WHITE PEAK by Ronan Frost

May 25, 2019

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Frost presents a novel with both high adventure and some science fiction. The book is exciting, a fast read and one geared towards keeping the readers glued to the pages until finished.

The story opens as Rye Mckenna is holding onto a telephone listening to his wife being murdered when she is caught in a shooting at the mall she was shopping at. Rye is devastated. He is approached by a man representing the multi billionaire Greg Rask and asked if he would like to exact revenge for his wife’s murder.

Rask is assembling a team to search out a map that, if real, will point out where Hitler’s Ahnenerbe hid the three stones that have mystic curative powers. Hitler was a firm believer in the occult and did have this organization make many expeditions searching for the stones. Rask, who has a terminal illness, believes that the map will prove useful to him in curing the disease and has already spent a fortune looking for a miracle.

Rask does arrange for Rye to meet with his wife’s murderer even with the individual in prison. Rye has his chance to exact revenge and does so after which he agrees to join Rask’s team. Along with the other members of the squad journeys are undertaken both to France and than to Tibet where the search is centered on discovery of a lost city where the map is thought to reside. The action is fast, the writing compelling and the reader experiences the feeling that he or she is with the group and traveling in some of the most exotic places on earth.

The ending is one based on a science fiction theme and I felt that it was a bit out of kilter with the rest of the book. It does cause the novel to become more than a little off balance and might even spoil a good book with a poor finale. But again the beginning is compelling and the description of an exotic land well done. This factor could very well negate the ending.

5/19 Paul Lane

WHITE PEAK by Ronan Frost. St. Martin’s Press (May 21, 2019). ISBN  978-1250130082. 336p.




May 24, 2019

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson. Sarah Crichton Books (April 16, 2019). ISBN  978-0374156022. 368p.



THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren

May 23, 2019

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From the publisher:

For two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime—maybe even love—in this romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling authors of Roomies.

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

With Christina Lauren’s “uniquely hilarious and touching voice” (Entertainment Weekly), The Unhoneymooners is a romance for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.

Christina Lauren has become one (two) of my favorites. The writing duo does fast paced stories with great characters, lots of heart, lots of laughs and lots of love. And usually some sex, as is the case here.

The trope of enemies becoming lovers is not new, but feels new here. They mine the comedy of a seafood buffet with a serious microbe on the loose and believably explain the two members of the wedding that avoid it. Twins are always fun, especially identical(ish) twins, and they sure are fun here. At least Olive is; Ami is too sick to be funny much. But I loved the idea of winning everything to make the wedding and honeymoon super easy on the budget and I bought into the no changes,  no refunds on the honeymoon prize and the big switcheroo so that Olive and Ethan end up taking the trip.

You can see what’s coming from a mile away, but who cares when getting there is so much fun. If you like a lot of laughs with your romance, then you won’t want to miss this book. I loved it.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren. Gallery Books (May 14, 2019). ISBN 978-1501128035. 416p.



DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen

May 22, 2019

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Neah Bay, Book 1

With the publication of “Deception Cove,” the author introduces two very unique and quite interesting characters while doing his normal job of capturing the attention of the reader and holding it.

The first is a lady named Jess Winslow who a) got married b) joined the Marines and c) did two tours in Afghanistan seeing all the action one can see. Jess’s husband was killed while she was serving her country and she was discharged from the corps and sent home. Due to the combination of her time in action and the untimely death of her husband, she was diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, released from duty and sent home. She was given a dog especially trained to work with and help returning veterans suffering from PTSD.

The second person is Mason Burke, who is nearing the end of a 15 year prison term for taking part in a robbery that saw the owner of the store shot dead. Towards the end of his sentence, Mason is allowed to train a dog for the purpose of helping those veterans suffering from PTSD, and of course, the dog named Lucy is awarded to Jess. Getting out of prison Mason makes inquiries about Lucy, finds out who she was awarded to and also learns the disturbing news that the dog will shortly be put down for attacking a man. He decides that the only course open to him is to travel to where Jess lives and try and save the dog. This is in a remote but quite beautiful area in the state of Washington. Mason travels there, manages to make contact with Jess and both work on making sure that Lucy is not destroyed.

The story is well done, quite engrossing with the protagonists defined, and that includes the villains of the piece. The best part is an afterward. Laukkanen indicates that he is currently working on future books featuring Jess, Mason, and of course, Lucy. My recommendation is to read this book, find out what happens and what events shape the future. Enjoy a good read and make note of looking for the future novels promised by the author. Readers will not be disappointed in the events depicted in the book and certainly welcome the news that there will be more in the near future.

5/19 Paul Lane

DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen. Mulholland Books (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-0316448703. 384p.



THE 45TH by D.W. Buffa

May 21, 2019

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The 45th in the title is the 45th president of the United States who in actuality is Donald J. Trump. The story begins at the Republican national convention which is meeting to select a candidate to run against Hillary Constable, the nominated selection of the Democratic party. Trump makes a short appearance when he talks with the man who is indicated as the kingmaker at the Republican convention. But, this is not to be.

The kingmaker, who is the majority whip of the party, turns to Julian Drake, a man that left politics 10 years prior to the story to raise his sister’s children.They had been made orphans due to the untimely deaths of their mother and father and it was felt that Drake on leaving politics missed a chance to possibly rise, even as far as the presidency. Drake is called upon to write the keynote speech for the whip and than is deviously forced into presenting it.

Drake does and moves the convention into the position of selecting him, an unknown, as it’s candidate. He wins the election and begins the process of changing the country over. The novel than becomes a recap of philosopher’s and politician’s thoughts from the past.

Buffa has turned his novel into a compendium of his own thoughts and feelings about what is best for the country. Without summarizing the ideas the reader, like it or not, is thrust into the past to learn about writings and thoughts of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. In addition to the actions and ideas of John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill, we learn about the political manipulations of Disraeli, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The scenario is that the world has completely moved away from the glorious past when great men were able to guide the populations into wholesome lives. The reader of this novel might like the idea of learning about Buffa’s political ideas, but if not it is going to be a tedious situation to plow through pages and pages of idealized philosophy. I finished the book because I felt an obligation to do so. But 1984 it is not.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE 45TH by D.W. Buffa. Polis Books (May 21, 2019). ISBN 978-1947993532. 308p.



May 16, 2019

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From the publisher:


What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

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. In the world McQuiston has created, America moved on from Barack Obama to a Latina woman president, continuing those almost forgotten themes of hope and change instead of the torrent of hate and divisiveness that we are currently living through. That definitely worked for me. And she’s from Texas!

I loved the family dynamics, both in the American first family and the British royal family. Alex and Henry both have siblings that are also their best friends, until they find each other. They also have Secret Service (and the British equivalent,) live in very large houses that actually belong to the people of their respective countries, and have been living a public life for years, especially Henry. Alex, at least, had his formative years in relative obscurity.

The royal family has been changed enough to make them unrecognizable yet thoroughly believable. Prince Henry is gay, and no one knows it or is allowed to know it. It is his responsibility to be the millennial face of the crown family, and, of course, to reproduce. Learning the machinations of the PR machines that drive both the royal family and the American presidency was fun and actually a little darker than I expected.

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. Feel free to comment.

This was a super fun summer read, and I can see why it made the LibraryReads list. It’s fantastical and idealistic and I loved it.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston. Griffin (May 14, 2019).  ISBN  978-1250316776. 432p.



THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang

May 15, 2019

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From the publisher:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Kiss Quotient comes a romantic novel about love that crosses international borders and all boundaries of the heart…

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

I loved Hoang’s first book, The Kiss Quotient, so much that it made my best books of 2018 list. It is entirely possible that this new one will end up on this year’s favorites list as well. It topped the LibraryReads list for May, and with very good reason.

Hoang has created a niche in the romance genre, or maybe even two; one of her protagonists is autistic, the other is of mixed race.

In this book, she switched things around so our hero is the one on the spectrum, and our heroine is half American, half Vietnamese. But Hoang takes it a step further and really delves into the immigrant experience in America.

Khai is a complex character, as is Esme and I love the character development, it definitely adds to the story and I couldn’t help but root for this couple. Even the secondary characters are interesting,  especially Khai’s mother and his brother. We don’t get to know much about Esme’s family as they are still in Vietnam, but we learn her backstory, about the poverty she grew up in and still lived in until this opportunity arose. Esme is no fool and she seizes every advantage to try and build a better life for her family, hopefully in America.

We know that Khai is very successful but I would have liked to learn a bit more about that. It is suggested that is very frugal which Esme takes for lack of funds, not understanding what is going on and frankly, neither did I. But that is just a minor quibble.

There are some really funny moments in this book, as well as some heartbreaking ones. It was an emotional read for me, and I know I won’t be forgetting these characters any time soon.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang. Berkley (May 7, 2019).  ISBN 978-0451490827. 320p.



LADIES WHO PUNCH by Ramin Setoodeh

May 14, 2019

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The Explosive Inside Story of “The View”

From the publisher:

Like Fire & Fury, the gossipy real-life soap opera behind a serious show.

When Barbara Walters launched The View, network executives told her that hosting it would tarnish her reputation. Instead, within ten years, she’d revolutionized morning TV and made household names of her co-hosts: Joy Behar, Star Jones, Meredith Vieira and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. But the daily chatfest didn’t just comment on the news. It became the news. And the headlines barely scratched the surface.

Based on unprecedented access, including stunning interviews with nearly every host, award-winning journalist Ramin Setoodeh takes you backstage where the stars really spoke their minds. Here’s the full story of how Star, then Rosie, then Whoopi tried to take over the show, while Barbara struggled to maintain control of it all, a modern-day Lear with her media-savvy daughters. You’ll read about how so many co-hosts had a tough time fitting in, suffered humiliations at the table, then pushed themselves away, feeling betrayed―one nearly quitting during a commercial. Meanwhile, the director was being driven insane, especially by Rosie.

Setoodeh uncovers the truth about Star’s weight loss and wedding madness. Rosie’s feud with Trump. Whoopi’s toxic relationship with Rosie. Barbara’s difficulty stepping away. Plus, all the unseen hugs, snubs, tears―and one dead rodent.

Ladies Who Punch shows why The View can be mimicked and mocked, but it can never be matched.

By the time I heard about this book, it was too late to get a digital galley, always my preference. I love reading on my Kindle or iPad, especially at night, because I don’t have to wear my reading glasses. By the end of the day I’m tired and I find glasses annoying at best. Anyway, I requested a review copy from the publisher and they were kind enough to send me a finished copy (hardcover) and much to my surprise, the book on CD.

I don’t listen to very many audio books because I find my mind wanders, but nonfiction I can do. I also used to have a ridiculously short (8 minute) commute to work. My new job is a 20 minutes commute which works much better for book length material. But then I was stumped by this 20th century technology. Did I have anywhere to even play a CD? I am all in on digital technology and love Audible and my library’s digital audio books. Much to my surprise, my car (2 years old) had a CD player in it. Who knew! So I decided to listen.

I was also trepidatious about the reader – the author reads the book and that is often a recipe for disaster. The best readers are professional, often actors, often famous actors, and know how to read to keep the listener’s attention. Most authors know how to read. Period. But Setoodeh did a really good job. He sounded just dishy enough to give the book the flavor he intended and I was pleasantly surprised. My only complaint was that disc 6 (out of 8) was defective, I had to wait to get the printed book back from my mother-in-law (who loved it, by the way) to read the bit I was missing. But all in all it was a very positive listening experience.

I am a long time fan of The View; I’ve watched it, off and on, for most of the 20+ years it’s been on. I was usually working when it aired, so I recorded it for many years, especially the Rosie-then-Whoopi-then-Rosie&Whoopi years. I’m not sure when I stopped but it’s been at least a few years I would say, so now I just catch it when I’m home, or occasionally when the ladies make the news and I can find clips on YouTube. So I definitely had opinions on the show and its hosts and was looking forward to reading all the dirt. Why not, life is short – you may as well have fun now and again!

The biggest takeaway for me was twofold; Barbara is an excellent liar and no one, not one single host, ever left on their own accord. They were all fired and Barbara, despite her protestations to the contrary, had a hand in most, if not all of them. Even Barbara’s retirement seemed somewhat sketchy to me. My take: it seemed like she was goaded into doing things that made her lose control of the show. Then she was coerced into retiring, which turned into a year long retirement extravaganza during which she reconsidered and did not want to retire. But retire she did. There were definite intimations of her frailty, both physical (her “shuffling”) and mental (memory loss.) I can’t feel too sorry for her though, her career was longer than almost anyone else in television except for maybe Tom Brokaw (and that’s just a guess.)

All that said, Barbara is given full credit, and rightly so, for creating a new daytime television dynamic, changing the landscape of daytime talk shows forever. The most obvious clone is “The Talk” but it seems to me all the daytime political shows, even the cable network shows like “Morning Joe” and Trump’s fave, “Fox and Friends”, all seem to have been gleaned from “The View.”

If you are/were a fan of “The View” you won’t want to miss this book. If you like celebrity gossip, the same. I enjoyed it.

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LADIES WHO PUNCH by Ramin Setoodeh.  Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1250112095. 336p.



Audio CD


May 12, 2019

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This is Pavone’s third published novel and the second with Kate Moore as the leading character. His theme, as were his previous two, is about citizens of one country living and working in another as overseas executives or agents or in some other representative capacity. These people make a life for themselves and family in a land foreign to them and do it consciously as a career choice.

As a definite plus to the novel, the author indicates that he set up a long term residence in Paris, explored the city, learned about the real life of the citizens and while there wrote a good part of the novel. His depiction of the city is better than any travel book might be.

Kate is actually the chief of station for a division of the CIA and runs a large group of operatives and agents while her husband Dexter makes investments. In what or how is left quite nebulous, but than again neither Kate nor Dexter really know what their partner is actually doing. A strange setup to believe is actually the case between a man and his wife.

A strange event galvanizes everyone. A man walks into a public square in Paris with a suitcase and reveals that he has a bomb attached to his vest which he can set off anytime he wants to. There are also threats of other bombers in action in other European cities. Kate must keep headquarters in the US advised of what is happening and at the same time muster the personnel she is in charge of to possibly help the French police deal with the threat.

In examining the situation, Kate comes to the realization that the bomb threats are really just scare tactics and are meant to cover up something else that is going on. If true, than what really going to happen and why? This is the real story being told and unfortunately leads the author into many over rapid descriptions of events and more than a little confusion on the part of the reader to follow the plot and events taking place. I felt that the overabundance of confusing parts detracted from what should have been a fascinating novel about a different world for most people. I would express the hope that Pavone would take this into account in his succeeding books.

5/19 Paul Lane

THE PARIS DIVERSION by Chris Pavone. Crown (May 7, 2019). ISBN 978-1524761509. 384p.




May 10, 2019

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Sheldon was a prolific writer of novels, plays, TV shows and motion pictures. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007, but his family made arrangements with Tilly Bagshawe, a British author and one with her own stellar reputation, to continue his legacy. She has already written several successful books under the joint name of both writers. The Silent Widow is her latest continuing the tradition of engrossing works in the style of Sidney Sheldon.

The beginning of the novel concerns a young woman that has traveled to Mexico to become the summer au pair of a wealthy family living in Mexico City. At a point ten years prior to the opening of the story, she disappears with no trace and cannot be found. In a decade from this event, a series of murders are committed in Los Angeles. Psychological examiner Nikki Roberts is seemingly involved with all of these since the deceased were her patients.

Nikki is going through her own set of trauma since her husband was killed in an auto accident and was at that point riding with a woman that fingers point to as her spouse’s lover. Nikki does a bit of background checking on the murders via hiring Private Detective Derek Williams, who coincidentally had worked on the missing girl’s case from ten years ago.

A good story is enhanced even further by bringing in ties to both the Mexican and Russian Mafias and their battle to take over the drug trade in Los Angeles. The permutations and complications of the factors involved keep the reader glued to the book trying to tie the loose ends together. Two policemen assigned to investigate the murders have ties to the events going on in addition to working to solve the crimes.

Action is the keynote from start to finish and the combination of Sheldon’s guidance and Bagshawe’s literary abilities make for a mesmerizing read guaranteed to make the reader returning for more. A well done book.

5/19 Paul Lane

SIDNEY SHELDON’S THE SILENT WIDOW by Tilly Bagshawe. Crooked Lane Books (May 7, 2019). ISBN 978-1643850931. 393p.