KILLER CHEF by James Patterson

February 19, 2017
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Contributor: Jeffrey J. Keyes

James Patterson is hands down the world’s most prolific, traditionally published, adult fiction author. I’ve read many of his early Alex Cross books, and it is my understanding that he stills writes those. I also read the first half dozen Women’s Murder Club books. But all the other books over the years, the Women’s Murder Club, Private, Michael Bennett series and most of the standalones carry another author’s name. I am not finding fault here, in fact Patterson has turned many midlist authors into international bestsellers, and that is a good thing. Another good thing is his new imprint, BookShots.

BookShots were conceived as a way to get people who don’t read to pick up a book. I pulled this from the BookShots website:

Welcome to BookShots by James Patterson. Life moves fast—books should too. Pulse-pounding thrillers under $5 and 150 pages or less. Impossible to put down. Read on any device. Visit BookShots.com

Last summer, Alexandra Alter wrote an interesting piece about it in the New York Times, and she said, “Mr. Patterson’s plan: make them shorter, cheaper, more plot-driven and more widely available.” The books are all less than 150 pages and less than $5. If he’s right, and so far it looks like he may be on to something, more people will be reading books, and that makes this librarian (and former bookseller) happy.

So I decided to try one out. Killer Chef is set in New Orleans where a serial killer is targeting upscale couples and somehow poisoning their dinners at different restaurants. But the Killer Chef is not the murderer; he is the detective in charge of solving the crime, who works a second job as a partner/chef of a food truck.

The story moves quickly, the hallmark of all James Patterson books. Likewise, the undeveloped characters and plot, also trademark Patterson, but it feels almost deliberate. The book is entertaining in the way of a mediocre TV show, which I think was kind of the point.

I have recommended these Bookshots to high school students through adults who are reluctant readers, and have gotten mixed feedback. But I really like the idea of these books, and there are already quite a few available, and in every genre from romance to mystery to sci-fi to thrillers.

Not sure what the difference between co-author and contributor is, but it doesn’t matter. It has the Patterson name on it and it will sell.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KILLER CHEF by James Patterson. BookShots (November 1, 2016).  ISBN 978-0316317245. 144p.

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THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL by Billy Collins

February 18, 2017
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Poems

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has a new book of poetry and I couldn’t be happier. I got to chat with him a bit last summer at the American Library Association annual conference and he was as charming as ever.

I’ve loved his poetry for a long time, and when the Palm Beach Poetry Festival got going, 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.

Here is a clip of Billy reading three of these poems on A Prairie Home Companion:

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. Some of my favorites…

“Lucky Cats” begins:

It’s a law as immutable as the ones
governing bodies in motion and bodies at rest
that a cat picked up will never stay
in the place where you choose to set it down.

So true!

I have felt this sensation when traveling but have never been able to express it as succinctly and beautifully as this, from “Bashō in Ireland”:

The sensation of being homesick
for a place that is not my home
while being right in the middle of it

“Early Morning” made me laugh out loud. Another cat poem, it begins:

I don’t know which cat is responsible
for destroying my Voter Registration Card
so I decide to lecture the two of them
on the sanctity of private property,
the rules of nighttime comportment in general,
and while I’m at it, the importance
of voting to an enlightened citizenship.

“Speed Walking on August 31, 2013” was written as a memorial for the brilliant Seamus Heaney (if you haven’t read his translation of Beowulf, do yourself a favor and get it – this illustrated edition is spectacular.) That was followed by “December 1” which is a poem celebrating what would have been Billy’s mother’s birthday:

If my mother were alive,
she’d be 114 years old,
and I am guessing neither of us
would be enjoying her birthday very much.

This poem reminded me of my mother and my loss and made me cry.

turkey-vegetable-platterI sent my son the poem “Thanksgiving” because he spent this past holiday with his girlfriend’s family in Chicago and sent me a picture of this beautiful vegetable platter laid out to look like a turkey. I’d seen pictures online (like this one) but hadn’t known anyone who actually went to all that trouble, and here Billy gently poked fun. He reads it in the YouTube video above.

Poetry is such a personal thing – I will end with a poem (that Billy reads in the video) so you can decide for yourself if you want to read more. I hope you do.

On Rhyme

It’s possible that a stitch in time
might save as many as twelve or as few as three,
and I have no trouble remembering
that September has thirty days.
So do June, November, and April.

I like a cat wearing a chapeau or a trilby,
Little Jack Horner sitting on a sofa,
old men who are not from Nantucket,
and how life can seem almost unreal
when you are gently rowing a boat down a stream.

That’s why instead of recalling today
that it mostly pours in Spain,
I am going to picture the rain in Portugal,
how it falls on the hillside vineyards,
on the surface of the deep harbors

where fishing boats are swaying,
and in the narrow alleys of the cities
where three boys in tee shirts
are kicking a soccer ball in the rain,
ignoring the window-cries of their mothers.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL by Billy Collins. Random House; 1St Edition edition (October 4, 2016). ISBN 978-0679644064. 128p.

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PASTA WARS by Elisa Lorello

February 17, 2017
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Whoever said you can’t judge a book by its cover didn’t mean this book – I just couldn’t resist the title or the cute cover, and it lived up to both.

After a slowish start where we learn Long Islander Katie Cravens is craving more than she already has – the big house in Dix Hills (where I went to high school,) the career of a lifetime as CEO of Pasta Pronto, a frozen diet food company, and the engagement to the perfect man – it picks up steam. Steamy steam, if you know what I mean.

The oh-so-perfect life isn’t. Perfect man is cheating on her in their own bed (yuck) and Katie’s company is having some financial troubles. Enter the Caramelli family of Italian restaurant fame.

Luca Caramelli is the super hot but temperamental chef and his twin sister runs the company and they are hurting. A joint venture will help both their bottom lines and Katie dumps her cheating fiance and jets off to Rome.

Lots of conflict, heated glances and eventually some hot sex keep the pages turning until the deal is struck. Publicity is called for and a televised “pasta war” should do the trick – can CEO Katie outcook the hot Italian? And how will that affect the business merger, not to mention their personal merger?

You must read to learn all, but it’s a lot of fun getting there. (Skip if you’re carb free, this book will kill you!)

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

PASTA WARS by Elisa Lorello. Adaptive Books (January 17, 2017). ISBN 978-0996488754. 256p.


ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE by Jill Shalvis

February 16, 2017
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Heartbreaker Bay #3

Archer met Elle when she was a teenager and got caught in a drug sting. He hustled her out of there, blew his cover and ended up quitting the police force. Over the years he kept tabs on the troubled teen, watching her grow into a strong, beautiful woman. He even helped get her the dream job – managing an office building where Archer runs security.

Forced to work together, the heat that comes off these two scorch everyone in sight, but they are both stubborn and refuse to give in to their mutual attraction. But when Elle tries to date, Archer keeps interfering until finally they get together.

That doesn’t mean they will have anything more than a physical relationship – or does it?

I’ve really enjoyed this series, and I believe this book ends it. But I’m sure Jill Shalvis will keep on writing and I look forward to whatever comes next.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE by Jill Shalvis. Avon (January 24, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062660138. 272p.

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MIRACLE ON 5TH AVENUE by Sarah Morgan

February 15, 2017
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From Manhattan With Love Series, Book 3

I am sad to say this is the last book in this series. I read the first book, Sleepless in Manhattan, so I was all excited when I got this one. But then I realized I missed book 2, Sunset in Central Park – but I reserved it at my library so I have something to look forward to.

This series is about three women, best friends who get downsized from their jobs and form their own company, a sort of concierge service for Manhattanites, called Urban Genie. Each book centers around one of the women. Miracle is about Eva Jordan.

Eva is a chef and events planner for the company. One of their regulars, an elderly woman named Mitzy, asks Eva to go to her grandson, Lucas Blade’s apartment, fill the freezer with some home cooked meals, and decorate for Christmas while he is busy working in Vermont. Eva is happy to help and plans on spending the weekend at his apartment to get it all taken care of. Except when she gets there, she is assaulted.

Eva finds herself dialing 911 while an intruder has her pinned to the floor. When the cops (and the doorman) show up, she quickly learns that she is the intruder. The man who has her pinned is Lucas.

Lucas is suffering from a severe case of writers’ block. A best selling thriller/horror writer, he lost his wife in an icy accident a few years earlier and hasn’t really recovered. He is hiding out in his apartment and no one knows he’s there until Eva shows up. She is determined to complete the job she was hired to do, and reluctantly Lucas allows it so he won’t have to tell his grandmother he is really in town.

Turns out that Eva is more than just a great cook and holiday decorator, she also becomes Lucas’s muse, and he is on a tight deadline. After an argument, Eva walks out but he hires her back, paying her company enough money to keep them in the black for the following year, so she feels she doesn’t have a choice.

There is quite a bit of sexual tension between them, which both are trying to ignore until they cannot. Eva is a romantic and Lucas is too hurt to even think about marriage again, so they are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Until they’re not.

As a thriller reader and fan, I know a lot of thriller writers and can definitely see some characteristics here. I loved these characters and how they interacted.

Treat yourself to this red hot romance this Valentine’s Day!

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MIRACLE ON 5TH AVENUE by Sarah Morgan. HQN Books (November 29, 2016). ISBN 978-0373789344. 384p.

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FOOD, HEALTH & HAPPINESS by Oprah Winfrey

February 13, 2017

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115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

So as every dieter in America probably knows, Oprah bought a chunk of Weight Watchers and is selling the diet like crazy. This cookbook (that has no other name on it!) is the 2017 early entry in the diet cookbook market.

This is part memoir, part cookbook with charming handwritten notes strewn throughout. Oh, and Weight Watcher points attached to every recipe.

There are a wide variety of recipes, from several soups including tomato, Mulligatawny and Turkey Chili to fun things like Skinny Cornbread and Art Smith’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken. There’s even a version of Daniel Boulud’s famous potato crusted sea bass; in Oprah’s world, Daniel isn’t mentioned but then again that’s not unusual.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: When I know Better, I do Better
Soup is Love
What are You Really Hungry For?
The Faith of a Mustard Seed
A World of Possibility
A Healthy Indulgence
Greens, Glorious Greens
Epilogue: Finding a New Path on My Journey With Food
A note about Weight Watchers SmartPoints
Meet the Chefs*

*So this was my ah-ha moment! Oprah is known for many things but cooking is not one of them. So while she is listed as the only author, and none of the recipes would lead you to think anyone other than Oprah created them, this page near the very back of the book, Meet the Chefs, tell a slightly different story. So let’s meet them:

Eduardo Chavez (sexy drinks)
Rosie Daley (previous author of another Oprah diet cookbook and contributor of the Peppered Tuna recipe)
Taryn Huebner (Turkey Burger)
Mei Lin (Top Chef winner and Turkey Lasagna recipe)
Art Smith (Unfried Chicken & Fried Chicken)
Sonny Sweetman (Halibut a la Grecque)

And that’s all the credit anyone is given, which irritates me just the tiniest bit. But I digress.

The recipes are all interesting and mostly healthy. Along the bottom of each recipe is the prep time, cook time, number of servings, the Weight Watchers smart points, and calories, making it easy to figure out whether or not you want to make something.

The best part of the book, to me, is the personal stuff. The pictures of Oprah and her family and friends, especially sitting around the table, and all her handwritten comments (in teacher perfect handwriting?) make this book worth buying. The healthy recipes are a nice bonus.

oprah-pasta-primavera

 

oprah-red-pepper-sausage-fennel-soup

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOOD, HEALTH & HAPPINESS by Oprah Winfrey. Flatiron Books; 1 edition (January 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1250126535. 240p.


SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN by Eloisa James

February 11, 2017
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Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers, #3; Desperate Duchesses, #9 

Eugenia Snowe runs the most exclusive agency in London for governesses. There are waiting lists for her services, and she only places her governesses with the best families. So when Edward Reeve bursts into her office, demanding a governess, she tries to show him out but he’s not leaving.

He’s also gorgeous and one of the richest men in London, despite not having a title as he’s a byblow. But his half sister and brother are titled, and orphaned, and in desperate need of a governess since he is now their legal guardian.

Ward, as he is affectionately known, isn’t taking no for an answer. He plays on her sympathies and soon finds himself with a Snowe governess, but she isn’t working out. He also finds himself starting a correspondence with the beautiful Mrs. Snowe.

Eugenia has been widowed for years and never even thought about another man. Until she is pursued by the brilliant Ward. He proposes an affair but Eugenia falls in love. All Ward is concerned with is making sure his half siblings have the best possible start in life, and because he hasn’t socialized with the gentry, he has no idea who she is, other than perhaps a former governess.

Another terrific read from one of my favorite authors.

 

2/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

Avon (January 31, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062389459. 432p.

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BREATHLESS by Beverly Jenkins

February 9, 2017
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Old West Series, Book 2

As my regular readers know, I haven’t been reading romance, at least historical romance, for very long, just a few years or so. But as a librarian, I know how popular it is and wanted to learn more about the genre. To that end, I showed a documentary at my library that was put out by the Romance Writers of America called Love Between the Covers. It’s available for streaming from Amazon Prime and Netflix and probably other places, too, and if you have any interest in romance novels, I highly recommend it. I found it fascinating.

Many of the my favorite authors were featured, along with one I had never heard of: Beverly Jenkins. According to Wikipedia, she is an African American author “of historical and contemporary romance novels with a particular focus on 19th century African-American life. Jenkins was a 2013 NAACP Image Award nominee and, in 1999, was voted one of the Top 50 Favorite African-American writers of the 20th century by the African American Literature Book Club. Jenkins’s historical romances are set during a period of African-American history that she believes is often overlooked. This made it difficult to break into publishing because publishers weren’t sure what to do with stories that involved African-Americans but not slavery.”

So a very interesting time period indeed, one I certainly knew nothing about. Breathless is set in the Arizona territory, and the main character, Portia Carmichael, manages an upscale hotel for the aunt and uncle who took her and her sister in. Portia’s mother was a whore who sent her children away when they got in the way of her business. Because of her childhood, Portia has a strong fear of men, which she gradually got over as she lived with her new family.

But she’s not all the way there yet – Portia loves her job and her home and never wants to marry. She can’t understand her younger sister’s constant flirting either. Until Kent Randolph shows up at the hotel.

Kent is an old friend of the family, and Portia hasn’t seen him since she was a girl, when he nicknamed her “Duchess.” He has been drifting for years, and is smitten the minute he sees Portia. As they get to know one another again, they both fall hard and Portia is confused, to say the least. Kent is getting past all her barriers and she his.

There are some interesting problems that crop up and I feel like I really learned a few things about the American west and black culture of the time. But it was the romance that got me!

An interesting romance for sure, but with all the requisite passion and troubles along the way to the happy ending.

2/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

BREATHLESS by Beverly Jenkins. Avon (January 31, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062389022. 384p.


RUSH OF BLOOD by Mark Billingham

February 6, 2017
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Billingham publishes a standalone novel about murder in both the United States and England. It first came out as a paperback, and is now being released as a hardcover.

The plot involves three initially unconnected British couples that meet at a pool in their vacation hotel in Florida. They become fast friends and enjoy the respite offered by time lounging away from pressures in their daily life.

The vacation is spoiled, however, by the disappearance of a young girl during their last day in the sun. Her body is discovered hidden in the mangroves close by.

The couples return to their homes and to the normality of work while thinking back about the horror of the murder occurring while they were vacationing. They decide to try and keep their new friendship alive by meeting at each of their homes for dinner.

The three dinners integral to the story bring out flaws and defects in their individual characters not seen during the relaxed atmosphere of their vacation. Also the investigation of the murder in Florida continues with the police in London doing interviews of the six vacationers and reporting the details to the U.S. authorities reviewing the crime.

A murder takes place in the area that the couples live in with details coinciding with the one in Florida. It is a young girl with a mental defect about the same age as the American crime victim. The combination of the effort in both England and the U.S. brings the murders close to a solution with attention focused on vacationers from the U.K. vacationing or traveling to Florida during the period of the first killing. An unexpected ending is logical and well done bringing the mysteries to a close.

I have enjoyed Mark Billingham’s novels in the past, like this one, but have one overall observation. The pace is slower than it should be, the characters just there but two dimensional. I read the book slowly not being led into any all nighter, but certainly did not toss it aside as uninteresting. This observation will not stop me, nor, I feel, other readers from seeking out future novels by the author.

2/17 Paul Lane

RUSH OF BLOOD by Mark Billingham. Atlantic Monthly Press (February 7, 2017).  ISBN 978-0802125910. 480p.

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IF I ONLY HAD A DUKE by Lenora Bell

February 4, 2017

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The Disgraceful Dukes, Book 2  

Once again I start a series in the middle – literally – this is book 2 of a trilogy.

Lady Dorothea Beaumont is an only child whose mother has spent a lifetime training her to marry up. But Dorothea’s first three seasons were a disaster and she’s not at all sad about it. In fact, she spent a summer with her maiden aunt in Ireland and loved it. Her plan is to move in with her aunt and enjoy her freedom. Her mother, on the other hand, has other plans.

Dorothea is dragged out once again to a ball where Dalton, Duke of Osborne, asks her to dance. The Duke is the most eligible bachelor and hardest to pin down, so his selecting Thea for the first dance makes her immediately and eminently marriageable. Her parents are delighted, but Thea is not – instead, she runs away to the Duke, demanding he take her to Ireland and save her from marriage to an old duke. Feeling somewhat guilty, he agrees and they hit the road.

Adventures abound, not to mention love and sex. This was a fast, fun read and I hope I can find the other books in this series.

2/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

IF I ONLY HAD A DUKE by Lenora Bell. Avon (August 30, 2016). ISBN: 978-0062397744. 384p.

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