Best Books of 2019: Paul Lane

December 29, 2019

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Task Force Baum by James Shipman: A war story but not your average blood bath. The story is a true one based on a little known battle fought between American and German forces in the last few weeks of WWII. General George Patton orders an attack to free prisoners held in a POW camp. He does so for personal reasons with no military basis. The why is fascinating.

The Almanack by Martine Bailey: A novel that does a magnificent job bringing the reader into the past. Besides an interesting plot and well-told story, a picture is painted of London in the bygone time of the 1750s- dirty and disease-ridden. The title brings out a custom prevalent in those days of utilizing Almanacs to both write in and to follow forecasts made by them. Well written and fascinating as an era comes to life.

Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor: Listed as the first novel published by Taylor it certainly marks a comer. The plot involves the science fiction concept of time transference when a young lady is moved back in time to a period 100 years ago. She meets a soldier wounded in what was World War One and the two fall in love. The book is much more than the transference but also a wonderful love story.

The Russian by Ben Coes: Coes, who has given us many high adventure novels featuring Dewey Martin, has created a new protagonist in Rob Tacoma. He also moves the stages of operation from Islamic Terrorism to the Russian Mafia. Like action – Ben Coes is your man. We all need the all nighter to stimulate the imagination by meeting a hero.

The Bells of Hell by Michael Kurland: I obviously like action novels and continue with this description of a spy story set in New York City just prior to the U.S. entering WWII. The story involves a group of Nazis working to move the US into entering the war on the side of Germany and Japan. What is done to counteract this is laid to the prompt actions of several individuals.

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay: The author made his literary reputation with the creation of Dexter, a serial killer who only killed serial killers. In this novel, he introduces a thief. Riley Wolfe features the same treatment as Dexter. He is a thief, and a master one at that, but first and foremost a picaresque rogue. In this, his first foray, Riley comes up with the challenge of stealing a diamond owned by Iran. One worth a fortune, and guarded by the Iranian government as well as it could be. The same novel provides the introduction of a policeman who is making his life’s work to catch and capture Riley. It should be another successful series by Jeff Lindsay.

Nothing Ventured by Jeffery Archer: And another very fine book by a noted author introducing a new character. William Warwick is the son of a very successful Defense Attorney with a thriving practice in London. His father would like nothing better than to have William finish university and enter his practice. No such luck. William in spite of all his family against the idea decides that he would rather be a detective and has wanted to do that since he was eight years of age. And of course, he does join Scotland Yard and does make it to detective. No problem looking for more William Warwick adventures in crime-fighting.


Best Books of 2019: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

December 25, 2019

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Another year, another list of books. I tried very hard to narrow down my list to a reasonable number and settled on fifteen. My original list had 60! It was a good year for books. The books are sort of in order of preference, as of today. Ask me tomorrow, and the order will change. I tried to include a variety of genres, especially those who don’t usually get the love on these best of lists, like romance. Also included are thrillers, literary fiction, books bound for book club love, and even a holiday romance.


THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Kruger: The writing is simply superb. The characters are unforgettable, and the setting is rich and evocative.  I have seen this book described as an updated Huckleberry Finn, and that is an apt comparison, as is its comparison to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Homer’s Odyssey. These are some heady correlations, and Kruger’s book easily stands up to them. There are some major themes at play here, starting with the grand adventure on the river. This is an epic odyssey, often chaotic, and at times, spiritual. But other themes are also important, like the deplorable mistreatment of Native Americans in this country, and much of the history revealed here was completely new to me. Book clubs will love it; there is a deep, rich reservoir worthy of discussion. 

ALL THIS COULD BE YOURS by Jami Attenberg: Victor was a criminal in his business life, and a tyrant in his personal life, and is at the end of his life; the novel unfolds on the day he has his fatal heart attack.  Attenberg is a master of subtlety as she divulges everyone’s thoughts, including the one-off characters like the clerk at a CVS and the coroner. The unusual twist here is that the reader learns all their stories, while the characters do not. Contemporary family sagas don’t get much better than this.

BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams: This was the most brilliant and original idea for a romance novel that I have seen in a very long time. The premise of men reading romance novels to learn about women was positively inspired, and made me think all men should be forced to read them! This is a clever, heartwarming, fun and sexy read.

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE BY Casey McQuiston: To pigeonhole this book is to do it a great disservice. Yes, it is a gay romance. It is also very political, but in a sweet, fantasy sort of way that really appealed to me. Alex and Henry’s story made me laugh and made me cry and especially made me wish for a better America. And if that surprises you, you must be new here. It’s fantastical and idealistic and I loved it.

FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: Toby Fleishman is a recently divorced 40-something doctor in Manhattan, AKA catnip to women, and they are not shy about letting him know. Toby is like a kid in a candy store. This new world order is working for him. Until his ex goes missing, and the party feels like it’s over. A lot of the stuff that happens is laugh out loud funny, and other parts are infuriating and sometimes sad, but all in all, this is a book that begs to be discussed. A first novel with complex characters and a lot of emotion, and I loved the writing.

THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE by Susan Wiggs: This is a book of the #MeToo movement, set in the fashion industry, which for some reason, has been exempt from this. At least I haven’t seen any earth-shattering stories, but as in any industry where mostly men are in power, one can’t help but wonderThis was a very good read, filled with the empathy and power that words can bring to such a dark subject. Book groups will find lots to discuss here.

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL by Robert Dugoni: Our main character is Sam Hill, AKA Sam Hell, who is born with ocular albinism, which means that the irises of his eyes are red instead of the usual brown, blue, hazel, etc. and hence the nickname. We meet him as an infant, and get to watch him grow up, survive being bullied, and eventually become the man he was meant to be. The writing is really good, almost ethereal in parts, which seems fitting for a book steeped in Catholicism. This was my favorite line: “There comes a day in every man’s life when he stops looking forward and starts looking back.” Something to think about for sure. An excellent read, perfect for book discussion, and I’m just sorry I didn’t get to it sooner.

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center: Center turns the whole hot firemen romance genre on its head with Cassie, her feisty, smart woman firefighter. When her estranged mother asks her to move to Boston to take care of her for a little while, The small fire station she joins is Boston Irish, over a hundred years old, and has never had a woman working there, so not easy. But fun, so much fun! There are lots of starred reviews for this and tons of praise, all of it well deserved. It isn’t often that a book lives up to its hype for me, but this one did. I loved it.

DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid: This was a fun and nostalgic read for me. The format of the book, for lack of a better word, is interview style of a 70’s rock band. An oral history of sorts. Each character is quoted in response to questions, but we don’t know who is asking the questions or why until the end. So it reads in basically multiple first-person, an interesting technique. It’s also a fast read, especially as I got deeper and deeper into it. It is a very compelling story written in a unique way.

A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare: This romance ticked a lot of boxes that I really like; damaged characters, small town, cowboys, and Christmas. This was a warm, holiday read filled with love and grace and hope. A wonderful holiday romance!

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert: This is a British import and a wonderful read. The push for diversity in romance has been strong, and we, the readers, are reaping the benefits. I loved these characters. I was completely immersed in their world, and could not put down this book.

ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER by Hazel Prior: I am loving this trend of romances with a main protagonist “on the spectrum,” as they say, and even though it is never explicitly stated, it doesn’t have to be. Dan builds beautiful and unique Celtic harps in his barn and lives upstairs. When Ellie stumbles onto his shop in the woods, he gifts her with a harp. Her husband is not happy about it, to say the least. This is a charming story, full of pathos and drama and love. I loved the Britishness of this story and especially the uniqueness of these English characters. The difference in our cultures is apparent here, and I loved that.

MY LOVELY WIFE by Samantha Downing: This was a dark but super fun read. The couple in this book are serial killers, yes a married couple, and they are killing for the fun of it. Super creepy. That is a hard thing to get around yet somehow Downing convinces us to root for them. It’s like magic. Or talent. Or both. There are some excellent twists in the story for sure, and the ending was a real surprise for me. It was truly unputdownable and I loved it!

THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander: This book opens with the construction of a Blüthner piano, a fascinating tale about a brand of piano I had not heard of, that is supposedly in the same class as a Steinway. The story then moves back and forth in time, following the piano through two storylines. Cander makes it possible to grow attached to an inanimate object, for her characters and the reader. This is an excellent read sure to be beloved by book groups as there is much to discuss here, from the immigration of Russian Jews to the relationships that are so well depicted.

JUDGMENT by Joseph Finder: Wow! This is Finder’s best book so far, and that is saying a lot. I loved this character, Juliana is a working mom with all that goes along with that, has what seems like a pretty good marriage, at least from the outside, and a job that she loves. But there are definitely cracks in the marriage and her little infidelity brings such enormous consequences that the marriage is the least of it. The story is compelling, the characters seem like people I could know. This was a nonstop read for me, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.


Best Books of 2019: Caitlin Brisson

December 15, 2019

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Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

I was charmed by Holmes’ debut and the relationship between Evvie, a recent widow who isn’t grieving quite as much as everyone thinks, and Dean, a baseball player struggling with a case of the yips.  A thoughtful, sweet, and funny read.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue is the standard that I have held all other romances I read in 2019 to.  After a potentially diplomatically damaging altercation Alex Claremont, the first son of the United States, must feign a friendship with his rival Prince Henry of England.  A rare book that made me both laugh and cry, Alex and Henry are two characters I will not forget any time soon.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

After most of her sister’s wedding party is incapacitated by food poisoning, Olive takes her twin sister’s place on a luxury Hawaiian honeymoon.  The only catch is she must share her vacation with Ethan, the best man and Olive’s archnemesis. A fun romantic comedy and perfect vacation read.

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is consistently one of my favorite authors and her 2019 novel Regretting You is no exception.  Hoover is known for her romances.  And while Regretting You has two well developed love stories, it is also a bittersweet story of a mother and daughter struggling to recover from a devastating loss.

The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

A perfect combination of well-drawn romance, Gilded Age history and the supernatural.  Both romance and paranormal readers will enjoy this ghost story.

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare is one of my favorite writers of historical romance and the Wallflower Wager is another excellent entry in the Girl Meets Duke series.  Features Dare’s trademarks of sharp dialogue, humor, and a strong female heroine.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

Professional baseball player Gavin Scott tries to save his marriage by seeking help from a secret romance book club comprised entirely of men.  A fun ode to the romance genre.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare has one of the most unique premises of any romance novel I’ve read.  Tiffy and Leon share a flat, they even share a bed, but they have never met.  An original plot and likeable characters made this book one of my favorites for 2019.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Alternating between 1991 and 2001, when Annika is unexpectedly reunited with her college boyfriend Jonathan, The Girl He Used to Know is a poignant and bittersweet second chance romance. As this book features a main character on the autism spectrum it will be of interest to fans of the Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

Annie Cassidy searches for the perfect meet cute, and her Tom Hanks, in this delightful love letter to the romantic comedy genre.  Waiting for Tom Hanks is like the book version of a Nora Ephron film.


Finalists for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award

January 24, 2019

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE ANNOUNCES FINALISTS FOR 2018 AWARDS

New York, NY (January 22, 2019)—Today the NBCC announced its 31 finalists in six categories––autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry––for the outstanding books of 2018. Of note: There are six finalists instead of five this year in autobiography proving a strong year in the category. And also notable this year the writer Terrance Hayes is a finalist in two categories for two separate books (in poetry for American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin and in criticism for To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight). Hayes has been a finalist in poetry twice before, for Lighthead (2010) and How to Be Drawn (2015). The winners of three additional prizes (The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, The John Leonard Prize and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing) were also announced. The National Book Critics Circle Awards, begun in 1974 and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the sole prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book-review editors.

The awards will be presented on March 14, 2019 at the New School in New York City. The ceremony is free and open to the public. A reading by the finalists will take place the evening before the awards, on March 13, also at the New School. The NBCC hosts a fundraising reception following the awards on March 14. The tickets, $50 for NBCC members when purchased in advance and $75 to the general public, benefit the NBCC, the awards, and the work that the NBCC does year round to promote books, critics, and writers nationwide.

The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is Arte Público Press.

Tommy Orange, author of There There, is the recipient of the fifth annual John Leonard Prize, established to recognize outstanding first books in any genre and named in honor of founding NBCC member John Leonard. Finalists for the prize are nominated by more than 600 voting NBCC members nationwide, and the recipient is decided by a volunteer committee of NBCC members.

The recipient of the 2018 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is Maureen Corrigan.

The Balakian Citation is open to all NBCC members, who submit recent reviews to the 24-person board, which votes on the recipient. The Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, endowed by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.

Here is the complete list of NBCC Award finalists for the publishing year 2018:

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 

Richard Beard, The Day That Went Missing: A Family’s Story (Little, Brown)

Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir (Catapult)

Rigoberto Gonzalez, What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of
Brotherhood
 (University of Wisconsin Press)

Nora Krug, Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home (Scribner)

Nell Painter, Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over (Counterpoint)

Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (Random House)

BIOGRAPHY:


Christopher Bonanos, Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous (Henry Holt & Company)

Craig Brown, Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Yunte Huang, Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History (Liveright)

Mark Lamster, The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century (Little, Brown)

Jane Leavy, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created(Harper/HarperCollins)

CRITICISM:

Robert Christgau, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017(Duke University Press)

Stephen Greenblatt, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics (W.W. Norton)

Terrance Hayes, To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight (Wave)

Lacy M. Johnson, The Reckonings: Essays (Scribner)

Zadie Smith, Feel Free: Essays (Penguin Press)

FICTION: 

Anna Burns, Milkman (Graywolf)

Patrick Chamoiseau, Slave Old Man. Translated by Linda Coverdale (The New Press)

Denis Johnson, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Random House)

Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room (Scribner)

Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels (Little, Brown)

NONFICTION: 

Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border(Riverhead Books)

Steve Coll, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Penguin Press)

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (Penguin Press)

Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Liveright)

Lawrence Wright, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State(Knopf)

POETRY:


Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Books)

Ada Limón, The Carrying (Milkweed)

Erika Meitner, Holy Moly Carry Me (Boa)

Diane Seuss, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf)

Adam Zagajewski, Asymmetry. Translated by Clare Cavanagh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

NONA BALAKIAN CITATION FOR EXCELLENCE IN REVIEWING
Maureen Corrigan

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, is The Nicky and Jamie Grant Distinguished Professor of the Practice in Literary Criticism at Georgetown University. She is an associate editor of and contributor to Mystery and Suspense Writers (Scribner) and the winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Criticism, presented by the Mystery Writers of America.
Her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures was published by Little, Brown in September 2014. Corrigan’s literary memoir, Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading! was published in 2005. Corrigan is also a reviewer and columnist for The Washington Post‘s Book World, and has served on the advisory panel of The American Heritage Dictionary.

Balakian Finalists:
David Biespeil
Julia Klein
Becca Rothfeld
Wendy Smith

JOHN LEONARD PRIZE
Tommy Orange, There There (Knopf)
Tommy Orange is a graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California.

John Leonard Finalists:
Nana Kwami Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Mariner)
Jamel Brinkley, A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press)
Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Riverhead)
Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry: A Novel (Simon and Schuster)
R.O. Kwon, The Incendiaries (Riverhead)
Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (Random House)

IVAN SANDROF LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Arte Público Press

Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest publisher of Hispanic literature in the United States. Founded 40 years ago by Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, and currently based in Houston, Texas, Arte Público publishes dozens of books by Latino writers each year in both English and Spanish, including titles under its children’s literature imprint, Piñata Books. In 1992,  Arte Público began its Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, which seeks to recover and publish lost texts from Latino writers from colonial times to the mid-20th century. Arte Público was the original publisher of Sandra Cisneros’ legendary novel The House on Mango Street.  Other authors published by Arte Público have included Helena María Viramontes, John Rechy, Ana Castillo and Luis Valdez. Arte Público’s determination to build bridges, not walls, has immeasurably enriched American literature and culture.

The awards will be presented on March 14, 2019 at the New School in New York City. The ceremony is free and open to the public. A reading by the finalists will take place the evening before the awards, on March 13, also at the New School. The NBCC hosts a fundraising reception following the awards on March 14. The tickets, $50 for NBCC members when purchased in advance and $75 to the general public, benefit the NBCC, the awards, and the work that the NBCC does year round to promote books, critics, and writers nationwide.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE
The National Book Critics Circle was founded in 1974 at New York’s legendary Algonquin Hotel by a group of the most influential critics of the day. Comprising 750 working critics and book-review editors throughout the country, including student members and supporting Friends of the NBCC, the organization annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the publishing industry. The finalists for the NBCC awards are nominated, evaluated, and selected by the 24-member board of directors, which consists of editors and critics from the country’s leading print and online publications. For more information about the history and activities of the National Book Critics Circle and to learn how to become a member or supporter, visit http://www.bookcritics.org. Follow the National Book Critics Circle on Facebook and on Twitter (@bookcritics).


Nominees for the 2019 Edgar Allan Poe Awards

January 22, 2019

January 22, 2019, New York, NY – Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we
celebrate the 210th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the Nominees for the 2019 Edgar Allan
Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in
2018. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 73rd Gala Banquet, April 25, 2019 at
the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

 

BEST NOVEL
The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone Publishing)
House Witness by Mike Lawson (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Penguin Random House – Hogarth)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House – Berkley)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Seventh Street Books)
The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Simon & Schuster – Touchstone)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (Harlequin – Park Row Books)

BEST FACT CRIME
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by
Robert W. Fieseler (W.W. Norton & Company – Liveright)
Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal by Jonathan Green (W.W. Norton &
Company)
The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure by Carl Hoffman
(HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Penguin Random House – Viking)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle
McNamara (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful
Mafia by Alex Perry (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
The Metaphysical Mysteries of G.K. Chesterton: A Critical Study of the Father Brown Stories
and Other Detective Fiction
by Laird R. Blackwell (McFarland Publishing)
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (HarperCollins Publishers
– William Morrow Paperbacks)
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s
by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
Mark X: Who Killed Huck Finn’s Father? by Yasuhiro Takeuchi (Taylor & Francis – Routledge)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)

BEST SHORT STORY
“Rabid – A Mike Bowditch Short Story” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
“Paranoid Enough for Two” – The Honorable Traitors by John Lutz (Kensington Publishing)
“Ancient and Modern” – Bloody Scotland by Val McDermid (Pegasus Books)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Art Taylor (Dell
Magazines)
“The Sleep Tight Motel” – Dark Corners Collection by Lisa Unger (Amazon Publishing)

BEST JUVENILE
Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Katherine Tegen Books)
Zap! by Martha Freeman (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A.B. Greenfield (Holiday House)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Company – Henry Holt BFYR)
Otherwood by Pete Hautman (Candlewick Press)
Charlie & Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney Hyperion)
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press

BEST YOUNG ADULT
Contagion by Erin Bowman (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperCollins)
Blink by Sasha Dawn (Lerner Publishing Group – Carolrhoda Lab)
After the Fire by Will Hill (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Fire)
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (Wednesday Books)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“The Box” – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Teleplay by Luke Del Tredici (NBC/Universal TV)
“Season 2, Episode 1” – Jack Irish, Teleplay by Andrew Knight (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – Mystery Road, Teleplay by Michaeley O’Brien (Acorn TV)
“My Aim is True” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Kevin Wade (CBS Eye Productions)
“The One That Holds Everything” – The Romanoffs, Teleplay by Matthew Weiner & Donald Joh
(Amazon Prime Video)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
“How Does He Die This Time?” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Nancy Novick (Dell
Magazines)

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Publishing)
Bone on Bone by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier (Minotaur Books)

The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.


Best Books of 2018: Paul Lane

December 28, 2018

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Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer:  The author pens a monumental novel combining two possible scenarios. Alexander Karpenko, born in Russia has to flee his native land due to his involvement in the murder of a man molesting his mother. Leaving he gets to a port where two ships are soon sailing. One to the United States and the other to England.  Archer gives us two tales told side by side both quite interesting. One details Alexander becoming a successful businessman and the other a politician.

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth: Forsyth is not a rapid writer of novels, but his skill and care are evidenced by the attraction his books hold for many readers. “The Fox” describes the use of a young very skilled hacker of computers in helping to turn the tables on a Chinese attempt to attack the United States and their allies.

The Reckoning by John Grisham:  No presentation of best books in any given year would be complete without the addition of one by Grisham. Never disappointing, always interesting and always one to just grab and hold the reader.

Cyber Attack by Tim Washburn: We have come into an age where the computer will be paramount in almost all of our lives. There are many books written about a war or battles fought by computers. Cyber Attack, I believe, is probably among the best. It is impossible to read the novel without the thought that Washburn has a wakeup call in mind for us.

Red War by Vince Flynn & Kyle Mills: Flynn passed away several years ago, but Kyle Mills, a fine author in his own right, has been granted the rights to continue to use the character of Mitch Rapp created by Flynn.  The book incorporated the same theme of constant action in an unending progression used by the original author.

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason: A great love story told within the midst of World War One. The salient feature is the excellent job of bringing the two main characters to life and becoming real people in the minds of the reader.

Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman: A fictionalized account of the beginnings of the CIA, told through the eyes of Helen Abell, who finds herself one of the lone women in the midst of what is a men’s club.

A Double Life by Flynn Berry: The author’s second novel and one also heralding her place in the forefront of the literary world. Claire had become a doctor working in London when she decided to try and find her father.  Her search and the results of that search comprise an ending of the book that is a superb portrait of a psychopath in action.

A Long Time Coming by Aaron Elkins: A well done two sided novel and one that is  engrossing to say the least. First it involves the theft of two pieces of priceless art, and secondly, it is a laymans introduction to the world of art, its valuation process, selling and buying.

THE FIRST FAMILY by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer: Michael Palmer was recently deceased but his son appears to be taking on the task of giving us the same type of medically based novels as his father did. Daniel Palmer has inherited his father’s literary skills and the reader is treated to a great story.


Best Books of 2018: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

December 24, 2018

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Every year I think I will do a top ten list and every year I just can’t do it. That said, there were three books that I recommended over and over again this year – The Wife by Alafair Burke, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, and The Widower’s Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer.

Here are my 25 favorite reads of 2018.

THRILLERS

THE WIFE by Alafair Burke: Wow, what a read! There are many twists in this story but the ending is the real shocker. The pacing is relentless, the characters are so well drawn that they completely drive the narrative. If you are a fan of the “girl books,” put this on your list. In general I’m not, but this book was exceptional, I loved it.

SUNBURN by Laura LippmanThis is a standalone novel and Lippman’s turn at the unreliable narrator genre that has permeated the best seller lists. She does an excellent job of it. There are a lot of lies, more deaths and several unexpected twists to this story, not to mention quite the shocking ending. This was a one night read for me, albeit a very late night, but I couldn’t put it down.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Brad MeltzerA twisty, at times violent, roller coaster ride of a thriller. There is a lot of really fascinating information on the death process of fallen soldiers, history about Houdini, his friends and family, and about magic in general. The surprises keep coming, the pacing is relentless, and the body count high in this terrific political thriller. (And librarians, the President appointed Librarian of Congress plays a prominent part!)

OUR HOUSE by Louise CandlishWowza! This book has been getting all sorts of accolades and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very different kind of story and a timely one. Set in London, it feels like it could be set in any suburban community. A real page turner of a book, fast paced and interesting with great characters and more twists and turns than a hurricane.

TRUE FICTION by Lee GoldbergThis is a fast paced story with lots of action, explosions and chase scenes as well as a lot of laughs, my favorite combination. I’m not sure if the all the technology mentioned is accurate and I really don’t want to know – if big brother is watching us all that closely, I’d be terrified. It is a terrific introduction to a new series, and I can’t wait for the next book.

AFTER ANNA by Lisa ScottolineIn this new standalone thriller, there are two sides of a heartwrenching story alternating chapter by chapter, and in a truly unique way, one is moving forward and the other is moving backward. Scottoline has the mad writing skills to pull it off and do it really well. I was reading away, completely engrossed with this family and their saga when suddenly the story took a hard turn and starting moving at breakneck speed to a really shocking ending. I stayed up late to finish it, then stayed up even later thinking about it. I love when that happens.

BOOK CLUB BETS

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens: Kya is a most unusual character and we meet her when she is about five years old. Her coming of age is an astonishing story and beautifully told. The writing is simply superlative and the descriptions just bring this unusual setting, a marsh in rural North Carolina, to life. It’s perfect for book discussion and anyone who enjoys a good story, engaging characters and beautiful writing.

THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin HannahThis is a fascinating look at a life most of us would never experience living entirely off the land and bartering for whatever else you need in a remote village in Alaska. It is also a coming of age story, a story about the effects of war, about an abusive marriage, anarchy, and more…This is not a happy story, but a dark, searing one that will be staying with me for a very long time. It is such a gripping novel that I just couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait to talk to someone who has read it.

THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe BenjaminBenjamin poses the philosophical question if you knew when you were going to die, would you live your life differently? But it delves even further than that into relationships, both familial and others. It is beautifully written and each character drives their own story. Worthy of all the praise it has received, and certainly worthy of discussion.

MANHATTAN BEACH by Jennifer EganThis is a fascinating look at the roles of women during the Depression and the war, and the lives of sailors, politicians, and gangsters and how their lives intertwine. Anna is a terrific character and moves the story along. A very interesting and enjoyable read, with much to discuss.

WOMENS FICTION

ALL YOUR PERFECTS by Colleen Hoover: Hoover has a way of drawing the reader in and making us care about her characters, even when it is painful to do so. By alternating the darkness of a marriage on the rocks with the light of falling in love, she makes us think about how a relationship goes from one extreme to the other. I never saw this ending coming, and it was a masterful finish to a very thought provoking, emotional read. I loved it.

HOW TO BE FAMOUS by Caitlin MoranCaitlin Moran writes strong, feminist fiction with a unique protagonist and a wicked sense of humor. While set more than twenty years ago, this Bildungsroman feels very topical and should appeal to strong women of any age.

THE BUCKET LIST by Georgia ClarkThe Bucket List takes a very serious subject, a 25 year old woman testing positive for the BRCA1 gene, meaning she is very likely to get breast cancer, and provides a sweet, funny, sexual romp. While tackling a serious subject, Clark injects quite a bit of humor here, making this a fun, sexy read.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen HoangSo 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.

JOSH AND HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING by Christina Lauren: Christina Lauren is the pen name of two women who write together, and they are quickly becoming one of my go-to authors. Two of my go-to authors? This is a smart, funny and completely irresistible romance. These characters are brought to life with such impact that I feel like I could run into either of them tomorrow. I laughed out loud quite a bit and just couldn’t wait for their happy ending. There are some explicit sex scenes which work with the story but it is the sweet romance that really is the draw here. Runners up (when the same author puts out three books in one year!): Love & Other Words, My Favorite Half-Night Stand

THE PROPOSAL by Jasmine GuilloryI loved these characters, they had their faults which only made them seem more real. They were very well developed and I couldn’t wait to see how their story turned out. Happily ever after, of course, this is a romance, but with a lot of fun, food and sex along the way. And laughs. Lots of laughs.

COWBOY ROMANCE: BIG BAD COWBOY by Carly BloomMy love affair with cowboy romances continues with this terrific entry into a new series. The setting was a small town in Texas. Maggie is a strong, independent woman, and you can’t help rooting for her to succeed. Travis is respectful yet playful, and their chemistry is so electric that it is palpable. He has a whole host of problems, but manages to overcome them. I loved them together, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE by Lorraine HeathSins for All Seasons, Book 1.
There are a few nice twists in this story and a truly shocking ending, but no fears, everyone gets their happily ever after. Don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end, her research was remarkable, fascinating and heartbreaking. I loved this fast, fun and unexpected read – what a great start to a new series!

THE GOVERNESS GAME by Tessa DareI love Tessa Dare and this is a really good example of why. Her writing is crisp, the dialogue is fast and funny, the pages fly by and the characters come to life on the page. Dare takes things even further by making her heroine half-mestiza Filipino. Diversity is a wonderful thing and I am happy to see traditional authors expanding their horizons from the of-so-white world of Regency England. Many authors create strong female heroines that behave in ways that are completely out of character for the time period, so why not mix up the races, too. The point is not belabored by any means, but just is. And it works.

A SCANDALOUS DEAL by Joanna ShupeThe passion felt real, the odds of this couple getting together were almost insurmountable, and the characters rang true. The tidbits about the history of New York were just an added bonus. This was a terrific one night read for me, I really loved it.

YOUNG ADULT: I HAVE LOST MY WAY by Gayle Forman: I will read anything Forman writes, and I can’t say that about too many authors, especially those who write books for young adults. She’s just a great storyteller, and if you haven’t read her, or read a young adult bool before, try this one. It’s short, only 272 pages, and it moves. The writing is beautiful, the characters interesting and believable, and the story spans out over the course of one day. It explores themes of friendship and empathy, love and kindness and family.

COOKBOOK: DINING IN by Alison RomanA really great cookbook, mostly because the recipes are truly accessible. Nothing takes days to make, a rare esoteric ingredient pops up but for the most part these recipes are easy to source, easy to make and easy to enjoy. I can say is I love this book and hope you will, too.

ART BOOK: BIBLIOPHILE by Jane MountI am a long time fan of Jane Mount’s art and often spend time drooling over her website, the Ideal Bookshelf. If you are a complete book wonk like me, Mount offers paintings/prints similar to the cover of this book. She has hundreds of collections and books to choose from and you can create your own “ideal bookshelf”.

MEMOIRS

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

EDUCATED: A MEMOIR by Tara WestoverThe accolades for this book keep rolling in and what can I say, they are all well deserved. It is a difficult story, beautifully told. Dr. Westover gave us all a gift, and I am most appreciative.

SERIES: THE LAKESHORE CHRONICLES by Susan Wiggs
I loved this heartfelt series about love, laughter and family set in the Catskill Mountains in New York. The characters are well developed and became my friends. The setting is picturesque and nostalgic. I wish I could read them all over again for the first time! Here are the books in order, and I think they are best read that way:

1. Summer at Willow Lake
1.a.“Homecoming Season” (a novella in MORE THAN WORDS: STORIES OF COURAGE)
2. The Winter Lodge
3. Dockside
4. Snowfall at Willow Lake
5. Fireside
6. Lakeshore Christmas
7. The Summer Hideaway
8. Marrying Daisy Bellamy
9. Return to Willow Lake
10. Candlelight Christmas
11. Starlight on Willow Lake


Romance Writers of America: 2018 RITA® Awards

July 20, 2018

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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

 

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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

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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

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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™