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

December 30, 2016

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence: Longlist Announced!

September 21, 2016


Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence
Longlist 2017

Congratulations to the 47 titles, 24 fiction and 23 nonfiction, that made the 2017 Carnegie Medals for Excellence Longlist! Six finalists, three fiction and three nonfiction will be announced on October 26. The winners are announced at the RUSA Book and Media Awards Ceremony, Sunday, January 22, 5-7:00 p.m. EST, at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta.

Click on the links below to read the Booklist reviews!

Alameddine, Rabih. The Angel of History. (Atlantic Monthly)
Beverly, Bill. Dodgers. (Crown)
Butler, Robert Olen. Perfume River. (Atlantic Monthly)
Chabon, Michael. Moonglow. (Harper)
Eggers, Dave. Heroes of the Frontier. (Knopf)
Enrigue, Álvaro. Sudden Death. (Riverhead)
Erdrich, Louise. LaRose. (Harper)
Gyasi, Yaa. Homegoing. (Knopf)
Haslett, Adam. Imagine Me Gone. (Little, Brown)
Ivey, Eowyn. To the Bright Edge of the World. (Little, Brown)
Lee, Krys. How I Became a North Korean. (Viking)
Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers. (Random House)
Morgan, C. E. The Sport of Kings. (Farrar)
Murphy, Tim. Christodora. (Grove)
Patchett, Ann. Commonwealth. (Harper)
Prose, Francine. Mister Monkey. (Harper)
Smith, Dominic. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. (Farrar)
Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. (Penguin)
Strout, Elizabeth. My Name Is Lucy Barton. (Random House)
Terrell, Whitney. The Good Lieutenant. (Farrar)
Thien, Madeleine. Do Not Say We Have Nothing. (Norton)
Watson, Larry. As Good as Gone. (Algonquin)
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. (Doubleday)
Woodson, Jacqueline. Another Brooklyn. (Harper)

Bell-Scott, Patricia. The Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice. (Knopf)
Desmond, Matthew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. (Crown)
Dum, Christopher P. Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel. (Columbia University Press)
France, David. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS. (Knopf)
Isenberg, Nancy. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. (Viking)
Jahren, Hope. Lab Girl. (Knopf)
Kanigel, Robert. Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs. (Knopf)
King, Ross. Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. (Bloomsbury)
Kurlansky, Mark. Paper: Paging through History. (Norton)
Macy, Beth. Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest—A True Story of the Jim Crow South. (Little, Brown)
McBride, James. Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul. (Spiegel & Grau)
McDonald-Gibson, Charlotte. Cast Away: True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis. (New Press)
Phillips, Patrick. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America. (Norton)
Rawlence, Ben. City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. (Picador)
Roach, Mary. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. (Norton)
Sax, David. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. (Perseus/Public Affairs)
Shetterly, Margot Lee. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. (Morrow)
Sobel, Dava. The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars. (Viking)
Staiti, Paul. Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution through Painters’ Eyes. (Bloomsbury)
Wideman, John Edgar. Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File. (Scribner)
Williams, Terry Tempest. The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. (Farrar)
Voight, Emily. The Dragon behind the Glass. A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish. (Viking)
Younge, Gary. Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives. (Nation Books)

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. the previous year. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) are announced at an event at the ALA Midwinter Meeting; winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award, and two finalists in each category receive $1,500. For more information on award seals, please visit the ALA store.

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction are made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York on the occasion of the foundation’s centennial and in recognition of Andrew Carnegie’s deep belief in the power of books and learning to change the world. These awards are cosponsored by Booklist and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more about the association at

Best Books of 2015: Jack Quick

December 23, 2015

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THE BAT by Jo Nesbo First Harry Hole. Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case.  Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case.  Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.
THE ASSASSINATION OPTION by WEB Griffin: Interesting take on the post- World War II transition from the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) to the CIA. We spent more time fighting among ourselves than we did worrying about the new threats to our country.  James Crowley thought he had done well—he didn’t know he’d done this well. His first successful mission for the about-to-be-official new Central Intelligence Directorate has drawn all kinds of attention, some welcome, some not. On the plus side, he’s now a captain; promoted to Chief, DCI, Europe; and in charge of a top secret spy operation. On the minus side, a lot of people would like to know about that operation, including not only the Soviets, but his own Pentagon, as well as a seething J. Edgar Hoover. Crowley knows that if just one thing goes wrong, he’s likely to get thrown to the wolves. As if that weren’t enough pressure, complications are springing up on all sides. He’s discovered a surprising alliance between the former German intelligence chief and, of all things, the Mossad. A German family that Crowley never knew he had has suddenly, and suspiciously, emerged. And he’s due for a rendezvous with an undercover agent against the Soviets known only as Seven K. It’s when he meets Seven K that he gets the real surprise.
HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins – How do you write a review of something that almost everyone has read and/or seen the movie? But for those few who haven’t, it is the story of a young girl in a future United States which consists of 12 districts subservient to THE CAPITAL which appears to be in the Rocky Mountains. Each year the Districts, each of which specializes in a different commodity (District 12, the one our heroine comes from supplies coal and appears to be the former Pennsylvania area). Every year each District is required to furnish one mal and one female between the ages of 12 and 20 to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death contest. The sole survivor wins a lifetime of riches. Our girl, Katniss, volunteers to keep her younger sister out of the competition. How she does in the games makes a remarkable story/ First in a trilogy and definitely recommended.
HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY: BOOK 2 CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins. I found this volume to be more chic-lit than book 1 as Katniss worries if she will ever be able to marry her true love Gale or will be forced to marry her Hunger Games partner Peeta. Just beyond the mid-way point of the book it seemingly becomes a moot point as Peeta and Katniss are selected to be in the 75th anniversary Hunger Games, in which one or both will surely die. In the background are the whisperings of a rebellion – sparked by Katniss performance in the previous Hunger Games. Ready now for Volume Three.
HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY: BOOK 3 THE MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins – After a stirring Book One, and a somewhat mediocre (to me) chic-lit Book Two, Collins returns the story to its roots in Book Three resolving most of the issues raised in Book One and Book Two. At the end Katniss gets married, but I won’t say to whom. As with One and Two there are enough twists & turns to keep you turning pages.
THE TRAP by LJ SellersWhile skydiving with an adventure group, FBI Agent Jamie Dallas overhears plans to carry out criminal acts against a politician. The bureau sends Dallas to infiltrate the activists, but to get inside the tight-knit clan, Dallas makes dangerous compromises and starts to sympathize with their cause. She ends up so deep undercover she can’t make contact with the bureau. Across town, a Washington DC detective investigates a death that looks like a simple “hooker homicide.” But as Detective Larson peels away the layers, she uncovers something far more sinister, something deeply connected to a high-profile judge’s death. Meanwhile, working against her own conscience, Agent Dallas struggles to gather evidence and push the activist group toward the major takedown the FBI has orchestrated. But inside the group’s safe house, another imposter lurks, and when the real motive surfaces, Dallas is caught in a cunning trap that will make her both a victim and a killer. Cant beat L J Sellers for twists and turns.

Best Books of 2015: Becky LeJeune

December 22, 2015

Becky’s Top Ten of 2015

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  1. BRED TO KILL by Franck Thilliez – This second in Thilliez’s series picks up right where Syndrome E left off. It features another weird and dark premise with more of the science-based theory of its predecessor as well. Definitely a favorite new series for me! 
  1. TRIGGER WARNING: SHORT FICTIONS AND DISTURBANCES by Neil Gaiman – with everything from fantasy and horror to Doctor Who and American Gods this newest collection of shorts from Gaiman features first run and previously published tales perfect for hardcore fans and newcomers to his work as well. 
  1. GIRL UNDERWATER by Claire Kells – a harrowing debut about a college swimmer whose plane crashes in the Rockies. We know from the outset that she’s survived but we don’t know what happened in the time it took to be rescued.
  1. LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff – a cross-genre read that kicks off a new trilogy, Love is Red is part horror, thriller, fantasy, and romance. It’s dark and twisty and completely wonderful! 
  1. NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE by Adam Nevill – I’m a huge horror fan but most of it doesn’t really give me the heebie jeebies – except Adam Nevill. He freaks me out! This one is a dark and twisted haunted house story that is the stuff of nightmares. 
  1. DAY FOUR by Sarah Lotz – this companion to The Three is set on a cruise ship that loses power and communications while at sea. As the passengers become more irate and supplies begin to dwindle, the crew starts to report strange happenings. And that’s only the beginning! 
  1. EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicaola Yoon – Yoon’s teen debut is about a girl who is allergic to everything. But while her home has become a sanctuary, it has also become a trap preventing her from experiencing life and true love. The charming heroine, illustrations, and fabulous plot make this a perfect read for both teens and adults. 
  1. CHARLOTTE’S STORY by Laura Benedict – The second novel featuring Benedict’s uber creepy Bliss House. This one takes readers back to the 1950s and a story that’s hinted at in the previous installments. The series can be read in any order, but I do love the way Benedict is moving backwards in the timeline with each new release.
  1. DAUGHTERS UNTO DEVILS by Amy Lukavics – the comparisons to Stephen King and Little House on the Prairie definitely caught my attention on this one and I have to say it lived up to the promise of that strange combination. Lukavics is one to watch for sure! 
  1. SEIZE THE NIGHT edited by Christopher Golden – if you’ve tired of romantic vampires and crave horrific ones once again, this is the anthology for you. Scott Smith, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Michael Koryta, Kelley Armstrong… the list of contributors is amazing and the stories are all incredibly creepy.


Best Books of 2015: Paul Lane

December 21, 2015

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1) Cost of Life by Joshua Corin: Giddy ride about a hijacking of a passenger airline. Well done character presentation of feelings and thoughts of both hijackers and their victims.

2) One Man’s Flag by David Downing: Very well researched novel set during the early period of World War I and the Irish rebellion against England. Mr Downing paints his characters as they would have been during the period described. They act and talk as they most likely would have at the time they existed.

3) Trust No One by Paul Cleave: Cleave tells the story through the eyes of an author of books dealing with murder. The individual, Jerry Grey is sinking into early onset Alzheimer’s and is beginning to believe that he actually committed the murders described in his books. The novel is a brilliantly handled description of Grey’s gradual descent into the disease and the solving of actual murders via the clues that his non lucid ravings provide.

4) Night Tremors by Matt Coyle: A detective story set in Southern California, La Jolla and San Diego. Coyle proves adept at introducing many characters with varying connections to a murder that occurred eight years ago. His detective Rick Cahill, suffering from the horrors of his beloved wife being killed two years prior to the opening of this book is attempting to regain some semblance of order in his life.

5) Clear by Fire by Joshua Hood: A book about men and women in combat told by a veteran of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. An adrenalin rush of constant action with the advantage of both intimate knowledge of both the weapons and tactics utilized as well as the emotions, thoughts, and reactions of the people involved in the battles.

6) Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley: Set in the near future when the US economy has collapsed, unemployment is rampant and millions defaulting on their loans. The government has evolved a method of collecting the principal defaulted on by actually recovering on his memories through Repossession Therapy. Ben Cade has been called to undergo the Therapy, but discovers a novel way to prevent this. A book that could predict the future as government giveaways destroy the economy and drive millions into debt that cannot be repaid.

7) Storm Front by Robert Conroy: Well done novel about the damage unrestrained nature can cause when let loose. An unexpected major snowfall hits the town of Sheridan Michigan and causes everything to stop. Compounded by the presence of two killers that entered Sheridan and cannot get out due to the weather. Plenty of well done action.

8) A Different Lie by Derek Haas: Married couple has a baby, the norm for a happy marriage. Minor problem. The husband is an assassin and his wife works at the details in setting up a hit. Very different picture of a loving husband and wife just having a baby.

9) Sunfail by Steven Savile: Jake Quinn was formerly a member of the armed forces Special forces. He now works as an electrician for the New York subway system. He comes upon two young men spray painting graffiti and comes to the realization that the writing is actually a code in an ancient language. The “hidden” are calling to each other and Jake is dragged kicking and screaming into a world of conspiracy and menace. An all nighter from the very inception.

10) The First Hostage by Joel Rosenberg: The author has written several novels about terrorism in the middle east. His knowledge is uncanny and each novel seems to forecast what is to occur. J.B. Collins is a foreign correspondent for the New York Times He becomes witness to a devastating attack by ISIS terrorists in Amman Jordan. The terrorists are able to capture the US president who is in Jordan to meet with the leaders of Israel and Palestine and attempt to reconcile their differences. Fast moving and a picture of ISIS and it’s goals.

Best Books of 2015: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

December 20, 2015

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It is my pleasure to present my favorite reads of 2015. Once again I didn’t constrain myself to any arbitrary number of good books – these are all terrific and are listed alphabetically by author within each category. That said, my top three for the year would have to be The Crossing by Michael Connelly, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. But believe me when I say every one of these books is worth reading!

Perennials – these are the authors that I wait for each year, and somehow they just seem to get better and better.

MAKE ME by Lee Child: When I review a new Jack Reacher book, it often feels like I will run out of superlatives or lapse into another review that sounds much like the one before it. But really, it’s not my fault if Child keeps pumping out series books that get better every time – especially considering that he started out with a winner. This is a dark and twisty story as only Lee Child can tell it, and I stayed up late into the night to finish it.

THE CROSSING by Michael Connelly: This is the beginning of a new Harry Bosch. Connelly has gone where he swore he wouldn’t go and Harry is working for his half brother, the Lincoln Lawyer himself, Mickey Haller. As far as I’m concerned, Connelly is the best crime fiction writer out there, and his latest just proves it.

CORRUPTED by Lisa Scottoline: Bennie Rosato, founder of the Rosato & Associates law firm, is a very private person, even with her staff. This book moves back and forth in time from a young Rosato handling a juvenile case, to a present day murder case. Both are compelling on their own, but the combination and the glimpse into Bennie’s younger self make this a wonderful addition to the series.

CHECKED OUT by Elaine Viets: The fun continues, this time at the library, in Viet’s latest entry into one of my favorite mystery series. I love the south Florida culture that Viets always infuses her mysteries with, and this time out she also inserts lots of interesting library trivia, and any library regular will love all the inside gossip. Another great cozy mystery with lots of laughs, warm, wonderful characters and an intriguing premise. Being a librarian, this book holds a special place in my heart.


COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag: Tami Hoag has been writing nail biting thrillers for years, but takes a different turn here, while fans will recognize some series characters in minor roles. While the suspense is high, the stakes are even higher as Hoag delves into traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. This unusual look at the serial killer genre is a most welcome exploration of these brain injuries and what it is like to be a survivor.

A COLD WAR by Alan Russell: This “Cold War” has nothing to do with Russia and everything to do with an Alaskan autumn, and is a fascinating look at survivalists and the wilderness of our fiftieth state, as well as being a truly gripping page turner.

CRAZY LOVE YOU by Lisa Unger: This is a complex, intricate story yet the pages fly by as Ian, the most unreliable narrator since Nick Dunne in Gone Girl, leads us on a wild ride in this superb psychological thriller. Unger is at the top of her game here.

Cozy Mystery

TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES by Denise Grover Swank: There is a lot of humor in this book that borders on but never quite crosses over to silly, and the mystery here almost takes a backseat to Rose and her declaration of independence.  It is light, fluffy Southern fun and should appeal to Mary Kay Andrews and Charlaine Harris fans.

Literary Mystery

EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh: Eileen is the narrator of this dark look back at her life during a 1960’s Christmas week. Eileen has to be one of the most damaged characters in fiction. A friendship turns into something truly ugly that leads to a shocking ending. This is literary psychological suspense at its best.

Women’s Fiction

THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS by Menna van Praag: This is a fabulist, wondrous story about a girl, the guy whose been in love with her for most of their lives, and her grandmother. There are several storylines here that flow seamlessly together and make the pages fly by. I loved this magical read, and just might read it again – which is high praise indeed.

WHO DO YOU LOVE by Jennifer Weiner: I have loved Jennifer Weiner since her first book, Good in Bed, and she has grown since then, graduating from smart chick-lit to smart women’s fiction. These characters are complex and real, and this is a beautiful coming of age story in a addition to a sweeping romance. Best of all, the book is totally unputdownable – I couldn’t stop turning the pages and when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about these characters, and that is the highest praise I can give.

Historical Fiction

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah: This was a completely mesmerizing story, a female side of the war that isn’t often explored. I was totally immersed in their world, and often brought to tears. It is a difficult subject, and the brutality and violence is not whitewashed at all, but is necessary to the story. I have read a lot of Holocaust fiction and this was one of the more interesting, unusual and compelling books on the subject. This strong, well written feminist historical fiction is simply not to be missed.

ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS by Adriana Trigiani: In a bit of a departure from her usual big Italian family sagas, All the Stars in the Heavens takes a look back at the glamorous Hollywood of the 1930s. The story centers around Loretta Young, Spencer Tracey and Clark Gable and the fascinating lifestyles of these rich and famous. If you haven’t read Trigiani, this is a terrific place to start and if you’re already a fan, you won’t want to miss this one.

Foodie Fiction

THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE by Amy E. Reichert: One of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail, the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romcom written by Nora & Delia Ephron that is set around NYC bookstores. Much as You’ve Got Mail was a love letter to New York City, Coconut Cake is a love letter to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Reichert did an amazing job – I want to go!  The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is the foodie equivalent of Mail, and that completely worked for me.

KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal: This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It has everything; great characters, terrific setting, a creative premise and mouthwatering meals. This is a story about fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, and community. It’s always about the Midwest and the foodie culture that has pervaded America. There are a lot of laughs, poignant moments that brought me to tears, and everything in between. The prose is beautiful, almost poetic at times, but it is the characters that completely stole my heart. It is a book that begs to be read slowly and savored, and book that craves to be discussed.

Historical Romance

WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT by Tessa Dare: This was such a fun read! I admit, I have a thing for Scots – at least Scots men in kilts – thank you, Diana Gabaldon. And I love Tessa Dare. Lots of angst, sex and a bit of history are thrown into the mix. I haven’t had this much fun reading a romance in a while.

FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE by Eloisa James: Eloisa James is my favorite romance writer. She does historical romance, this one set in late 18th century England. This is another wonderful romance, filled with likeable characters, enough drama to make the pages fly by and as always, lots of passion. I loved it.

Contemporary Romance

IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING by Julie James: This book was on so many best romances of the year lists for 2014 I quickly got on board. And am I glad I did – I found a new author that I will continue reading. Plus this is book 5 of a series which means there at least 4 more I can get my hands on. I loved this fast paced romance. The characters were believable, their stumbling blocks realistic, and having a wedding as a backdrop just added to the charm of this book.

PLAYING WITH FIRE by Kate Meader: This is the second book in the series but my first Meader read, and I’ll be back for more.  A contemporary romance bordering on erotica but not quite crossing the line, Meader excels at heating things up page by page, and I couldn’t turn them fast enough. Loved her main character, a female firefighter, and the chemistry between her and the mayor up for reelection. A super fun, sexy read.


LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg: I don’t read a lot of business type books, but I ripped through it in one Sunday afternoon – I could see why there has been so much hype around this book. The book is part memoir, part career advice, and eminently personal. This is an inspirational and important book, and I urge anyone who works to read it – both men and women. There is a new edition called Lean In for Graduates, which expands on this book with additional chapters “offering advice on finding and getting the most out of a first job; résumé writing; best interviewing practices; negotiating your salary; listening to your inner voice; owning who you are; and leaning in for millennial men.”

HEADS IN BEDS by Jacob Tomsky: Jacob Tomsky works the front desk of high end, luxury hotels. Here he offers up the inside dirt on what really goes on, how to get the most bang for your buck, but really his point is how to beat the system – all told in a most entertaining fashion. I listened to the audiobook, which the author reads, and he does a really good job. I actually had to stop it a few times to take notes! But for the most part, the note taking portion is in the appendix. The book itself is by turns funny, horrifying and always interesting –  at least to anyone who has ever stayed or is planning to stay in a hotel. A fun and informative read.


THE PIZZA BIBLE by Tony Gemignani: I am Italian by marriage, and over the years we have gotten pretty serious about pizza, serious enough that my husband built a wood burning pizza oven in the back yard. For the beginner to the Professional Pizzaiolo, this book works for everyone. This is an excellent cookbook, well laid out, easy to use, with recipes that work. It is pizza nirvana.

FOOD52 GENIUS RECIPES by Kristen Miglore: Food52 is one of the great foodie blogs out there. The pictures are gorgeous, they offer columns with lots of really useful info, tons of recipes, a hotline where you can post any kind of cooking/kitchen question, and lots more. This cookbook is a collection of recipes from many chefs, all tops in their fields like Julia Child, Dorie Greenspan, Marcella Hazan, Dan Barber, James Beard, & Tom Colicchio. Having all these amazing recipes in one book means that this is a book I will keep on my kitchen counter and draw from again and again.

Coffee Table Cookbook

A NEW NAPA CUISINE by Christopher Kostow: There are cookbooks that have great recipes that I can’t wait to try, and there are cookbooks that have the most gorgeous pictures. This is one of the latter. This is a beautiful coffee table book, from the cover, which is a sort of burlap-like fibrous material, to the stunning photos of the Napa Valley, the local artisans, the farms, and of course the food.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon: Who can forget the Bubble Boy? Well, I certainly couldn’t, and Nicola Yoon takes that story and gives it a modern, unique twist. Short chapters are interspersed with drawings, charts & graphs, drawn by the author’s husband. I love epistolary novels and this is a really good one, filled with unforgettable characters.


CHRISTMAS BELLS by Jennifer Chiaverini: I figured if I keep reading Christmas novels, eventually I’ll find one I can rave about…and here it is! This book is a twofer – two stories told in alternating chapters that are set over a hundred years apart. The obvious inspiration of the historical story neatly focuses the modern day one, and I loved them both. This is heartwarming, of course, but also fascinating and beautifully written.

Older books I found this year:

JOSHUA: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane: At its heart, it is a coming of age story but it is also a history of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, starting in the late 1950s but with some additional historic information going back to the 1800s. This a completely engrossing story, with well defined characters that the reader can’t help but care about. The tumultuous times add a lot of drama and action, making this a fast paced story as well. What I really liked is that the author showed both the good and the bad in all these racial and religious groups. There was no black and white, only the more realistic shades of gray.

DREAMING OF YOU by Lisa Kleypas: The innocent yet smart woman saving the damaged man is a standard in the romance genre, and this is an excellent example. The cover has actually been updated, the book was reissued last summer and from what I can tell has been in print continuously since 2000. There are probably thousands of paperback romances that have gone out of print in that time so while that may not sound like a big deal, trust me, for a paperback romance to be in print for that long, especially to be reissued with a new cover 15 years later, is a very big deal. But having read it, I completely understand.


February 6, 2015


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. With its ninth annual competition now complete, the Florida Book Awards has announced winners for books published in 2014 in the nine categories of competition.

Coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries, the Florida Book Awards is the nation’s most comprehensive state book awards program. It was established in 2006 to celebrate the best Florida literature. Authors must be full-time Florida residents, except in the nonfiction and visual arts categories, where the subject matter must focus on Florida.

The more than 200 submissions for the 2014 awards were read by juries of three members, each nominated from across the state by co-sponsoring organizations. Jurors are authorized to select up to three medalists (including one gold winner, one silver runner-up and one bronze medalist) in each of the nine categories; jurors are also authorized to make no selections in a given year.

A new award has been introduced this year, the “Gwen P. Reichert Gold Medal for Children’s Literature”, which provides a cash prize for the Gold Winner of the Florida Book Awards in the Children’s Literature category. This award is in memory of Gwen P. Reichert and serves as a lasting tribute to honor her accomplishments as a rare book collector, nurturer of authors and their audience, and her commitment to children’s education. Gwen worked as a school principal and was an enthusiastic children’s book collector. She became friends and pen pals with celebrated children’s book authors including Tasha Tudor and Maurice Sendak. Gwen also founded and served as president of the Randolph Caldecott Society in St. Augustine, Florida.

Florida Book Awards 2014 Winners by Category

Children’s Literature

Gold Medal and Gwen P. Reichert Gold Medal for Children’s Literature: Cleopatra in Space (Scholastic) by Mike Maihack

Silver Medal: Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (Candlewick Press) by G. Neri, illustrated by A.G. Ford

Bronze Medal: Just A Drop of Water (Sky Pony Press) by Kerry O’Malley Cerra

Florida Non-Fiction

Gold Medal: La Florida: Five Hundred Years of Hispanic Presence (University Press of  Florida) edited by Viviana Díaz Balsera and Rachel A. May

Silver Medal: The Peace of Blue: Water Journeys (University Press of Florida) by Bill Belleville

Bronze Medal: Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine by (University Press of Florida) Thomas Graham

General Fiction

Gold Medal: The Invention of Wings (Viking Penguin Group) by Sue Monk Kidd

Silver Medal: The Heaven of Animals (Simon & Schuster) by David James Poissant

Bronze Medal: The Sheltering (University of South Carolina Press) by Mark Powell

General Nonfiction

Gold Medal: Merlin Stone Remembered (Llewellyn Worldwide) by David B. Axelrod, Lenny Schneir, and Carol Thomas

Silver Medal: Einstein Relatively Simple: Our Universe Revealed in Everyday Language (World Scientific Publishing Company) by Ira Mark Egdall

Bronze Medal: Southside Buddhist Essays (University of Tampa Press) by Ira Sukrungruang


Gold Medal: SLANT SIX (Copper Canyon Press) by Erin Belieu

Silver Medal: On the Street of Divine Love (University of Pittsburgh Press) by Barbara Hamby

Bronze Medal: The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press) by Erica Dawson

Popular Fiction

Gold Medal: Haunted (G. P. Putnam’s Sons) by Randy Wayne White

Silver Medal: Assassin’s Game (Forge Books) by Ward Larsen

Bronze Medal: The Design is Murder (Carina Press) by Jean Harrington

Spanish Language

Gold Medal: El Arma Secreta (Editora Nacional de la República Dominicana) by José M. Fernández Pequeño

Visual Arts

Gold Medal: Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State (University Press of Florida) edited by Amanda B. Carlson and Robin Poynor

Silver Medal: Everglades: America’s Wetland (University Press of Florida) by Mac Stone

Bronze Medal: Surfing Florida: A Photographic History (University Press of Florida) by Paul Aho

Young Adult Literature

Gold Medal: Kiss of Broken Glass (HarperTeen) by Madeleine Kuderick

Silver Medal: Knockout Games (Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publishing Group) by G. Neri

Bronze Medal: More Than Good Enough (Flux) by Crissa-Jean Chappell

All award recipients will be honored at the Abitz Family Dinner, the annual Florida Book Awards banquet, on April 9th at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. The nine gold medalists will be recognized March 11th at the Florida Heritage Awards Ceremony sponsored by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs. Winners will also be hosted by First Lady Ann Scott at a luncheon at the mansion and invited to participate on a Florida Book Awards panel at the inaugural Word of the South literary and music festival in Tallahassee in April.

Co-sponsors of the competition include humanities organizations from across the state such as the Florida Center for the Book; the State Library and Archives of Florida; the Florida Historical Society; the Florida Humanities Council; the Florida Literary Arts Coalition; the Florida Library Association; the Florida Association for Media in Education; the Center for Literature and Theatre @ Miami Dade College; the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America; Friends of FSU Libraries; the Florida Writers Association; the Florida Literacy Coalition; and “Just Read, Florida!”

Learn more about the Florida Book Awards at

Winners by Location (Florida only)

David B. Axelrod – DAYTONA

Viviana Díaz Balsera – MIAMI

Bill Belleville – SANFORD


Kerry O’Malley Cerra – CORAL SPRINGS

Crissa-Jean Chappell – MIAMI

Erica Dawson – TAMPA

Ira Mark Egdall – HOLLYWOOD

Thomas Graham – ST. AUGUSTINE

Barbara Hamby – TALLAHASSEE

Jean Harrington – NAPLES

Sue Monk Kidd – MARCO ISLAND

Madeleine Kuderick – PALM HARBOR

Ward Larsen – SARASOTA

Mike Maihack – LUTZ

G. Neri – TAMPA

José M. Fernández Pequeño – MIAMI

David James Poissant – OVIEDO

Mark Powell – DELAND

Lenny Schneir – DAYTONA

Ira Sukrungruang – BRANDON

Randy Wayne White – SANIBEL