Santlofer is an artist and a writer and someone I consider a friend. In 2013, he lost his wife, Joy, quite suddenly, and his way of coping was to draw and write. This book is the culmination of that endeavor.

There are many books written about grief and many about losing a spouse, but most are written by women about losing their husbands. I hate to generalize but I’m going to. Men tend to be more stoic about loss, less likely to talk about it, much less write about it. But Jonathan is not your average man.

I’ve known Jonathan a long time but didn’t hear about Joy’s passing until a year or so after the fact. At the time, he couldn’t really talk about it and I understood that. When he told me about this book many months ago, I got a digital galley and put it aside. Even though he told me about it and I knew he wanted me to read it, I had to come to grips with reading about his pain. It’s a difficult thing to do when you know and care about the person who is in pain. But with publication looming, I put aside my usual escapist fare and sat down to read it.

Jonathan’s voice was immediately recognizable. This isn’t some new-agey, self-help guide but rather a journey through loss and devastation, grief and pain, and ultimately hope and love. There are many drawings as well, drawing was one of his coping mechanisms and he explains how it helped him. The drawings are simple and beautiful and so expressive of a life well lived.

Joy had been working on her own book called Food City when she passed. A food historian who taught at NYU, she had worked for six years on this book about the food history of New York City and it was truly a labor of love. When she died, she left a manuscript that was twice as long as was contracted for and in need of serious editing. Jonathan and their daughter raised money to pay for an independent editor and along with her publisher, and both of them, they were able to get the book completed. (See my review here.) It was the culmination of an exhaustive project, yet bittersweet that Joy never got to see her finished book. But what a way to honor her.

Lest you think this book is a maudlin meandering of thought, it most certainly is not. Jonathan has a terrific sense of humor and understands the absurdity of life and loss.. He is self deprecating and self aware, and even through some of the most difficult parts of the book, his humor shines through. Don’t get me wrong, I cried through much of this but I also laughed.

Stories about how friends tried to help, or didn’t, were mostly encouraging, occasionally discouraging, and often funny. The set ups, (single men are always a target) not to mention a friend who tried to get him to hire hookers from a website, and poignantly, the realization that widowers are treated differently (better) than widows. I especially loved the chapter, “Stupid Things Said by Smart People,” which was so honest and pointed to something many people struggle with.

A couple of quotes that I thought were simple, eloquent and elucidating:

The fact is, losing one’s partner is an unsolicited litmus test. Some friends pass the test beautifully and others fail.

And this:

Grief is two-pronged: to get past it is to move on, a good thing; to get over it, to forget your grief and your former life and all that is attached to it, impossibly sad.

Comparisons to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking are inevitable, and Jonathan is the yin to her yang. This is a beautifully written, haunting and emotional memoir about loss, grief, love, and moving on. It is thought provoking, intelligent, important and ultimately inspirational. This is a book worth reading and sharing.

I’m very glad Jonathan decided to share his Widower’s Notebook.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK by Jonathan Santlofer. Penguin Books (July 10, 2018). ISBN 978-0143132493. 272p.



July 9, 2018

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From the publisher:

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Let me start by saying that this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is a hot romance with a strong, intelligent female heroine and a sensitive, swoon-worthy hero. When I first heard about this book, it put me in mind of a really fun movie,”The Wedding Date.” Debra Messing hires an escort, Dermot Mulroney,  to be her date for her sister’s wedding, they fall in love and boom, happily ever after. But this book is much more than just fun.

I’ve never read a romance where the main character is autistic and it worked really well, adding depth not usually found in romances. Hoang handles it with sensitivity, grace and understanding, as she says she is also on the spectrum. Michael is a biracial escort who works for the money and for very good reasons, which slowly unfurl as we learn more about him and his family. Both of these characters are truly brought to life with all their baggage and foibles.

There is amazing heat between them as well, once Stella gets past her aversion to kissing and being touched. Michael is so gentle and patient with her and exactly what she needs. It is a real change from the usual hurry up sex and the realism of consent is beautifully illustrated here. I also loved how they each had their own challenges and helped each other – the power dynamic was constantly shifting between them, another refreshing aspect of this terrific read.

So hot sex? Check. Lots of laughs? Check. Great characters? Check. An unputdownable story? Double check! This book checks all the boxes for a great romance and really ups the ante. I can’t wait to see what Hoang does next. Don’t miss it.

NOTE: This book is getting a ton of well-deserved press because of the dearth of romances that deal with minorities and disabilities. Some interesting articles:

The Changing Face of Romance Novels

In ‘The Kiss Quotient’, Helen Hoang uses writing to process her Autism diagnosis

‘The Kiss Quotient’ By Helen Hoang Is The Hottest Romance Of Summer — And Its Main Character Is Autistic

A Very Personal Love Story: PW Talks with Helen Hoang

Helen Hoang On The Kiss Quotient And Her Autism Journey

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen Hoang. Sourcebooks Landmark (July 3, 2018).  ISBN 978-1492670131. 416p.


THE RISK OF ROGUES by Sabrina Jeffries

July 8, 2018

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From the publisher:

Featuring New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’ “hallmark humor, poignancy, and sensuality” (Romantic Times), this entry in the Sinful Suitors series inspires you to risk all for love.

Lady Anne is shocked when Captain Lord Hartley Corry—her former fiancé who left for India after her father forbade their marriage—returns to England and acts as if everything is all water under the bridge. He never fought for her hand or eloped with her as he promised and he thinks she’d still be willing to marry him? Not a chance.

Hartley is equally shocked to literally run into his past love upon arriving at his brother’s house. Though he yearns to take advantage of this second chance to woo his beloved, he can hardly admit that he is secretly a spy—at least not until he can be sure he trusts her. But convincing Lady Anne to let him prove his sincerity by courting her respectably all over again might be his undoing. Because all he wants is to show her how much of a rogue he can be when the right woman is in his arms…

This is a Kindle Single, a novella only available as an ebook. Although it has been my experience that many of these novellas turn up later in anthologies of one kind or another or in the back of a paperback, so you never know. But for now, the only way to read it is digitally.

I didn’t realize how short this story was until I read it and thought, where’s the rest of the story? There is a beginning, middle and an end but I am not a fan of the novella, I like my stories fleshed out a bit more. I like Jeffries writing and it was a good read but more, I need more.

This series has five books plus four novellas so far. It’s a good way to keep readers into the series while waiting for the next book, and all these novellas will probably end up in their own book eventually. If you like Regency romances and want a super fast read, this is your book. I’d rather read a novel.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE RISK OF ROGUES by Sabrina Jeffries. Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc., July 2, 2018.  ASIN: B078M5C7DS.  95p.

SHEER MISCHIEF by Jill Mansell

July 7, 2018

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Ths author was new to me, but I’m very glad I found her. This is a really fun read, some romance, some sisterhood, and a lot of laughs.

Sisters Maxine and Janey really couldn’t be any more different. Maxine is a big flirt and very self centered, always looking out for herself. Janey is the “nice” one, married young, and one day her husband just disappeared completely, leaving everything behind. Janey isn’t sure if he’s dead or alive, and after a few years, she has rebuilt her life on her own. She owns a florist shop and works hard to support herself.

Maxine blows into town and expects Janey to put her up, which she does, but it grows old quickly. Maxine is a slob, so when a job comes up as a nanny for a great looking, wealth,y glamorous photographer -widower in town, Janey pushes Maxine to go for it. One look is all it takes for Maxine to decide not only will she take the job, she’ll get a husband out of the deal, too.

Of course things don’t go exactly as planned for either sister, or their mother for that matter, but there is a lot of fun to be had in the trying. If you are looking for a quick summer read, look no further than this thoroughly enjoyable romp.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SHEER MISCHIEF by Jill Mansell. Sourcebooks Landmark (July 3, 2018).  ISBN 978-1492670131. 416p.