Romance Writers of America: 2018 RITA® Awards

July 20, 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for published and aspiring romance fiction authors, announced the winners of the 2018 RITA® Awards on Thursday, July 19, at a black-tie awards ceremony at its 38th Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado.

The RITA® Award is the highest award of distinction in romance fiction and recognizes outstanding published romance novels and novellas. 

 Up to 2,000 romance novels and novellas from 13 different categories are judged each year in the RITA® competition. After the first round of judging by fellow published romance authors, the competition narrows to approximately 100 finalists. Then, final round judges, also published romance authors, select one winner in each category from among the finalists. 

The 2018 RITA® Award winners are:

Romance Novella: Forbidden River by Brynn Kelly

Contemporary Romance Long: Falling Hard by Lexi Ryan

Young Adult Romance: Seize Today by Pintip Dunn

Historical Romance Long: Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen

Romantic Suspense: The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon

Paranormal Romance: Hunt the Darkness by Stephanie Rowe

Erotic Romance: Wicked Dirty by J. Kenner

Historical Romance Short: Waltzing with the Earl by Catherine Tinley

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements: Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

Contemporary Romance Short: Second Chance Summer by Kait Nolan

Contemporary Romance Mid-length: Tell Me by Abigail Strom

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance: Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

Best First Book: Take the Lead by Alexis Daria

The list of winners, along with author photos and book covers, can be found on the RWA website at https://www.rwa.org/page/2018-winners

 

###

Romance Writers of America’s mission is to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy and by increasing public awareness of the romance genre. Romance fiction is a $1 billion industry, and it’s a consistent, top-performing category on the best-seller lists. To learn more about romance fiction and RWA, visit http://www.rwa.org


Best Books of 2017: Becky LeJeune

December 28, 2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough – A tale of manipulation and a twisted love triangle with an ending you won’t see coming, this book is a perfect example of just why I’ve been a fan of Pinborough’s work for so long!

THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik – A girls’ rafting trip goes terribly wrong in this excellent debut thriller. It’s like The River Wild meets The Descent!

DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES by Seanan McGuire – this second installment in McGuire’s Wayward Children series is a dark and gloomy fairy tale. McGuire’s world building is amazing and the series as a whole is all whimsy with great atmosphere and heart!

WHEN THE ENGLISH FALL by David Williams – a post-apocalyptic tale from an unexpected point of view: an Amish farmer recounts events after solar flares knock out most of the country’s technology.

THE DIME by Kathleen Kent – first in a new series featuring a fabulous heroine! The Dime has it all – great pacing, fabulous plot, and characters you can really root for. Plus, it’s rumored to be under development for TV.

BEFORE THIS IS OVER by Amanda Hickie – this Aussie import forces readers to consider how far they would go to protect the ones they love in a catastrophic event.

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon – Menon’s YA debut is a sweet story about a science-loving girl trying to balance her own desires with that of her family.

BONFIRE by Krysten Ritter – Ritter’s debut proves she’s a true powerhouse! The actress’s first thriller is a page turning, plot driven tale that begins with a lawyer’s attempt to take down a big corporation known for polluting and turns into something much darker.

THE CHANGELING by Victor Lavalle – this latest horror read from Lavalle is about a new father who experiences the greatest loss imaginable. That loss sends him on a journey that challenges everything he thought he knew.

ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells – a sentient security robot that hacks its own system so it can binge watch TV is the hero of Wells’s new series of novellas. I loved every bit of it and can’t wait for more!


Best Books of 2017: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

December 21, 2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE MOST CHARMING READ OF THE YEAR: THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV by Elizabeth Berg
I’m not sure when charming stories became a genre, but they really have and this one is terrific. This is a multi-generational look at loss and love and friendship and family. I laughed, I cried, I loved it.
Runners-UpELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail HoneymanRABBIT CAKE by Annie Hartnett

BEST WOMEN’S FICTION: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng
In her sophomore effort (after the fabulous EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU) Ng has created a world of believable characters, none of whom is perfect. This is a  compelling story about family dynamics that is driven by these characters and was unputdownable. I especially loved her evocative writing which really captured my imagination.
Runners-Up: THE IDENTICALS by Elin HilderbrandSEVEN DAYS OF US by Francesca Hornak

BEST CRIME SERIES READ: THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child 
Jack Reacher, Book 22
Lee Child has been writing his character, the larger than life Jack Reacher, and keeping every book interesting and relevant, not to mention unputdownable. Kudos to keeping a series this fresh after so long. I’ll put down whatever I’m reading to inhale a new Lee Child book and this one was exceptional.
Runner-UpTWO KINDS OF TRUTH by Michael Connelly, Harry Bosch, Book 20

BEST STANDALONE THRILLER: THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney
This was a really tough decision. I loved several thrillers this year (see the Runners-Up) but I had to pick one. I read this book towards the end of 2016, it published in January 2017. A couple of weeks ago I had a library patron looking for a good thriller, something different, and I told her all about this book. When I can remember the plot of a book a year (and 300+ books later,) the decision becomes obvious. This is a compelling, excellent read.
Runners-Up:  THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin SlaughterTHE RED HUNTER by Lisa Unger, & SAY NOTHING by Brad Park

BEST LEGAL THRILLER: EXPOSED by Lisa Scottoline
Last year I selected Anthony Franze’s debut as my favorite legal thriller. I could have picked him again and been happy: THE OUTSIDER by Anthony Franze was wonderful, but my heart belongs to Scottoline. Another author with a long series that never gets old or tired, you can feel the love she has for these characters and why her fans feel the same way.

BEST THRILLER DEBUT: THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson 
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. The Driver is 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.

BEST  MYSTERY: THE LATE SHOW by Michael Connelly
This is an excellent series debut from the finest crime fiction writer out there. Detective Renée Ballard works the “late show”, the overnight shift, in Hollywood, California. This is a police procedural at its best; the damaged protagonist who happens to be a woman, police politics, a couple of interesting, twisty cases, and a satisfying conclusion. I was shocked to realize this book was over 400 pages, it was a very fast read for me. Connelly has a way of drawing me into his stories that make it almost impossible to put down the book, and this book was no exception.

BEST HISTORICAL LIT: THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn
“The Alice Network” was a real spy ring comprised of women during World War I led by Louise, the “Queen of the Spies.” This completely fascinating book is historical fiction based on rather mindblowing facts. It moves back and forth between World War I and the end of World War II. This is riveting stuff even though at times, the material was quite difficult to read. The author’s notes at the end parse fiction from fact and the facts heavily win out. An excellent read for fans of historical fiction, especially with a woman’s bent. This would be a fabulous choice for a book discussion as well.

BEST JEWISH LIT: ALL THE RIVERS by Dorit Rabinyan
The story has been called an Arab-Israeli Romeo and Juliet. Yes, it is a love story but it is more about how people of different cultures and faiths relate to one another and is set shortly after 9/11 in New York City, then moves to Israel towards the end. Rabinyan won Israel’s prestigious Bernstein Prize in 2015 for this book. It became politicized when Israel’s Ministry of Education banned the book from the high school curriculum. And I was shocked to learn it a very autobiographical novel.

BEST HISTORICAL ROMANCE: A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR by Loretta Chase
Difficult Dukes, Book 1
This first book of a new series from perennial favorite Loretta Chase introduces the three “dis-Graces,” dukes who have been so badly behaved that they are barely welcome in society. Chase brings her trademark wit and sensuality to this delightful romp.
Runners-Up: THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND by Julia QuinnTHE BAD LUCK BRIDE by Janna MacGregor  (debut)

BEST  CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: YOU SAY IT FIRST by Susan Mallery
This category was another struggle for me, there were some really excellent contenders. But again I used my memory as a guide, I can easily talk about this book without a struggle plus it is the first book of a series and the second book, SECOND CHANCE GIRL by Susan Mallory, was also terrific, so there you go.
Runners-Up: ROOMIES by Christina LaurenON SECOND THOUGHT by Kristan HigginsLOST RIDER by Harper Sloan

BEST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE SERIES: The Blue Heron Series by Kristan Higgins
Higgins strength as a writer, besides her terrific storytelling ability, is her sense of humor, her ability to create strong, believable characters, and enough drama and romance to keep the pages turning. Best of all, she does it all seamlessly. Her books are emotionally satisfying, which I deeply appreciate. She literally makes me laugh and cry in each and every book; the crying is rare and special, and the humor is sometimes surprising and often laugh out loud funny. While each book can and does stand alone, following the relationships as they develop adds something to each book, so read in order: The Best Man; The Perfect Match; Waiting on You; In Your Dreams;  Anything for You. The setting is a small town in upstate New York with the Blue Heron Winery at its center, and all the characters are inter-related in one way or another. I read them all in a week.

BEST  NONFICTION: THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris
Diaries (1977-2002)
Sedaris is a prodigious journaler and a brilliant writer. He has been keeping journals for most of his life and I heard him read from his diaries several years ago, and I laughed until I cried.  Sedaris is an observer of life. He spent his early adulthood wandering the country, working odd jobs and dining at an IHOP nightly. He meets a lot of quirky people along the way and it is these observations, usually completely on the mark, that is the hallmark of his humor. Pay close attention or the punchlines will go rushing past you – I had to stop several times and reread a line or two.

BEST BOOK OF POETRY: THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL by Billy Collins
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has a new book of poetry and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve loved his poetry for a long time, and when the Palm Beach Poetry Festival got going many years ago, he was one of the first guests of honor. To hear him read his work is just, well, fantastic, and now I hear his voice, his inflections, when I read it myself. This is his twelfth book of poetry, and it made me laugh and think and cry, all the sorts of emotional response that good writing, especially good poetry, will imbue.

BEST COOKBOOK: DINNER by Melissa Clark
Melissa Clark is a food columnist for the New York Times who also contributes a lot of recipes as well, many of which I’ve made. 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. This is just a super useful cookbook with lots of delicious recipes.
Runner-Up: THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK by Mary Kay Andrews

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™


Best Books of 2017: Paul Lane

December 15, 2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1) Column of Fire by Ken Follett – Third book in series by the author revolving about the fictional city of Kingsbridge in England. Set during the Elizabethan period and is masterful description of that age and the rise to power of Elizabeth I. As always characterizations are masterful, plot mesmerizing.

2) Charlatans by Robin Cook – Latest book by Cook. Similar to all prior novels talks about an error occurring during a routine medical procedure, the death of the patient and the fault attempting to be laid on the wrong person. Medical information well executed to be understood by us laymen.

3) Execute Authority by Dalton Fury – Novel concerns the actions of Kolt Rayner and his Delta Force squadron. Action galore in solving attempted assassination of the American president while on a visit to Greece. Unfortunately the final book about Rayner since the author Dalton Fury passed away from cancer prior to publication. He will be missed by his readers.

4) Red Swan by Peter Deutermann – Deutermann finished a career in the navy emerging with the rank of Captain. Since his retirement he has dedicated himself to writing novels based on his knowledge of things military. “Red Swan” describes the efforts of both the FBI and the CIA in their constant efforts to protect America from it’s foreign and domestic enemies. A swan is an action taken against a person or group in which the perpetrator takes the attitude that they know nothing about what has happened. One of Mr Deutermann’s best plots.

5) When You Disappeared by John Marrs – Fascinating plot about the ramifications of a marriage during which the husband disappears for 25 years. Action starts when he suddenly returns home. The happenings to both the husband and wife form the crux of the book and leave the reader with a sigh and a feeling of having undergone a major event.

6) The Irregular by H.B. Lyle – Novel about the founding of the British Secret Service during the early years of the 20th century. Investigations have been started against Germany and Russia with the probable advent of WWI. Actual Persona that lived during that period are incorporated into the book and long mention is made regarding Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character of Sherlock Holmes. Reason being that Holmes was one of the earliest characters using close examination and sound reasoning to solve cases.

7) Fever by Deon Meyer – Meyer is a South African author who has begun reaching readers in the United States. Fever is a monumental work by him describing actions by people surviving a 21st century black death plague that has killed off most of the world’s population. Surviving and than taking on the task of rebuilding civilization as best as they could. Plenty of heroes as well as villains make for a fascinating read.

8) Poison by Galt Niederhoffer – Niederhoffer enjoys a very rewarding and satisfying career as a first line maker of award winning films. She also has time somehow to write novels such as this one that are very well done. The book is a look at the second place that women seem to be awarded vis a vis men. A wife finds that her husband is trying to kill her in order to get out of the marriage. She attempts to get help from other people, the police and even her own mother who all seem to take the attitude that her husband is not in the wrong.

9) Weycombe by G.M. Malliet – A murder mystery set in an upscale community. The book is set in first person narrative, somewhat tongue in cheek but also a character study of witness testifying. Each person questioned about the murder has seen the same things but offers a different narrative describing those events.

10) The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow – A book that is in every way beautiful revolving around the search for a libretto of an unknown piece of music by a famous writer. Starting at the end of World War I in Czechoslovakia moving through World War II and the subsequent the later occupation by Russia. Later following one of the two principal characters to London and than the United States it brings her together with the other principal in a search for the missing Sonata. Leaves the reader with the feeling that they have just experienced something wonderful.


Best of 2017 | Six Picks

December 13, 2017


17 Books to Read in Early 2017

January 21, 2017

2017 starts off with some really great reads! These are the books I’ve either read or I’m planning on reading, based on reviews and buzz. All are published in January or February, 2017.

Here we go…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CRIME FICTION

the-girl-before-by-j-p-delaney

THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney: Seizing a unique opportunity to rent a one-of-a-kind house, a damaged young woman falls in love with the enigmatic architect who designed the residence, unaware that she is following in the footsteps of a doomed former tenant.

 

 

LITTLE DEATHS by Emma Flint: A gripping little-deathssuspense tale set in 1960s New York and inspired by true events follows the investigation of a cocktail waitress whose two young children have been brutally murdered and a rookie tabloid reporter who would uncover the truth.

 

 

Click to purchase

THE DRY by Jane Harper: Receiving a sinister anonymous note after his best friend’s suspicious death, federal agent Aaron Falk is forced to confront the fallout of a 20-year-old false alibi against a backdrop of the worst drought Melbourne has seen in a century. A first novel.

 

 

Click to purchase

EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE by Mindy Mejia: When a civic-minded high-school senior is found brutally murdered on the opening night of the school play, town sheriff and family friend Del Goodman discovers unsettling truths about the victim’s mesmerizing nature and the secrets that led to her death.

 

 

Click to purchase

THE SECOND MRS. HOCKADAY by Susan Rivers: A tale inspired by a true story follows the efforts of a Civil War veteran to discern the truth about his teen bride, who during the two years he was at war was convicted and imprisoned for allegedly having a baby in his absence and killing it. A first novel.

 

 

Click to purchase

IDAHO by Emily Ruskovich: A tale told from multiple perspectives traces the complicated relationship between Ann and Wade on a rugged landscape and how they came together in the aftermath of his first wife’s imprisonment for a violent murder. A first novel.

 

 

LITERARY

 

Click to purchase

NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman: The New York Times best-selling author presents a bravura rendering of the major Norse pantheon that traces the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and the exploits of its characters, illuminating the characters and natures of iconic figures Odin, Thor and Loki.

 

 

refugees

THE REFUGEES by Viet Thanh Nguyen: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer presents a new collection of stories, written over a 20-year period, which explores questions of home, family, immigration, the American experience and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

 

 

Click to purchaseLILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK by Kathleen Rooney: Embarking on a walk across the unsafe landscape of Manhattan on New Year’s Eve in 1984, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish recalls her long and eventful life, which included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America, whose career was cut short by marriage and loss. Fall 2016 Library Journal Editors’ Pick.

 

 

Click to purchase

LINCOLN IN THE BARDO by George Saunders: A literary ghost story. A long-awaited first novel by the National Book Award-nominated, New York Times best-selling author of Tenth of December traces a night of solitary mourning and reflection as experienced by the 16th President after the death of his 11-year-old son at the dawn of the Civil War.

 

ROMANCE

 

someone-to-holdSOMEONE TO HOLD by Mary Balogh: Declared illegitimate and without a title, Camille Westcott leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where she meets artist Joel Cunningham with whom she shares a mutual contempt until her sittings with him take a passionate turn.

 

 

devil-in-spring

DEVIL IN SPRING by Lisa Kleypas: New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas combines the worlds of the Wallflowers with Marrying Winterborne in this irresistible story of how Sebastian’s son Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, meets his match in the eccentric and headstrong Lady Pandora.

 

JEWISH LIT

 

the-orphans-tale-by-pam-jenoffTHE ORPHAN’S TALE by Pam Jenoff: The Nightingale meets Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II. Cast out after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby, 16-year-old Noa snatches a Jewish infant bound for a concentration camp before passing herself off as a circus performer and inciting the wrath of rival aerialist, Astrid. By the best-selling author of The Kommandant’s Girl.

 

on-turpentine-lane-by-elinor-lipmanON TURPENTINE LANE by Elinor Lipman: An endearing romantic comedy. Living in her suburban hometown while her fiance is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, Faith discovers mysterious artifacts in her home’s attic that make her question a promising new relationship and everything she believes.

 

 

the-fortunate-ones-by-ellen-umanskyTHE FORTUNATE ONES by Ellen Umansky: It is 1939 in Vienna, and as the specter of war darkens Europe, Rose Zimmer’s parents are desperate. Unable to get out of Austria, they manage to secure passage for their young daughter on a kindertransport, and send her to live with strangers in England. A unique Chaim Soutine work of art connects the lives and fates of two different women, generations apart, in a debut novel that moves from World War II Vienna to contemporary Los Angeles. Yes, another Holocaust book. What can I say, I read a lot of these. Never forget.

 

NONFICTION

 

insane-clown-presidentINSANE CLOWN PRESIDENT: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi: Just in case you weren’t sure about my politics – I want to read this just for the title alone. Plus I love Taibbi. Discusses the 2016 election, including the major shifts in perception of national institutions, the democratic process, and the future of the country.

 

 

a-really-good-day-by-ayelet-waldmanA REALLY GOOD DAY by Ayelet WaldmanHow Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life: A lighthearted account of the author’s experiment with microdoses of LSD in an effort to treat a debilitating mood disorder details what she has learned about the misunderstood drug and how she believes psychedelics can be appropriately used as therapeutic medicines.


Best Books of 2016: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

December 30, 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE MOST CHARMING READ OF THE YEAR: NINE WOMEN, ONE DRESS by Jane L. Rosen
I got to the airport a little earlier than I needed to, zipped right through TSA and got to spend all that time before my flight reading this fabulous book. Let me tell you I have never enjoyed waiting at an airport more! Nine Women, One Dress is a completely compelling, utterly charming very New York City book and I loved every page. If I could gift every one of you a copy of this book, I would. I was so sorry to turn the last page and spent the ride home from the airport telling my family all about it. I still can’t shut up about it.

BEST SERIES READ: THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE by Michael Connelly
A Harry Bosch Novel, Book 19
Harry Bosch is back and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Michael Connelly is the finest writer today in crime fiction.

BEST STANDALONE THRILLER: REDEMPTION ROAD by John Hart
Hart has written a compelling page turner, yet somehow manages to find the balance between rocketing suspense and creative imagery. This is a multi-layered novel, and all of the characters have difficult choices to make as they try and find their own redemption.  I stayed up late into the night to finish this truly excellent, profoundly moving book.

BEST LEGAL THRILLER: THE ADVOCATE’S DAUGHTER by Anthony Franze
I haven’t read a legal thriller this good in a long time. There are a lot of variables in this story and the pacing is relentless, making this an all nighter for me. The characters are well developed and the family scenes especially rang true. And I loved all the details about the Supreme Court, a place most of us don’t know much about (and be sure to read the notes at the end, but only after you read the book!)  This book put me in mind of The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer, his first book and still one of my favorite legal thrillers ever. Franze is in excellent company here and I look forward to more from this author.

BEST  MYSTERY: WILDE LAKE by Laura Lippman
Laura Lippman, why do you make us wait so long for new books? Somewhat reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, (and I don’t say that lightly,) this is a deeply compelling story with themes of family, secrets, murder, mental illness, truth and justice. And easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

BEST WOMEN’S FICTION: IT ENDS WITH US by Colleen Hoover
The amount of domestic abuse that goes on in this country is absolutely horrifying, and if this book is powerful enough to get even one person to leave, or to help one person to understand what may be going on in their family, or with friends, then that would be a wonderful thing. Either way, the level of compassion and empathy expressed for both the abuser and the victim is refreshing, educational and inspirational. It Ends with Us is an important and compelling read. Don’t miss it.

BEST FOODIE FICTION: THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING by Louise Miller
A pastry chef accidentally sets fire to a restaurant and runs away to a small town to start over. This is one of those charming novels that are so hard to come by. I just adored this book and it was a one night read for me. There’s even a recipe for apple pie at the end but I haven’t made it – yet.

BEST JEWISH LIT: THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The story is about a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York and starts out in the late 1940’s. This story follows the lives of these women, their marriages and families, and how secrets can destroy lives. I laughed, I cried but most of all, I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. If you loved Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane, or you are a fan of Naomi Ragen, then this is the book for you.

BEST HISTORICAL ROMANCE: THE PERKS OF LOVING A SCOUNDREL by Jennifer McQuiston
Seduction Diaries, Book 3
This has become one of my favorite series. The heroines are all smart, nerdy girls who don’t particularly want to get married and have no use for society, and this one is no different. Our heroine Mary is extremely knowledgeable about so many different things, all from her reading. She is also a real romantic, basing all understanding of men and women and relationships on novels. She eventually finds out that life is not quite the same as it appears in books, but nonetheless gets her happy ending.

BEST  CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: THE TOTAL PACKAGE by Stephanie Evanovich

This is the latest contemporary romance from someone who has become one of my favorite authors… angst, the laughs and hot sex -and Evanovich really excels at all three. This is a terrific romance for fans of Jennifer Crusie or Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I loved it!

BEST COOKBOOK: DORIE’S COOKIES by Dorie Greenspan

Who doesn’t like cookies? Even people who won’t attempt to bake a cake or bread will make cookies. And this is a treasure trove! It’s worth the purchase price alone for this one life changing tip: roll out cookie dough between parchment paper, instead of chilling first and struggling later. I’ve seen reviews call it an “instant classic” and I agree. Do yourself a favor and buy this book, and if you don’t like baking, buy it for the stories that go along with the recipes. Then give it to someone who bakes.

BEST  NONFICTION: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book has been one of the most talked about books of 2015, won the National Book Award and tops many of the best books of the year lists. I’ve put off reading it because I knew it was going to upset me, and it did. But it is, in my humble opinion, one of the most important books of my lifetime. That is a big statement – and it’s true. The language is lyrical and powerful, the subject matter moving and emotional and important, and the themes all encompassing and worthy of deep discussion.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL: RELISH by Lucy Knisley

I haven’t read a graphic novel in quite a while, it’s not something I read regularly. They have to be pretty special to get me to pick one up and this one is. Written with great warmth and humor, this is a graphic novel to be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good memoir, and foodies everywhere.

BEST COFFEE TABLE BOOK: THE MAKING OF OUTLANDER: THE SERIES by Tara Bennett
Outlander! If, like me, you’ve read all the books (twice) and listened to the audio books (twice) and watched the Starz TV series and are suffering from a severe case of ‘Droughtlander’, then you, my friends, have been given a reprieve. This is an amazing, beautiful book that goes through the TV series episode by episode, and character by character. The photographs are simply breathtaking, and there are a lot of them.

BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK: FINDING WINNIE by Lindsay Mattick
The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal.
If, like me, you didn’t know that Winnie the Pooh was actually based on a real bear, you will find this a most fascinating read. The author, Lindsay Mattick, is the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn, and as the back flap of the book tells us, she “grew up thinking of Winnie-the-Pooh as her own great-grandbear.” Harry gave the bear to the London Zoo, where a little boy befriended the bear. That boy’s name was Christopher Robin and the rest, as they say, is history.  The book’s last pages are like a scrapbook, with photos of Harry, Winnie, the page from his diary when he bought the cub, and more.  If you’re a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh, (and who isn’t,) you will enjoy this amazing, engaging book.

12/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™


Best Books of 2016: Becky LeJeune

December 29, 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THE DIRT ON NINTH GRAVE by Darynda Jones – This series by Jones is hilariously fabulous and the ninth installment is no exception. They do have to be read in order, but this sometimes racy and always excellent grim reaper PI series is one of my favorites!

EX ISLE by Peter Clines – the superheroes are back in this fifth installment of Clines’s post apocalyptic series. As more time passes, resources at The Mount are becoming stretched thin. The discovery of another settlement could mean salvation, but it could also mean something worse. Another favorite series of mine that has to be read in order, but it’s so worth it!

I’M TRAVELING ALONE by Samuel Bjørk – this first in a new Scandinavian crime series features a disturbing crime, an elite investigative team, and a suicidal cop. The plot is twisted and the characters are fantastic – definitely a recommended read for any dark fiction fan.

DEAD BEFORE DYING by Kerry Schafer – a fifty-something FBI agent goes undercover in a retirement home that’s hiding a great big supernatural secret. I loved everything about this paranormal mystery and will be looking forward to more from Shafer!

THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz – Tanya has lied to everyone she knows for most of her life. Now her husband is dead and she’s on the run, but did she kill him? This dark thriller from Lutz is quite a change from her light and hilarious Spellman mysteries. It is equally excellent, however, and wonderfully intense.

DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch – a middling academic is attacked, kidnapped, and left unconscious in an abandoned warehouse. When he awakens, his life is vastly different, leaving him to question everything he thought he knew. Crouch’s latest is a sci-fi thriller that will blow your mind!

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi – this YA debut is based in Indian folklore blended with the Hades/Persephone myth and features a beautifully built world with vibrant and creepy imagery. It is definitely one of the most unique folk/mythology/fairy tale retellings I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far.

THE LAST ONE by Alexandra Oliva – a post apocalyptic tale based around a character who’s part of a survival TV show. This book is thought provoking and fabulous. And while it’s definitely not horror, it is dark enough to appeal to genre fans for sure.

THE DREAM-QUEST OF VELLITT BOE by Kij Johnson – this odd novella is an HP Lovecraft retelling that flips “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” on its head. Johnson’s modern and feminist twist coupled with the excellent world building and imagery make this a stand out of 2016.

CERTAIN DARK THINGS by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I thought I had had enough of vampires, but Sylvia Moreno-Garcia proved me wrong. Vamps, drug wars, and a near-future Mexico City make this a wholly unique and excellent read!


Best Books of 2016: Geoffrey R. Hamlin

December 28, 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1. The Wrong Side of Goodbye – Michael Connelly
Connelly once again demonstrates that he is one of the finest crime fiction writers of our time. In this book, Harry Bosch has been retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and is trying his hand at being a private investigator. He is retained by an 85 year-old, dying billionaire, Whitney Vance, to find out if Vance had a child as a result of his relationship with an Hispanic women over 60 years earlier. The story of Bosch’s investigation is full of twists and turns, as well as danger, and the end is thoroughly satisfying.

2. A Great Reckoning – Louise Penny
Just like Harry Bosch, Inspector Gamache cannot stop investigating after his retirement for the Surete de Quebec. In this story, he looks into the murder of a professor at the Surete Academy. And in the process, he learns why the village of Three Pines, where he has made his retirement home, does not appear on any maps.

3. Last Days of Night – Graham Moore
A gripping account of the struggles between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in the 1880’s, to determine exactly how the US will be electrified. The story is told by Westinghouse’s lawyer, a young Paul Cravath. Who subsequently founded the estimable Wall Street firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore. Everybody wanted to interview with them when I was in law school.

4. Razor Girl – Carl Hiassen
Typical Hiassen, which means very Florida and very funny. You will not be able to stop laughing when you discover what the title is all about. A must for anyone who lives in Florida and a should read for everyone else.

5. In Sunlight or In Shadows – Lawrence Block
Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper
A collection of short stories, each of which relates to a specific painting by Edward Hopper, probably the perfect artist for lovers of noir. Contributors include Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver and Lawrence Block himself.

6. Charcoal Joe – Walter Mosely
Set in late 1960’s Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins has now formed his own detective agency. In this case, Easy is attempting to prove that a Black physics PhD did not murder two white men even though he was found standing over them. The description of the times rings true and the story is first-rate.

7. Surrender, New York – Caleb Carr
Carr uses every page of this lengthy tale to bolster his argument that the use of profiling and scientific evidence, both on television and in real life, is misused to convict those already determined to be guilty rather than as a pure search for the truth. An interesting argument and persuasively made as his protagonists try to determine the cause of youths disappearing from their community only to be found dead some time later.

8. IQ – Joe Ide
Ide’s hero, Isaiah Quintabe, is a super-intelligent, undereducated Sherlock Holmes of the ghetto. In this first book (I hope many more will follow), he is trying to thwart an equally unconventional assassin (murder by dog?) who is attempting to kill a very successful rap star. But the larger question remains, who hired the assassin?

9. Willnot – James Sallis
Dr. Lamar Hale is a small-town physician and a keen observer of people and small town life. He is thrust into the mystery of strangely appearing bodies when his partner, Richard, is shot by a bullet meant for him.

10. Listen, Liberal – Thomas Frank
Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
Frank argues that the Democratic party has ceased being the party of working people as its leaders have become enamored of successful businessmen, techies, and a well-educated professional class.  He appears prescient, given the results of this year’s presidential election.  For those political junkies like myself, I also recommend an older book, Rebels in White Gloves by Miriam Horn, the story of the class of 1969 at Wellesley (Hillary’s class).


Best Books of 2016: Paul Lane

December 27, 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1) The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt
What would a favorite list of books for a particular year be without one from David Rosenfelt the creator of Andy Carpenter and his gang. Always written in a pleasantly humorous style and generally alike. Andy, who is the recipient of a large legacy would rather stay away from practicing law and enjoy his good life. But something happens and we go to court and do good. In this one Mr Rosenfelt also brings in his real life love of dogs and ties it in with a case for Andy.

2) Goliath by Shawn Corridan & Gary Waid
If you’ve grown up with sea stories by the likes of Jack London you’ll love this story about men against the sea. A gigantic Russian supertanker runs aground and two groups based out of Alaska go to the scene in the hopes of salvaging the ship. The Goliath part is the name of the ship, which becomes Goliath in English. And the task of salvaging it is for one of the groups a David vs Goliath. Sonny Wade is owner of this group which is on the verge of going broke. The depiction of the efforts of both salvage crews is excellent and displays a vast knowledge of what it takes to do so.

3) The Killing Game by James Carol
A depiction of people caught dining in a famous Hollywood restaurant when a suicide bomber walks in. He indicates that he is wearing a bomb and will blow himself and the restaurant up. The novel provides a study of emotions, fear, bravery and disbelief while the narration continues to mesmerize the reader. Certainly one of Mr. Carol’s most fascinating books.

4) The One Man by Andrew Gross
I finished this book with the distinct impression that I had read probably the best novel written by Andrew Gross to date. From start to finish it grabs you, and doesn’t let go. A German Jewish scientist is imprisoned in a Concentration camp during WWII. His knowledge includes work that could literally start a war, or end one, and the Nazis have destroyed his notes. A Polish Jew that escaped to the United States volunteers for the impossible task of getting into the camp and getting the scientist out in order to provide information important to what is really building the first atomic bomb. A brilliant effort, and one that will stay with any reader for a long time.

5) The Commodore by Peter Deutermann
Another story of the sea and man triumphing against it’s force. This time by a retired Captain of the US Navy and involving naval battles during World War II. The backdrop is the US invasion of Guadalcanal and the sea battle surrounding that. Harmon Wolf is a new destroyer commander, born on an Indian reservation and not thought of as a worthy officer for the Navy. His thoughts and actions and his battle field promotion are the key elements in this story. The actual events described are the result of good research by a man whose first career was as a fleet officer.

6) Summit by Harry Farthing
Harry Farthing has succeeded in climbing Mount Everest and therefore qualifies as an expert in that en devour. Farthing describes two climbing attempt 80 years apart. The first was by a soldier in the German army during WWII. The soldier grew up in a section of Germany in which mountain climbing was common and was considered an expert. He committed an infraction of rules and expected to be executed for that. Heinrich Himmler just at this time conceives of the idea of scaling Everest and planting the Nazi flag at the top as a way of rubbing England’s face in the dirt. Seventy years later Neil Quinn, a leader of 8 successful climbs has a fatality occur to a young man climbing with him. He is disgraced and is stopped from leading further climbs. On the ascent in which the fatality occurred he found an axe with a Nazi swastika engraved and begins an attempt to find out the story was on that. Excellent, obviously factual descriptions of what occurs on these climbs make for great reading.

7) Hell’s Gate by Bill Schutt
A book that opens with the discovery of a Japanese submarine in the middle of the Brazilian jungle during World War II has got to get the reader’s interest. An American military expedition sent to investigate the sub goes missing. One scientist parachutes into the area to determine what is going on. He finds the makings of a Nazi plot to utilize a secret weapon against the allies in order to win the war. Yes, science fiction, and interesting on it’s own right, but the author writes an afterward that the said secret weapon is and was feasible based on scientific findings.

8) The Cairo Code by Glenn Meade
No list of books would be complete without a love story would it? Difference though is that this one occurs during the Second World War. Two men who were in love with the same girl prior to the war find themselves on opposing sides. A meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill was scheduled to take place in Cairo in order to discuss plans for Operation Overlord; the invasion of Normandy. The man in the German army is assigned to assassinate Roosevelt and his friend, in the US army is tasked to stop it. Their mutual love, who is Jewish is told to help with the assassination or not only she will, but her family in a concentration camp will be killed. Riveting to say the least. We know Roosevelt was not killed, but the events on both sides of the plot could very well have happened.

9) Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
The master of challenging fiction presents another all nighter. Maya Stern was an officer with the US army when she met her future husband, was married and never returned to the military. The book opens with Maya in attendance at her husband’s funeral. He was killed by a robber while walking with her in Central Park. The police have arrested two men and charged them with the murder and the case seems closed.
But her husband Joe is seen on a Nanny Cam walking around her house two weeks after the robbery and Maya is sure that he is still alive. And to complicate the matter what is the connection between her husband’s death, the killing of Maya’s sister and the drowning of Joe’s brother 17 years ago while on a trip to the Caribbean?

10) After the Crash by Michael Bussi
A night flight from Istanbul to Paris crashes in the French Alps killing the 169 people aboard. But there is one survivor. An infant girl is thrown from the plane and reached by first responders while still alive. An enigma occurs when two families that had infants aboard the plane claim the child as their own. A judge awards the child to one of the families. These people have two other children; a boy and a girl. The other family hires a private detective with funding for his work to last 18 years to determine who the baby actually belongs belongs to. The science of DNA testing has not begun as the story unfolds, and a huge complication arises when the girl and what is her brother fall in love. You have to read this to find out what happens, but it is well worth while.