Nonfiction Reviews: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

6-DAY BODY MAKEOVER: Drop One Whole Dress or Pant Size in Just 6 Days–and Keep It Off by Michael Thurmond: Remember the Grapefruit Diet? The Hardboiled Egg Diet? Any fad diet that makes you drop weight quickly but is unsustainable for more than a few days? This is the newest entry into the marketplace of fast weight loss. Thurmond is known for his 6 Week Body Makeover, which emphasizes an exercise routine and diet based on your body type. So does this new book, but with a more restrictive diet. The idea is that you can jumpstart your weight loss by, in my case, eating nothing but fresh tuna and distilled water for six days. Different body types get different foods, but this is not a diet I would dare show my doctor. Still, if you are looking to drop a few pounds for a special occasion, and won’t mind gaining it back the day after, it probably won’t kill you. But don’t hold me to that. 05/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch.

52 PROJECTS: RANDOM ACTS OF EVERYDAY CREATIVITY by Jeffrey Yamaguchi: This is a wonderful little book from the creator of http://www.52projects.com website. Everyone has a creative streak and some of us are better than others at bringing it out. This little book has positive ideas to get the creative juices flowing. The first half of the book talks about why these projects are so important, how they work and why you should try them when you need some added inspiration. Then there are the 52 projects which range from writing assignments, photography and other artistic suggestions, and lots of fun, really different ideas like #2, “Find a Recipe for Key Lime Pie.” Now I live in south Florida so I know that there are more recipes for Key Lime Pie than you would think – but it doesn’t stop with just finding the recipe. Then it’s baking it, inviting friends over to eat it, taking pictures of the party and so on. Or #14, “Write down the lyrics to your favorite songs.” Or #50, “Go to the library” with additional suggestions of what to do when you get there. This book makes the perfect graduation gift, a nice little gift for no reason at all (my favorite kind of gift) for any of your creative friends. 06/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich: Mezrich, author of Bringing Down the House which became the film, 21, takes on the founders of Facebook – without even talking to one of them. This is purportedly nonfiction, but let’s call it creative nonfiction, and the bottom line is that it’s a fascinating, fun read. Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin met at Harvard as undergrads and became fast friends. They had a lot in common, they were both social outcasts yet brilliant in math. Zuckerberg gets the idea to hack into the school’s computer system and create a database for the male students to rate the female students. He almost crashed Harvard’s computer system in the process but they didn’t kick him out of school for it. That idea was the baby that grew up to become Facebook. Zuckerberg is the bad guy here, the one who created Facebook by stealing ideas from his friends and not paying anyone back. There is great irony in the founder of a social networking site alienating his friends in the process, and the ‘betrayal’ in the subtitle rests at his door. It’s also interesting that a social networking site was started by two guys who were socially inept, and even more interesting that Zuckerberg refused to talk to the author. What to believe? Who knows, but nonetheless, it’s a good story. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AGAINST MEDICAL ADVICE: ONE FAMILY’S STRUGGLE WITH AN AGONIZING MEDICAL MYSTERY, by James Patterson & Hal Friedman: Cory Friedman was a typical five year old boy. That is, until he wakes up one morning with an urgent need to shake his head. This need is just the beginning of years of uncontrollable ticks, verbal utterances, and other unmanageable behavior. Cory is ultimately diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. AGAINST MEDICAL ADVICE is a story told by Cory Friedman and his father, Hal. The reader gets an inside look at the living hell that this family went through in the thirteen years it took to “control” this illness. Cory was put on so many types of medications, they were soon unable to determine if the tics and other problems he was having was a result of the Tourette’s or of the medicine he was on. Nothing appeared to help; Cory’s symptoms just got worse. This is an honest, heart wrenching tale of Cory’s torment. Cory was willing to share this misery with others, in the hopes that someone with the same condition might gain something from this. I can’t say enough about how amazing this book is. I believe that this tale of perseverance, dedication, and love, would be beneficial to any family undergoing any sort of medical or behavioral problem. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ALONG THE FLORIDA TRAIL by Bart Smith & Sandra Friend: Most people have heard of the Appalachian Trail (especially lately) but not too many are familiar with the Florida National Scenic Trail. It runs more than 1500 miles from the Everglades at the southern end of the state, through Pensacola up in the Florida Panhandle. While there aren’t any majestic mountains, there are flora and fauna unique to Florida, and while bears aren’t usually a problem, there are alligators and the endangered Florida panther. Friend spent five months hiking the trail to create this beautiful book that captures a part of Florida most tourists – and many residents – never get to see. 07/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show: Presented as a textbook (perhaps “faux textbook” would be more appropriate) it is entertaining and educational. Stewart has a way of pointing out the obvious; in chapter five, The Judicial System, the following discussion question is asked (p.101): “How many of the nine Supreme Court justices can you name? How many of the nine members of The Brady Bunch can you name? What does that say about you?” A lot of laughs and a lot of good points made. A really good book – and Publishers Weekly’s Book of the Year, deservedly so. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AMERICAN BAND: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland by Kristen Laine: Anyone who’s ever been in marching band, or has a child in marching band, will want to read this intimate look at the Marching Minutemen of Concord High School, in Elkhart, Indiana. Laine spent a year with these kids and really got to know them, and their band director. I found all the band stuff fascinating because my only experience with marching band was when my daughter started high school last year, so it’s interesting to see a different perspective. The other major theme of the book is the strong emphasis on the Christianity of the band members. Frankly, I found it a bit unsettling as I am a staunch believer in the separation of church and state, and it also bored me, thus making the book more difficult for me to read and I found myself skimming at times. But despite that, the band stuff is interesting enough and unusual enough that I still have to recommend it anyway. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AMERICAN IDOL: THE UNTOLD STORY by Richard Rushfield: I admit I’m a fan, and frankly this book is not going to appeal to anyone who isn’t. The “untold story” is pretty much a rehash of all the goings on and gossip since the show’s inception, along with some background on Simon Fuller and how the show got to America. For fans it is part nostalgia, part explanation for some mistakes made along the way, but mostly confirmation of what we already know. Paula Abdul was the star power at the show’s inception but we all know who became the real star. I had forgotten a lot of this, like the two co-hosts the first year, and this book brought it all back along with some smiles, laughter and even a tear or two. With all the changes the show has gone through, especially this year, I found this book to be a fitting ending to the American Idol era. With Simon gone, the show just isn’t the same. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AMERICAN JOURNEY OF BARACK OBAMA by the editors of LIFE Magazine: This is a beautiful coffee table book just in time for the holidays. Learn about our new President-elect via candid pictures and posed shots from the campaign, as well as family photos of Barack, Michelle and the girls, along with a forward by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and essays written by some incredible writers – Gay Talese, Andrei Codrescu, Fay Weldon and others. A wonderful gift for any Obama supporter – I know I’ll treasure this book. 11/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AMERICAN ON PURPOSE: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Tourist by Craig Fergusun: Who would expect a tough guy growing up in Scotland would dream of becoming an astronaut and an American citizen? He may have given up on the first dream, but he proudly fulfilled the second, becoming an American citizen in 2008. Shortly after that momentous occasion, he was invited to host the Washington Correspondents dinner, where he admits that was when he realized that he probably watches too much MSNBC. When he met President George W. Bush backstage before the dinner, he was expecting a “drooling moron.” Instead, he found Bush affable and chatty. Fergusun’s memoir is a delicious read, especially if you like his brand of humor, which I do. He admits to his drinking and drug problems, attempted suicide stopped only by the offer of another drink, and voices his opinion on a wide variety of topics, like why he avoids strip clubs: “If I was inclined to seek the company of a bunch of angry drunk women who hated me, wanted all my money, and were determined to tease me but not have sex with me, I would just open a bar in Edinburgh.” A comfortable, funny and patriotic read. 10/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp: Kingsolver has been an advocate of eating locally grown food for some time, and was able to put her beliefs into practice when she moved to a farm in Virginia. She spent a year eating only the foods they grew on her farm or that were grown in a hundred mile radius as much as possible, and wrote this fascinating book about that experience. Her husband, Steven Hopp, and daughter Camille also contributed. When people ask if she didn’t get tired of eating the same things all the time, Kingsolver gently points out that every month grows a new menu. They weren’t sure if their pantry would get them through the winter, but it did, although March was a tough month. My favorite part of the book was about the turkeys they raised. Apparently turkeys have been artificially inseminated for decades, but these turkeys were being raised by hand and Kingsolver wanted them to reproduce the old fashioned way. She finally found some information on turkey breeding au natural in an antique farming book, and her female turkeys soon gave up coming on to Steven and instead set their sights on the Tom turkey. What I liked about this book was Kingsolver’s tone; on rare occasion almost preachy, but for the most part just passionate, informative and often funny. Anyone with an interest in how and why we eat what we do should take a look at this book, which was most reminiscent of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. There’s also a website with lots of pictures and recipes: http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/ 06/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF EATING IN by Cathy Erway: Foodies and fans of Cathy Erway’s Not Eating Out in New York blog will enjoy this companion book to her not eating out efforts that began in 2006. At 26, Erway, like so many of us, realized that her income could not support her eating out habits. Instead, she would use her love of food and cooking to prepare inventive and usually cost-efficient meals in her own kitchen. For two years, she followed a strict regimen of not eating out and discovered some interesting things about herself and New York food movements, blogging about it all the while. The Art of Eating In is a sort of behind the scenes look at those two years; a foodie memoir and a look at the New York food scene from another perspective. Erway’s story makes for some pretty entertaining and inspiring reading—you’d be hard-pressed not to want to try No Knead Bread or some of the other dishes she talks about in her book. I won’t be embracing all of Erway’s experiments in food, menudo as a hangover cure and the more out there underground food movements being a few, but I enjoyed reading about her forays into the various ins and outs of not eating out in the big city. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

ART OF THE CHOPPER by Tom Zimberoff: Motorcycles have always been hot and TV shows like American Chopper have revved up the heat even more. Tom Zimberoff is a photographer who is best known for his shots of rock ‘n roll stars like the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and many others. But he’s turned his lens to one-of-a-kind bikes and these pictures are just incredible. This is a beautiful coffee table book, high quality paper and gorgeous photos of the motorcycle as art. Put this on the top of your gift list for any chopper fan. 09/05

ASIAN DINING RULES: Essential Strategies for Eating Out at Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Korean, and Indian Restaurants by Steven A. Shaw: Steven Shaw is a New York Jew, which automatically makes him something of an expert on Chinese food at least. He’s also a serious foodie and a restaurant critic, and has crisscrossed the continent in search of the best in Asian food. He shares what he learns in this eminently readable and educational guide to Asian dining. He espouses befriending the sushi chef, and actually making yourself a regular at most restaurants to get the best food and best dining experience for the buck. He carefully explains the confusing items on various Asian menus, and tips us to always ask for all the menus, especially at Chinese restaurants. Apparently there often is a menu for tourists, i.e. Caucasians, and another, better menu for Chinese. He warns Japanese-Americans not to attempt to speak Japanese at a sushi bar unless you are fluent among other helpful hints. He also includes some history about the various Asian cuisines, how they came to America and why, as well as why some have not, like Filipino restaurants, despite there being more Filipinos in this country than almost any other Asian immigrants or descendents. A fascinating and fun read, especially if you love Asian cuisine or are at least curious about it. 11/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AN ATHEIST IN THE FOXHOLE: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media by Joe Muto: Let’s start this by saying I am not a fan of Fox news and that I watch MSNBC regularly, so this book seemed right in my wheelhouse. I wasn’t really planning on reading it, just wanted to take a look at it, maybe skim a bit. I started at the beginning and that was it, I was hooked. Muto was fired from Fox because he was a mole, leaking Fox-damaging video to Gawker. But he’s also a good writer, and the conversational tone he uses is captivating, rather like hanging out in a bar with a friend and hearing his great story about how he was fired from this job that he both loved and hated. He gets in plenty of shots at Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and the rest of the Fox gang but also points out their good points; well, at least O’Reilly’s good points. He has a grudging respect for O’Reilly, claiming that if anyone at Fox news is “fair and balanced,” Bill comes closest, at least for a guy who is basically conservative. Most shocking revelation of the book was that Ann Coulter is a nice person when not on camera making her bizarre accusations and crazy statements of “fact,” a ploy she uses, quite successfully, to get her books on the bestseller lists. All in all, it was a very interesting book about how a show is produced at Fox news with some good gossip thrown in. This was fast reading, and a lot of fun. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AUDITION by Barbara Walters: I’m not usually celebrity happy, but I doubt you’d find any woman of my generation that doesn’t have at least a passing curiosity and some respect for this woman who has broken more glass ceilings than just about anyone in television. Walters has led, some would say, a charmed life, and in this memoir, she shares some of the bad along with the spectacular good to help put her life into a more realistic vision for her fans. It is remarkably readable, especially considering it is a doorstopper of a book with very few pictures, but let’s face it, the woman has lots to talk about. Besides her own history, she made history with her interviews of most of the world leaders of the 20th & 21st centuries, not to mention her popular celebrity interviews. A surprising fast, fascinating read. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BAD DOGS HAVE MORE FUN: Selected Writings on Family, Animals, and Life by John Grogan for The Philadelphia Inquirer by John Grogan: This follow up to the phenomenon known as Marley & Me seeks to capitalize on that success with this collection of Grogan’s columns that have run in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Some are sweet, some are funny, some are sad, and all will tug at the heartstrings and are worthwhile reading, but the magic of Marley & Me is missing here. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEATEN, SEARED AND SAUCED: ON BECOMING A CHEF AT THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA by Jonathan Dixon: As an avid fan of Top Chef and the Food Network, I’ve always been curious about the process chefs go through to get where they are. Not all chefs go to cooking school, but the CIA has its fair share of superstar chef graduates. Their alumni include some of the most recognizable names in food world, including Duff Goldman, John Besh, Cat Cora, Anne Burrell, Sara Moulton, and Scott Conant. But it was Michael Ruhlman, I think, that was the influence here. Ruhlman is called an “honorary” graduate of the CIA because he stayed long enough to write his engaging book, The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America, which frankly, is the better book. But Dixon’s experience was different because although he says he really did want to cook, he is a writer and this book is the dish he’s chosen to serve. It’s an exhausting, difficult process and I’m sure the dropout rate is high. The final course is on wine, and included an 800 page textbook that the students were basically supposed to not only memorize, but then apply during blind tastings. Don’t be expecting any recipes here, although there are a few tips sprinkled throughout the book. It is an interesting book for foodies, and a must read for anyone contemplating cooking school. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEHIND THE MYSTERY: TOP MYSTERY WRITERS INTERVIEWED by Stuart M. Kaminsky, photographs by Laurie Roberts: A must have for any mystery lover, this is a fascinating picture book of interviews with many of today’s most popular authors. The list is memorable and includes: Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, Tony Hillerman, the late Evan Hunter, John Jakes, Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, Elmore Leonard, Sara Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Ann Rule, Lisa Scottoline, Martin Cruz Smith, Mickey Spillane, Joseph Wambaugh, and Donald Westlake. The interviews are interesting and personal, as are the candid photographs; they are taken at either the authors’ homes or Kaminsky’s home. The authors featured are all friends with Kaminsky, lending an insiders’ glimpse into the lives of those more mysterious to readers than the fictional worlds they create. My only complaint: a book like this should have been printed on better paper. The quality is acceptable but this is a very special book and deserved more. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BIKER’S HANDBOOK: BECOMING PART OF THE MOTORCYCLE CULTURE by Jay Barbieri: Barbieri is the TV producer of American Thunder on the SPEED channel, which I’ve never seen as I don’t think I get that channel. But I did like this book which is light, fun, and full of pictures as well as information. Helpful hints abound like if you have to fly to a bike rally and ship your bike, never admit it. Jay tells you what you need to pack for road trips and how to load a bike, offers some of his favorite places to ride (the Badlands among others) along with lots of great stories about all aspects of biking including Daytona Bike Week and why you should never, ever refer to motorcycle clubs as “gangs.” It is a great gift for the biker in your life – but only if they love Harleys. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
BILLY COLLINS LIVE: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space by Billy Collins: I love poetry. And Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, is one of my favorites, especially when he is doing the reading. This book on CD is almost as good as attending a reading. Introduced by Bill Murray, Collins reads some new and some old favorites, then takes some questions from the audience. My 13 year old daughter, who delights in torturing me by telling me how much she hates poetry, became a captive prisoner in the back seat of my car on her rides to and from school while I played this CD. The first poem she heard was “The Lanyard”, a sweet, nostalgic and laugh out loud funny poem about that childhood arts & crafts artifact. Collins talks about how he made his mother a lanyard at camp and how that evened the playing field between them:

“Here are thousands of meals” she said,
“and here is clothing and a good education.”
“And here is your lanyard,” I replied,
“which I made with a little help from a counselor.”

Collins has made a poetry lover out of my daughter. What more of a recommendation could anyone hope for? 09/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BILLY JOEL: The Life & Times of an Angry Young Man by Hank Bordowitz: As a long time fan of Billy Joel, I really enjoyed this bio of the boy from Long Island who made good. But if I wasn’t a fan, as an objective book reviewer I would have to say that it left much to be desired. There wasn’t really anything new here, most of the anecdotes were gleaned from newspaper & magazine accounts and interviews with some old friends, but it seemed like I heard most of it before, and it was also fairly repetitious. Even the pictures were a bit of a disappointment, again there was nothing new there but I guess all that was to be expected as this book did not have the cooperation of its subject. In fact, Joel wasn’t even interviewed. I appreciated reading about the history of the some of the songs – who they were written for, the hows & whys were fascinating. But the book focuses most closely on his early life and the past ten years are so are just rushed through. A good book for any Billy Joel fan, but probably not so good for anyone else. 11/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BITCHFEST edited by Lisa Jervis & Andi Zeisler: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine: I’m not sure why, but I am fascinated by all things called “Bitch”. I recently tried an Australian wine with a lovely, pale pink label with the word “Bitch” embossed in a fancy script. The back label was even more extraordinary – it basically has the word “bitch” repeated for several rows before advising that life’s a bitch then you drink some more. And the wine – a lovely Grenache – was surprisingly good. So when I heard there was a forthcoming book called Bitchfest, well, I simply had to read it. It’s a terrific collection of essays on a variety of subjects from “Hitting Puberty” to “The F Word” to “Beauty Myths and Body Projects” to “Talking Back: Activism and Pop Culture.” While there are several writers represented, the viewpoint is pro-feminist and outspoken. A few of the pieces really struck a chord with me and were especially memorable: “I Kissed a Girl: The Evolution of the Prime-Time Lesbian Clinch” by Diane Anderson; “Teen Mean Fighting Machine: Why does the Media Love Mean Girls” by Gabrille Moss; “Double Life: Everyone Wants to See Your Breasts – Until Your Baby Needs Them: by Lisa Moricoli Latham and how can you not love a piece entitled, “Plastic Passion: Tori Spelling’s Breasts and Other Results of Cosmetic Darwinism” by Andi Zeisler. Buy this book to soothe your feminist soul and share it with a friend. 09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Black Cloud: The Great Florida Storm of 1928 by Eliot Kleinberg: I recently had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Kleinberg speak about his new book at Borders. It was standing room only and with good reason – this is a fascinating story and Kleinberg is a hell of a storyteller. I immediately went home and started reading, and couldn’t stop until I turned the last page. This unnamed hurricane is the second worst natural disaster in American history, after the Galveston hurricane (Isaac’s Storm,) yet it has been pretty much forgotten. Kleinberg, along with Robert Mykle, who wrote a book about it last year called Killer ‘Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928, are determined to change that.

Over 2500 lives were lost, and that is just an estimate. Black Cloud not only covers the storm, it also covers the historical significance of it. Sixty something white bodies were buried in the cemetery in West Palm Beach. Almost 700 bodies of African Americans were buried in a mass grave in a potters field that was left unmarked for 73 years. Even more disturbing was the fact that who knows how many more African American bodies were simply burned, leaving a black cloud hanging over the ‘Glades (and giving Kleinberg his title.) His research was exhaustive. There are still survivors of the storm living in the area that were available to be interviewed and their stories are simply heartbreaking. It’s a story that needed to be told, and is told well. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton: I listened to the audio book version, read by the author who did a fantastic job. Hamilton is not only a chef, she is a gifted writer with an M.F.A. in fiction writing to prove it. This book is her story, of growing up with a French mother and a father who took to roasting whole lambs at their back yard barbeques. When they split up, Gabrielle was set adrift and ended up working in restaurants, lying about her age. She got into drugs, embezzlement and a host of other decidedly un-chef-life behaviors that make for a fabulous, fascinating story. She ended up with an Italian husband and her own restaurant, Prune, in New York City, where people wait for hours every Sunday for her brunch and quietly make fun of the readers who now flock to their neighborhood mecca. I have reservations for later this month. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLOOD, BONES AND BUTTER: THE INADVERTENT EDUCATION OF A RELUCTANT CHEF by Gabrielle Hamilton: Within just a few lines of beginning Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter, her intense passion for cooking becomes very clear. Her journey to becoming chef and owner of New York’s Prune restaurant began when she was just a child. Memories of her mother’s pantry, the butcher shop, the dairy, and the apple orchards as well as the dishes prepared with the many ingredients from these places make up just the first portion of the book. After her parents’ divorce, Hamilton’s first jobs were in restaurants. Though becoming a chef never seemed to be at the forefront of her plans for her future, it is nonetheless the life she returned to over and over again. Hamilton’s unique voice and eloquent style are completely engaging and it comes as no surprise that she also has a very strong love of the written word and a talent for writing that must be as great as her talent in the kitchen. Praised by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Hamilton’s memoir definitely lives up to the hype. 03/11 Becky Lejeune

BORDER FILM PROJECT: Photos by Migrants & Minutemen on the U.S. Mexico Border by Rudy Adler, Victoria Criado, Brett Honeycutt: “It’s hard to know what it’s like to cross the border because no one’s ever really visually documented the experience—until now” -Steve Hartman, CBS News Correspondent
At this very moment, the United States-Mexico border is a powder keg. On one side, impoverished people hampered by severe unemployment are preparing to sneak in to America. On the other side, a heavily-armed, vigilante group (Minutemen) are patrolling the border to keep the migrants at bay. Meanwhile, legislators on Capital Hill are debating the relative merits/drawbacks of a flawed immigration bill. While there is no quick and easy solution to this problem, The Border Film Project provides a fleeting glimpse of what it life is like for these disparate groups of people.
The Border Film Project has no agenda and takes no political position. Instead, it tries to put a human face on the immigration dilemma through the lens of a camera. As part of a collaborative art project, disposable cameras were distributed to Migrants and Minutemen alike. Both groups were instructed on the use of the camera and were asked to take random photos of a typical day. They were also given pre-paid envelopes for returning the cardboard cameras. As an incentive, the Migrants were given Wal-Mart gift cards and the Minutemen were provided Shell Oil gift cards. Seventy-three cameras were returned with over 2,000 photographs. The resulting images are nothing short of astonishing.

The book has minimal text except for background information on the project. It does include an occasional footnote that was provided with a camera’s return. Otherwise, the photographs themselves tell the entire story. Or, at least, the visual story of seventy-three individuals. The images appear as if they were taken by professional photographers; some are artfully composed, some are purposefully blurred, some are classical examples of portraiture. Each photo is powerful in its own way.

The greatest strength of The Border Film Project is its compassion. Migrants and Minutemen are all human beings. As such, both groups are treated with dignity and respect. Without a preconceived notion on the issue of immigration, it would be impossible to determine who is “good” and who is “bad” based on the book’s structure. What does become clear is that the current border policy is broken and badly needs repair.
Check out the interactive, online version of The Border Film Project. 06/07 Dan Cawley

BORN ON A BLUE DAY: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Austic Savant by Daniel Tammet: This memoir has a most unique voice in Daniel Tammet, one of only 50 people in the world who has both autism and synesthesia. Tammet has Aspergers syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. Synesthesia is neurological in origin and allows him to see numbers and words as colors and shapes; hence, born on a “blue” day literally means that the particular date of his birth he sees as blue. Synesthesia is an exceedingly rare occurrence, especially in combination with autism. Tammet knows he is different from a young age, but it doesn’t bother him, even when other kids make fun of him. He is able to withdraw into his own world and leave the outer world behind. He is high functioning as he can move in society without too much trouble. And as he grows up, he discovers he is also gay.
While Tammet is extraordinarily good in math, especially his ability to express prime numbers, and he set a European record for reciting as many digits as he could of pi. It took him five hours and nine minutes to recite 22,514 digits of pi without error. But his real gift is that he has an uncanny ability to quickly learn new languages and become fluent in them in a very short time. The BBC offered him the opportunity to learn a new language in front of cameras in one week. They asked him to learn Icelandic, gave him some study materials and took him to Iceland for 4 days. At the end of the week, he was interviewed on a live Icelandic talk show entirely in Icelandic for two hours. The Brainman documentary also brought him to the attention of US television, and he appeared on David Letterman.

I found this book difficult to read at times, and found myself skimming a lot of it. There are pages and pages of mathematical figures and such and frankly, I am no savant. But it was a very interesting story for sure and I can see why it is so popular with book groups. 10/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BORN ROUND: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater by Frank Bruni: I loved Ruth Reichl’s account of being the restaurant reviewer for the New York Times in her fascinating, fabulous memoir, Garlic and Sapphires. She retired and was succeeded by William Grimes, and when he left Frank Bruni got the coveted position. My mistake was assuming that Bruni’s memoir would similar to Reichl’s; to me a “full-time eater” was a reference to his job eating at and reviewing restaurants. I know that one should never assume anything, but I did, so this book was a bit of a disappointment to me. Bruni wrote a memoir, mostly about his eating disorders, how he overcame them, and being gay, and as an afterthought, his stint as food critic for the Times. I liked the last eighty pages or so, the rest I could have lived without. I am not a big fan of memoirs dealing with addictions, be they drugs, alcohol, food, or sex, so this book just didn’t work for me. 11/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey: Another semester has come to an end, and I celebrated by reading this hilarious memoir. Tina Fey discusses a bit of her childhood and how she got that scar, her Republican parents, her husband Jeff (and a few aliases she assigns him,) motherhood, her daughter, her beginnings at Second City all the way through the Sarah Palin days at SNL and 30 Rock. I had already figured out that Tina Fey is brilliant, but I also learned that she is unusually loyal to her friends and colleagues, and while she takes her success seriously, like most working moms she struggles with balancing it all and not feeling guilty. But mostly this book is laugh out loud funny, and whoever was nearby while I was reading it, promptly went out and got their own copy. Take a break from all the insanity that is our world today, and indulge your funny bone with this great escape. 05/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Breaking Clean by Judy Blunt, Knopf: This is the best memoir I have read in a long time. Just go out and buy it. You will find yourself drawn in immediately and you will not be able to put it down. Blunt is now a hero of mine and she will be a hero of yours. Remember how much you loved ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’? How it took you to a part of the country in contemporary times and to a way of life you barely knew existed? How it plunked you down and opened your eyes? How you came to love it? This is similar to the experience of BREAKING CLEAN. But it’s cold and barren and isolated. It’s northeastern Montana and the challenges to live here are dangerous and frightenening. And if you don’t fill with tears in the chapter called Winter Kill I can’t imagine what is wrong with you! There are a million wonderful quotes hailing all aspects of this book – – but from me let me say I know it’s a book you should read and share with friends – – especially young women.

PS: If Judy Blunt wanted to write a shopping list I’d be pleased to read it. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History by George Crile: This is the fascinating story of how Charlie Wilson, a hard-partying Congressman from Texas, undertook a personal mission to assist the mujahideen rebels of Afghanistan to defeat the forces of the Soviet Union. The consequences of this have shaped our times. On the one hand, this greatly accelerated the downfall of the Soviet Union as a superpower and on the other hand, it left billions of dollars worth of high tech munitions in the caves and on the plains of Afghanistan which we would later come to regret. So this is a story worth hearing.
And a fine story it is. With rich characters, not only Charlie himself, but also a rogue CIA agent on the outs with the “old school” boys of the CIA and a military genius who figured out the appropriate “arms mix” to insure victory and then faded from view because he had no more worlds to conquer.
The process revealed in the telling is just as fascinating as the characters. How Charlie was able to work effectively behind the scenes in Congress, forging an incredibly powerful network of allies from both parties and from all regions of the political spectrum. For example, his years in the Texas legislature sitting next to Barbara Jordan gave him an entree to and credibility with the Black Caucus in Congress. And all of this was accomplished at a time when the CIA was under fire at the White House and in Congress. And while dating a variety of gorgeous women and doing serious damage to his liver.
Many years ago, I had a history test on which the only question was – Do leaders shape events, or do events shape leaders? This is the riveting story about one man who most certainly shaped some of the most important events of our time. With repercussions that perhaps are still yet to come. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

THE COLDEST WINTER: AMERICA AND THE KOREAN WAR by David Halberstam: On June 25, 1950, seven divisions of elite North Korean troops crossed the border into South Korea with the intention of gaining control of the entire Korean peninsula in three weeks. Sixteen years later on June 25, 1966, I got married and in the fourth year of my marriage was sent to the DMZ in Korea, where the “three week war” was still being contested. While not likely to garner the publicity of his defining book for the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest, Halberstam’s treatment of the Korean War, written three decades after it began is arguably his best effort ever. Halberstam himself considered The Coldest Winter the best book he ever wrote, the culmination of forty-five years of writing about America’s postwar foreign policy. In the book, he provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures — Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway, while also giving us tightly crafted narrative journalism, chronicling the stories of individual soldiers on the front line and the challenges they faced. It was for me a disturbing but uplifting read. 02/08 Jack Quick

Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man’s Tour of Duty Inside the IRS by Richard Yancey: Richard Yancey was a failure. He had numerous, low paying jobs over many years and was living with a woman who had inherited wealth – she was supporting him, and rubbing his face in it. He was a very successful student, however, and when he finds a blind ad in the paper looking for someone with his impeccable grades, he decides to investigate. Turns out to be a job as a revenue collector with the Internal Revenue Service, and thus begins Yancey’s engrossing tale of life with the IRS. This is the stuff of nightmares; he seizes people’s homes, cars, businesses, basically destroys lives, but he’s very, very good at it. Yancey worked for the IRS for twelve years while secretly longing to be a writer, and this is his compelling story. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CONSIDER THE FORK by Bee Wilson: I loved this book about how we eat and how we cook. Wilson delves into the history of knives, chopsticks, fire, ice & refrigeration, food processors, sous vide machines and of course, the fork, and lots more. Her writing style is conversational rather than instructional, making this an incredibly interesting and easy read. I found myself surprised constantly, from learning that the processing involved in turning sugar into the product we find on supermarket shelves is extremely labor intensive to finding a 1940’s precisely designed ergonomic kitchen. The knife favored by Asian chefs works perfectly well with the eating implements, chopsticks, that they use while the Italians dreamed up the fork for obvious pasta-twirling reasons. I learned why restaurant kitchens call their broiler a salamander and why I’m not the only one who loves wooden spoons, my Cuisinart and my immersion blender. This is fascinating reading for anyone who cooks, or eats. I loved this book. 3/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CRASHING THROUGH by Robert Kurson: Bob Lujano is a staff member at the Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama where I work out. In 1979, Bob lost his arms above the elbow and his legs at the hips to a rare form of meningitis. Yes, he is in a wheelchair but he isn’t disabled. Try to keep up with him in the swimming pool, or on the track. Don’t even think of taking him on in wheelchair rugby as he has won 5 US Quad Rugby National Championships with the Lakeshore Demolition and 3 medals playing rugby for Team USA. He was one of the stars of the 2005 movie about the sport titled Murderball. Mike May is a similar remarkable person. Blinded in a childhood accident, he learned to drive a motorcycle, hike alone in the woods, and downhill ski, while also working as the CIA’s first blind intelligence analyst as well as being a successful inventor, entrepreneur and family man. While no one has yet been able to replace Bob’s missing limbs, Mike was able to have his eyesight restored at age 46. This book tells the story, with all its ups and downs of what happened to this remarkable man whose brain had forgotten how to process visual input. Whatever problems we think we have pale in the face of the accomplishments of people like these. If you don’t get goose bumps from this book, have your pulse checked by a professional. 08/07 Jack Quick

CREDIT REPAIR by Robin Leonard & Margaret Reiter: This 10th edition is so far superior to the 9th edition (2009) as to render the previous version almost obsolete. The chapters have been reorganized into a more logical sequence. Chapters have been added that deal with “hot topics” including short sales and reverse mortgages; money raising options including Craigslist and Amazon; the new Credit Card ACT and how it impacts borrowers; and identity theft prevention. The authors have clarified their recommended action steps to build a positive credit history. Throughout the text additional resources are noted. Many of the recommended resources cost no money. The authors recommend obtaining some of the books and Consumer Reports magazines via a local library. The accompanying CD contains all forms referenced in the text. As always with Nolo publishers, free legal updates are available on their website. 08/11 Kimberly Bower Note from the BookBitch: If you need more help with credit repair, try Sky Blue Credit

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM by Deirdre Dolan: I am a huge fan of the show, so I was really excited to get this book and it exceeded my expectations – and how often do you get to say that? It basically covers the show through its star, Larry David, from his stand-up days through Seinfeld through Curb. It runs through a season-by-season episode guide from day one through season five, but so much more than that. I really enjoyed the interviews with David and his co-stars and directors, and the pictures are great. Besides the obligatory candid on set shots and so forth, there is a section of pictures of artifacts from the show like Dr. Sewell’s prescription pad and the Cashews & Raisins mix that had a low count of cashews, and another section with pictures and descriptions of Larry’s various houses each season. Yes, these are people’s homes, not a stage set. A fun read with a lot of bang for the buck, and a must-have for any fan of the show. And who isn’t? 11/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS by Conn and Hal Iggulden: Just in time for Father’s Day, this is the perfect gift for any man who is still young at heart. The Dangerous Book is jam packed with anything and everything a guy could ever need. From instructions on knots and how to make invisible ink to advice on girls, this book has it all. Think of it as an all-encompassing boy scout manual. I wouldn’t normally review something like this. How do you really review a gift book, right? I took one look at it and had to share it. It’s a neat concept and I highly recommend buying a copy for yourself and that person that is impossible to shop for (dad.) 06/07 Becky Lejeune

DECIDING THE NEXT DECIDER: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme by Calvin Trillin: Is it wrong to gloat? In rhyme, no less? Not if you’ve been as disillusioned as most Democrats over the past eight years. Although to be fair, Trillin has some fun with Obama:
Experience was what he seemed to lack.
And to be frank, they pointed out, he’s black.
and Biden too:
Joe carries many thoughts inside his head,
And often leaves but few of them unsaid.
It is rather amazing how Trillin captured the highlights of the election process as it was happening. If you’re going through election withdrawal, here is the perfect antidote. 12/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Depraved English by Peter Novobatzky: A reference book that charts a very specific territory. This is a collection of obscenities and obscure disgusting words. Impress your friends with words like callipygian (having nicely shaped buttocks) and mazophilous (fond of breasts). Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larsen: Nonfiction about the Chicago World’s Fair with a parallel story about a serial killer in the same area at the same time. This book got all sorts of accolades and I can understand why; both stories are fascinating and compelling. But I had issues with the amount of detail the author provides, especially with the World’s Fair – it felt like he had the names of every person who worked at building it. The book alternates chapters between both stories which made for a very jumpy book and forced me to try and remember who some of these people were. Too much information is not always a good thing. Includes about 40 pages of footnotes. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

DEWEY: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron & Bret Witter: This book is purported to be the Marley & Me for cat lovers. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think it means the publisher hopes to make as much money on this book as they did on that one. Statistically speaking, there are more cat owners in this country than dog owners, so who knows. All I can tell you is do not pick up this book without a box of tissues, it is a tear-jerker from the first chapter about finding this tiny frozen kitten in the book drop with his tiny frostbitten paws, until the end, nineteen years later when cancer got him. In between, Myron somehow convinced the library director, board, and town attorney to let her keep him in the library. Dewey became a sort of good-will director for the library, and the town. One chapter after another describes how he touched people’s lives, how wise and knowing he was, his favorite toys, food, and hiding spots, and how folks drove in to the tiny town of Spencer, Iowa, just to see this remarkable cat. The appeal to cat lovers is obvious, not to mention librarians, but beyond that, I’m not so sure. In that regard, Marley & Me seems to be much more universal in its appeal; yes it’s about a dog, but it’s more about a family and perhaps therein lies the difference. All I can say is after living with my cat, Edgar-the-psycho-kitty, this book restored my faith that there are good cats out there, and reinforced even more strongly that luck is needed in acquiring one. 09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

DISHWASHER: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States by Pete Jordan: The unsung heroes of the food service industry are often behind the scenes. Pete Jordan was one such hero. Pete washed dishes. In his new book, Mr. Jordan recounts a decade long journey scrubbing our nation’s pots and pans. His goal was to “bust suds” in every state before turning thirty five. Along with restaurants and cafeterias, he winds up in the most unlikely of places: a fish cannery, a ski resort, a dinner train, and an oil rig.

These dishwashing jobs were left as easily as they were attained. He quit whenever he felt like not working. The longest position held was six months. The shortest, forty-five minutes. None of his employers received a two-week notice. Mr. Jordan was initially attracted to dishwashing because (1.) he was broke and (2.) jobs were plentiful. What began as a lark became a calling. From 1989-2001, he immersed himself into the profession. His accounting of being a “plongeur” is simultaneously fun and funny. Jordan makes washing dishes seem (almost) glamorous. He has a keen eye for his surroundings and a deadpan delivery.

Especially fascinating is the glimpse he provides into our restaurant subculture. Psychotic chefs, surly waitresses, and stoned busboys are all part of Jordan’s world. He dines off half-eaten plates and sneaks free drinks from the bartender. Dishwasher also provides a treasure trove of dishing history, factoids, trivia, and slang. Jordan discusses early efforts of unionizing the dish-trade. He describes ancient methods of kosher cleaning. He writes about famous celebrity dishwashers: George Orwell, Ronald Reagan, Malcolm X, Little Richard. Over the course of time, Pete Jordan emerges as an accomplished “dish-dog” and a bit of an underground phenomenon. He created a dishwashing magazine, appeared on NPR’s This American Life, and even received an invitation to the David Letterman Show. Sadly, he never accomplished his goal. After 88 restaurants in 33 states, Dishwasher Pete hung up his towel. These days, he can be found repairing bicycles in Amsterdam. 11/07 Dan Cawley

DOGFIGHT: The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse by Calvin Trillin: This is the follow up to 2008’s DECIDING THE NEXT DECIDER: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme, with an occasional “Pause for Prose.” It starts with the primaries in all their glorious insanity, including this bit about Michelle Bachman, entitled “Michele: A Serenade by Iowa Social Conservatives” (with apologies to the Beatles):
Michele, our belle,
Thinks that gays will all be sent to hell.
That’s Michele
and continues on for many more irreverent verses. Shots are taken at Obama as well, like this from “First Debate”:
So Democrats looked on with some dismay
“The President,” some said, “is MIA.”
Irreverence is the theme of this book, so if you haven’t recovered from the Romney debacle, or can’t stand poking fun at Obama’s second run, then steer clear. But if you want to look back and laugh, or know someone who would, this book is ideal (and perfectly sized for a stocking stuffer.) 12/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

DOGTRIPPING: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure by David Rosenfelt: This author, who created one of my favorite mystery series featuring Andy Carpenter, and who writes superb standalone thrillers, has lent his unique voice to a memoir of sorts; the story of his move from California to Maine. As the subtitle indicates, this was no ordinary move. Carpenter fell in love with Debbie, his wife, and she is a dog lover so he became one too. To an extreme, some might say. Together they founded the Tara Foundation, a large dog rescue organization that has found homes for thousands of dogs, primarily Golden Retrievers and other large dogs. The dogs that are too old or sick to be placed really get lucky; they go home with David & Debbie. So when David & Debbie decided to move, they brought the old timers with them. It took months of preparation and some really dedicated fans to make this move and this is their story. The voice is uniquely David, so if you love his other books like I do, you will love this one too. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think about all those dogs who aren’t lucky enough to escape the shelters. Give this book to every dog lover in your life and they will thank you. 8/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

DON’T GO TO THE COSMETICS COUNTER WITHOUT ME by Paula Begoun: This is the newest, 2012 edition of this very popular book. Begouin analyzes makeup and skin care products and gives a Consumer Reports type rating to them. When it first came out in 1992, it was truly groundbreaking but now I have some issues, chief of which is Begouin now has her own skincare and makeup line which amazingly scores in the “best” rankings for every product. Her products may very well be fantastic, but it does make the rest of her ratings somewhat suspect as bias is now firmly in place. I was also surprised that some brands were completely overlooked; I would have liked to see how Costco’s marriage with Borghese cosmetics stacked up as well as a newcomer (to me, at least,) Ulta and their line of products. But beyond these critiques, I don’t see the point of buying this book. All the information is readily available on the author’s website, which she advises us is http://www.cosmeticscop.com but which miraculously, automatically turns into http://www.paulaschoice.com/ online. Not to mention this book is a doorstopper; at 950 pages, no one is schlepping this book anywhere, never mind to the cosmetics counter. Save your money, borrow from your library or check out the products that interest you online. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
DON’T SING AT THE TABLE: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani: I must confess that Trigiani is one of my favorite authors and I’d read her grocery lists if they were published. This book is her second foray into nonfiction, several years after Cooking with My Sisters: One Hundred Years of Family Recipes, from Bari to Big Stone Gap, and this is another gem. All of Trigiani’s novels are about families, usually big, Italian families, and in this new book we learn where all that inspiration came from. Even their names will be familiar to fans – Lucia, better known as Lucy, and Yolanda, who morphed into Viola. These are strong women who taught their families, especially their daughters and granddaughters, all about life and how to deal with it. Filled with humor and pathos, this book is a joy to read. As the holidays approach, or maybe even encroach on our busy lives, do yourself a favor and take a little time to savor this book. Then wrap it up nicely and give it to your favorite female relative or girlfriend. 12/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

DRIFT: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow: I wasn’t sure what to expect but I am such a huge Maddow fan that if she published her grocery list I’d read it. Happily, this is no grocery list. It is a thought provoking look at the United States and how and why we go to war. I learned a lot about our history, the constitution and the legalities of war, and how various presidents and Congress manage to manipulate all that. I watch her show and have seen her interviewed so I know how brilliant she is, but this is no paean to intellectualism or even a platform for some political agenda; instead it is an eminently readable, educational yet entertaining book – not an easy feat. This is one impressive debut. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

EARLY BIRD: A Memoir of Premature Retirement by Rodney Rothman: Rothman was 28 years old when he lost his job as a comedy writer on a sitcom produced by David Letterman. Since he was a New York Jew, he decided he would ultimately end up retiring to South Florida, so he got the idea of getting an early taste of what that would be like. He sublet a room from an old woman in Century Village in Boca Raton, Florida and moved in for six months of shuffleboard, cruising with the Red Hat Club, and the ubiquitous Early Bird dinners. Rothman also includes some interesting history on how Florida became the Mecca of retirement and portraits of many of the residents of the retirement community and what their lives are like. Lots of laughs amid the tedium and of certain interest to anyone who is thinking about retirement or knows anyone who has retired to South Florida. 07/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

EARTH (THE BOOK): A VISITORS GUIDE TO THE HUMAN RACE presented by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: The latest “textbook” from Jon Stewart certainly lives up to its predecessor, America. Obviously, Stewart has expanded his horizons. The idea behind this book appears to be that there are no humans left on Earth, and the aliens have arrived seeking archeological information about this uninhabited planet. Earth attempts to explain our lives and how we live them by exploring science, religion, society, the life cycle, culture and certainly pop culture. In the “Life” chapter, evolution is explained, including this on adaptation: “Crustaceans like this lobster evolved strong claws that protected them from predators, but proved no match for rubber bands.” Samantha Bee demonstrates facial expressions that show our various emotions from joy and fear to jealousy and boredom. Each chapter includes FAQ’s, which in this book means, “Future Alien Questions” like, “Q: Was it better to be a man or a woman? A: A man.” One of my favorite pages was in the culture section on – what else – books, and included this: “Harry Potter was a boy wizard whose adventures were so popular they caused massive deforestation leading to a 1-degree rise in global temperature.” And this: “Oh, I see you noticed Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow on our shelf. Yeah, we totally read it all the way through…” Great fun and probably one of the best textbooks out there. FYI: Lots of full frontal nudity, including a very scary picture of Larry King. 10/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

EAT ME: THE FOOD AND PHILOSOPHY OF KENNY SHOPSIN by Kenny Shopsin & Carolynn Carreño: Kenny Shospin’s restaurant is one that I’m sure many New Yorkers are familiar with. With his notorious attitude towards media, health inspectors, and even potential clientele, Shopsin is likened to the Seinfeld Soup Nazi. Some even believe the infamous character may be based on him, but we’re likely never to know for sure. In Eat Me, Shopsin abandons his “no media” rule and shares over 100 of his delectable creations with the public. This is the perfect cookbook for foodies like myself who are likely never to be able to experience these items first hand. From a simple egg salad to Shopsins’ famous Yin-Yang Rice Bowls – meant to be paired with soup – this collection of inventive dishes is sure to tantalize your taste buds. In addition to the recipes, the book also features Shopsin’s own anecdotes about everything from his family and loyal customers to his views on pancakes and salads. The book also features the once 6-page menu, great for help in creating your own Shopsin’s dinner at home. 01/09 Becky Lejeune

EAT THIS, NOT THAT: Thousands of Simple Food Swaps That Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds-or More! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding: Buy this as a present for yourself, but if you can’t get to it during the holidays, don’t worry. I’m thinking New Year’s Day is a good day to start reading it; you can always start with the page devoted to hangovers. But most of the other pages in the book will apply to every busy person. The editors of Men’s Health Magazine have gone out and gotten nutritional information on some of the most popular restaurant food, including fast food like Wendy’s and McDonalds, not-quite-as-fast food like Boston Market and Chipotle, and even sit down restaurants like Chili’s and Red Lobster. Then they give us a page by page, side by side comparison of what to eat: “eat this” and “not that”. I saw one of the authors on the Today Show and was so shocked by what he was showing, I immediately ordered the book.
The premise is that people eat out, a lot. And they make food choices based on what they perceive to be the healthiest, low calorie choices, with an occasional indulgence. But menu items with such healthy, low calorie sounding names like the Turkey Burger from Ruby Tuesday pack in an astonishing 1171 calories and 58 grams of fat, the 3 Piece Dark Rotisserie Chicken with sweet potato casserole and the Market Chopped Side Salad from Boston Market serve you up 1410 calories, 80 grams of fat and a whopping 3020 milligrams of sodium, and the Chicken Burrito from Chipotle gives you a hefty 1169 calories, 47 grams of fat, and 2856 milligrams of sodium. Instead, the authors suggest you order Ruby Tuesday’s 7 oz. Top Sirloin with green beans and baby portabella mushrooms for a mere 464 calories, Boston Market’s Roasted Sirloin with garlic dill potatoes and spinach for a much more reasonable 580 calories, and Chipotle’s Chicken Burrito Bowl sans rice and tortilla for a much healthier 489 calories.
The authors also point out some startling realities of fine dining, explaining the caloric and fat traps of menu items at steakhouses – porterhouse for two is usually enough meat for four, with everyone getting a complete day’s worth of saturated fat; sushi bars – soy sauce has over 1800 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, and avoid the croquetas at tapas bar – “think fat bomb.” Just to keep it real, they also includes pages of comparisons between the foods we eat everyday, breakfast cereal, salad dressings, even cookies – Fig Newtons good, Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked bad, and ice cream – Breyer’s All Natural Vanilla Fudge Twirl good, Haagen Dazs Vanilla Fudge bad. Actually, even the Haagen Dazs sorbet is bad.
Obviously I think this book has an important message. It’s very visual with page after page of photographs of the foods we love to eat, but don’t love us back. It’s eye opening, enlightening and a bit frightening, but should be read by anyone who orders food through a drive through window or isn’t cooking every meal themselves. 12/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AN EDGE IN THE KITCHEN: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro by Chad Ward: I love to cook almost as much as I love to read, so it really isn’t a big surprise that I would enjoy a book about knives – the good, the bad, and the super-expensive. This is probably the definitive book on knives: what to buy and why, where to buy, and how to buy them. And once you’ve procured your knives, how to use them properly, and most of important of all, how to take care of them. Ward is a funny guy, he knows he’s a bit knife-obsessed and doesn’t look down upon anyone who isn’t. This is a very practical guide as well, he not only doesn’t push the custom made, multiple thousands of dollars knife, he recommends knives in every price range. He can get you going with the basics for under a $100, and I never would have even thought that possible. Want to spend more? No problem, he’ll help you there too. If you’re shopping for your favorite foodie or newlywed couple, this excellent resource is your guide to buying the best knife at any price. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ELEMENTS OF COOKING: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen by Michael Ruhlman: I love books about food, and this is a really good one. So good, in fact, that after I borrowed a copy from the library to read, I went out and bought my own copy. This collection of essays is a a sort of primer for the home chef, and includes a fabulous section on something as basic as stock – not only does it come in cans & boxes at your local grocery store, you can easily make it at home. Many of those French cooking terms are explained in plain English, and I especially loved his advice on what to purchase for a new kitchen – he reminds us that if you look in most restaurant kitchens, especially those of top rated chefs, you will see some of the oldest, grungiest beat-up looking pots and pans, despite their celebrity lines available at your local Bed, Bath & Beyond, which Ruhlman deems overpriced and unnecessary. He suggests finding your local restaurant supply company, and gives specific suggestions as to what to look for and pricing. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book. All in all, an excellent primer for the new cook and an interesting read for the more experienced one. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

EVERYTHING IS MISCELLANEOUS: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger: People like to ask me about books – I’ve been asked to name my favorite books, the books I would take to a desert island, and the books that have changed my life. My favorites change from year to year, I would need an entire cruise ship to fill with enough books to sustain me on a desert island, and while books in general have changed my life, I’ve never had any sort of epiphany while reading, at least not that I can recall. Until now. Reading Everything is Miscellaneous gave me my moment. It was a “EUREKA” moment, rather like that lovely story about Archimedes in the bathtub. Lest you think I’ve completely taken leave of my senses, let me get down to it.

This is a book about many things, but what I am focusing on here is organization. Specifically, the organization of books, in a library. 95% of all public libraries use the Dewey Decimal System, which has worked reasonably well for quite a long while. Other libraries use a different classification system culled from the Library of Congress, while bookstores tend to use something called BISAC, the Book Industry Standards and Communications. But what Mr. Weinberger wonders is this: if we have computers and are using them, why are we limiting ourselves to such specifics? And it made me wonder too. Yes, books need a specific place on the shelf, but we can look for books, search for books, in other ways that have nothing to do with the physical location of the book, but rather with the need of the reader.

But that’s only a small part of this fascinating book. Weinberger examines how Google has changed our lives, the wonder of Wikipedia, looks at the business model of the digital music industry and what it portends for the future of all businesses, and even why Staples is so successful. I read this book several months ago, and have just reread it, and I may have to read it yet again. 12/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Exact Same Moon by Jeanne Marie Laskas: This is the marvelous sequel to Fifty Acres and a Poodle, where Jeanne marries Alex, they buy a farm, and live happily ever after…until this new book comes along. Jeanne’s mother becomes paralyzed from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and Jeanne finds herself commuting back to the city to help out. Sometimes it takes a crisis to force people to examine their lives, and this one causes Jeanne to rethink her decision not to have children. Alex, with two grown children from his first marriage, is supportive and open to anything she wants. Jeanne explores her relationship with her mother, her husband, and her own desire to become a mother in this tender, funny, heart-wrenching-yet-heart-warming story. Lest this sounds maudlin, it is not – there are laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout, from befriending the scary old woman recluse down the road to stealing her mother’s plants back from the new owners of her home to the horror of converting the entire farming community into satellite TV junkies. Laskas’ style of writing just draws the reader in, making us feel like a part of her amazing family, and creating an intimate, appealing and ultimately satisfying escape into her gentle world of farming, laughs and love. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

F5: Devastation, Survival and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century by Mark Levine: On April 3, 1974, the United States was hit by at least 148 tornados spawned from one “megastorm” that killed hundreds and caused billions in property damage. Six of these tornados were rated F5 with sustained winds of over 260 miles per hour. This book tells the story of that day in a rural Alabama county where dozens of individual tornadoes reeked havoc. I grew up in central Alabama in one of the infamous tornado alleys. I have had the experience of having one pass directly overhead (they really do sound like a freight train) and have helped clean up after a dozen of them. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer power of one of these beasts, nor its ability to change lives and alter landscapes in seconds. If you have never experienced one, this reads like fiction. If you have, then you know it is fact. A hurricane, tsunami, blizzard, volcano eruption, even earthquake – generally there is some warning. With tornados, you may die in the wreckage of your home while the dinner table at your neighbor’s house isn’t even disturbed. Entire houses can be picked up and set back down hundreds of feet away with children safely sleeping inside. The sheer capriciousness of these storms actually gives them a certain majesty, not unlike a “big cat” or other predator. Levine has captured about as much of these monsters as any human can – which is still only a modicum of their reality. 05/07 Jack Quick

Father Joe: The Man Who Saved my Soul by Tony Hendra: Tony Hendra is a British comedian and comic writer (he prefers the term “satirist.”) American audiences may be most familiar with him as the Ian Faith character in the rock satire This is Spinal Tap. This book is the surprising story of his spiritual journey from his teens to the present day and the role played in it by his spiritual advisor, a Benedictine monk named Father Joe.
The beginning of their relationship is hardly auspicious. Young Hendra is sent to the monastery for confession and punishment when he is caught in the early stages of adolescent grouping with a neighbor’s wife. Hendra is given a glimpse of a better faith when Father Joe suggests that the only sin involved was selfishness.
Later in their relationship, as Father Joe advises Tony that his career is in the world and not in the monastery, he comments that “more husbands and wives should be canonized.” Hendra does go on to live in the world and have a very successful career at the National Lampoon and other places, but he regularly feels the need in time of trouble to travel back to the monastery and visit with Father Joe. Despite Father Joe’s cloistered existence, he seems to fully grasp the problems created by a fast-past modern society and life in the entertainment industry. As the story concludes, Mr. Hendra brings his son to visit the dying monk.
This book is The Seven Story Mountain of our time and will be considered one of the most important books of this decade. It is not light reading, however and may not be appreciated by those readers and worshippers who prefer their God “lite.” Read it anyway. Any book with a sentence like “The first exercise of love is listening.” is worth reading and pondering. 06/04 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

FIRE-BREATHING LIBERAL: How I Learned to Survive (and Thrive) in the Contact Sport of Congress by Robert Wexler: Wexler is my congressman, and I’ve voted for him in every election in which he’s run. So I come to this book with a prejudicial view – I like the guy. How can you not like a guy who was honest enough to admit to Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report that he has tried cocaine? True, as Colbert pointed out, Wexler was running unopposed so he could have admitted to just about anything and been re-elected. This is his story. His years in Congress have been turbulent, to say the least. I also live in the district with the infamous “butterfly ballot” and it was my neighbors who gave the election away by mistake. Wexler discusses those issues, as well as the Supreme Court decision (Gore v. Bush), Clinton’s impeachment and why he thinks Bush should be impeached, his visit with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and lots more Washington insider stuff. Wexler makes it all fascinating and entertaining, a winning combination for any book, but especially one steeped in politics. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FISH! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, & John Christensen: There is a Pike Place cookbook coming out in March, so I decided to revisit this classic business book and see if it still holds up. Originally published in 2000, the world, especially the business community, has changed a great deal since then. Could the ideas espoused here still work? I think so. The premise of the book, told as an inspiration tale, a “fish tale” if you will, is that the Toxic Waste Dump is floundering and a new manager is brought on board (if you’ll pardon the fish puns.) She visits the famous Pike Place Fish Market across the street from her office and finds the employees there having fun and selling lots and lots of fish. Can you run a business where the employees are passionate about their work, having a great time with each other and the customers, and still make a profit? You bet, and this little book will show you how it’s done. Should be required reading for every manager. If you’ve never read it, or maybe read it when it first came out twelve years ago, pick it up and take another look. It will inspire you all over again. 12/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FODOR’S SMART 1,001 TRAVEL TIPS: A must read for would-be world travelers. How else can you learn to pack your own chewing gum if you are going to Singapore since its not sold there, and oh yes, be careful of the water in Mexico – use boiled or bottled water even for brushing your teeth. A well-written and somewhat quirky guide that even armchair travelers can enjoy. Even native English speakers can have difficulty with Scots’ English, so don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, watch out for New Zealand’s one health hazard -“duck itch”. In Holland be aware that coffee shops also sell (legally) marijuana, hash, and drug paraphernalia, which can be used on the spot. And if you are a book lover, no matter where you go, pack an empty tote bag or duffle inside your luggage as you will need the extra room to bring home the books. 11/07 Jack Quick

FOOD FOR THOUGHT by Philip J. Romano: Over 200,000 people pay daily homage to the genius of Romano. They do so by eating at Fuddrucker’s, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, eatZi’s, Shuckers or Cozymels. Romano developed and has successfully operated and marketed each of these national restaurant concepts/chains. In his book he shares the reasons for his success, which include placing service first over profit and getting people to work with you rather than for you. Sounds simple, but you must be doing it right to build a $10 billion restaurant empire. Nicely written and interesting background for all of us who tend to eat out more than at home. 03/06 Jack Quick

FOOD RULES: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan: Pollan is the genius behind In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and a few other books on food and where it comes from. He is also one of the stars of the Academy Award nominated documentary, Food, Inc., for me a life changing film about the food industry in this country and one of the most enlightening and frightening films I’ve ever seen.

The thing is that Pollan is not one of these militant, radical vegans or anything. To me he comes across like the voice of reason. He eats meat, but sparingly and only free range beef and organic. He does his research and for this book, also put up a request on a New York Times food blog for people to send him the rules about eating that they grew up with. This book is a compilation of his own rules and those he’s collected. It’s a tiny paperback and at its simplest, is a collection of wisdom on how to eat for health and well being. It is an easy read and often amusing.

One of the rules: “avoid food products that make health claims.” A company with the resources to get FDA approved health claims for their products doesn’t necessarily make them healthy – think margarine. Once touted as the healthy alternative to butter, we now know that the transfats it contains are worse than the saturated fat in butter. Or as Pollan puts it, “the silence of the yams” doesn’t make them less healthful. More rules: “Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.” (Xanthan gum anyone?) “Eat only foods that will eventually rot.” Not Twinkies, which Pollan took on book tour with him and after two years, remain as fresh as the day he bought them. And a couple of my favorites: “Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce,” and “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” Thought provoking to say the least. 02/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee: I love Chinese food, and I love humorously written, well researched food books, so when I heard about this one, I couldn’t wait to get my chopsticks on it. I am really glad I did. This is a fact-filled, fun read about the history of Chinese food in America, that includes amazing research that took the author all through China and Japan. Japan, you say? Why yes, because our beloved fortune cookies are not Chinese in origin, but rather Japanese. In fact, we are now exporting “American fortune cookies” to China. The idea of delivering food to people’s homes started with a savvy Chinese restaurant owner in New York City. And Lee explores the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, including a chapter devoted to the only Glatt Kosher Chinese restaurant in the southeastern United States, and its Peking Duck scandal. She goes looking for the origin of one of our most popular dishes, General Tso’s chicken, and explains why chop suey is disappearing off of Chinese restaurant menus all across America – hint: neither dish is Chinese in origin. This is a quick, fun read, perfect to read in small bites and guaranteed to make you hungry. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FOUR KITCHENS: MY LIFE BEHIND THE BURNER IS NEW YORK, HANOI, TEL AVIV, AND PARIS by Lauren Shockey: After finishing college, Lauren Shockey surprised her parents by going to culinary school. She decides that she will round out her cooking education by completing stages (kitchen internships) at four different restaurants with very different viewpoints. She begins her journey at Wylie Dufresne’s wd-50 in New York then travels to Vietnam to work at La Verticale. From Vietnam, Shockey then travels to Tel Aviv to work in Carmella Bistro. Finally, she ends her journey in Paris at Senderens. Shockey describes her time at wd-50 in great detail but her vastly different experience in Hanoi focuses little on the kitchen aspect and more on the local cuisine while Tel Aviv’s central focus becomes more about Shockey’s friends and personal exchanges. In Paris, the focus once again becomes the kitchen, but the transitions all lead up to Shockey’s conclusions at the end of her journey: enjoying food and cooking for others is not necessarily all it takes to make it in a restaurant career. It’s an expensive lesson to learn, but at least she has the kitchen skills to really impress her friends and loved ones! Four Kitchens is entertaining, but is missing a little of the wow factor other food memoirs out there offer. I did find Shockey to be very honest and insightful throughout the book, though. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

FREE FOR ALL: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert: This one is for the librarians. I checked out the customer reviews on Amazon, and it doesn’t seem to be appreciated nearly as well by library users, and since I work in a library, I have a biased view, which of course I’m happy to share. Borchert is an assistant librarian in a suburban Los Angeles public library, which means he doesn’t have his coveted masters degree in library and information science. But he does have several years experience in dealing with the public, and that’s what he shares in this funny, breezy book. If you think libraries are quiet, dull places of study, then you haven’t been to a public library lately. Borchert’s library may be suburban but has had its share of drug dealers working out of the men’s room, moms brawling in the stacks, and regulars that include a man desperately seeking to buy a South American wife, and Henry, the daily crossword puzzle aficionado/nut. He discusses the hiring process and employment practices of civil service jobs – pass probation and you’ve got a job you can retire from. But it’s the little stories, one after another, that bring this book to life. Written in conversational style, it’s rather like spending a few hours in a bar with a friend who’s unloading about work, like the story about the Indian girl who was hired because she was quiet and helped make the library diverse, but was fired when some young boys were singing offensive rap songs and she exploded like an atom bomb in the middle of the library, practically ripping their heads off. Or the story about the proud parents of the child doing a science fair project on which the absorbency of diapers, and in doing his research Googled the word “diapers” and found a picture of a 50-year-old man wearing one along with a very satisfied smile. But only other library/civil service workers will appreciate the chain of command that must be followed when you see a body go flying past your window. 12/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

FROM ANIMAL HOUSE TO OUR HOUSE: A LOVE STORY by Ron Tanner: My house is under renovation. It is 25 years old and in need of new bathrooms and kitchen. So I’m very interested in other people’s renovations, on TV and now in books. The “animal house” of the title is an old 4500 square foot condemned Victorian in Baltimore that had been owned by a fraternity for ten years, long enough to leave 3 full trailers of trash inside the house. The house was destroyed, barely left standing, and Ron bought it. He fell in love with the possibilities and was stubborn enough to ignore all the warnings. It took several years to make it habitable, and along the way he talked his girlfriend into moving in and working on it too. Honestly, I could have lived without all the girlfriend drama and would have killed for some photographs; this is a book that is just crying out for photographs. There are a few in the book trailer. Instead, I had to settle for slow moving prose and the author’s sketches. It was an interesting story, an interesting reno for sure, but not a great book – this is strictly for those who want to see what’s it really like behind the scenes of those 30 minute renovations on the DIY channel. 5/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl: A quintessential New York book that is so delicious I devoured it in one sitting, if you’ll pardon the food metaphors. Reichl was the NY Times restaurant critic for many years, and this is the inside scoop on how that worked. She learned on her flight in from Los Angeles to take the job that her picture was already hung in every kitchen of every important restaurant in NY. She decided she would need to invent a new persona, someone who could dine anonymously and ended up creating several. Her claim to fame came with an early double review of the famous NY eating establishment, Le Cirque – one review was as the recognized restaurant critic for the Times, the other as an anonymous diner. It cost the restaurant their coveted fourth star and made people sit up and take notice of the newcomer. The book details her meals and her life as a critic with humor and pathos. Reichl is a passionate foodie and her descriptions will fascinate and satiate the reader. 05/05

THE GASTRONOMY OF MARRIAGE by Michelle Maisto: In Michelle Maisto’s debut, a food memoir that also traces her relationship as she and her fiancée begin building their life together, Maisto shares her passion for cooking and her journey through her new engagement. She walks the reader through her city, her neighborhood, her food memories, and the ups and downs of planning a marriage in the midst of her everyday twenty-something life. With her own thoughts on other culinary writings, the various complications and adventures of combining households (and kitchens), and food itself, Michelle invites readers to experience a little bit of her world. As an eager foodie myself, The Gastronomy of Marriage is a fun look into someone else’s kitchen and their cooking exploits. Maisto writes about food—and the rest of her life—with an elegance and passion that readers will truly enjoy. The book also includes a collection of the recipes discussed within. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

HAPPY ACCIDENTS: 12 Offbeat Essays Exploring the Irony in the Ordinary by David Boyne: A fun and sometimes touching collection of essays that each look at a little slice of life. “Hurry Up and Wait” explores the phenomenon of waiting in line for complicated coffee as the tattooed baristas gossip amongst themselves and with their customers, while a man who is illegally doubleparked is close to apoplexy. Another essay looks at bumper stickers and one of my favorites, at step-parenting. Well written, imaginative and a great way to spend a few hours. Available for the . 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HEAT: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford: This is a fun read for anyone who enjoys the Food Network, Mario Batali, or has a healthy curiosity about what goes on in a high end restaurant kitchen. Buford gave up his “real” job as an editor at the New Yorker to work full time for Batali in the kitchen at Babbo. Buford is charming and honest about his fun and foibles, from being deliberately bumped 40-some-odd times a shift (by the higher ranking kitchen echelon to keep him in his place,) to the wines that are really used in the restaurant, the blisters on his hands (tongs are useful!), or flying off with Mario to help at a charity event. It’s a foodie’s delight and I couldn’t put it down. 08/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HEROES FOR MY DAUGHTER by Brad Meltzer: Brad Meltzer has three children and they are not all boys. As soon as he published Heroes For My Son, his daughter kept asking about her book. Meltzer has delivered. This book is bigger and dare I say even better than the first, but maybe being a daughter myself I’m a bit prejudiced? No matter, this is a beautiful book, a keepsake, a treasure to be handed down from one generation to the next. As in the Son book, there is a page for you to add your own, personal hero, as well. Meltzer’s heroes aren’t all women, but women predominate as they should in a book aimed at girls. He includes 55 heroes as diverse as Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, the passengers on United Flight 93, and Lucille Ball. Each story inspires and these are meant to be read aloud, together. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I suggest Moms buy this book as a gift for their daughters and granddaughters, and everyone buy this book as a gift for their mom. Then go read together. 5/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HEROES FOR MY SON by Brad Meltzer: This is a giant step away from the thrillers and even graphic novels Meltzer is best known for. Meltzer says he’s been thinking about this book since his first child was born, and it shows. This is a lovely book, a gift to be shared and cherished with children and grandchildren and anyone else who needs a hero. It is a series of photographs and very short essays, no more than a few paragraphs, about the men and women Meltzer finds the most inspiring, and why he wants his son to know about them. These heroes range from the expected like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Einstein to lesser known heroes like Andy Miyares, a Special Olympics swimmer and Barbara Johns, a high school student at the heart of Brown vs. Board of Education. Fifty-two heroes in all, from the most personal, Meltzer’s mother who died from breast cancer, to everyone’s hero, Captain Sullenberger who landed a plane in the Hudson River. There’s even a page at the back of the book with room for the picture and story of your own hero. It’s just a beautiful book to share with those you love. Meltzer has created a legacy. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Hiding Places by Daniel Asa Rose: After his divorce, the author decides to take his 2 boys, ages 7 & 12, to Europe to find the hiding places their relatives used to escape the “not-sees” during the Holocaust. I loved the premise of a man instilling his family history, making memories, for his sons. Reading it was an emotional roller coaster that had me laughing and crying and left me both elated and exhausted. A truly amazing book that I could not put down. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HISTORY DECODED: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time by Brad Meltzer: There are a few reasons why I love this book, and the conspiracies are the least of it. Don’t get me wrong, the conspiracies which range from Lincoln to Kennedy to the gold (or lack thereof) in Fort Knox to the real Da Vinci Code are fascinating reading, and sure to appeal to fans of TV’s “Brad Metlzer’s Decoded” and all conspiracy and history buffs. But it is the way the material is researched and presented that really pushed this book to the top of the heap. The research is meticulous, and being Brad Meltzer, famous, bestselling author and known conspiracy theorist, with friends like Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, certainly gave him access to people and materials that most mere mortals wouldn’t get near. But it is the physical book itself that really blew me away – this is a stunning book, literally a piece of art. The book is hard cover and textured and filled with ephemera. If you are familiar with Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series, then you will understand. But that was a novel, and this is factual. Each chapter contains an envelope with replicas of things like the wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth and his will; a code used by the Knights of the Golden Circle, thought to have helped Jefferson Davis hide the Confederate gold; the airline ticket for Dan Cooper, the only American skyjacker who was never caught; facsimiles of the form used to report UFO sightings to the government along with a report of a 1947 UFO sighting in Mt. Ranier, Washington. And while I love eBooks and their convenience in holding a massive quantity of books and accessibility (I don’t need reading glasses for my ) a book like this simply cannot be replicated electronically. And I truly love that. Put this on your holiday wish list and even better, buy a copy for all those people who are hard to shop for and they will thank you. 10/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HIT LIT: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall: Hall is a mystery writer and a creative writing professor at Florida International University. As a mystery writer, he has sold millions of books, but not millions of copies of one book like the bestsellers in Hit Lit. As a writing teacher, he taught his students to “plagiarize” by taking a favorite book and breaking it down into minute pieces. How many words in the first chapter, when does the protagonist appear, what percentage is dialogue, and so forth. Then his students would create their own story, using the formula they created from their favorite book. The remarkable thing is that more than half of that first class who performed this exercise had their books published, a ridiculously high number of debuts from one writing class. One of those students was Dennis Lehane.

In Hit Lit, Hall takes apart twelve of the biggest selling books of all time. You know them, probably read most of them. Gone With the Wind. The Godfather. The Da Vinci Code. To Kill a Mockinbird. Jaws. Most have spawned hugely successful films as well. But what do these books have in common? Hall dissects them and shares with us the appeal factors that are in all of these extraordinary books. This is fascinating reading, and a must read for anyone who works with the public in the book industry – public librarians and booksellers for sure, and for avid readers and writers everywhere. If you can understand why people like something, it becomes easier to find other books they’ll like. This one is going on my reference bookshelf. 5/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
HOUSE: A Memoir by Michael Ruhlman: From the back cover and flap info on this book I was expecting a written version of This Old House or Extreme Makeover. But what I got instead was a story about a writer and his family and how they live; an old house renovated by an architect, a contractor and his team; and a fascinating history of suburbia, Cleveland-style. Ruhlman, author of the wonderful Soul of a Chef, reveals more of himself than the actual construction efforts and it makes for compelling reading. 11/05

HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman: There are any number of how-to writer’s guides out there but this is not one of them, this is a how-NOT-to guide. Mittlemark and Newman use their combined years in the publishing industry to put together a guide using the most common mistakes made by authors. With advice on everything from plot and style to setting and character development, each chapter is full of useful information on what to avoid when writing your book. By outlining the pitfalls of writing with amusing and interesting examples, Mittelmark and Newman have created what turns out to be a quite funny and easy to read guide that will prove to be a very useful tool to any writer out there. Whether you are finally trying your hand at your first novel, or you’re trying to sell your first completed novel, How NOT to Write a Novel can help along each step of the process and clue you into just what you need to do to clean up your manuscript and get it published. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

HOW STARBUCKS SAVED MY LIFE: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill: Michael Gates Gill grows up in a very comfortable way, then builds a very successful career in advertising with a prestigious firm. But after twenty-something years, a new, young boss is brought in who wants to surround himself with new, young employees, so buh-bye Mike. After an affair that produces another child, buh-bye marriage. Mike finds himself wondering how to survive with no health insurance and the strong possibility of brain cancer. He wanders in to a nearby Starbucks, where a young African-American woman is sitting at the next table. She asks him if he wants to work for Starbucks, and before he knows it, he is. Health insurance is the big draw, but Mike soon learns that feeling useful again is a pretty nice feeling. If you’ve ever worried how you’re going to make it through retirement, or if you are a Starbucks addict, like moi, then this is a very thorough and enjoyable look at the inside of the company through the eyes of one of its happier employees. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HOW TO BOOZE: EXQUISITE COCKTAILS AND UNSOUND ADVICE by Jordan Kaye and Marshall Altier: Booze and humor: always a great pair. Jordan Kaye and Marshall Altier have put these two things together in a funny, and sometimes pretty raunchy, bar book filled with tips on the perfect drink, history of classic cocktails, and frat-boy level humor in How to Booze. As a bar book, I actually love the indexing. The guys have divided the index by spirit and then within each spirit by how well-stocked your liquor cabinet may be. Looking for a simple drink with gin? Try a classic gimlet, which is by the way, the recommended drink for your second date. Prefer rum? Someone with a well-stocked (geeked out) bar might prefer a Mai Tai Roa-Ae to serve at a barbecue. I’d say any of the drinks inside would make a good accompaniment for reading Kaye and Altier’s “Unsound Advice.” Like I said, booze and humor always make a good pairing. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

HOW TO COOK LIKE A TOP CHEF by The Creators of Top Chef: Right out of the box let me say you will not learn how to cook like a “Top Chef” from this book. You will learn how the “top chefs” do what they do, however, and that is a pretty satisfying read. Can’t review this book without mentioning the glaring error of a wrongly credited photo; the picture is of Graham Elliot Bowles and is attached to the Rick Moonen bio. But these creators of Top Chef dish the dirt, show us the tattoos, and share lots of Season 6 recipes, none of which I will make. Probably. If you are looking for a gift for your favorite foodie, this is an excellent place to start. 11/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HOW TO EAT A SMALL COUNTRY: A FAMILY’S PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, ONE MEAL AT A TIME by Amy Finley: Fans of Food Network’s Next Food Network Star will remember Amy Finley as the perky winner of season 3, whose short run show, The Gourmet Next Door, disappeared after just one season. Anyone who wondered why finds out in How to Eat a Small Country. Finley gave up her short stint as a TV chef when her husband threatened to leave. In an effort to put their marriage back together, Finley suggested that they all (husband, wife, and two small children) move to France where they could travel and eat and basically learn how to be a family again. Their trip, arguments and all, is chronicled in Finley’s new food memoir. I was struck by how great Finley is as a writer. Her vivid (and some might say gruesome at times) descriptions of food and cooking methods are fantastic. Amazingly, she also pulls no punches in describing her family life, her frustrations, her fears, and her hopes. I liked Finley and her show quite a bit. I liked her book just as much. 06/11 Becky Lejeune

HOW TO SET HIS THIGHS ON FIRE: 86 Red-Hot Lessons on Love, Life, Men, and (Especially) Sex by Kate White: When the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine writes a book with a title like this, you get exactly what you expect; a book length version of Cosmo minus the pictures. If you love all the cutesy columns about getting along with your bitch of a boss, pleasing your man and making sure he pleases you, and you want some inside dish on celebrities, this is the book for you. Back in the day, and by that I mean the Helen Gurley Brown days, Cosmo was new, inventive and shockingly bold about s-e-x when every other woman’s magazine was avoiding the topic completely. But the cat was let out of the bag a long time ago and there’s no stuffing it back in again, so frankly, this book just bored me. The best thing I can say about it is it’s written in 86 very short, very put-downable chapters, making it a great book to read at traffic lights. 06/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

HUSTLING IN AMERICA: The Secrets To Success For International Entrepreneurs Seeking To Turn Their American Dream Into Reality by Charles Kollo: If you are even remotely thinking about starting a business, make this book from successful entrepreneur and author Charles Kollo your initial investment. I have participated in the startup of three companies and wish that I could have had the benefit of his book for each of them. Packed with ideas and tips gained from Kollo’s personal experience as an FBE (Foreign Born Entrepreneur), this book will be invaluable whether you are trying to start a business in a foreign country, if you are a minority trying to start a business in your own country, or simply anyone who wants to make his dream of business ownership a reality. Hustling in America answers the 22 key questions you need to address in starting a new business and provides invaluable resources for such key topics, as market testing, form of organization to choose, initial financing, maintaining personal relationships, compliance with governmental regulations, choosing attorneys and other specialists, and how to do more with less. Kollo’s advice is practical, pertinent, and realistic. Whether you intend to create a traditional brick and mortar business or want to enter the world of e-commerce and cyber space, this book can greatly enhance the likelihood of your being successful. Charles Kollo’s experience with entrepreneurship began when, after obtaining a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from Ecole des Dirigeants et Createurs d’Entreprises in Paris, France, he worked for a business incubator and supervised entrepreneurs. After immigrating to the United States, Kollo founded the successful http://www.shelterous.com in November 2011, which was selected as one of the best projects at the Harvard Extension School of Business Conference 2012. His areas of strength are business development and detecting opportunities in new markets. Additional information about this remarkable book as well as entrepreneurship in general is available at Kollo’s website, http://www.hustlinginamerica.com. 7/13 Jack Quick

I AM AMERICA (AND SO CAN YOU!) by Stephen Colbert: ‘Tis the season for gift books, and if you’re the type who likes to stash away a couple of gifts “just in case” – heading every list of perfect gifts for people you forgot should be this book that fits all sizes, all religions, and all political parties. Except librarians – this book contains pages of stickers, so you may want to remove them lest you find your patrons affixing “The Stephen T. Colbert Award for the Literary Excellence” to random books in your collection.

Colbert is bold, brash, funny as hell and writes utterly without conscience. Chapters address such heady topics as the family, higher education, sports, immigrants, the class war, and the future (with appropriate cautionary note: “Warning! Do Not Read Until the Future!”) “Fun zone” pages abound, including my personal favorite, a science experiment to “disprove evolution” in your own backyard. You need a fish bowl, a pitcher of water, a live hamster, and a hardcover copy of Darwins’ Origin of the Species – and let’s leave it at that. I love this book, and so can you. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

“I LOVE LUCY” A Celebration of All Things Lucy: Inside the World of Television’s First Great Sitcom by Elisabeth Edwards: I have been a Lucy fan since I was a kid. In what I thought was an odd coincidence, my son was born on William Frawley’s birthday, but it turns out this author either got it wrong or there’s a typo. No matter, my daughter was born on Lucy’s birthday. I collect Lucy books and just stumbled across this one, published in 2011. It’s a nice coffee table book that is loaded with pictures and tons of information. It starts off all about the 1950’s and gives lots of information like the average price of a house was $9000-11,000, the average annual salary was $3500-4500, and cars cost $1500-2000. And gas was less than $.25 gallon! If only. There are some great pictures of ads from the 50’s as well. Then the book moves on to the beginnings of the show, how it was cast and filmed, then brief info about each actor and each episode. It’s like a Lucy encyclopedia including awards, Neilsen statistics, recipes, song lyrics and more. But the best part is all the pictures, which includes tons of stills from the episodes and even better, a lot of behind the scenes and family photos. It’s a lovely book and a worthwhile addition to my collection. 6/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

I SEE YOUR DREAM JOB by Sue Frederick: The subtitle of this book A Career Intuitive Shows You How to Discover What You Were Put on Earth to Do, kind of says it all, in a way. Frederick, a career counselor who began using her own intuitive talents and numerology to help her clients, explains the basis of the practice and how it can be used to determine a person’s career path. Traditional astrology—sun symbols—come into play as well and the combination is a bit like a career aptitude test result as seen through your horoscope. It’s an interesting concept and one that actually has basis in multiple faiths across the globe. Numerology itself goes back to philosopher Pythagoras and beyond. I See Your Dream Job is a different sort of career guide, but beyond that, a fascinating bit of food for thought. Readers can figure out their own numerology and read the general information provided by Frederick, as well as examples of other clients and Frederick’s own experiences. The book also includes a workbook section. 09/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ICE MAN: CONFESSIONS OF A MAFIA CONTRACT KILLER by Philip Carlo: For over forty years, Richard Kuklinski, aka The Ice Man, carried out contract killings for six different mob families in New York and New Jersey. To many, he was a normal guy with a wife and three children. To his colleagues, he was a brutal and reliable hitman. He has claimed responsibility for anywhere between thirty and two hundred murders throughout his career. At one point, he even claimed to be partially responsible for the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Phillip Carlo’s chilling account is the result of hundreds of hours of personal interviews. This in-depth look at the life of one of the most notorious guns for hire will have you looking over your shoulder and wondering just how well you know your own neighbors. 09/07 Becky Lejeune

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot: This was the book I treated myself with when I had a few days off and I loved it. Who knew a book about cells could be so fascinating? Skloot first heard about Lacks in a biology class and became somewhat obsessed with the story of this woman and researched her for years. Lacks was a poor black woman who ultimately died of a terribly aggressive cervical cancer when she was just 30 years old, back in 1951. Without her knowledge or permission, doctors at Johns Hopkins, one of the few hospitals that had “Negro” facilities, took cells from her during an exam that were, for the first time, able to be kept alive and reproduce in a laboratory setting. It was a turning point for science – her cells, known as HeLa cells, were vital in developing much of modern medicine, starting with the polio vaccine. But her family continued to live in poverty, never profiting from this extraordinary woman’s gift to science. Or to paraphrase one of her surviving relatives, how come doctors get to use her cells and we can’t afford to go to doctors? This is an absolutely fascinating story and one terrific read. 12/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

I’M LOOKING THROUGH YOU: GROWING UP HAUNTED by Jennifer Finney Boylan: I assumed this book was about ghosts and haunting. Instead, it’s more about dealing with one’s inner ghosts. The Boylans move in to a dark and mysterious old mansion, named the Coffin House after the previous owners. Strange happenings are a common occurrence for them. Jennifer Boylan, born Jimmy, repeatedly sees the spirit of an older woman with starry eyes. Jennifer felt like she was herself a ghost living in a body that was not hers. She finally confesses her feelings to the world years after she’s moved out of the Coffin House. She has a wife and children of her own. She’s long toiled over the gray area between men and woman. Years after her sex change, she returns to her childhood home with a group of “ghostbusters” in the hopes of revealing more about the ghosts she encountered growing up. Is it possible that the ghost she saw as a teen was simply an embodiment of herself in the future? Boylan’s writing and witty comments keeps the reader involved in the reliving of her childhood. Her honesty is genuine and downright painful at times. Admittedly, I didn’t exactly get was I was expecting from this book. In actuality, I think I got more. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence

THE IMPERFECT ENVIRONMENTALIST: A Practical Guide to Clearing Your Body, Detoxing Your Home, and Saving the Earth (Without Losing Your Mind) by Sara Gilbert: If the author’s name sounds familiar, it should; Sara Gilbert played Roseanne Barr’s middle child during the megahit’s long run. Now she’s all grown up and one of the hosts of The Talk, and an author. This book tries to help the overwhelmed women out there who want to live a cleaner, environmentally safer life, but need a little help to make it easier. This is a book you can sit down and read through, or just pick up and look up whatever issue you are trying to deal with. Each topic is clearly labeled and begins “Cut to the Chase, Hippie: What’s the Least I Need to Know?” Here is where Gilbert really shines, giving quick tips that really make sense, and work. That paragraph is followed up with “Intriguing…I Can Handle a Little More” which goes further in depth, and it ends with “I Need Some Facts to Bore My Friends With,” which really gets down to the nitty gritty. For instance, the page called “Pest Control: Because Sometimes Asking Mice to Leave Nicely Doesn’t Work” offers the quick advice to shop at your local health food store for pesticides and to check the label for ingredients you recognize. That is followed by an explanation of the types of chemicals people tend to turn to and some side effects, along with more details about safer alternatives. Finally, the “facts” section includes even more options and how they work, and some advice on trying to decide which way to go. There are also icons used on every page, with a symbol chart up front that I found myself having to refer to frequently, so probably less effective and not needed. Nonetheless, there is a lot of great advice here and easy ways to incorporate this greener lifestyle into your own. This book is a keeper, and a valuable reference tool. 8/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman: After hearing this author speak, I immediately ran out and got all his books. This one is a memoir of a few years he spent in China teaching doctors English, studying wushu (martial arts) and learning about the culture. Fascinating and funny. I found the video at Blockbuster (thanks Ann) and it was enjoyable seeing Salzman play himself. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser: A memoir set in Italy and San Francisco about a woman who gets over her husband’s leaving her for another woman by having several trysts with a married man. Italy & sex usually works really well for me, but not this time. I hated the way it was written in the second person, especially as it was her own story! If I could have read it as a word document, I could have changed all the “you’s” to “I’s” and the “yours” to “mine” and been much much happier, not to mention less likely to throw the book across the room. Also, this woman is a travel writer and writes about these fabulous little hotels all over Europe yet never names them. Maddening! On the positive side, I did learn some cool bastardized Italian slang. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

JULIA’S CATS: JULIA CHILD’S LIFE IN THE COMPANY OF CATS by Patricia Barey and Therese Burson: I am, like most of the world, a long time fan of Julia Child, but when I was given this book by a friend, I was surprised. In the books I’ve read and the TV shows over the years, not to mention Julie & Julia, I don’t remember ever hearing about her love affair with cats. The painting, Cats with Asparagus” given to Julia by her artist friend Rosemary Mannell, hung in her kitchen and is now part of the Smithsonian exhibit, but still, I never really thought about it. The authors here did their research and found evidence, including lots of pictures, that Julia truly did love cats. They even found a quote where she said if she hadn’t found cooking she might have ended up a veterinarian. She almost always had at least one kitty, and even smuggled a kitten into her no-pets-allowed retirement home. Julia died in her sleep, the sleeping kitty sharing her pillow. As I read it I kept getting the feeling that this may have started out as a children’s book. It still reads, most of it anyway, at a very easy pace, and in fact, I found some of the writing, especially in the earlier part of the book, annoying in its simplicity. Nonetheless I persevered and as a foodie,a long time fan and a fellow cat lover, ultimately found it enjoyable. 8/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

JULIE & JULIA: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell: Put this book on your favorite foodie’s gift list immediately. Julie Powell was feeling a tad depressed, so to cheer herself up, she decided to tackle Julia Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The goal she set for herself was to prepare every recipe in the book in one year and she blogged about it, way before blogs were much known. That blog was expanded on and turned into this very funny, very brave and heartwarming book. 09/05

KISS MY MATH by Danica McKellar: You know how you sometimes get those strange and illogical recommendations from Amazon.com? Well, math is apparently a mystery to the good folks at Plume Paperbacks who sent me this book aimed toward making teenage girls like, you know, math and stuff. After all, her previous book was MATH DOESN’T SUCK, so maybe she is doing something right. Actually as a Georgia Tech graduate, I am pleased to announce that I found no errors in their calculations and in many ways can see why this book could/should be popular with young teenage girls. With chapters like “Didn’t That Guy Say He Was Going to Call? – Using Variables to Translate Word Problems” and step by step instructions starting “Duh. Okay, we don’t panic…” this would seem to hit its targeted audience quite well. If the shoe fits, etc. and so forth, but having no teenagers in the house, and having long ago solved the mystery of “Amanda, Davana, and Emily all have the same phone (fat chance), and they’ve all started collecting ringtones for them. Amanda has twice as many ringtones as Davana, and Emily has 3 more ringtones than Amanda. If together, they have a total of 103 ringtones, how many ringtones does Davana have?”, I think I’ll go back to my first love – real mysteries. Thanks anyway, Plume Paperbacks, particularly for the chapter “Creative Uses for Bubblegum.”. 06/09 Jack Quick

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: A behind the scenes look at what goes on in restaurants (sometimes more than you wanted to know!) along with recipes and shopping and cooking tips. He is brutally honest about his profession and the people that work in it. A funny and fascinating read for anyone who has ever wondered “how did they do that” while dining out. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

KNIVES AT DAWN: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition by Andrew Friedman: I am a foodie. I love to cook and I love to watch the Food Network and cooking reality shows. When I received this book, I had never heard of this biannual culinary competition – Bocuse d’Or. I started reading and was immediately hooked. The biggest celebrity chefs in the world were center stage – Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Bocuse d’Or USA Vice President Jerome Bocuse, along with their protégés. Then when I was about half way through the book, I was watching Top Chef I was stunned when, as Friedman put it on the Top Chef blog, “America’s favorite cooking competition program, Top Chef, will meet the world’s most prestigious cooking competition, the Bocuse d’Or.” The winner of that night’s episode, Keven Gillespie, won the chance to compete for a spot on the American team being sent to compete in the Bocuse d’Or. It was recently announced that Kevin won his preliminary round and will compete in the semi-finals to earn a spot on the final team America.

Friedman did a great job with the book. He brings this amazing two year process to the Bocuse d’Or competition to life, and it is just fascinating reading. He follows all the people involved, shares emails and conversations and pictures, through the final event. The competition itself sounds rather like Iron Chef on steroids. It’s a five and a half hour grueling competition inside a glass walled stadium in Lyon, France, with thousands of fans from every country screaming and carrying on throughout. This is a book about food, yet it really is an exciting page turner. Put this on the list for any foodie in your life. 12/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown, by Michael Cunningham, Crown Journeys: As Cunningham walks through Provincetown I felt as if I was peering over his shoulder. He introduced me to people, places poetry, pilgrims and porches. I know he has some secrets left, but that makes me want to explore Provincetown on my own. History, tips on where to pee, where to cruise, and other tourist pointers mix effortlessly with Cunningham’s supreme ability to describe and interpret a place he calls home for a portion of the year. You share his respect for his neighbors, friends and the idiosyncrasies of this remote place. I felt I’d taken a mini vacation when I put this book down. P-town is a place I visited as a child and then forgot. Now I plan to go back. But even if you never go, Provincetown is a wonderful spot to follow Cunningham to.

PS: This is a new series for Crown Publishers. From the opening letter in an early copy: “There is no better way to see a place than on foot. In a world where things seem only to get faster, the idea of going somewhere you love and walking around and absorbing the surroundings seems almost decadent. It is in this spirit that Crown Journeys was born.” Future editions feature great writers writing about the places they love. Among the more interesting offerings to come are Laura Esquivel on Mexico, James McPherson on Gettysburg, Tim Cahill on Yellowstone, Roy Blount Jr. on New Orleans, Christopher Buckley on Washington, D.C., Bill McKibben on the Adirondacks and little Myla Goldberg on Prague. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

LARRY’S KIDNEY: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant–and Save His Life by Daniel Asa Rose: With a title like that, do you really need to know more? Well, maybe a little. Dan is a nice guy, a bright guy who likes to travel and write. His cousin Larry isn’t quite as nice; in fact, they’d hadn’t spoken in decades before the fated phone call came. Larry was dying. It’s hard to say no to a dying cousin, even if he is annoying. So when Larry proposed that Dan help him travel to China, where Dan had been twenty-something years earlier, and help him, Dan said yes and off they went. Dan left behind a wife and kids, and Larry left behind, well, nothing. But what Larry forgot to mention was that he was not only going to China in search of a kidney, which, by the way, is illegal in China for foreigners, he also was meeting his mail-order wife. Larry’s fiancée was about on par with most false advertisements; she wasn’t petite, she didn’t speak perfect English, etc. So how to find an illegal kidney in China? One idea Dan had was to attend synagogue (yes, they have some Jews in China.) He went, then waited until the service was over, stood up and announced his cousin needed a kidney, which worked better than I certainly would have expected. Despite all the insanity, or probably because of it, this crazy story makes for a funny, interesting read. 07/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

LIFE, DEATH & BIALYS: A Father/Son Baking Story by Dylan Schaffer: When Dylan was a kid, his father, Flip, took off, which happens to lots of kids. Except he left his kids with a mother who was mentally ill. Needless to say, the children suffered through their childhood, but Dylan grew up to be a very successful attorney and writer, despite his earlier hardships – or perhaps because of them.
While he was writing his first novel, Misdemeanor Man, Flip called and asked him to take a baking class in New York with him. Flip was dying of cancer. Dylan had severe misgivings, but it’s hard to say no to your dying father, so he agreed to this venture. Flip wanted to learn to bake bialys, and signed them up for a class in artisanal baking at a New York City culinary school. He arranged for lodging at a dump in the Bowery, and Dylan figured that Flip would be dead before the class even started. But then there would have been no book to write. Instead, he survived, and they spent a week together in NYC, exploring the city, learning to bake and learning to forgive, or at least deal with all that anger and pain. Alternately moving, heartfelt and funny, this is a memoir to be savored; there is no happily-ever-after here, but rather a slice of life, raw as the dough they pummel together. Schaffer’s memoir is most reminiscent of Tuesdays wth Morrie, but ultimately feels much more real. 09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE LINEUP: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler: This is great stuff for fans of the mystery/thriller genre. If you’ve ever wondered how Detective Hieronymus Bosch got his name or why Connelly writes tunnels, your questions are answered here. Robert Crais has a conversation with Elvis Cole about their relationship, Lee Child talks about Reacher and his vision for the series, and on and on with writers as diverse and wonderful as Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman, David Morrell, Anne Perry, Laura Lippman, Jeffrey Deaver and many more. I loved this book, it is just fascinating reading. This would make a great gift for the mystery reader in your life. Note: These essays were originally published for Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop and given as gifts to customers, so if you are one, and some of them sound familiar, that is why. 12/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
LITTLE CHAPEL ON THE RIVER : A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most by Gwendolyn Bounds: I loved this memoir about the big city girl moving to the country. Bounds is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who lived in an apartment across the street from the World Trade Center. The opening chapter about her experience on September 11 is mesmerizing but not maudlin. After Bounds loses her home, she has a hard time finding a new one and ends up visiting friends in a small town called Garrison in upstate New York. They take her to the local pub, Guinans, that’s been run by the same family seemingly forever. Bounds falls in love with the place and finds a house to rent nearby. The book is an homage to small town life and people and the security they offered her after the ordeal she’d been through. Bounds introduces us to the residents and it becomes easy to see why she ended up buying a home there. It’s poignant but fun, and an altogether wonderful read. 07/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE LITTLE GUIDE TO YOUR WELL-READ LIFE by Steve Leveen: An utterly charming book for any bibliophile. Leveen espouses organizing, making lists and keeping a “bookography” of the books you’ve read, using gentle suggestions and vignettes to persuade. He also legitimizes audio books, a refreshing change from the usual purist literati disdain. A wonderful gift book for yourself or the reader in your life. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

LITTLE PRINCES: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan: In 2004, Conor Grennan quit his job and set off to travel the world. His first stop: Nepal. Here he would spend three months volunteering at the Little Princes orphanage, a haven for children left on their own thanks to civil war. Nine months later, Grennan returned again to Nepal and Little Princes. This time, he discovered that the children weren’t orphans at all, but the victims of child trafficking. Grennan vowed to reunite these children with their families, eventually founding Next Generation Nepal. NGN’s impassioned mission is an ongoing effort brought to light in this amazing story that proves that one person really can make a difference. The issues in Nepal are shocking, but Grennan’s honest account of his time in Nepal and his work with the children of Little Princes is truly inspiring. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

LOST IN SHANGRI-LA: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff: The story of the crash of The Gremlin Special made headlines in 1945 but when journalist Mitchell Zuckoff came across mention of it, it had all but been forgotten. Twenty-four servicemen and women stationed in Hollandia in New Guinea during WWII had planned an afternoon site-seeing tour of the island. It was May 13, 1945—Mother’s Day—and they were in need of some down time and entertainment. They were to fly over a valley that sat in the midst of the island’s mountainous center; they called it Shangri-La. When the plane crashed, only three survived. But the treacherous terrain and dangers of the area made rescue almost impossible. After rejecting plan after plan, the military hatched one that would prove to be an adventure in and of itself. By now it may be cliché to say that Lost in Shangri-La reads like fiction, but it’s the truth. Zuckoff has a style that is engaging and readable and this story is one that honestly seems straight out of fiction already. Zuckoff’s use of first-hand accounts and his careful research are evident as is his effort to tell the story without any agenda other than to keep it alive. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

THE MAN WHO SAVED BRITAIN: A PERSONAL JOURNEY INTO THE DISTURBING WORLD OF JAMES BOND by Simon Winder: On the surface, this looks like an exciting behind-the scenes look at the creation of James Bond and his effect on popular culture, and it is, but it is actually more an exciting behind-the-scenes look at British history in the 20th century. Which is something I would probably not read a book about voluntarily, but danged if it wasn’t in fact way more interesting than the James Bond part! I always kind of had the idea that the UK was a huge world power who easily dominated in WWI and II, and just stepped back to let the US take over because they really wanted more time for gardening and watching the World Cup and stuff. Of course I realize now that I got this idea from reading a lot of trashy novels whose main aim was not exactly historical accuracy, but still I was a bit shocked to discover how really grim the situation was.
They had just barely got through WWI and could hardly afford another war 20 years later, so WWI basically plunged the nation into total economic dysfunction. Add to this the collapse of the Empire, which had been a large part of the nation’s self-image for hundreds of years, and you have the perfect environment for a hero like Bond to capture the public imagination.
Winder tells this story with lots of personal anecdotes and juicy tidbits about the main players at the time, and makes a history book actually interesting. Who knew? 01/07 Jenne Bergstrom

THE MASCOT: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem: The cover of this book tells part of the story; a young boy dressed in a miniature Nazi SS uniform posing with Nazi soldiers. The rest of the story is not so easily understood. Alex Kurzem lives in Australia, his grown son Mark working at Oxford in England. Alex has kept a secret his whole life; he’s not who his family thinks he is, and in fact, he isn’t sure who he is. As he ages, he is troubled more and more by bits of memories coming back, and a desire to find out who he really is. Even his wife doesn’t know that he’s Jewish, and he turns to Mark to help him solve this lifelong mystery; that he is that young boy, a Jew, in the Nazi uniform. How that came to be, and how a five year old child survived the wholesale slaughter of all the Jews in his tiny Latvian town, is the most remarkable story. 09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Massacre in Mexico by Elena Poniatowska; Octavio Paz, Introduction; Helen R. Lane, Translator: This oral history is a painful, systematic telling of the events that led to what has to be one of the worst civil crimes ever committed in a democratic country. After months of conflict between university students and the authorities, the Mexican police and army fired on a peaceful demonstration of hundreds of students in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, in Tlatelolco, Mexico, just prior to the 1968 Olympics. Because the Olympics were scheduled to begin the following week, the eyes of the world were focused on Mexico, but the government denied any involvement. This chronicle brings together testimony from a variety of witnesses, including parents, students and local residents; headlines and statements from newspapers; official documents from various student organizations; transcripts of tape recordings; army dispatches; and Poniatowska’s thoughtful take on it all. The way the material is presented makes it all the more distressing as it is so matter-of-fact, one story after another, one vignette more heart wrenching than the next, so that cumulative effect is devastating. There are pictures as well, but the text is much more horrifying. Most of the official records are still sealed, but recently some pictures were made available that proves the government’s involvement in this disgraceful piece of Mexican history.

MASTER DETECTIVE, THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF ELLIS PARKER, AMERICA’S REAL LIFE SHERLOCK HOLMES by John Reisinger: With a title like this, the book better be good, and it is. Ellis Parker conducted an independent three-year investigation onto the crime of the century – the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby – and concluded that the wrong man, Bruno Hauptmann, had been arrested, tried and convicted for the crime. Even though Parker had a confession from the man he claimed was the real killer, Hauptmann was executed as scheduled. Was Parker right? Did an innocent man die? You will have to decide for yourself. Don’t let the long title turn you off. This one reads like fiction, well written fiction. 01/07 Jack Quick

MAZEL TOV: Celebrities’ Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories by Jill Rappaport and Linda Solomon: With a couple of pages devoted to each celebrity, a few embarrassing pictures (Donny Deutsch & Jeremy Piven spring to mind) this book will make a fun bar or bat mitzvah or Chanukah gift. From designer Michael Kors to the “Fonz”, Henry Winkler, Richard Dreyfuss to that hottie, Josh Bernstein, to the “Bark Mitzvah Lady” (don’t ask,) cute pictures and stories abound. The bar mitzvah is a momentous event in the life of a Jew, it is when they are considered an adult and agree to live under Jewish law. There is a religious ceremony, which is often skipped by the guests as they make a beeline for the party. Parties have become lavish affairs (check out MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 if you need a frame of reference) but this book concentrates on a different era. It’s worth the price alone for Gene Shalit’s memories and his picture, sans mustache, or for Kirk Douglas’s memories of doing it twice – he celebrated a second bar mitzvah at age 83. As Donny Deutsch points out, “I don’t think anybody ever remembers their tenth birthday, but the bar mitzvah is a milestone in your childhood.” 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

MEMOIRS OF AN OUTLAW by Robert Tanner: Tanner has given us a wonderfully personal account of what the Iraq War was like from the viewpoint of a Marine who was there. From training to deployment to boots on the ground dealing with locals and IED’s, we can feel the heat and sweat and fear and relief. We can also feel the hypervigilence of being on patrol and the tedium of doing nothing in between. More importantly, he describes the bonds of brotherhood that are forged under those circumstances and he does not gloss over the loss of those who will not return. This is a strictly personal account, with no political commentary. I have placed it on my bookshelf next to the collection of Ernie Pyle’s dispatches from World War II called This is Your War. It worthy of its place. 6/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

METAMAUS: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus by Art Spiegelman: Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History was the first graphic novel that for me, defined the difference between a comic book and the power that a graphic novel could have and also won the Pulitzer Prize. Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began is the continuation, and both were based on the author’s interviews with his father, an Auschwitz survivor, and his experiences before, during and after the war. Originally published 25 years ago, the books are considered classics and were required reading for both of my kids. This new book is a look at everything that went into the first two, along with interviews, original sketches, and much, much more. It is a fascinating read that also comes with a DVD. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the DVD to play in my DVD player or on two different computers, and it actually crashed one of the computers. Reading customer reviews on Amazon, apparently this is a common problem as almost all the reviews reference it. Despite that, I still recommend the book, especially for teachers who use Maus in the classroom, for a real behind the scenes look at Spiegelman’s inspiration and process. 10/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A MILITARY MISCELLANY by Thomas Ayres: Whatever your feelings for or against the military you are bound to find a few gems in this new volume of fascinating and little-known facts, anecdotes, lists, and stories from America’s rich military legacy. Like, the only President since World War II without military service – Bill Clinton, or how thousands became drug addicted during the civil war and were provided free morphine afterwards by the Federal government. Read it or just it open it to any page – there’s plenty of fascinating lore here that will reel you in for a spell. Like, did you know the Pentagon was designed to handle 50,000 workers and visitors each day? To handle the traffic, the cloverleaf traffic intersection was designed and proved to be so successful it became the standard for the Interstate highway system. 10/06 Jack Quick

MY LAST SUPPER: The Next Course: 50 More Great Chefs and Their Final Meals: Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes by Melanie Dunea: This is a coffee table book and a really good conversation starter. Lots of famous chefs, some not so famous, and at least one who is not even a chef but rather a celebrity cook named Rachael Ray (and she is the first to admit that she is not a chef so please don’t send me hate mail!) They all get a page for a great and often unique photograph, and another to talk about what they’d like for their last meal, where they want to have it, who they’d want to share it with and most interesting to me, who they’d like to prepare it. My non-scientific guess after perusing this book is that at least 85% of these chefs want to cook their own last meal. I think Bobby Flay put it best: “The one thing about my last supper is, I’m cooking it. I like cooking even more than I like eating.” The layout makes it a really great book to just pick up and open to any page. This is actually a sequel to the 2007 My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes by Melanie Dunea. 1/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

NEVER GOIN’ BACK: Winning the Weight-loss Battle for Good by Al Roker: Al Roker had much publicized bariatric surgery a little more than ten years ago and has successfully kept the weight off. In a 2006 survey published in the Annals of Surgery, doctors found anywhere from 20-35% of patients gained weight back within ten years of gastric bypass surgery, so Al has beaten the odds. This is his very personal story about how he achieved permanent weight loss, the setbacks along the way, and why he is still fighting the battle of the bulge every day. He goes into his overweight childhood, his promise to his dying father that he would lose the excess weight, and glosses over his three marriages. Today Show fans will enjoy a bit of dish about Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and other cast members, and a peek at the some of the production of the show. The book reads like Al talks, and fans will gobble this up. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

NEW AMERICAN HAGGADAH: A New Translation by Nathan Englander, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer: There is a timeline created by Mia Sara Bruch and also commentaries by Nathaniel Deutsch, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein and Lemony Snicket. Now that credit has been given where credit is due, let me say that this is one beautiful book. It is very different than most of the Haggadahs I’ve used; it is much larger and it is a hardcover. For those unfamiliar, a Haggadah is the story of Passover and the books used at the Passover Seder are generally read cover to cover. Usually everyone has their own copy so they can follow along, which is fine for the free, classic Maxwell House Haggadah that many, many families have used for over fifty years, or the one my family has used for many years, A Family Haggadah by Shoshana Silberman, another paperback that I gradually collected until I had enough for everyone. That Haggadah is perfect for Reform Jewish families with young children as it is a fairly abbreviated version and doesn’t take that long to go through. But my children are grown now and there were all adults at my Seder table this year, so we decided to give this New American Haggadah a go.

I must confess, we did not read it cover to cover. Instead, we started at the beginning and passed the book around the table, and everyone skimmed through until they found something that appealed to them and then they read those pages. First of all, this is a beautiful book with gorgeous calligraphy and subtle contemporary artwork. Second, there is no transliteration of the Hebrew. If you can’t read Hebrew then you would have to skip those parts. But this book is a thought provoking translation that, at least for my guests, inspired conversation and discussion of many things, from the actual Seder to contemporary politics. This book sparked conversation that made this one of the most memorable Seders I’ve ever been a part of, and that makes it my book of choice for Seders in years to come. Hope it comes out in paperback next year, I could use a few more copies! 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

NEW RULES: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer by Bill Maher: If you enjoy his HBO show Real Time, you will enjoy this collection from the “New Rules” segment of each show plus some new “new rules”. Accompanied by photographs and organized alphabetically, Maher skewers everyone from politicians to celebrities to popular culture – mostly popular culture – cell phones, McDonalds, etc. Good stuff. 09/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE NEW NEW RULES: A FUNNY LOOK AT HOW EVERYBODY BUT ME HAS THEIR HEAD UP THEIR ASS by Bill Maher: If you are a fan of the HBO series, Real Time with Bill Maher, and either miss the show now that it is on hiatus for the holidays or want to relive some of the most memorable moments of the past couple of seasons, then this is the book for you – and me. Even though he is misogynistic, he still makes me laugh (and for my friends who don’t understand why I say that, just read this book, he spells it out for you.) For those who aren’t familiar, Maher’s “new rules” are generally political in nature, often insulting to someone or other, and usually pretty funny. This is a light, fast read good for some laughs, especially for liberals. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

NOTE TO SELF: On Keeping A Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O’Shea: A delightful little book. Each chapter includes an entry from Ms. O’Shea’s personal journal as well as amusing anecdotes from historical and contemporary authors, actors, politicians, and others in support of her life long fascination and satisfaction from keeping a daily journal. From Samuel Peppys in the 17th Century to blogging on the Internet, anyone who aspires to write, or just enjoys reading will find a few jewels in here. A few samples: John Wilkes Booth wrote this after fatally wounding Lincoln “I shouted ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ before I fired. In jumping, broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that night with the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never repent it, although we hated to kill.” Louisa May Alcott on her literary achievements. “My winter’s earnings – School (teaching) $50, Sewing $50, Stories $20 if I am ever paid.” And that greatest advice of all from William Shakespeare, “This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Among others included – Tennessee Williams, Anais Nin, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sylvia Plat. Enjoy. 08/08 Jack Quick

OF DICE AND MEN: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt: When I was first married in 1981, my husband worked out at sea for two months at a time, working 12 hour shifts each day. That left a lot of down time, and one of the ways the men passed the time was playing Dungeons & Dragons. It was all men, an international crew from Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and a few Americans. When he came home, he tried to explain this game to me but it was difficult for me to comprehend without actually seeing it played, which I never did. Once he moved up to the engineering department and worked a regular day job at home, he stopped playing. In an ironic twist, my daughter was invited to play at the local comic book store. This group meets each week and she loves it. I still wasn’t quite sure what it was all about but now I am, thanks to this new book. Ewalt has been playing a long time, and manages to explain the game, and more importantly the passion of the players in a way that makes it all clear and understandable, without actually having to see it or play it. In its simplest form, it is a role playing game. There are hundreds of those, mostly played online these days, but D&D, as it is affectionately known, has not made that transition. It is still played face to face, mostly by men but certainly there are plenty of women playing as well. But Ewalt goes further than just explaining the game, he also discusses the history – in its early years it was rumored to be Satanic and there were rumors of young men committing suicide because of the game. It has long been assumed that only geeks played, and frankly that has been my experience, but the game continues to flourish nonetheless. If you’ve heard of it and were curious, or have been playing a long time, this book is a fascinating read either way. 10/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

OH NO SHE DIDN’T by Clinton Kelly: I am a big fan of “What Not to Wear” and “The Chew,” and Clinton Kelly stars on both of those shows. This book is subtitled, “The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them” but probably should have also been sub-subtitled, “Clinton decided to skip therapy and just write this book”. Here he vents and spews about all the fashion faux pas that women make that drive him up a wall, and there are a lot of them, from wearing flip flops (guilty!) to socks with clogs (Mario Batali gets a pass but no one else does) to red lipstick (guilty again) and poorly fitting everything from jeans to jackets. This is some nasty shit, but it is funny too, and had me laughing out loud more than once, despite my fashion shortcomings. This is the whole other bitchy side of the sweet, good-natured Clinton we see on TV. 10/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ON BULLSHIT by Harry G. Frankfurt: A short essay on the etymology and usage of the word “bullshit”. Would have made an entertaining magazine piece, but a book? I think not. And it’s not funny, as the title would seem to imply. If I wrote anymore this review would almost be longer than the book so I’ll just say save your $9.95. Seriously. 07/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

OPENING DAY: THE STORY OF JACKIE ROBINSON’S FIRST SEASON by Jonathan Eig: Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, the first man to break the color barrier in baseball. Eig takes you through his first season, from the time he is called up to the majors, working things out with his teammates, the harassment of opposing team members and fans, all the way to the world series. The Yankees took the title that year, but it took them seven games to beat Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. A must read for baseball fans. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

OUR DUMB WORLD: Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition by the Onion: If you are not familiar with the Onion, “America’s Finest News Source” and the originator (I think) of pseudo news, get thee over there immediately. Today’s headlines, as I write this: “Mel Brooks Starts Nonprofit Foundation To Save Word ‘Schmuck'”, “Christian Charity Raising Money To Feed Non-Gay Famine Victims” and most appropriately for this site, “Third-Person Limited Omniscient Narrator Blown Away By Surprise Ending.” But Our Dumb World isn’t about news, per se, it’s an atlas, and if you weren’t sure about this, the cover helpfully steers you towards the Onion’s skew by proclaiming “Now With 30% More Asia” and such highlights as “Fewer Clouds on Maps” and “Long-Standing Border Disputes Resolved.” A sampling from the page on the South, “Where the Mistakes of the Past Come Alive” include this gem on my home, Florida: “The Silent Holocaust: Though on the surface Florida appears to be a tropical paradise, inside this state lurks a dark, gruesome secret: Each year, thousands of Jews are sent here to die.” The Onion doesn’t leave a stereotype unturned, from Malaysia, “An Allah-Inclusive Terrorist Resort” to India, “Please Hold While We Die of Malaria” to French Guiana, “The Colony That France Totally Forgot It Still Had” to Germany, “Genocide-Free Since April 11, 1946.” All the map lovers in your life, and even those who can’t fold a map, will find something to laugh at here. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

OUR HOUSE: THE STORIES OF LEVITTOWN by Pam Conrad: This book literally fell into my hands one day at the library. It’s a children’s story book about Levittown, New York, one of the first developments built on Long Island for those soldiers returning home from World War II and looking for a place to live. Originally selling for less than $8000, all these houses were identical at one time. Over the years people expanded them, renovated them and so forth until Levittown is no longer recognizable as a town with identical houses. I grew up not far from Levittown and one of my mother’s friends lived there and we visited often. My brother bought one of those houses many years ago and lived there for a while. So I was curious about this book. It is a compilation of stories, one from each decade starting in the 1940s and ending in the 1990s, written from the perspective of a child who lived there during that time. It was an interesting book, and I liked learning how the town changed over the years from that child-like perspective. While the book is fiction, there are lots of facts interwoven – I remember the teacher’s strike of the 1970’s, for example. It’s a nostalgic look back for me, and I loved the photograph used on the inside covers, it is remarkable. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN: A Chef’s Memoir of Hot Kitchens, Single Motherhood, and the Family Meal by Gillian Clark: I like food memoirs as a rule, and I’m happy to say that this was no exception. I don’t like those whiny women overcoming adversity memoirs, and while this had touches of whininess and oodles of adversity, the main focus was still in the kitchen and that worked for me. Clark owns one of the most successful restaurants in Washington D.C., and this is her story about how she got there. Divorce, single mothering, and getting fired from more jobs than I wanted to count were just some of the troubles faced and overcome in this ultimately interesting and uplifting memoir. 07/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach: This book is for everyone who ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut, or even if you didn’t, those who are curious about what really goes on in space. Roach takes a complex subject and makes it easy, breezy reading, with a twist; you learn tons about the space program without even trying. If only schools could use this approach to teaching science, we’d have a lot more interest, not to mention well educated students. But I digress. Roach looks at the history of the space program, where it began, how those chimps were sent into space, and more, then answers questions that were always in the back of my mind but never even fully realized, like how smelly does it get in that space shuttle after a week? Science writing has never been so fun. Check it out and learn enough incredibly interesting yet truly useless facts to impress your friends. 08/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE PERFECT $100,000 HOUSE: A Trip Across America and Back in Pursuit of a Place to Call Home by Karrie Jacobs, illustrated by Gary Panter: Jacobs is an architect critic and editor of Dwell magazine, and she set off to find a good house for not a lot of money. Guess what: she couldn’t do it. Sorry if that ruins the ending, but please – a whole book that missed the point? The point being that if there was a perfect $100,000 house in America, then that would have made an interesting book. The search for it, and not finding it, makes it the literary equivalent of the over-hyped Geraldo fiasco of Al Capone’s vault. And while the illustrations are nice, I would have preferred photographs. Not a perfect book by any means. 08/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PERFUMES: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez: Who would think a guide book to perfume would be a fun read? I certainly didn’t but then I found myself laughing out loud while reading the “Feminine Fragrance” chapter written by Sanchez, where she pronounced, “”What scent drives men wild?” After years of intense research, we know the definitive answer. It is bacon.”

I’m the sort of person that has instant aversions (usually followed by instant headaches) to a lot of perfumes and colognes. I found one I liked several years ago, and I stick with it. Unfortunately, my perfume of choice isn’t included in this guide. My teenage daughter selected a perfume about a year ago, her first, and that one wasn’t in the guide either, so I can’t call it definitive. It is, however, informative. Their explanations of the various types of perfumes – feminines, masculines, chypres, loud, quiet, etc. – are clear and comprehensible, and there are lists of the best perfumes (Shalimar? Really??) in the back of the book. If you like perfume, and wonder why you like different ones on different days and for different occasions, this book will help explain that, and help you choose. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

PLAYBOY’S SILVERSTEIN AROUND THE WORLD by Shel Silverstein: I’m a mom who knows Shel Silverstein from his wonderful books of poetry for children, including one of my favorite books ever, The Giving Tree. I knew that he also wrote songs, including the megahit made popular by Johnny Cash, A Boy Named Sue, that I remember from when I was a kid. But I didn’t know that he was good friends with Hugh Hefner, and that he started out doing cartoons for Playboy in the 1950’s & 60’s and was a frequent guest at the Playboy Mansion. Hefner sent Silverstein around the world to do travel cartoons for the magazine, visiting such diverse locales as Moscow, Paris, Haight-Ashbury and the White Sox Training Camp. This book is a collection of those works and includes a rare look at the lesser-known (at least to me) side of Shel Silverstein, including his fascination with nudist camps and beautiful women. This book also works on a nostalgic level, looking back at a chaotic time in this country interpreted by Silverstein’s unique art and voice. Interestingly enough, a biography, A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein by Lisa Rogak also came out early last year, but it was slow going and I gave up on it. This collection is a much quicker, easier way to gain insight into this truly gifted artist’s life and soul. 02/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE PSYCHOPATH TEST: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE MADNESS INDUSTRY by Jon Ronson: When journalist Jon Ronson is asked to investigate a strange manuscript being sent around to various academics throughout the world, he stumbles upon a new idea: an investigation of psychology and psychopaths. Driven by a conviction that his own brain chemistry may be worthy of some sort of testing, Ronson begins to wonder about the higher ups in the psychology industry, whether their various and many diagnoses can be trusted, and as specifically pertains to psychopathy in particular, what qualifies a person as truly psychopathic. Along the way, Ronson pokes into early psychopath treatments and explores the idea that some of the world’s top CEOs may indeed fit the profile. Hilarious, insightful, and highly disturbing, The Psychopath Test will probably lead readers to wonder about some of the same issues driving Ronson in his search. Whatever your own conclusions may be in the end, there’s no doubt that Ronson writes highly entertaining nonfiction. 06/11 Becky Lejeune

QUIT DIGGING YOUR GRAVE WITH YOUR KNIFE AND FORK: A 12-Stop Program to End Bad Habits and Begin a Healthy Lifestyle by Mike Huckabee: I don’t usually like these types of books, so I don’t usually read these types of books, much less spend my own money on one, but after seeing Mike Huckabee doing the talk show circuit, I was intrigued enough to overlook his politics and take the plunge. A short book filled with personal success that is truly inspirational, especially to anyone who has had health problems or loves someone who does. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE READING PROMISE: MY FATHER AND THE BOOKS WE SHARED by Alice Ozma: This is a memoir by a young woman that pays homage to her father and the gift he gave her; he read aloud to her each night. That may not sound remarkable to a lot of readers but consider this; they started when she was in fourth grade and didn’t stop until she left for college. Most importantly, they never took a night off. No matter what. They called it the “streak” and they originally set a goal of 100 nights (although this is disputed,) which they then continued to a 1000 nights and then, well, they just continued. Let me also add that Alice’s dad is a children’s librarian, and they read lots of great books, from the Frank L. Baum Oz books to Shakespeare. Sadly, they didn’t keep a log of every title they shared, but there is a fairly extensive list at the end of the book nonetheless. But this is less a book about books, and more a memoir of a young girl coming of age with a single dad. It’s warm, inviting and ideally illustrates one of the true pleasures of reading; escapism. Alice has given us a gift for readers, librarians, and maybe most important of all, families. I am planning on buying this book as a baby gift for a pregnant librarian friend who is due shortly – in fact, I’ll probably give it to her now. 05/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch CBS Sunday Morning interview with Alice Ozma & her father

A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance by Jane Juska: This is a memoir of a retired English teacher from Berkeley, California who decided to take control of her life. Divorced for many years, she was a single mom raising her son alone. He grew up, and she became lonely, so she placed this personal ad in the New York Review of Books:
“Before I turn 67–next March–I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”
She received lots of responses, more than she ever expected, from a variety of men of different age groups and geographic locations. She seemed especially drawn to New York, to the men and the city itself. She met a handful of men, had some heartbreak and some good times, and drew on her experiences to write this book. With various references to classical music and fine literature, this book is alternately intelligent, sweet, and salacious, which works for me! Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

RUNNING AWAY TO HOME: OUR FAMILY’S JOURNEY TO CROATIA IN SEARCH OF WHO WE ARE, WHERE WE CAME FROM, AND WHAT REALLY MATTERS by Jennifer Wilson: Not long before the swift downturn of the economy in 2008, Jennifer Wilson and her husband had decided to take their family on an extended trip to Europe to trace their family heritage. Wilson’s great grandparents immigrated, independent of one another, to the United States from the tiny town of Mrkopalj in Croatia. Having never been to Croatia, and with none of the elder members of the immediate family to question about their background, Mrkopalj became Wilson’s family’s destination. Their experiences and friendships over the course of their temporary relocation are chronicled here in Running Away To Home. Their examination of their lives and their genealogy (and the history of Croatia) make for entertaining reading in the form of an armchair travel experience tied in with a modern day memoir. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

Sea Biscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand: Been listening to the audio book all summer (I have a real short commute!) and it is just a wonderful, fascinating story. My 9 year old daughter loved it too! Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE SEARCH: HOW GOOGLE AND ITS RIVALS REWROTE THE RULES OF BUSINESS AND TRANSFORMED OUR CULTURE by John Battelle: If you were one of the smart investors who managed to purchase shares of Google during their initial public offering in 2004 at $85 a share, then you probably know that Google topped out at over $700 a share this year, and has been hovering just under that mark for several weeks now, making Google one of the richest and most successful companies in the world. Battelle takes a look back at the company, at their early beginnings; a business biography of sorts. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were roommates at Stanford and created their incredibly powerful search engine, but didn’t realize the implications – at first. Battelle is the founder of The Industry Standard and original editor of Wired magazine, and frankly, a bit full of himself. But to give the devil his due, he was around damn near at the beginning of this thing, and recognized what a beast the boys were unleashing: a “database of our intentions.” This book was originally published in 2005, so many of the theories espoused by Battelle have come to pass; sales of information based on our searches, ads personally directed at each individual search, not to mention all the other Google services that are used, saved, and searchable by the government. In case you hadn’t noticed, Big Brother has arrived, and he’s wearing a Google sweatshirt. 12/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A SECRET GIFT: How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup : I have a friend who has made a habit of reading a Christmas themed book each year around the holidays, and this year I decided to adopt his habit. While I don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons, I do enjoy the holiday tremendously, and this seemed like a really good way to get into the spirit. And it was.

Ted Gup’s 80 year old mother was cleaning out her attic and made him a gift of an old suitcase filled with family mementoes. He was delighted, as she knew he would be, but also intrigued. For mixed in with the baby books and wedding paraphernalia was a large manila envelope, crammed full with letters addressed to a Mr. B. Virdot. There was also a newspaper clipping from 1933, with a personal ad. The ad asked people to send a letter to this Mr. Virdot, and tell him why they needed a little financial aid to make their Christmas merry this year, in the midst of the Depression. He offered to keep it anonymous, and to send out $10 to 50-75 deserving families. He got so many responses, he ended up sending out $5 to 150 families instead.
While $5 doesn’t sound like much by today’s standards, it would be worth about $80-$100 today. It wasn’t go to change anyone’s circumstances, but it would allow a struggling family to have a nice Christmas dinner and perhaps buy a child a toy. But investigative reporter Gup never heard of Mr. B. Virdot, and soon learned it was pseudonym used by his grandfather, Sam Stone. Gup started researching, and this book is the result of his findings – a family history that he never knew about, and a Christmas gift that changed lives. You can read more about this amazing story online and watch a CBS Sunday Morning interview with the author. 12/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

SELF PROMOTION FOR AUTHORS by Larry Moniz: Subtitled A Step by Step Guide to a Professional Style Publicity Campaign, this short e-book (117 pages) contains a lot of good information, which can be helpful to those inexperienced with media and marketing. While readily admitting that “you get what you pay for” and a do-it-yourself campaign is unlikely to produce the results of a $250,000 promotion plan, Moniz also recognizes the reality that few authors have access to the funds for such a campaign. With that caveat and the fact that it’s an easy one-sitting read, I would recommend this to any beginning author or author wannabe as a good starting point in building your “brand”, and getting those pesky books to move off the shelves at a more gratifying rate. If you learn nothing else from the book, take note that the “brand” is you, not the book. If you can achieve name recognition, book sales will follow. Just ask J. K. Rowling. 07/07 Jack Quick

SERIOUSLY…I’M KIDDING by Ellen DeGeneres: This book was horrible! No seriously… I’m just kidding. It wasn’t really horrible. Rather, it was enlightening and funny. DeGeneres is one of the few people who can make you laugh through a blow-by-blow of her preparation for a colonoscopy. After the blow-by-blow she tells you the importance of regular colonoscopies. Not only should you get one, but you should keep getting them. Forever. Or until you stop eating. Or breathing. Whichever comes first. Her book is straight talk for anyone who can’t handle the truth unless it comes on a spoonful of laughter. Not to worry, she touches on subjects other than colonoscopies. She’ll keep you laughing while subliminally planting thoughts in your head about life, love, friends, family, and happiness and about not eating almonds in a casino. It would be best not to read it in a place where laughter would confirm your lunacy. 10/11 Kimberly Bower

SEX & THE CITY: The Movie by Amy Sohn: If you loved the show, and have seen the movie at least once, then this is the book for you. Not much reading required, it’s a collection of photographs from the movie, including many pictures of scenes that were cut. The thing to do, according to Sarah Jessica Parker, who was touting it on The View last week, is to find the outfits that didn’t make it into the film. Enjoy the backstage secrets like the belt that was worn so frequently with so many outfits that they named it, the behind-the-scenes tidbits from all the stars and the producer, the insiders tour of NYC, and of course, the fashion. A fun book and a great gift for any Sex & the City fan. 06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet, translated by Adriana Hunter: In a word, boring. It reads like a laundry list of sexual events, one more tedious than the next. In all fairness, I read the first 150 pages or so and skimmed the rest. This is the least erotic book I’ve read on sex since, well, Satisfaction, the Kim Cattrall sensation. Even though it’s a memoir I still expect some sort of plot, something to happen to someone somewhere along the line that I will actually care about. There are no characters other than a list of names along with various nameless bodies with nothing to connect them to, Catherine and her boyfriend, and we never get to know anything about either of them except that she likes group sex and gets tired of being the one to initiate it. Her language, which is translated of course, leaves me cold. I think the big deal about this book is that it is written by a woman, which makes it the female sexual equivalent of say, the memoir by Wilt (“I slept with 20,000 women”) Chamberlain. Utterly without merit. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

SH*T MY DAD SAYS by Justin Halpern: To my knowledge, this book is the first book based on tweets – a Twitter micro-blog. Julie & Julia was the first blog book, and it did pretty well, movie and all. Sh*t is being made into a television show with the more family friendly title, “$#*! My Dad Says” (pronounced “bleep” – originally to be called “Stuff My Dad Says”) starring William Shatner. But read the book first so you get the full flavor of the language; after all, a quote should be quoted. The thing is that often the profanities are shocking or jarring, but they make this book sing. Some of my favorites:

On Asking to Have the Candy Passed to Me During Schindler’s List: “What do you want-the candy? They’re throwing people in the fucking gas chamber, and you want a Skittles?”
On Managing One’s Bank Account: “Don’t get mad at the overdraft charge…No, no-see, there’s your problem. You think of it as a penalty for taking out money you don’t have, but instead, it might help you to think of it a a reminder that you’re a dumb shit.”
On Driving Through West Hollywood, Where I Lived My First Year in L.A.: “There seem to be a lot of gay people there…Oh please, as if that’s what I meant by that. Trust me, none of them would ever want to fuck you anyway. They’re gay, not blind.”
But lest you get the idea that this book is just a series of 140 character zingers, it is not. Halpern provides the backstory on many of the posts, and puts things into perspective. It’s still a very short, very funny book. Follow Halpern on Twitter to keep laughing. 08/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Sixpence House by Paul Collins: Charming memoir about a year spent in Wales, in a small town called Hay-on-Wye. Hay is a rather unique place on this earth; the population is approximately 1500, yet there are 40 bookstores. And even more remarkable, at least to me, only one of those bookshops carries new books, the rest are antiquarian, including one that is housed in a castle and boasts the largest collection of antiquarian American literature in the world. The author moved his family to Hay to finish writing his first book, Banvard’s Folly, and with the intention of buying a home there. They put bids in on a few homes, but the inspections were invariably disheartening – it seems that homes that are more than a century old tend to have the sort of imperfections that need buckets of money to fix. So the Collins’ moved back to the States, and this lovely book was born. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: Passion and Property in Manhattan by Steven Gaines: True confession time: when I was 16 years old, I had rhinoplasty, popularly known as a nose job. In the 1970’s, nose jobs were all the rage in my affluent suburb and I knew many girls who had them. They would visit a surgeon’s office and look through a book of “noses” to select the one they wanted for their face. The only problem was that most of these girls ended up with the ubiquitous “ski slope” nose; cute, small, with an upward tilt at the tip. Nose jobs required a hospital stay of a few days, general anesthesia was the rule, and the girls were sent home with a hard rubber protective device taped to their face over their bandage-packed noses. Except for one doctor; a radical who didn’t believe in general anesthesia or cute, one-size-fits-all noses selected from a book. His name was Dr. Howard Diamond.

Dr. Diamond had his own unique ideas about rhinoplasty. His patients had their faces numbed, certainly, but they were awake during the procedure, awake enough to hear the good doctor instruct a visiting physician from England to “hit it harder” and for a patient’s foot to lash out and upset an instrument tray. He had the arrogance of a surgeon sure of his superiority; during the pre-surgical visit, he would examine the nose in question and dictate exactly what he was going to do. In my case, he informed me that he would remove the bump and that would make my nose appear shorter without requiring anything further of him. He had a beautiful office on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, with a private hospital on the premises. And I was sent home with a small bandage, no packing, no hard rubber protection, just a few stitches. My nose suits my face and is unique to me, and every nose I knew he did was unique to its owner – and not a “ski slope” in the bunch.
Why am I spilling my guts about this in a book review? Because on page 6 of The Sky’s the Limit, I read this:

“One of Fifth Avenue’s largest maisonettes, a fifteen-room triplex at 817 Fifth with forty feet of frontage facing the park, was for many years the home and office of Dr. Howard Diamond, the grand master of rhinoplasty in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Thousands of princesses from all five boroughs and New Jersey made the pilgrimage to Dr. Diamond’s subterranean operating rooms to sleep under anesthesia for a few hours and awaken with the doctor’s famously all-purpose ski-slope nose with his distinctive planed bridge.”

I am a Diamond Princess. And being such, I knew this paragraph to be incorrect. This book is a work of nonfiction so therefore it must contain only fact. But I know it doesn’t, so it calls into question the veracity of the rest of the book. With that in the back of my mind, I continued reading and got to this section on page 48 regarding the popularity of co-ops in NY:

“Because buying stock in a private company is a private transaction, there is no public listing of sales or prices, so all figures quoted in the industry – and in this book – are the word-of-mouth figures that filter through the porous real estate community and wind up in brokers’ computers, sometimes unsubstantiated.”

There you have it; a nonfiction book of gossip and innuendo. Certainly lots of the information contained in this book is substantiated, there is a lengthy list of sources at the end. But not all of it, and that is unacceptable.

In the interest of fairness, I must say that I read a review copy, not a finished book. I wrote the publisher of my concerns and asked where Mr. Gaines got his information from. I never did receive an answer about his source, but was informed that the book had gone to print with the paragraph intact. Therefore, while I can say it is an interesting book about real estate in NY with lots of good gossip about celebrities and their trials and tribulations in buying and selling their homes there, I can’t say any more than that. I don’t know what is true and what is not, and that really bothers me. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

SNORKELING THE FLORIDA KEYS by Brad Bertelli: There are a lot of travel books on Florida, and several just on snorkeling but I really like this one. Bertelli includes 40 of the best places to snorkel in this part of the state, but includes a lot more than that. Each location has a story as well, making this book way more than just a travel book but rather an enjoyable read about pirates, sunken treasure, and marine life. Each section also includes a “fun fact”, another interesting tidbit about that particular place. Bertelli gives the history of each location, gives credit to the people who were instrumental in preserving these beautiful waters and discusses exactly what snorkelers should be looking for and how to stay safe at each spot. Locations include popular ones like Bahia Honda State Park and John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but also lesser know locales like Coffins Patch Reef, Indian Key and a shipwreck of the City of Washington. My only complaint is that I wish there were color photographs included with each location rather than the black and white drawings & photos that populate the book. There is a small section of color photographs included and they are beautiful, and it is expensive to include more, but it would have perfected this book. Anyone with a desire to snorkel the Florida Keys should find this book instrumental in planning a trip or great fodder for just dreaming about it. 6/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A SPORTSCASTER’S GUIDE TO WATCHING FOOTBALL by Mark Oristano: Whether you are a casual fan like my wife, or live for fall weekends as I do, you will enjoy this concise guide to American Football. Focusing primarily on the pro game, the principles are applicable at all levels, with some relatively minor rules variations. Oristano even includes neat things you can say like “The first time you recognize zone blocking, say softly to yourself but loud enough for others in the room to hear – Nice Zone Blocking Scheme. They will be impressed with your knowledge level and if they ask you to elaborate just respond, “Keep watching. You will pick it up.” He explains Zebras – the men in the striped shirts who attempt to maintain order, the laundry – flags thrown by zebras to indicate infractions, the two minute drill and remember “they pay them to play through pain.” Quite enjoyable. 01/10 Jack Quick

STRETCH: THE UNLIKELY MAKING OF A YOGA DUDE by Neal Pollack: People come to yoga for different reasons. Literary comic Neal Pollack’s reason was that a national reviewer referred to him as doughy. In an attempt to help, his wife dragged him to a local chain gym for beginner yoga classes. Soon, Pollack found himself wanting more. In an almost obsessive attempt to deepen his practice, Pollack immerses himself in yoga culture, researching and trying various styles at numerous studios throughout the country. And through it all, he maintains his hilarious sense of humor, relating to readers the ridiculous, the strange, and the fascinating aspects of yoga and the people he meets along the way. From his early days of awkward bends and accidental farts through to his becoming a teacher himself, Pollack takes readers along on his laugh out loud journey through yoga. Whether you have an interest in yoga or not, Pollack’s engaging style makes this one memoir that I can get behind. Pollack, for the most part, doesn’t take himself too seriously and though his goal is definitely to introduce readers to this new world that he’s become enamored with, he has no problem expressing his opinions, to the amusement of readers. 09/10 Becky Lejeune
SUCK ON THIS YEAR: LYFAO @ 140 Characters or Less by Denis Leary: I like Denis Leary and I like his humor, so I hunkered down with his new book and had a good laugh. For about 6 minutes. Then I turned the last page and thought, is that all there is? Then I saw Leary on TV making the talk show rounds and finally got it. He says if you want to read a book, try Franzen or Tolstoy; his book is more of a “comedy pamphlet” and he says you can read it, cover to cover, in just 12 minutes (see the book trailer). And it’s funny stuff – it’s comprised of his tweets on some of the more ridiculous popular culture highlights of the past year . If you want to start your new year laughing, this is the book for you. Added bonus: a portion of the proceeds from sales go to the Leary Firefighters Foundation. 1/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

SUZE ORMAN’S 2009 ACTION PLAN by Suze Orman: I am stuck so deep in the middle class that I can barely see my way out of it, and the way things are right now I’m rather content to stay where I am. Either way, Orman always sounds like she’s speaking directly to me, and I like that. This book is no different. I bought The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke for my son as he graduated college, in hopes that he might actually read it and learn something from her, but I don’t know that he ever did. Either way, Orman is smart, and she forces the reader to take a long, hard look at what they are doing with their money and why. She addresses your credit rating, how to improve it and why you should, along with the mundane realities of life – retirement, paying for college (my daughter is a junior in high school!), real estate, and so forth. She’s cautiously optimistic, helps you prioritize obligations and explains why in clear, easy to understand language, without a lot of the financial jargon you find in other books in this genre. She’s very, very good at what she does. If you can’t afford to buy the book, do yourself a favor and borrow it from your local library. 01/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

TALKING TO SIRI: Learning the Language of Apple’s Intelligent Assistant by Erica Sadun: I finally gave up my Blackberry and got my first iPhone in April, the 4S with the ebullient Siri. But she just frustrated me and my husband too – and he’s a computer guru! He even turned her off completely. This little book was extremely helpful to both of us. I learned how to make phone calls, have Siri read my messages, and add items to my lists. She still isn’t perfect, but there is a lot less frustration for sure. My husband is playing nicely with Siri these days too. If you want to learn how to use Siri, this is the book for you, especially considering the phone doesn’t come with a book. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE TENDER BAR by J.R. Moehringer: This book is styled as a memoir, but it is really more of an expression of gratitude to all of the individuals and institutions that helped Mr. Moehringer grow from a small boy into a man who knows how to write about what he is seeing and what he is feeling.
The premise of the book is that a neighborhood bar became not only the boy’s missing father, but his big brother, his buddy, his schoolhouse and his training facility. But in justifying the premise, Moehringer makes it clear to the reader, if not to himself, that he was both exposed to some very helpful people and bright enough be able to understand their gifts.
Attempting a book about drinking and a drinking establishment is frought with peril. Generally, such books err either on the side of over-romanticizing the gin mill or becoming preachy about the evils of alcohol. Books of the first sort tend to be favored by people who think themselves equally serious drinkers and readers. In addition to having read a lot of books over the years, I have been in a whole lot of barrooms. In almost everyone, the “regulars” would tell me that their establishment was “just like Cheers.” They weren’t. Books of the second sort tend to be produced by the newly sober, but badly spoiled personalities who are flush with their initial success. These books have no more to do with real sobriety than the romanticized bars had to do with the utopian Cheers. Moehringer avoids both those traps and produces to my way of thinking, a unique and readable product.
Follow him as he grows, through his father’s leaving, his fight to get into Yale and his work for the New York Times. It is an interesting story. I would recommend this book as a nice change of pace for the reader and good food for thought about our own lives and those who have contributed to them. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

TEXTS FROM LAST NIGHT: All the Texts No One Remembers Sending by Lauren Leto & Ben Bator: First thing, Lauren Leto & Ben Bator are not authors, they are collectors. Their collection is available online at their website, Texts From Last Night. As to what they are collecting, well, here’s my understanding of it. People go out and party, get drunk or stoned or whatever, and send embarrassing/funny text messages to their friends and/or significant others. Then someone – either the sender or the receiver – posts these little gems on the website, where they are read by millions of eager fans, and Leto & Bator’s favorites end up in this little book.
Credit this book’s publication to the Julie & Julia phenomenon. Take a successful blog/website, turn it into a book, hope for a movie and pray for millions of dollars to roll in. I liked the Julie & Julia book, and loved the movie. This book? Not so much. On the other hand, my seventeen year old daughter is an avid fan of the website, and so are some of my college age co-workers. Target audience, I suppose, are Millennials. I am a Boomer, and don’t find chapters on Farts, Cheaters, Drinks or most of it especially funny. Why the publisher felt the need to turn this into a book is beyond me. Their target audience is way happier reading them online or on their iPhones, so I’m not really sure who is going to buy this book. Maybe as a gag gift? This book made me feel like a cranky old fart. 01/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THINGS COOKS LOVE: Implements, Ingredients, Recipes by Marie Simmons (Sur La Table): I’ve never been to Sur La Table, a premier cooking store, and this book should have convinced me it was time to check it out. It didn’t. It’s not that I don’t love cooking, or cooking stores, or this book – because I did. I’m just over buying expensive kitchen utensils that have limited use. That said, this is a fun book – all sorts of interesting things that you don’t see everyday, and tips on how to use them and why you should. I enjoy all sorts of food books – memoirs, cookbooks, and so forth, and this is just a little different twist on the genre. Writing about gadgets and pots and pans isn’t as pedestrian as it may sound – especially when they are as interesting as a pommes Anna pan to a mattone. Some criticism has been leveled at this book, calling it no more than a glorified Sur La Table catalog – and an expensive one at that at $35 – but it really is much more than that. Yes, the pictures are catalog worthy, and you can go to their website and purchase a set called “things cooks love” for the discounted price of $650. Or you can just read the book and learn how to use some of the things you inherited from your grandmother and weren’t quite sure what to do with, or learn what really essential items every kitchen should have and what to look for in those items. The book is sectioned by country and type of food, turning it into a culinary journey of sorts. And be sure to try some of the recipes, as simple and delicious as Roasted Garlic Mashed Russets with Olive Oil, or the Sea Bass Filets with Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Sauce. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THIRTEEN AND A DAY: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America by Mark Oppenheimer: My daughter will become a Bat Mitzvah in a few weeks so it seemed serendipitous that this book should come out now. The basic premise of the book seemed to be a sociological study of the ritual of Bar/Bat Mitzvah – literally, “son/daughter of the commandments” AKA the coming of age at 13 in Judaism. The author visited synagogues from New York, Florida, Texas, Alaska etc. and the various styles of celebration were examined. What surprised me, however, was how judgmental the author was in his discussions – especially since he confesses to be a non-practicing Jew who never celebrated his own Bar Mitzvah. He didn’t approve of the excess of everything in New York City or Westchester, but liked the religious simplicity of the Chasidim in Alaska. I would have liked to see a broader study and a less judgmental one, but it was interesting. 07/05

THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save us All by Marilyn Johnson: This Book is Overdue is an unscientific study à la Studs Terkel of a profession that is often taken for granted and usually overlooked. Johnson has written an homage to librarians everywhere. All sorts of librarians, from “Frederick Kilgour, the first to link libraries’ computer catalogs to one another back in the late sixties” to George Christian & Janet Nocek, the Connecticut librarians who sued the federal government as John Doe over the Patriot Act, to the virtual librarians of Second Life and several of the blogging librarians too. Johnson celebrates these librarians as heroes of the information age in an always interesting and often humorous way. It’s warm, witty, and wise, just like many of the librarians portrayed within and a terrific read. NOTE: I got to spend some time with Marilyn at the Florida Library Association 2010 annual conference. Read all about it on the BookBitchBlog. 04/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi: Beautiful, middle-age, love at first sight story set in beautiful, old, love at first sight Venice. Too good to be true, yet it’s not a novel – it’s a memoir. A sort of Bella Tuscany meets An Italian Affair…the author takes us to live with her in Venice. We get to go shopping in the marketplace, dine at local trattorias, sip wine on the beach at sunset, and we’re included in her wedding plans. A few recipes are included from the writer/chef/bride. Delicious reading indeed! Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THREE LITTLE WORDS by Ashley Rhodes-Courter: Ashley Rhodes survived 9 years and a total of 19 foster parents. “Three Little Words” describes the many cases of abuse Ashley experienced in the near decade that she spent in the foster care system. Ashley and her brother, Luke, were forced to live in foster homes overrun with children and suffered unspeakable abuse. The odds were against her in a system that still has problems. Yet she not only survived, she flourished. Throughout her experience in the foster system she attempted to reach out to authorities about the atrocities that she and her foster siblings faced. Each time she was ignored; she was simply an unruly child seeking attention. After she was adopted, Ashley went on to become an advocate for the foster care system and her voice was finally heard. One of the most powerful parts of the book is the three little words alluded to in the title. They aren’t “I Love You” as many would expect, but “I guess so” which is what Rhodes said to a judge on the day of her adoption. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence

THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS by David Morrell and Hank Wagner: Interesting to me that our library has this book shelved as “non-fiction”. I suppose as a literary analysis rather than a story collection that is correct. Anyway, Morrell whose First Blood was the basis for the Rambo films, and Wagner who is a regular contributor to Mystery Scene magazine have selected 100 examples of supposedly trendsetting thrillers, each introduced by a contemporary writer of the genre. The entire work ebbs and flows and tends to wander around, but you will likely find a few new titles to add to your reading list. At least, I did. 10/10 Jack Quick

THX THX THX: THANK GOODNESS FOR EVERYTHING by Leah Dieterich: This is a compilation of thank you notes written from a thankful and hopeful heart. These are not ordinary thank you notes. A few are addressed to people but the majority of them are directed at emotions, experiences, locations and relationships. Thx Thx Thx is easy to browse; sometimes thought-provoking and other times funny. Although it would be an obvious choice for a coffee table book at home a broader use would be to place ThxThxThx on the tables in waiting rooms at hospitals or in doctor’s offices. 10/11 Kimberly Bower

TOMATOLAND: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook: If you’ve ever wondered why those supermarket tomatoes are beautiful but completely tasteless, this book has all the answers for you. This is a very disturbing, well researched story that started out life as a James Beard award-winning article, “The Price of Tomatoes.” This is also a history of the tomato, where it was first grown, how it came to Italy and America, but so much more than that. Estabrook discovered that tomato workers are virtually slaves, in fact he emphatically states that slavery is alive and well in the state of Florida. He discusses the Florida Tomato Committee, the folks that ensure that all tomatoes that leave the state are hard, spherical, green without a hint of red, and can withstand 10 foot drops off the back of a truck onto the pavement without cracking or any other damage. Scary. toxic chemicals are necessary to grow “perfect” (my word) tomatoes in Florida, which has the wrong climate for optimum growth but the best climate for fungus, not to mention a plethora of bugs and diseases, all trying their best to wipe out the crops. Then more chemicals are sprayed onto the green tomatoes when they reach their warehouse destinations, chemically turning them red and beautiful. But beauty is only skin deep; the vitamins and nutrients normally found in tomatoes are severely lacking in these, as well as the delicious tomato flavor. I’m sorry to say that my library is a stone’s throw from the Thomas Family Farm, which is just one of the farms named in this book for their outrageous practices in both growing food for human consumption and the violation of basic human rights of their employees. I have driven by that farm more times that I care to think about and never gave a thought to what may be going on there. Now that I know I don’t know what I can do about it, but at least I can voice my disgust here, thank my farm cooperative, urge everyone to buy local produce, and read this book. 2/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

TOO SOON TO SAY GOODBYE by Art Buchwald: Art Buchwald’s kidneys were failing. He needed dialysis to get his leg amputated, but then decided no more dialysis. He was in complete renal failure, checked himself into hospice and began the process of spending his last few weeks dying. Except he didn’t. At least not for several months. He became the “Man Who Would Not Die” and got to say goodbye to everybody who meant anything to him – some of them more than once. He plans his funeral, his eulogy, the food being served; discusses heaven, living wills, and all the other things no one discusses about death. This is pure Buchwald, dying on his own terms and determined to make us laugh as he does it – a truly fitting goodbye from an American icon. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

TRAFFIC: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt: Am unlikely topic but what an amazing book. As Vanderbilt points out, people spend more time in their car than ever, and he examines why we do what we do in our cars. He claims to have gotten his inspiration while driving on the Jersey Turnpike, but really applies everywhere. So are you an “early merger” or “late merger”? Do you merge way before you know the lane will end, when you first see the warning signs? Or do you wait until you have no choice and the lane ends? And if so, does that make you a selfish jerk who makes it harder for everyone else? Or are the people who merge early really the ones gumming up the works. But there is so much more covered here, from why new cars get into more accidents than old ones, why traffic signs don’t work, the problem with cell phones and of course, road rage. This is well researched and fascinating reading in Vanderbilt’s very capable hands. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE TRIUMPH OF THE THRILLER: HOW COPS, CROOKS, AND CANNIBALS CAPTURED POPULAR FICTION by Patrick Anderson: Anderson is the thriller reviewer for the Washington Post, and one of my favorite reviewers. Not because I always agree with him; I don’t. But his reviews are always to the point, he never seems to be trying to impress his readers with his own smarts, and even when he doesn’t like a book, he’s never nasty (although there may some authors who disagree.) I expected a lot from this book and he delivered. Anderson traces the evolution of the thriller from its earliest beginnings to what has become the modern day thriller. I think he may have overstepped the bounds of what truly differentiates a thriller from other crime fiction, but it’s a small quibble. There are tons of recommendations, including the authors Anderson feels are the best out there today: Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Thomas Harris, and George Pelecanos. I don’t know that I could come up with a top four, and if they would be the same, but I admire the man for trying, and for explaining the genre as fully as he does. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

TWITTER WIT: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less by Nick Douglas: If you were wondering what Twitter was all about, curious about the hottest micro-blogging trend, or just wanted to know what everyone was Tweeting about, then this is the quick read for you. Highlights of the earliest Twitter days are recorded here for posterity, including such gems as these: from willdurst, “I think the proof there is intelligent life on other planets is the fact they’ve chosen not to contact us;” from adamisacson, “Buying groceries online is convenient but deadly boring. As a result, most things in our fridge start with ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C;'” from munki, “Don’t say ‘y’all’ when what you mean is ‘youse guys,'” and from kevinmarks, “You know, most of the Harry Potter book plots would be over in 3 chapters if they had a decent search engine.” Enjoy, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookbitch. 10/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch.

THE UNITED STATES OF ARUGULA: HOW WE BECAME A GOURMET NATION by David Kamp: It’s happened gradually so you may not have noticed, but these days the United States has become a nation of foodies. Jack-in-the-Box is serving foccacia sandwiches. The supermarket has ten kinds of olive oil. The Boar’s Head Saloon in my little tiny hometown actually has Hefeweisen beer. On draft!
It’s pretty amazing that even in the 1950s, newspaper articles would put the word “pasta” in italics because it was such a foreign word, and now chefs like Mario Batali are cooking sweetbreads on national television and becoming rich and famous from it.
This is the story of how that happened, and ooh, it is dishy! Kind of like Bill Bryson’s A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, it gives the historical facts about its subject, but the real fun is in the personalities behind the story. Like how Craig Claiborne, the original New York Times food critic, had some very strange issues with his parents. Or how the staff of Chez Panisse would have rather wild parties after the restaurant closed. Even those old Time-Life international cookbooks have a somewhat scandalous backstory.
It’s really a page-turner, and a great read for anyone even remotely interested in food and cooking. The only thing missing is the recipes. 01/07 Jenne Bergstrom

THE VISUAL MISCELLANEUM: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia by David McCandless: This book is a unique and artful way of looking at statistics of popular culture, going way beyond pie charts and bar graphs. The book is very colorful and interesting, but I have to question the validity of a lot of the information when Wikipedia is listed as the only source for many of the statistics given. The book also has some technical issues; for instance, there is a comparison of “annual methane emissions in equivalent C02” that is titled, “Farty Animals.” Cute, right? There are simple blue pictures of a woman, a pig, a cow and so forth, with a bright yellow cloud of varying sizes behind each, but there are no numbers, just the diagrams. So I learned that cows fart more than women – but was there supposed to be more info than that? Something about C02 perhaps? On the next page is an illustration of the United States with the title, “How Rich? Yearly earnings of world’s wealthiest nations as combined earnings of US States.” The picture shows the western majority of the US in purple, the middle in yellow, the southeast in orange and the northeast in blue, but again, there are no numbers and no references. Not sure what I am supposed to be learning from this diagram. Then there is “The Poison” page, which has diagrams of various cocktails that illustrate the proportions of the ingredients. Very cute, interesting and useful in fact. The next page has the same layout featuring hangover remedies. But then it turns to salad dressings, which could also be good except they left out the names of the various dressings, rendering the information useless. All in all, a great idea that needs a little more research using more authoritative sources than Wikipedia (a good starting point for sure, but not a good ending point) and a lot more proofreading. 11/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch NOTE: Received this from the publisher, HarperPerennial – I noticed in your review some of the misprinted diagrams that you pointed out, and I did just want to let you know that those were due to an unfortunate printer error which we’re working to correct. (Alas, it was unable to be fixed upon the first printing.) However, David McCandless will be posting those corrected diagrams on his website http://www.informationisbeautiful.net, along with some bonus material as a thanks to his readers and to make up for the misprinted diagrams.

WAITER RANT: Thanks for the Tip–Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica (AKA The Waiter): Do you know anyone who works in the food industry? Did you love No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain? If you answered yes to either of those questions, put this book on your must read list immediately. What Bourdain did for the kitchen, i.e. the “back of the house”, Dublanica does for the front of the house. Learn why professional waiters won’t spit in your food – they prefer much more creative and insidious ways of responding to your complaints. You will learn why it’s okay to eat fish that’s been frozen, if done properly; why you should avoid dining out on holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day; and why you cannot offer lavish praise in lieu of a monetary reward for your waiter. All this and more from a man who was the head waiter at a high end Manhattan restaurant and blogged himself into a book deal. 11/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson: Travel narrative at it’s funniest. This book leaves one yearning for the great outdoors despite the risks and the hardships. I listened to it on tape read by the author, which gives a real feeling of intimacy. If you’ve never been hiking, are passionate about it or anything in between, Bryson brings it all home. Just started listening to In a Sunburned Country, in which Bryson explores Australia.

THE WAR STATE: The Cold War Origins Of The Military-Industrial Complex And The Power Elite, 1945-1963 by Michael Swanson: Don’t let the title scare you away from this engaging narrative. (I have a very personal interest in this as a cousin gave up his Air Force career as the result of the stress of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He said he couldn’t sleep thinking about all the people about to die.) The author knows his material and manages to present it in a very entertaining manner. Swanson makes a persuasive case that control of our country has effectively been ceded to a small power elite of individuals in business and government who report to no one and who guide the nation no matter which political party is in power. To support his argument Swanson uses previously unavailable information about the Cold War from the perspective of the Soviets. Swanson’s research is detailed and authoritative. One particular interesting aspect is Swanson’s tracing the connection from the US initial efforts to install the Shah of Iran to our current problems in that region. Whether or not you agree with Swanson’s conclusions this should be a must-read for anyone interested in post World War-II international affairs, which should be everyone since all our lives are affected daily by the results of these actions. 9/13 Jack Quick

Waxworks by Frieda Hughes: Ms. Hughes is an artist and an author of children’s books. She is also the daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. She has her mother’s ability to wield words like a scalpel, cutting very precisely and very deep. Waxworks is a collection of poems all of which are Ms. Hughes reflections on figures of legend and history and art, much as if she were looking at their statues. Fittingly, one of the poems concerns Madame Tussaud herself, looking for models of her famous creations in people in the London streets. There is the best and worst in all of us. We are all potentially murderers and betrayers. Other poems deal with characters ranging from Thor to Burke and Hare. I found particularly compelling her poem about Job, which begins “When Job was a woman/ God thought she was perfect.” Later in the poem, the voice of God speaks to her in the form of one of her “father’s ” crows. To no avail. This is a compelling and often grisly work. I would like to say that Ms. Hughes has also inherited her mother’s demons and in particular feelings about her father, but Ms. Hughes is too much her own voice to be so rudely explained and pigeonholed. She is worth admiring in her own right. This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING by Kyle Garlett: Brain cramp – we have all experienced those moments of mental meltdown when the thought process inexplicably shifts a gear and stumbles. Afterwards we look around furtively to assess the damage, and more importantly to see if our moment of weakness has been witnessed. Hopefully, the damage is slight and the witnesses are few. However, when your brain cramp occurs in or pursuant to a major sporting event before as many as millions of people, well, it becomes a regrettable but unforgettable episode. Garlett has perfectly captured some of the most famous or infamous moments in sports, from Ohio State coach Woody Hayes running onto the Gator Bowl field and striking an opposing Clemson football player, to the riot at Chicago’s Comiskey Park during Disco Demolition Night which caused the home town White Sox to forfeit a game. The Heidi Bowl, Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard Round the World”, the Miracle on Ice, the Curse of the Bambino, Leon Lett’s lost Superbowl score, as well as his fumbled fumble recovery – all these and more are nicely detailed in this must have book for avid sports fans. Definitely recommended. 07/09 Jack Quick

WHEN WILL MY GROWN-UP KID GROW UP?: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett & Elizabet Fishel: Not usually the type of book I read, but since I can relate, I thought I would give it a look-see. When my kids were little, I read parenting books, when they were teenagers I went back to the books. Now they are in their 20’s, so why not read about it – I read, it’s what I do. This book put some things in perspective for me and reassured me about other things. The writing style is breezy, not preachy, and real life situations are discussed. If you’re on the verge of becoming an empty-nester or have one whose returned, or even never left, this book is for you. I found it of interest and even comforting. 10/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
aWho Cut the Cheese? – An A-Mazing Parody about Change (and How We Can Get Our Hands on Yours) by Stilton Jarlsburg: Funny and clever, everything a parody should be. In my humble opinion, Who Moved My Cheese needed to be lampooned. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

WHO THE HELL IS PANSY O’HARA?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World’s Best-Loved Books by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy: It just so happened I knew who Pansy O’Hara was, but I was intrigued enough by the title to read the rest of the essays in this intriguing little book of the true stories behind some of the world’s most popular books. This book will not appeal to the literati, not when it includes behind the scenes looks at J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, and The Guinness Book of World Records along side Erich Remarque and All Quiet on the Western Front and the Brontë sisters. But as a book lover of all kinds, I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun and enlightening read. 09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG: The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman by Lisa Scottoline: I love the Scottoline novels, and that same gentle humor, love of family and the intrinsic Italian all come out in this collection of Philadelphia Inquirer columns. Philly folks undoubtedly are already familiar with Scottoline’s weekly column called “Chick Wit” but the rest of the country is in for a treat. Here we meet the real life characters Scottoline’s fictional characters are based on; her mother Mary, gay brother Frank, her beloved father, her BFF’s and her brilliant daughter Francesca. Most women will relate and will laugh at Scottoline’s warning to never take your bra off, even while relaxing at home, in case you end up having to go to the emergency room, or her two ex-husbands, “Thing One” and “Thing Two.” I especially related to her adoption of a dog when her daughter left for college – I adopted a kitten my daughter’s senior year in high school because he would never leave me for college. Of course, Scottoline already had three dogs, two cats and chickens, among other pets, but the point was the same. The stories are just a couple of pages longs, easy and delightful reading, and made me laugh out loud. A wonderful holiday gift for any woman – or enlightened man. 12/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

WHY WE BUY: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill: This book has become a sort of classic on retailing, and I’ve never read it. Since there is an updated version coming out at the end of the year that will include the Internet, I wanted to get a look at this book first. I haven’t worked retail for several years, (singing a new version of the Amy Winehouse song my friend Nancy dreamed up called, “Never Going Back to Retail”) but certain aspects of retailing are affecting libraries, particularly with regard to branding, displays, and customer service. So I went to the Underhill book to learn about signage, shopping habits and so forth, and learn I did. Underhill’s company spent twenty years basically spying on people in their native shopping environments, and writes about it in a very readable, often amusing way. In fact, reading about his operatives invisibly following shoppers through department stores immediately brought to mind the Josie Marcus, Secret Shopper series by Elaine Viets. Anyone with a retail store really needs to read this book before they open their doors. It will be fascinating seeing how the world marketplace, the Internet, has changed the science of shopping. 09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

WRITING TOOLS: 50 ESSENTIAL STRAGEGIES FOR EVERY WRITER by Roy Peter Clark: I should preface this review by saying that I’ve been reading Mr. Clark’s writing tips for quite a long time via the Poynter website where they first appeared. Poynter is geared towards journalists, but I think these writing strategies are of help to any kind of writing – journalism, fiction, school reports, whatever. The tools make a remarkable collection and a very valuable book for anyone who is interested in improving their writing. A lot of what he says sounds like common sense, and it is – but sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics, and nudged further along, which he does quite well. So starting with “Part One: Nuts and Bolts” which includes such wisdom as “Begin sentences with subjects and verbs” and “Fear not the long sentence.” Part two is called “Special Effects” and includes such gems as “Prefer the simple over the technical” and “Set the pace with sentence length.” Part three is called “Blueprints” and includes things like “Work from a plan” and “To generate suspense, use internal cliffhangers.” The last part is called “Useful Habits” and these are the rules to live/work by: “Do your homework well in advance”, “Break long projects into parts” and “Learn from your critics,” among others. The book is very readable and it is obvious that Mr. Clark did his homework and “owns the tools of [his] craft.” 09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch


Fiction Reviews 1-7000: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

1st To Die by James Patterson: First of a brand new series, set in San Francisco with a woman cop as the main character. Enough twists and turns, gristly murders and nasty sexual stuff to keep me riveted for a few hours until I reluctantly turned the last page.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

2nd Chance by James Patterson & Andrew Gross: Patterson’s best book since, well, 1st To Die. The Women’s Murder Club is back and the bullets are flying. This entertaining thriller is a fast, fun read. Only complaint: there is a new chapter every third page, which translates to two pages of text per chapter. Seriously. That’s way too many chapters. There must be some reason for this, but damned if I know what it is.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

4TH OF JULY by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro: Detective Lindsay Boxer is in trouble and in danger. Her trouble comes from a shooting incident for which she is being sued. Lindsay tries to get away from it by going to her sister’s home at Half Moon Bay which puts her in danger from following up on a ten year old unsolved murder from her rookie days. The setting is appropriate for what is almost a beach read, albeit an entertaining one. Interestingly the why of the various murders seems to jump out much sooner than the whodunit. While the mystery of who really writes these books remains unsolved, Lindsay does survive the other challenges. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE 6th TARGET by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro: The latest from Patterson, Inc. starts with a shooting on a San Francisco ferry. Four are killed and Women’s Murder Club member and San Francisco Medical Examiner Clair Washburn is critically injured. Just as fellow Women’s Murder Clubber Lindsay Boxer and her new partner at SFPD get on the trail of the shooter, a news challenge erupts. Someone is kidnapping the children of the rich and their nannies – and they are not demanding ransom. And then there’s even more danger. Either you like these fast paced procedural/thriller/semi-mysteries or you don’t. I do, and I also like an occasional chocolate dipped soft ice cream cone. James Patterson is re-investing a lot in the industry, so grab a copy and be lightly entertained for an hour or so. 07/07 Jack Quick

7 DEADLY WONDERS by Matthew Reilly: The race is on to find the seven pieces of the Golden Capstone that once sat atop the Great Pyramid at Giza. Two millennia ago, Alexander the Great broke the Capstone into seven pieces and hid them in the seven ancient wonders of the world. According to legend, whoever finds and replaces them during a rare solar event called “Tartarus Rotation” (predicted for March 20, 2006) could secure a thousand-year reign of absolute power. Among the contenders are the United States, a coalition of European nations (and the Vatican), an Islamic terrorist group, and a team of smaller nations (including Canada, Ireland and New Zealand) led by Australian Jack West Jr. The Europeans and the U.S. want the Capstone for their own benefit, while West’s noble team believes it’s too potent to belong to any one superpower. Obviously, the date has come and gone, but maybe they didn’t have the right date after all. In the event of stoppage of breathing oxygen masks will drop down. Secure your mask before resuming reading. 07/06 Jack Quick

7th HEAVEN by James Patterson: Remember when reading a James Patterson book was an experience. You hoped for a long weekend so you could enjoy it. Today the books bearing Patterson’s name are like the 100-calorie snack bags – tantalizing but hardly satisfying. Two high profile cases occupy San Francisco homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer and partner Rich Conklin. One involves the disappearance of the teenage son of a former California governor – think Jon Benet Ramsey without a corpse. Also there is a serial arsonist at work responsible for the deaths of a string of wealthy couples. The two cases twist and turn before reaching their appointed end in the required number of pages. Maybe you will want to just catch this one on television – on a slow night. 07/08 Jack Quick

7 SOULS by Barnabas Miller & Jordan Orlando: Mary’s seventeenth birthday is not going down the way she’d expected. She’d thought that she would be inundated with well wishes, showered with gifts, and basically made to feel like the most special girl in the world on “her day.” What she got instead was an embarrassing wake up call: naked and locked inside a Crate & Barrel. Then, when she arrives on campus, her boyfriend dumps her and not one person acknowledges her birthday. Making matters worse is the fact that she’s been having strange episodes paired with visions of a weird house. But it’s when Mary is murdered that she has to admit this has officially been the worst birthday ever. Forced to relive the day of her death through the eyes of seven people, Mary must try and figure out what’s going on if she has any hope of saving herself. To be honest, this was a fascinating concept that didn’t completely work for me. In truth, though, it is a teen thriller that will probably be well received by its intended audience. It’s certainly an original plot, but felt a bit like a paranormal twist onGossip Girl. 07/10 Becky Lejeune

THE 8TH CONFESSION by James Patterson: San Francisco Police Detective. Lindsay Boxer is searching for a killer whose victims are all well-off and have no signs of violence on their bodies. Eventually the trail leads to a perp using a krait, a rare Indian snake, to poison the victims. Meanwhile, journalist Cindy Thomas is pressing the police to devote resources to a low priority murder – that of a homeless man known as Bagman Jesus, whose real name is a mystery. It’s all kind of what you have come to expect from Patterson, Inc. I think I’ll add this series to the other Patterson’s which no longer hold my interest. 07/09 Jack Quick

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch has a partner he’s not inordinately fond of and a case that he feels is beneath him when a liquor store owner, John Li, is killed during a robbery. Harry’s partner has chained himself to the desk, too scared after recovering from a shooting incident to get back on the streets again. Luckily Harry has help from the Asian Gang Unit to try and solve the murder. But this case turns out to have far reaching implications that Harry never thought possible – especially when his daughter, who lives in Hong Kong, gets involved. 9 Dragons is very gritty, at times heart wrenching, and faster paced than usual. This may be the best Bosch yet. 10/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: The latest Harry Bosch mystery, 9 Dragons, not only shows the homicide detective at his most irascible, but is also a fine piece of crime fiction. It recalls several formative episodes in his life (tunnel rat in Viet Nam, the Angel’s Flight case, and his romance with Eleanor Wish) and may foreshadow some major changes for him.As the story opens, Harry is assigned to investigate the murder of a Chinese liquor store owner, John Li. One of Harry’s guiding principles is that he believes that every homicide victim deserves justice and it is his job to see that that is done. He is very short with other policemen who feel less strongly – like his partner. That desire is intensified in this case because Harry had taken refuge in this liquor store during a riot many years ago and had been befriended by Mr. Li. The investigation suggests that this was not a “smash and grab” gone wrong, but may have been connected to a regular program of triad shakedowns.As soon as this possibility is revealed, Harry gets a message that he should back off and then is told that his daughter living in Hong Kong with her mother has been kidnapped. He is given leave to fly to Hong Kong to attempt to rescue her. The mother, Eleanor Wish, is a former FBI agent who is now making a very nice living playing cards for the house in an opulent Hong Kong casino. Harry, Eleanor, and her new companion set out to track the daughter down. The resulting drama is tightly drawn, with plenty of surprises and nasty turns along the way.I was initially drawn to this series because Mr. Connelly really gets policemen right. With his ex-reporter’s eye, he is dead on in his descriptions of controlling attitudes and often unpleasant personalities. And he is just as good with his descriptions of police protocol and politicking, criminal behavior and the local neighborhoods in Los Angeles. But it seems to me now that he is giving Harry more of a human side. In other words, I think that Mr. Connelly is morphing from a reporter into a writer concerned with the subtleties of the human heart. I can’t wait for the next book. 1/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

9 DRAGONS by Michael Connelly: Imagine Dave Robicheaux in Paris, Stephanie Plum in Ethiopia, or Dragnet’s Sergeant Friday in Oslo. Now think Harry Bosch in Hong Kong. In this 14th Bosch outing, Connelly sends him overseas in a tightly wound thriller that, while interesting, just doesn’t feel totally correct. Bosch is called out to investigate the shooting death of a Chinese liquor store owner and discovers the dead man was paying a weekly protection fee to a man Bosch suspects is part of a Chinese triad. When Bosch doesn’t back off as warned, the triad kidnaps his 13-year-old daughter, Madeline, who lives in Hong Kong with her mother – Bosch’s ex-wife, a former FBI agent. Bosch flies to Hong Kong to try to rescue Madeline in 39 hours and get back to the United States to keep the triad bad guy in jail and while Bosch is Bosch, the pace is more DaVinci Code or Mission Impossible which takes away from some of Connelly’s adept character development. If you are Connelly fan, 9 Dragons is acceptable, but if you are not familiar with Connelly, don’t judge him solely on this outing. 01/10 Jack Quick

11/22/63 by Stephen King: Jake Epping is just your average English teacher until he’s given a chance to go back and change history. Al Templeton has discovered something amazing in the back room of his diner. It’s a door of sorts that leads straight to 1958. In fact, it always leads to 1958 and every new entry is a complete reset. But by the time Al himself has come up with a plan that could change present day for the better, he hasn’t got time left to put it in play. Al is dying and Jake is his only hope. As a local with no ties, a fairly young man, and a friend, Al turns to Jake as his alternate. By showing Jake the door and giving him a taste of what could be, Al convinces him to take on the task: Jake is to go back to 1958 and stop the Kennedy assassination that will occur in 1963. To succeed, Jake will have to live in the past, taking on a new identity, and studying the movements of the key players. Fortunately, Al did his homework well, but it is Jake who will have to come up with—and follow through on—a plan that will alter the course of history. King never ceases to amaze me. In a typical time travel plot, there are always holes if the reader looks close enough. King’s solution and answer to those (which I won’t tell) works great. As a storyteller, he never ceases to amaze me. This is another one to add to my favorites list. 12/11 Becky Lejeune

12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING by Diane Deverell: e-book also available in hardcover. Kathryn Collins is a state Department Foreign Officer who, with lover Stefan, a former Polish agent who defected to the US, broke up a terrorist operation some years ago. Now Global Flight 500 explodes over Scotland in an eerie duplication of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. Kathryn is afraid Stefan was on the flight, but when she tries to check into it, the FBI becomes convinced she and possibly Stefan in fact were involved in the bombing. They threaten to subpoena her and have arranged for a suspension of her security clearance. She knows she must get out of the country if she has any hope of finding out what has happened to Stefan. Well written and action packed. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

13 BULLETS by David Wellington: Jameson Arkeley thought he had essentially eliminated vampires when he fought Piter Byron Lares in 1983. He was wrong. Politics prevented him from killing the last vampire, a woman named Justinia Malvern. Due to the increased need for blood as they age, Malvern was unable to kill on her own. As a result, it was determined that killing her would actually be murder. The government has kept her alive all this time, studying her and feeding her. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly allowed her to create a new brood of vamps that are determined to free their master. Pennsylvania State Trooper Laura Caxton was working a routine DUI screening stop when a driver took flight. According to Caxton, this is a rather routine occurrence when a driver fears that they will not pass the sobriety test. What happened next, was not so routine. The trunk of the car was filled with the mutilated dead bodies of a hunter and his family. The driver ran on foot and left behind a still moving arm. Enter US Marshll Arekely, the vampire expert. Much to her dismay, Arekely enlists Caxton as his partner in the investigation. At first, she believes him when he says that this is because she has read up on his past. She soon discovers that Arkeley’s motives are much more self-serving. The vamps have a strange interest in Caxton and Arekely plans on using her as bait to draw them in. Like his zombie trilogy, Wellington’s tales are amped up versions of classic horror subjects. He has a real talent for making them new and refreshing for fans of the genre. It’s Dracula on steroids mixed with a bit of police procedural and enough blood and guts to please today’s horror fans. 06/07 Becky Lejeune

13 DAYS: THE PYTHAGORAS CONSPIRACY by L.A. Starks: Gasoline at $10 per gallon??? Lynn Dayton manages six vast complexes that transform oil into gasoline. Robert Guillard, a suave Parisian intellectual, directs the sabotage of US refineries, one by one. Robert schemes to coerce Lynn into collaborating as he pursues his outwardly humanitarian goal of building refineries in Third World countries. If she refuses, he will hold hostage her sister, Ceil Dayton, whom he has lured to Paris. An industrial accident at Lynn’s troubled Houston refinery arouses her suspicions. Government officials conclude routine negligence caused the accident, but her own investigation leads Lynn to suspect sabotage. Within a few days, explosions and fires at nearby refineries claim victims. The resulting fuel shortage affects the lives of everyone in North America. Then Lynn is kidnapped. She fights for her life on a catwalk above a storage tank of hot, sulfurous oil and escapes. Deciphering the full extent of Robert’s scheme, she flies to Paris. But will she be in time to derail Robert’s plans and save her sister? Kind of a reverse femjep. 10/06 Jack Quick

13 TO LIFE by Shannon Delany: It’s only been a few months since the accident that killed Jessie Gillmansen’s mother. Things have been tough, but she’s been making it: she still crushes on the heartthrob football player, who seems to be paying more attention to her lately, and she’s got her friends for support. But when Pietr Rusakova moves to town, Jessie’s world begins to turn upside down. She tries to deny her feelings for him and control her curiosity about him, but inevitably the two are drawn together. Is their connection strong enough to survive the revelation of Pietr’s family secrets? 13 to Life is a teen read with werewolves and Russian mobsters. It’s also the first in a series and it’s obvious—much of the story is setup, which throws the pacing off a bit in my opinion. The promise of more Russian folklore is intriguing, though, and the action of the last twenty pages should lead directly into book two. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

14 by J.T. Ellison: Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is just days from walking down the aisle when she’s called to the scene of a gruesome murder. Strangely, the MO resembles that of a serial killer who struck Tennessee in the early 80’s. Dubbed the Snow White Killer thanks to his dark haired, pale skinned victims, and his penchant for smearing bright red lipstick across their faces, he left behind ten victims before apparently throwing in the towel; he was never caught. Has Snow White reemerged after such a long break or are they facing a copycat. Then new evidence is found to support the copycat theory and Jackson and her team are faced with uncovering both of the killers’ identities in order to solve the case. With just two titles released, J.T. Ellison has proven herself to be one of the best new thriller authors out there. Her characters are solid and her plots are refreshingly original – and what a great ending. The third title in the series, Judas Kiss, is due out next spring. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

14 by J.T. Ellison: In the mid 1980’s a serial killer, dubbed the Snow White Killer, terrorized Nashville, Tennessee. There were ten victims, each with pale skin and long dark hair, slashed across the throat, with the same red lipstick smeared across their lips. Then the murders stopped. Now as Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is finalizing her wedding plans four more bodies are found, marked with the same fatal signature. Is the Snow White Killer back, or is it a copycat killer? What about Jackson’s father who has disappeared off his boat? Interesting follow-up to All the Pretty Girls. 07/09 Jack Quick

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: It starts out with two seemingly unrelated events. First, 19 year old Amanda Hofer, stoned on prescription drugs, is involved in a traffic accident that kills a mother and her young son, a child never seen by his father who is serving in Afghanistan. Then a Doctor is stopped in Jacksonville, Florida, in a seemingly meaningless traffic stop. Things get ugly when backup cops arrive but eventually everything settles down. Doctor Henry Steadman thinks he is going to get off with a warning. But then a blue sedan drives by and shots ring out. The policeman who stopped Dr. Steadman is dead, and Steadman knows there are a bunch of policemen who think he is the killer, so he runs to the only friend he has in Jacksonville. When he gets there he finds his friend shot to death. From there on, things only get progessively worse for Henry Steadman. On the run and cut off from the help he needs, Steadman’s only hope is a Jacksonville Community Relations officer who seems to be the only one willing to not pass judgment on Steadman’s guilt or innocence. Will that be enough? Andrew Gross cut his teeth co-authoring with James Patterson but has certainly come into his own. This one puts the thrill in thriller as a diabolical plot unfolds trapping the guilty and the innocent in a maze from which there appears to be no exit. Yes there are parts that are “over the top” but isn’t that true of most thrillers? That is part of what makes them so exciting. This one was unputdownable. 5/13 Jack Quick

15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: Gross came upon the literary scene primarily through several novels written in collaboration with James Patterson. He has currently written several novels under his own name and been able to put together plots and situations that instantly capture the reader’s attention. 15 Seconds, his latest book, continues in the same vein as the previous novels. Suspenseful, riveting and pulling the reader into the story almost upon opening the book. The first section of the novel puts together a sequence of events that, the principal character, Dr. Henry Steadman finds incredulous. A successful Florida plastic surgeon, he is arriving to deliver the keynote address at a conference in the Carolinas. Upon getting off the plane and driving towards his hotel, and a prearranged game of golf, he is pulled over by a policeman and accused of unstated crimes. Several of the officer’s colleagues drive up and continue the browbeating, than drive away. The original officer moves back to his car, and is suddenly shot and killed by person or persons unknown. Henry rightly does not know what has just happened but feeling that he will be blamed for the murder runs away. The remainder of the first part deals with subsequent, unexplained events that seem to involve Henry more and more into criminal activities. The second section of the book explains and provides the reasons for the continuing attacks on Dr. Steadman but rather than allowing the reader some breathing room drives up the pace even more. The approach to the truth is logical and follows section one quite neatly. Along the way, Henry finds an ally in the person of a young woman that has just returned to work at her job as a publicist with the local police department after going through personal tragedies of her own. Via contact on the phone she realizes the truth of the accusations against Henry, and helps him. Dr Steadman is divorced and the developing romance between the two is a logical adjunct of the story. Engrossing, filled with constant action and definitely a book that can’t be put down, 15 Seconds continues Andrew Gross’ steady rise in the literary world. 8/12 Paul Lane

18 SECONDS by George D. Shuman: Blind and beautiful Sherry Moore has an epileptic type condition that gives her an extraordinary talent. Each of us has approximately 18 seconds of short term memory “present” in our brain at all times. At death, those “final” 18 seconds are stored in the brain. Moore, because of her condition, can “see” these final moments by touching the deceased corpse. This is not without pain, however, as she “relives” those moments in her own mind, a debilitating and terrifying experience. Earl Sykes was imprisoned thirty years ago but is now on the streets of Wildwood, New Jersey, abducting and killing young women. Police Lieutenant Kelly O’Shaughnessy is puzzled by the sudden disappearance of several young females from the boardwalk – crimes reminiscent of a series of unsolved disappearances in the seventies. Eventually she enlists the aid of Moore in a desperate attempt to end the bloodshed. Although a bit of “woo-woo,” I found the book to be well written and intriguing, but not for the faint of heart. Hopefully, there will be more from this ex-Washington, DC Metro Police veteran. 06/07 Jack Quick

20TH CENTURY GHOSTS by Joe Hill: A great short story must accomplish in roughly twenty pages what a full-length novel takes time to develop. It’s not an easy task. Many authors refuse to even try their hands at short fiction. Some, however, have truly mastered the effort and Joe Hill falls into this category of talent. This award winning collection features a wide array of stories. Some are bloody and shocking while others are more sweet and sentimental. In “20thCentury Ghost” a haunted theater is celebrated by years of patrons who were touched by its ghostly visitor. In “The Cape” a child’s fantasy becomes a reality that haunts him into adulthood. And, in “Last Breath,” a macabre museum is more than meets the eye. Each story is an absolute gem that proves Joe Hill is new talent to be reckoned with. Not only can he create chilling tales of horror like that of “Best New Horror” – a story that is more than a little reminiscent of the southern gothic trend – but he also brings together long separated lovers for one afternoon of what-ifs in “Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead.” I highly recommend this collection to all readers. Not only is this a perfect introduction to an amazing author, read one at a time, these short tales provide an entertaining break in a busy day. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

THE 25TH HOUR by David Benioff: I don’t think I have ever read a book quite like this one. Monty Brogan is a 27-year-old drug dealer who will enter Otisville Federal Prison tomorrow to do seven years hard time. Monty really wanted to be a fireman, but fell in love with “sway,” the deference afforded a young man with important connections. That led him to selling drugs for Uncle Blue in Manhattan. His buddy, maverick bond trader Frank Slattery, thirsts for serenity, while fighting his covert lust for Monty’s Puerto Rican girlfriend. Despite Monty’s dismal future, shy Jakob Elinsky, an ethical, awkward high school English teacher, envies his friend’s self-assurance with women as he struggles to control his own secret hunger for a talented writing student, 17-year-old Mary D’Annunzio. The three friends spend one last night together dancing and drinking at Uncle Blue’s nightclub. It’s all about lost youth and what might have been, if different paths had been taken. Very well done. 06/10 Jack Quick

31 BOND STREET by Ellen Horan: The murder of Harvey Burdell and the trial that followed captivated New Yorkers in 1857. The murdered dentist, Burdell, shared his home with Emma Cunningham, a widow without means of her own and in search of a husband. Emma was accused and prosecuted for the murder. Now, the case is brought to life once again in Ellen Horan’s masterful debut. Attorney Henry Clinton hears of the case and receives a note from Emma that prompts him to come to her defense. His decision to take on the case, and the popular district attorney, severs his partnership at his law firm. Not one to be that easily deterred, Clinton vows to fight for justice for his client. But the question that Clinton, and the citizens of New York, have to ask themselves is whether Emma Cunningham is really capable of murder or if she’s become an unfortunate victim of the justice system. Much of the mystery is ripped straight from the actual 19th-century headlines. Horan’s impressive twisting of the actual case and politics of the time period makes 31 Bond Street a definite stand out. Historical mystery fans take note, this is one you won’t want to miss. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook: This debut novel about a father training his 9-year-old daughter in bank robbery is zany black comedy at its best. Wyatt Evans is a brilliant psychopath who has made a career out of robbing banks. Along the way, he killed his wife and taught his daughter the 47 rules of the family business. But by the time Tara is 23, she is chafing under her father’s rigid, psychotic thumb and wondering if it is time to move out on her own. Then she meets Max, who empathizes with Tara as he has a nut of a father himself, although on the other side of the law – his father is the Sheriff. Meanwhile Wyatt is heading the FBI’s ten most wanted list, Tara & Max take off and Wyatt, the Sheriff and the FBI are all on the chase. 47 Rules is well written, original, clever and laugh out loud funny – don’t miss it. 07/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS by Troy Cook: As they rehearse a bank robbery, nine year old Tara to her father Wyatt, “How come they don’t make a Bank Robber Barbie?” Wyatt’s response, “It’s that damn Corporate America! They’re trying to warp your fragile little mind.” Further advice from Wyatt Evans to his daughter, “You keep your gun pointed straight at him and say anything you want. The crazier the better…The crazier you are, the more respect you get. This is one of life’s lessons here, so remember it.” With this for a beginning, it’s no wonder that Troy Cook’s debut has created a storm. Tara grows up but doesn’t outgrow her raising, which makes for an interesting story of the two most unlikely bank robbers since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You have to love it, even when Tara falls in love with the son of the local sheriff. Like Wyatt says, “It’s always something.” 12/06 Jack Quick

THE 47TH SAMURAI by Stephen Hunter: Retired Marine Corps sniper Bob Lee “The Nailer” Swagger, now in his sixties, returns in this thriller that began some sixty years ago on Iwo Jima when his father Earl won the Medal of Honor. Philip Yato is the son of the Japanese officer who commanded the bunker, which was the basis of that skirmish. He has come to America seeking the family sword taken into battle by his father and brought home by Swagger Senior. It turns out there is more to the sword which leads to a series of terrible crimes with Swagger deeply involved. Another first rate outing from Hunter who has so skillfully told the story of three generations of Swaggers. 07/08 Jack Quick

61 HOURS by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back and in fine form in this latest outing. This time he’s caught a ride on a tour bus but it spins out on the ice and he lands in Boulton, South Dakota. After helping the senior citizens off the bus, Reacher realizes something is going on in this small town. The local police are trying to deal with guarding a retired librarian turned states witness and there appears to be a huge meth lab on the outskirts of town at an abandoned military installation, run by a motorcycle gang at the behest of a Mexican drug lord. The cops are also on call for the federal penitentiary that employs most of the town; seems the mayor agreed to have every cop in town at the beck and call of the prison warden in the event of an emergency. It doesn’t take Reacher long to get involved with the local police department, using his military connections to help with the meth lab problem and taking his turn guarding the witness. Not quite as action packed as previous Reacher novels, yet nonetheless this is a page turner of the finest kind. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

61 HOURS by Lee Child: All the action in this 14th Jack Reacher adventure occurs in just 61 hours, hence the title of the book. Reacher appears early on as a passenger in a tour bus that skids off the road and crashes near Bolton, S.Dak., a tiny burg with big problems. A highly sophisticated methamphetamine lab run by a vicious Mexican drug cartel with bikers as security has begun operating outside town at an abandoned military facility. Additionally they are the site of both a Federal and a State prison facility with a mutual aid compact that requires 100% participation by the Bolton police department in the event of an escape. That would greatly hinder their current top priority, safe guarding the life of a sweet little old lady who is the key to their shutting down the biker meth operation. After figuring out the snow-bound, marooned Reacher’s smart, great with weapons, and capable of tapping military intelligence, the helpless local cops enlist his assistance, and, as always, that get the full measure of our wandering hero. Another great Reacher. If you haven’t begun this series, today would be a great day to start. 07/10 Jack Quick

88 WAYS TO DIE by Johnnie Mitchell: Interesting PI tale self-published by the author earlier this year. Black PI Ellis Mason is a small businessman in Chicago in 1988 who gets caught up in a murder case when the girlfriend of his client is killed. As he is pulled deeper and deeper into the matter he hooks up with Brad Royce, a big time agency owner who numbers among his clients a congressional candidate looking for dirt on a rival. It is Chicago, after all, so, its not surprising that Mason and Royce are soon swimming upstream in a river of murder, greed, and political corruption. As with many self- published efforts, this book could have benefited from some tighter editing, more street time and less “bed time.” I hope Mr. Mitchell does well enough to produce some more, as Mason could potentially be Chicago’s answer to LA’s Eazy Rawlins. 10/07 Jack Quick

172 HOURS ON THE MOON by Johan Harstad: In the years since Apollo 11, NASA has made great effort to return to the moon. That effort has finally become a reality and will be the opportunity of a lifetime for three teens. A new mission has been set and three teens from around the globe will be randomly selected to accompany a team traveling to DARLAH-2, a modular space station built at the site of that original moon landing. The station has been unmanned until now but has always been meant for use during longterm missions. The team, including the teens, will test the facility and make sure everything is set for future use. But the mission isn’t that straightforward. There’s a reason moon missions have been delayed for so long. Is the world ready for the secrets NASA has been hiding all these years? Space horror is something I love, in theory, but have seen very little of. And what’s out there tends to be great or greatly terrible. Fortunately Harstad’s teen moon horror falls into the former category. The characters are a bit formulaic at the outset, but once the story picks up and the uber creepy atmosphere takes over, 172 Hours on the Moon becomes an ultimate win in my opinion. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

212 by Alafair Burke: 212 is the area code for Manhattan and also the “name” of a swanky New York apartment building developed by Donald Trump clone Sam Sparks. When Sparks’ bodyguard, Robert “Robo” Mancini, is found murdered in Sparks’ penthouse apartment, Sparks reaction seems to be too over the top forNYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. Hatcher’s aggressive pushing of the case ends up costing her a night in jail on a contempt citation, and a stern warning to stay away from Sparks. But when Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, begin investigating the murder of NYU student Megan Gunther, the target of threatening posts on a college gossip Web site, they discover a link between the student and a recently murdered real estate agent. Are all three connected in some way? Was the real estate agent really moonlighting as a prostitute? Just like her dad, James Lee Burke, you can count on a full book’s worth of excitement from Alafair. Highly recommended. 04/10 Jack Quick

212 by Alafair Burke: In the beginning of 212, the latest Ellie Hatcher thriller, a body is found in a rich real estate mogul’s apartment. Ellie and her partner, J.J. Rogan, are sent to investigate and Ellie promptly arrests the exec for disturbing her scene. The fallout from that action is swift and though Ellie suspects the man may have had a hand in the murder, the man’s become all but off limits. A few months later, the case still open and no concrete leads to speak of, Ellie and Rogan are sent to a new scene. This time, a college coed and her roommate have been brutally attacked, the roommate barely survives and the other girl is pronounced dead on the scene. Turns out, the girl was being harassed on a popular college gossip site. She and her parents approached the police just one day before the murder and were told there was nothing they could do. With two high-profile cases weighing heavy on her, Ellie has her hands full, but she is dead-set on solving them both. Though this is the third in the series, readers who are new to Burke can jump right in without missing a beat. I’m looking forward to going back to Ellie’s beginnings until I can see what’s in store for her next. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE 731 LEGACY by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore: Black Needles is the code name for an ancient virus discovered by an ultra-secret Japanese WWII Unit. Now it is the hands of the North Koreans, specifically a descendent of the original Japanese Unit 731 with a grudge against the world and Americans in particular. A dying man, an early victim of Black Needles, makes his way to SNN headquarters, where he delivers a mysterious message to Cotten Stone with his final breath. As Cotton is trying to decipher the meaning of this, her friend, Cardinal John Tyler is kidnapped while on a diplomatic mission to the Eastern European Republic of Moldova. Cotton rushes to Europe and there she finds that Black Needles and John’s kidnapping are intertwined. While battling the forces of evil, Cotten fights for her soul as the Nephilim attack the person she loves most in the world. A high-speed continuation of The Grail Conspiracy and very nicely done. 12/08 Jack Quick

7,000 CLAMS by Lee Irby: Frank Hearn was all set to go to Florida with the proceeds from his cache of smuggled Canadian scotch, when it gets taken away from him. There is little left for him to do but steal a $7,000 IOU from the one and only Babe Ruth and set out for Florida to cash in. Babe’s IOU is actually a gambling debt owed to a underworld boss, and before it makes front-page news, everyone from crooked cops to rabid henchmen get involved. Throw in a botched kidnap attempt and a few gallons of bathtub gin and you have the roaring twenties down pat. A bit uneven, as most first novels are, but captures the spirit of the times quite nicely. Tighter editing should help his next work. 01/06 Jack Quick


Fiction Reviews A: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

ABANDON by Blake Crouch: In the winter of 1893, every man, woman, and child in Abandon, Colorado, disappeared without a trace. Professor Lawrence Kendall has studied the history of Abandon for years and has pitched a story to his daughter, journalist Abigail Foster, that she can’t resist. Together, with a set of tour guides and a couple of paranormal photographers, they will hike out to the ghost town and try to discover the truth about Abandon. Their first day in the seemingly empty town, though, they are met with two masked men armed to the teeth and searching for something they are sure Lawrence can lead them to. The story alternates with the final days of the 1893 settlers, culminating with today’s explorers facing the same twisted fate. Crouch’s tale is engaging enough to keep the reader hooked, and that may be its saving grace. I didn’t feel overly attached to, or, truth be told, all that interested in, most of the characters. They were underdeveloped in most instances or over the top in others. Disappointing because I had so been looking forward to this one. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

ABANDON THE NIGHT by Joss Ware: As the Envy Chronicles series continues, Ware rewards readers with a tale that’s been taunting us since book one. Quent and Zoe met in Beyond the Night. Their dance continued into Embrace the Night Eternal. Finally, Abandon the Night is their story. Growing up, Quent gave off the appearance of a spoiled playboy. He never had meaningful relationships and never got along with his father. In the allure and mystery of Zoe Kapoor, Quent has finally found a girl he can’t get out of his mind. But this new world is no place to start a family, a thought that has left Quent torn between desire and reality. When it is revealed that Parris Fielding, Quent’s father, was one of the Cult of Atlantis—the people behind the events that horribly shaped this new world—Quent vows to be the one to finally kill him. Zoe has her own reasons for wanting Fielding dead, but even she doesn’t know of his connection to her lover. Together, they’ll finally track the illusive Strangers, the Cult, and their hideout. But can Zoe trust the man whose own flesh and blood was responsible for the death of so many? 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ABDUCTION by Mark Gimenez: Caution: don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it – I could not put it down. After his excellent debut, The Color of Law, Gimenez just knocks it out of the park with his sophomore effort. The Brice family are a little more well-to-do than most; Elizabeth is a successful Dallas attorney, and her husband John is a computer nerd with a company that is about to go public and make him a billionaire. Their ten-year-old daughter Gracie is a budding soccer star and it is at her game that things go awry – Gracie is kidnapped while Dad is on the phone about his IPO and Mom is late coming from court. People may fear for their lives, but they really fear for their children’s lives, and these characters are so well drawn that it becomes incredibly easy to suspend your disbelief and get completely caught up in the story. I loved the tough-as-a-tiger mom, and the special bond between Gracie and her retired Green Beret grandfather was especially touching, all of which helped ratchet up the suspense even more. The Abduction is one of the best thrillers of the year.09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

About the Author by John Colapinto: This brilliant thriller starts out with a simple case of plagiarism, but quickly twists and turns into a spellbinding story of deceit, lust, blackmail and murder. It’s rare to find a new angle in this genre, and I for one am most appreciative. Check out the nowCulture.com Interview with Colapinto  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ABSENT FRIENDS by S. J. Rozan: I have enjoyed all of Rozan’s Lydia and Bill novels and eagerly picked up this one. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations. Basically New York City Fire Capt. James McCaffery died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Exactly 22 years earlier, on September 11, 1979, Mark Keegan, a childhood friend of McCaffery’s killed a local Staten Island mob boss’s son. Keegan later was himself killed in prison and left behind a wife and young child. Ever since, the Keegan heirs have received financial support from McCaffery. Much to the dismay of McCaffery and Keegan’s friends, an enterprising news reporter is intrigued by the story and starts digging into it. The reporter then dies mysteriously. The smoke of the Twin Towers hangs heavy over all the narrative as Rozan attempts to weave a tapestry of some 40 interconnected lives over two and half decades. Maybe the next generation will deem this to be a classic, but for me, right now, it was too much, too soon, about a day that changed our world. 08/06 Jack Quick

THE ABSENT ONE by Jussi Adler-Olsen: In this follow up to The Keeper of Lost Causes, the newly formed Department Q has proven their worth and is gaining attention. Mørck, in spite of his personality quirks, has also managed to gain the grudging respect of others on the force. Now with their pick of cold cases to choose from it would seem odd that Mørck settles on a case closed with a confession and a conviction, but something about the file smells fishy – especially it’s appearance in the department altogether. Why would a closed case land on Mørck’s desk at all? Mørck’s curiosity is piqued when he learns that the case – the murder of a brother and sister in 1987 – is connected to a group of well-placed and highly connected individuals. What’s more, a growing list of unsolved crimes also seems to be tied to the case. Of course Mørck is warned off when his superiors learn what he’s up to, something that only spurs him on. Mørck’s brash nature and sour attitude are part of the appeal in this series. While the mystery is as well plotted and dark as Keeper, the eccentricities that I loved so much in the first book were not as present in this second of the series. Assad and Rose, the new addition to the department, didn’t seem to have much development at all, which didn’t detract from the overall read but is definitely something I hope will be addressed as the series continues. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: No one writes Native American like Sherman Alexie, and in this book for young adults, he tackles life on the rez with humor, passion and compassion. Arnold Spririt, a Spokane Indian, was born with water on the brain. Nevertheless, he is a bright, creative boy, despite being picked on most of his life. In looking around the reservation he realizes that his lot in life will be like that of everyone else he knows – poverty, alcoholism and an early death. But he’s a smart kid, and he also realizes that an education is the only way out, so he manages to get himself into an all white school twenty miles away. He can’t always get a ride, so he hitchhikes or walks, determined to get that good education. His Native American friends think he’s a traitor to his people, and the white kids aren’t sure what to make of him either. But with dogged determination, he succeeds in winning them all over, but not without lots of dramedy first. This semi-autobiographic coming of age story with a multicultural twist is a first rate read. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ABUNDANCE by Sena Jeter Naslund: In 1770, at only 14 years of age, Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria left her home to marry Louis August, the Dauphin of France – the man who would become Louis XVI. Four years later, she became Queen. In 1793, she was pronounced guilty of high treason and sentenced to a death by beheading. By using historical facts and biographies, Sena Jeter Naslund has created a vivid portrait of what Marie Antoinette’s life might have been like. Readers will get a feel for not only the excessive and opulent lifestyle the monarchy enjoyed, but also what it must have been like to grow and mature in the eyes of a country. Every part of her life, her image, and her family was under the scrutiny of the French public. No one can actually know Marie Antoinette’s thoughts and feelings but Naslund has added depth and flesh to the facts to produce a wholly believable story. This title will appeal not only to history buffs and those curious about Marie Antoinette, but to fans of literary fiction as well. 10/06 Becky LeJeune

THE ACADEMY by Bentley Little: Strange things are going on at Tyler High School. Recently converted to a charter school, Tyler High is undergoing a lot of changes. The principal, normally a very laid back and kind woman, has turned into a strict dictator-like leader. She has created a group of “Tyler Scouts” that parade around the school, empowering them to enforce rules and regulations with students AND teachers. Students and teachers that opposed the contract have gone missing. Ghostly images of children are seen playing on the school grounds, and student and staff alone are afraid to enter the school grounds at night alone. A handful of students and teachers still brave enough to stand up against the school join up and discover a way to destroy the evil at Tyler High. Bentley Little’s THE ACADEMY is full of horrific tales of the atrocities that take place at Tyler High. The ending seemed to be a little too “neat”, but that certainly didn’t take anything away from this great work piece of horror fiction. This was my first taste of Little’s writing; I can’t wait to read more from him. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ACCESSORY TO MURDER by Elaine Viets: This is the third book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series and quite enjoyable. A supposedly random shooting at the mall leaves a young, upcoming scarf designer dead and Josie’s friend Alyce’s nerves shot. Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in an upscale suburb of St. Louis. But then Alyce’s husband is accused of the murder and she begs Josie to help. As Josie delves into the murder and upscale suburban life, she finds no one is as they appear and nothing is as it seems. Nice twisty little mystery with Viets’ hallmark humor plus some great shopping tips at the end of the book. 11/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay: Glen Garber has a construction business that’s been hard-hit by the economy, and many of his neighbors are also having financial troubles. A couple of the women have taken to hosting “purse parties” where they sell illegal knockoffs of designer handbags as a way to make a little extra money. Glen’s wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night so she can help him with the accounting, except one night Sheila doesn’t come home. Glen grabs his sleeping daughter and goes out to look for Sheila, but she’s been in a fatal car accident and killed two other people. The cops say she was drunk and at fault, and Glen is having a hard time believing it. A couple of weeks later, one of her best friends is killed in another accident, and Glen realizes things are seriously awryin this small Connecticut town. Throw in more deaths, a shady cop, a suspicious fire and lots more dirty laundry, and you have a real suburban nightmare. Verdict: A master of domestic suspense (No Time for Goodbye), Barclay has written an emotionally gripping page-turner that is scarily believable. Perfect for Harlan Coben fans. 08/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay: Barclay is a master at grabbing the reader immediately and dragging him or her into the story. The Accident is no exception. Glen Garber is a contractor living an upscale life in the state of Connecticut. On a horrible evening Glen’s wife Sheila is very late returning from a business class she is taking in order to help with finances for the family. When Glen goes out looking for her he comes upon his wife killed in an accident that apparently she caused due to drunk driving, and which also killed two other people. Glen is 100% sure that Sheila was not drunk and does not drink to excess. His frenzied search for the real cause of the accident throws him into a world of lots of money available through the sale of “knockoffs”, that is, copies of name brand pocketbooks, watches and even pharmaceuticals. The knockoffs are sold by housewives throughout the affluent area they live in, with the merchandise supplied by a criminal group that will resort to murder if necessary to retain control of the market. In the course of solving what is really, his wife’s murder Glen’s work is instrumental in getting to the bottom of the area criminal structure. There are several other murders as well, all intertwined through the participation in the sale of the knockoffs. There is a great deal of similarity with the drug trade due to the presence of a lot of tax free money motivating criminal activity, and Barclay has painted a picture of a world that is not that well known, although most of us have encountered inexpensive knockoffs at various levels and bought them to show off our ability to afford the real trademarked goods. The final murder solved by Glen’s intervention is a bit of a surprise, but well within the parameters of the plot. 11/11 Paul Lane

THE ACCIDENT MAN by Tom Cain: An international assassin, Samuel Carver, is paid to take out bad guys who can’t be touched by legal means while making the hits look like accidents, is the intriguing premise for this first novel. Things get really tense when one of his targets is in a car full of people hurtling through a tunnel in Paris, and one of the passengers turns out to be Princess Diana. Immediately after that hit, someone tries to take Carver out, and the game is on. A beautiful Russian spy is one of the unlikely assassins, and Carver manages to turn her. Together they explore the plot to kill Diana and find out who is masterminding the whole thing. Conspiracy fans will love this. Cain is the pseudonym for a British investigative journalist, adding some heft to the conspiracy theory. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ACCIDENT MAN by Tom Cain: British journalist Tom Cain has come up with a new twist on an old story. It’s Paris, 1997 and hit man Samuel Carver is in a tunnel preparing to do a job. The car wreck he creates causes a speeding black Mercedes to crash into a stone pillar, surely killing the car’s occupants. Moments later, Carver finds himself the target of an apparent Russian killer. Only later does he learn that the victim of his actions was, in fact, Princess Diana, and not the terrorist he was told would be occupying the car. Since Carver only does bad guys, he vows revenge on the people who set him up. This includes several spy organizations and various intermediaries. Think James Bond without the government backing. Nicely written and perhaps the basis for an on-going series featuring Carver and his Russian female accomplice. Wilbur Smith calls this “This is the best first thriller I have read since The Day of the Jackal, and that was a long time ago.” Not a bad recommendation. 05/08 Jack Quick

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN by Simon Wood: It’s a good life for Josh Michaels – the California life, with nice house, loving wife, beautiful daughter, good job neat car. On the other hand, there is the attempt to kill him by running him off the road, the fact he is being blackmailed by a ex-lover and a secret that could land him in prison. Michaels survives the automobile accident but what about his other problems. Are they all inter-related? After a plane crash kills his flying partner instead of Michaels, he realizes the police aren’t going to be of much help. If he is to survive he must figure things out on his own. 09/07 Jack Quick

ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Bryant: Something strange happens to Ellie Barnett at the moment she is first assigned Pride & Prejudice in her high school English class: Jane Austen herself begins to speak to her. For years, Austen would be Ellie’s constant companion, her voice of reason, her conscience. And Austen does her best to help Ellie maneuver her way through the dating world in order to find her very own Mr. Darcy. But now in her thirties, Ellie has begun to wonder if her Darcy will ever come. As she looks back on her years of unworthies, all conveniently fitting into P&P’s mapped out caste system of men, Jane Austen is there by her side, coaching and coaxing. But could both Jane and Ellie have been wrong about someone along the way? Or is Mr. Darcy yet to come? And how will Ellie know when and if he finally crosses her path? This latest in the Austen-inspired string of releases is a cute and light read. One does begin to wonder how much stock to place in Austen’s opinion of men, though. Her voice starts to get a bit curmudgeonly after a while and it’s hard to set aside the knowledge that Austen was never married herself. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

THE ACCOUNTING by William Lashner: William Lashner is the author of several successful detective novels featuring Victor Carl. The Accounting is a stand alone book with a lightning fast delivery, an engrossing plot and characters that are flawed but unforgettable. Jon Willing aided by his best friends Augie and Ben find a cache of money hidden with a large quantity of drugs in one of the houses in their neighborhood, lived in by two brothers who are their enemies. They agree to steal the money, hide it and not touch it until there is no longer any possibility of the theft being traced to them. Twenty-five years after the theft Jon finds himself in a failing marriage, out of a job due to the great recession slamming the country, estranged from his two children and facing financial ruin. To make matters worse his friend Augie is not returning his calls, and when Jon goes to Las Vegas to check on him he finds him in his bed, tortured and murdered. Realization hits letting Jon know that the worse has happened and the people behind the stolen money are now after him and his friends looking for payback. Escaping from them finds Jon running around the country and facing his past and real or imagined friends and enemies in getting to the resolution of his problems. Lashner keeps the reader glued to the book and going from one crisis to another. The ending is logically arrived at and quite satisfying in the light of the events depicted. Awaiting the author’s next book is a given. 05/13 Paul Lane

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis: Godspeed is humanity’s hope for the future: a massive ship traveling across the universe to deliver a very special cargo to a new, Earth-like planet. The trip was supposed to take three hundred years. Amy and her parents would sleep through the whole thing, waking when the ship reached its destination and helping to settle the new world. But something has gone very wrong and Amy is awake – fifty years ahead of schedule. In the time she has slept, things on Godspeed have changed dramatically and now a murderer prowls the ship. If Amy can help discover the killer’s identity and his plans, maybe she can save her parents and the rest of Godspeed. Across the Universe is a spectacular debut! A cross between science fiction and mystery, Beth Revis’s book is a highly imaginative and captivating read for both teens and adults, and is the first in a projected trilogy. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

ACTS OF NATURE by Jonathon King: Max and Sherry on vacation at a friend’s remote fishing camp in the Everglades, a trio of housebreakers and general ne’er do wells and a pair of deadly security guards. What ties them all seven together? An unpredictable shift in the course of hurricane Simone has placed them all at risk. Similar to but different from James Lee Burke’s Tin Roof Blow Down, King describes not only the awesome power of these storms but their effect on people, before, during, and after. A top notch read. 09/07 Jack Quick

ADDITION by Toni Jordan: A light-hearted tale of one woman’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Grace Lisa Vandenburg develops an insatiable need to count at the age of eight. She counts everything, number of steps taken, number of letters in names, number of seat in a restaurant. She finds comfort in both their simplicity and complexity. The numbers are always there for her. One day it all begins to change, though. Her carefully mapped out life is jarred out of sync when she runs into Seamus Joseph O’Reilly. First it is in the grocery store where her incorrect number of bananas prompts her to steal one from his basket when he is not looking. And then he’s in her café, the one she visits every weekend for hot chocolate and orange cake. She accepts his invitation to sit and it just goes from there. Can she stop counting long enough to live a normal life and enjoy the things around her, or will it all prove to be too much for her to handle? This is a sweet and funny novel about learning to love life and accept people’s individuality. A surprisingly light read in spite of its subject matter, but one that will no doubt stick with you long after you turn the final page. 02/09 Becky Lejeune

Adios Muchachos by Daniel Chavarria: Winner of the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Original Paperback. A delightful robbery/murder caper set in contemporary Havana where the characters do what they have to do to survive and do it with gusto, humor and Latin style. The main character is a young woman who decides that her best asset is the way she sits on a bicycle. She then proceeds to peddle that asset all over town. Some reviewers have described her as a “bicycle hooker,” but I think that is a little harsh. She likes men and she appreciates presents. The mechanics of the transactions are hilarious and involve her mother cooking dinner for the chosen client. They ultimately enmesh her in dealing with the worlds of high finance, high crime and treasure on the high seas. Also, a phallic totem. If you enjoy this book, I also recommend that you do a bookstore search for anything by Paco Ignacio Taibo II. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back and this time he’s way back – it’s 1997, right before he leaves the Army, and we finally learn why he did, why he started drifting, and why he carries that toothbrush in his pocket. MP Reacher is sent undercover to a small Mississippi town with an Army base to act as counterpoint to the MP on base who is investigating a woman’s murder. The army wants the soldiers cleared, and they want Reacher to make sure that happens. But Reacher wants to make sure justice is served, and finds more bodies than any small town should have. Child doesn’t disappoint with some nice twists in the story, but this story is all about backstory, and here Child really excels. If you haven’t read this series, you certainly could start here, but I think it is a more poignant read to those who are already invested in this character. An excellent addition to one of my favorite series. 10/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child: If you are old enough to have enjoyed Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In on television during the late 1960’s you will remember Arte Johnson who closed each show with his German soldier in the palms and his catchphrase: “Verrrry interesting, but…[‘stupid’, ‘not very funny’, and other variations]” Verrrry interesting describes Child’s latest which goes back to the beginning when Jack Reacher was still a military cop. Carter Crossing, Mississippi. 1997. A lonely railroad track. A crime scene. A coverup. An investigation spinning out of control. Hard to say more without spoilers. Let me just agree with the Washington Post – “With Reacher, #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child has created “a series that stands in the front rank of modern thrillers.” 12/11 Jack Quick

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by George Mann: In this alternate Victorian England, Queen Victoria is kept alive through technology and her devoted investigators, like Maurice Newbury, serve as her eyes and ears in the city. A recent plague of zombie virus brought over from India is sweeping through the nation and a murderer seems to be on the loose in Whitechapel. But it’s a recently crashed dirigible that the Queen has asked Newbury and his newly hired assistant, Veronica Hobbes, to look into. Strangely, the Whitechapel murders and the wrecked zeppelin seem to be closely connected, but it will take Newbury’s and Hobbes’s skills together to solve the cases. Steampunk definitely lends itself well to blending with other genres and this mix with traditional mystery works fantastically. I’m looking forward to future adventures with Hobbes and Newbury. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn: When a helicopter crashes in the small town of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, the townspeople find themselves up against an enemy like nothing anyone has ever seen. Sheriff Arnold “Ace” Streng is a Vietnam vet and even he has never witnessed the brutality that his town will soon be facing. When he receives a call about the crash, Ace heads out to the site only to find his own cousin being tortured and the man’s wife butchered. The men behind this seem to want one thing and one thing only. They want to know where Warren is. It only takes Ace a minute to realize who they seek, but figuring out exactly why and how to rid his town of these enemies will take a bit longer. Jack Kilborn is a pseudonym for author JA Konrath, the man behind the Jack Daniels mystery series. This stand-alone thriller is a bit of a change of pace for Konrath, but is fast-paced and excellently plotted — extremely hard to put down. 04/09 Becky Lejeune

AFRAID OF THE DARK by James Grippando: This is the ninth entry in the Jack Swyteck series, and this book takes a turn out of Miami for international waters with a secret interrogation cell in Prague, Somali terrorists in London and murders back home in Miami. Swyteck is tapped to represent Jamal Wakefield as he stands accused of murdering his teenage girlfriend and blinding a cop in the process. Jamal insists he is innocent and that he wasn’t even in Miami when the murder occurs. To add complications to this already complicated story, Swyteck’s FBI fiancée is warning him off the case, despite their agreement to not get involved in each other’s work, and defense witnesses keep turning up dead. Grippando uses headline makers like terrorism and mistreatment of political prisoners to up the tension in this tightly written thriller of revenge. 03/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AFRAID OF THE DARK by James Grippando: Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck has a case right our of today’s headlines. Jamal has a good job working on encryption projects for the computer industry. Then he is accused of killing McKenna, the daughter of his boss Chuck May and setting off a bomb that blinded Sergeant Vince Paulo of the Miami police, a friend of Chuck’s who had been keeping an eye on McKenna for her father. Paulo was also instrumental in an earlier hostage negotiation involving Swyteck. It seemed an open and shut case since McKenna, bleeding to death in Paulo’s arms had uttered the name of her murderer and ex-boyfriend: Jamal. But then the story gets really interesting. Jamal is located at the detention center at Gitmo where he spent the past two years. At the time of the murder he claims he had been abducted and taken to a CIA secret prison in Prague where his abductors had tried to get him to reveal the secrets of the computer work he was doing and had threatened to kill McKenna if he didn’t cooperate. The far-fetched story starts to gain traction and Vince, Jack, and Chuck soon realize they are facing a deadly danger that goes beyond McKenna’s death and crosses international waters. Embarking on a journey to piece together the past, the men are led through the back alleys of London, onto illegal internet sites, and straight into pure evil. IMHO, the best Grippando yet. 04/11 Jack Quick

AFTER HOURS AT THE ALMOST HOME by Tara Yellen: It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the Broncos are playing. It’s going to be the busiest day of the year for Denver’s Almost Home Bar and Grill which means that it’s the worst possible day for a new girl to start, and for one of the bar’s seasoned employees to disappear. Denny was leaving after his shift and is forced to work a double thanks to Marna’s untimely no-show. JJ has never waitressed before and everyone is giving her a hard time. Keith was supposed to leave with Marna but hasn’t heard a word from her. Marna also promised a special day with Colleen’s daughter Lily, neither of which have heard from her either. The staff makes it through the day, and closes up shop, but that’s when things get really interesting at the Almost Home. Everyone who’s ever had to work in the service industry can relate to Yellen’s tale. Anyone who has ever had doubts about what comes next in life, whether the decisions they make are the right ones and if everything will work out in the end, will connect with at least one of the characters in this book. It’s that combination of the quirky dysfunctional family situation that occurs in any workplace and the instances of self-doubt that everyone suffers that collide in this earnest literary debut. After creating such a resonating story in After Hours at the Almost Home, Yellen will surely be one to watch in literary circles for years to come. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

AFTERSHOCK by Collin Wilcox: Lt. Frank Hastings has problems. His newest case is the murder of a wealthy 70-year-old woman, found bludgeoned in the garage of her San Francisco, Sea Cliff district home. There is no shortage of suspects, within and outside the victim’s dysfunctional family. In the meantime, Hastings’ girl friend Ann Haywood is being stalked, apparently in connection with a previous Hastings case. Can Frank stay focused and solve both crimes? Another great police procedural from the 1970’s. 1/11 Jack Quick

AGAINST ALL ENEMIES by James B. Woulfe: The Longest Day is the term used to describe June 6, 1994, the day the Allies stormed ashore at Normandy in World War II. The longest book may be an appropriate sub-title for this tell all whether you want to know it or not fiction debut about a future war in South America against drug dealing revolutionaries who are contributing to global warming, world wide inflation, and various and other sundryr crimes and misdemeanors. You will learn more than your ever cared to about SEALS and submarines, Rangers and various color berets, female pilots who become POW’s, Air Force Commandos, and that is just a start. Somewhere there is a story here, but I could never really get into it because of the highly detailed technical picture drawn of all the special troops and gadgets available to the US fighting forces today. Sorry, it’s a new era and not one I want to be in. 11/09 Jack Quick

AGAINST THEIR WILL by Nancy L. Livingstone: Matt Grayson is flying home to Houston after his first movie opens to great reviews. The plane crashes upon approach and Grayson’s life is changed forever. He thinks he has saved the life of his seatmate, Lynn McCane, but when he recovers consciousness in the hospital he is told he was the only survivor of the plane crash, and that all passengers and crew have been accounted for. Months later, Lynn shows up at Matt’s movie studio in Hollywood, with a new name and no memory of the plane crash. Matt gets her to go for coffee with him and tries to talk with her about the crash. Within hours they are atop the FBI’s Most Wanted List and are being pursued, it seems, by every government agency except Fish and Wildlife. Scary medical thriller from 2002, which brings new meaning to stem cell research and cloning. e-book. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: Second Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Judge Daniel Brennan is just days away from appointment when he is found murdered in his driveway. Nationwide attention is focused on the case, the Feds move in but New Jersey detective Luke Somers lands a hot tip that druggie Steven Gallagher may be the killer. Gallagher is armed and in the heat of the moment, Somers kills him and becomes a national hero. Steven’s brother Chris, home on leave from his elite Marine Force Recon unit, is outraged and determined to prove his brother’s innocence. He kidnaps Somer’s brother and threatens to kill him unless Luke finds the real killer within seven days. Somers starts digging and uncovers a slew of conflicting information, but he is not sure if it will be enough to save his brother. The tension is palpable and the pages fly by in this riveting standalone thriller from the author of the Andy Carpenter mystery series. The voice here is just as engaging, with enough humor to lighten the story without diminishing the suspense, and the ending is a real shocker. Sure to appeal to fans of Harlan Coben and Robert Crais. 2/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission. 

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: Rosenfelt is the author of a series of books about his lawyer creation Andy Carpenter as well as stand alone novels. Luke Somers is a police lieutenant in New Jersey. He is among the many law enforcement officers mobilized when Judge Daniel Brennan is found stabbed to death in his home. Brennan was about to take his newly earned seat in the second court of appeals when he was killed. Following one of the many tips called in, Luke finds and shoots to death Steven Gallagher who has enough incriminating evidence in his home to be blamed for Judge Brennan’s murder. Case closed and Luke becomes a hero to a public anxious for rapid closure in the killing. But wait, Steven, had a brother, Chris Gallagher, who is a force recon marine serving in Afghanistan who returns home looking for answers to Steven’s death. He decides to kidnap Luke’s brother Bryan, imprison him in an old bomb shelter and give Luke 6 1/2 days to find the real killer of Judge Brennan and exonerate Steven. Bryan is imprisoned with an air supply lasting only the 6 1/2 days and no more. Luke must take up the challenge even with his own belief that he killed the real murderer of the Judge. He must somehow convince Chris that whatever he finds is real in order to get him to release Bryan. The book is a page turner with the scene changing from one set of circumstances to another and bringing into play the oil and gas industries new drilling technique of fracking and the new found wealth that it could bring. Rosenfelt is certainly not a one dimensional writer relying only on the very popular Andy Carpenter but has proven in most of his stand alone books that his original ideas and character development make for very rewarding reading. Certainly another all-nighter for the reader. 3/13 Paul Lane

AIRTIGHT by David Rosenfelt: An eye for an eye, quickly becomes a brother for a brother. When Judge Daniel Brennan is gunned down New Jersey policeman Luke Somers is assigned the case. An anonymous tip leads him to Steven Gallagher, a drug addict about to be sentenced by Judge Brennan. When they go into Gallagher’s apartment he has a gun in hand. Somers reacts instinctively and shoots him dead. Now, Steven’s brother Chris Gallagher, who raised his brother, Steven, almost single-handedly, is certain that Steven is innocent. Chris, a Marine Recon Force member is one to be reckoned with. He kidnaps Luke’s own brother who will die if Luke refuses to help clear Steven’s name. Failure by Luke may lead to his brother’s death; success may lead to his own death. A good one.3/13 Jack Quick

ALEX CROSS’S TRIAL by James Patterson & Richard DiLallo: James Patterson has drafted a stable of advertising executives as writers for his books – seventeen of them coming up in the next three years. DiLallo is the latest and he puts a different spin on the usual Patterson fare by going back in time to the days of the Ku Klux Klan lynchings in Mississippi. The premise of this latest in the Alex Cross series is that Alex is writing a novel called “Trial,” based on stories that have been passed down in his family about Abraham Cross, an ancestor that lived in Eudora, Mississippi in the early 1900’s. Ben Corbett hails from Eudora but has become a lawyer in Washington DC who likes helping out the underdog. Unfortunately, the underdog often can’t pay and Ben’s wife is fed up with it. When President Teddy Roosevelt offers Ben a clandestine assignment to look into the lynchings, Ben goes to Mississippi alone; his wife won’t come. Ben finds that Eudora isn’t the same town he remembered, and his old friends aren’t the same either. Abraham Cross is an old man who has seen a lot, and he is Ben’s contact in Eudora. After they both escape being lynched, one young man is dead and the sheriff reluctantly arrests some of the town’s worst offenders – hence, the “trial”. This is an interesting look at a disturbing period of American history that is best remembered from time to time. Using the familiar two page chapters to move the story along makes this a fast paced and riveting read. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch 

ALEX CROSS’S TRIAL by James Patterson: A book within a book. Alex Cross has heard the story of his great uncle Abraham and his struggles for survival in the era of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, Alex passes the family tale along to his own children in a novel he’s written called Trial. Ben Corbett is a Washington, DC lawyer during the Teddy Roosevelt era. Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his home town of Eudora Mississippi to investigate rumors of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan there. Ben meets the wise Abraham Cross and his beautiful granddaughter, Moody, and enlists their help. The two Crosses introduce him to the hidden side of the idyllic Southern town complete with lynchings and other brutalities that have left the town’s black quarter in constant fear. Ben seeks the truth – not knowing the price the truth will cost him. Above average for a Patterson. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE ALEXANDER CIPHER by Will Adams: Daniel Knox is an American archaeologist turned dive instructor who is currently living in Egypt. A lifelong scholar of Alexander the Great, Daniel, along with Aussie partner, Rick, are on the trail of the massive golden funeral carriage used to bring his body back to Egypt in 323 BCE. Alexander’s power-hungry general, Ptolemy, stole Alexander’s body for his own purposes, and the funeral carriage vanished. The stakes quickly become higher when it appears possible they may be on the trail not of just the carriage, but of the actual body of Alexander the Great. Of course there are a few obstacle in Daniel and Rick’s path – Hassan, David’s rich Egyptian boss, whom Daniel beat up in order to keep him from raping a young woman; Hassan’s even nastier head of security, Nessim; Gaille Bonnard, the Egyptologist who blames Daniel for the death of her father’ and Nicolas Dragoumis, the wealthy industrialist whose own father seems oddly determined to ruin Daniel. With that many bad guys, the tale could easily become a farce, but Adams sticks to his guns and the result is a first rate thriller. 06/10 Jack Quick

THE ALEXANDRIA LINK by Steve Berry: In Berry’s second thriller featuring Cotton Malone, the antiquarian bookseller and retired secret agent must set aside all differences with his ex-wife in order to save his son from nefarious kidnappers. While working with the Magellan Billet, a government organization much like the CIA, Malone was assigned to protect and help hide George Haddad. Haddad was a scholar focused on the Old Testament and his theories threatened to shake the very foundations of Judaism as well as Christianity. His studies also garnered attention from a group called the Guardians, the members of which are sworn to protect the lost library of Alexandria. The Guardians extended an invitation to Haddad and challenged him to find the library. His quest would lead him to the most famous cache of knowledge known man, but the Mossad had already tracked and killed the last three invitees. The Billet sent Malone in with no knowledge of Haddad’s background, and today, Malone is the only person who knows where to find Haddad. This knowledge makes both Malone and his family prime targets for the numerous groups who will stop at nothing to find Haddad. Anyone looking for a great action/adventure thriller in the vein of The Da Vinci Code will love Berry’s work. He’s tackled everything from Russia’s rumored amber room to the Knights Templar and now focuses his attentions on Alexander’s library, which should segue perfectly into his upcoming release, The Venetian Betrayal, and the search for Alexander’s grave. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

Ali & Nino by Kurban Said: Re-release of a book originally published in 1937, the author is thought to be a pseudonym for the couple whose romance the book is loosely based on. Takes place at the turn of the 19th century, clash of cultures and religion. Definitely worth a read.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ALIAS MAN by Bill Pronzini: Jessie, a slender blonde Pennsylvania widow, meets a dream lover in Santa Fe who immediately asks her to marry him. Sarah, a slender blonde Vancouver bookstore owner, had her husband disappear just over four years ago leaving her in debt. Morgan, a slender blonde California schoolteacher, suspects her husband of just under four years of cheating on her as well as losing her money in poor investments. When she confronts him, he responds by leaving her. Then she finds a safe deposit box key in his study and uses it to uncover the secret of The Alias Man. Using his list of victims and aliases, and the cash she finds in the safe deposit box, she enlists Jessie and Sarah to help her. Together they track down the chameleon who for the past two decades has been marrying every four years, stealing that wife’s money, and then moving on to the next victim. An unusual Pronzini, but excellent as always. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE ALIBI MAN by Tami Hoag: Elena Estes (Dark Horse, 2002) moved from being among the elite of Palm Beach, Florida, to become a policewoman. After a meth lab bust that went bad causing the death of a fellow officer, she is now physically healed but still emotionally crippled. She is working at her best friend’s horse farm when she happens upon the body of the farm’s beautiful, vibrant young groom, Irena in a canal being savaged by alligators. She is determined to see Irena avenged and the path leads her back into the upper echelons of Palm Beach society, power brokers, polo fields, and her ex-fiancé, who, Elena knows, is capable of committing the crime. She also quickly learns that Russian born Irena may have led a more complicated life than Elena thought. Fast paced, with plenty of action Hoag moves easily from the beautiful to the ugly and captures the conflicting emotions of people hurting as well as anyone. Recommended.02/09 Jack Quick 

ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRLby  Peter Leonard: Peter Leonard has written a very tightly woven love story involving four characters in different areas of the world tied neatly together by circumstances. McCabe and his friend Chip are both students at an Italian university in Rome. McCabe is the first of the people involved in the love stories. He meets the beautiful Italian girl Angela in the normal way lovers meet. Angela and a group of gangsters kidnap him thinking that he is Chip, whose father, a US Senator is wealthy. He is released when Chip’s father pays the ransom asked, thinking that it is Chip being held. The other couple is Sharon and her husband Ray, a Secret Service agent released from the service. Sharon who has become bored with an existence that involves Ray’s constant absence due to duty with the service, and is having an affair with Joey Palermo, a Mafia enforcer. Ray comes home with the intention of making his constant absences up with Sharon and finds that she has decided to go to Italy with Joey, who has to leave the U.S due to Mafia pressures. Leonard has the ability to introduce and flesh out various characters in different areas and than tying their fates together through the progression of action he presents in the story. Events are shifted throughout the book between the characters and finally brought to a head in a very satisfying ending. The reader is swept forward and can’t put the book down until the end. This is the second Peter Leonard book I have read and am very anxiously awaiting the next one. 6/12 Paul Lane

ALL SEEING EYE by Rob Thurman: Imagine if you had the ability to see a person’s darkest secrets with just one touch. Jackson Lee Eye has that power. It began when he was just a kid, witnessing the final moments of his young sister’s life simply by touching an abandoned shoe. After that horrible event, he was orphaned and left to fend for himself. Now he makes a living taking advantage of his ability, but an unwelcome visit from a government agency soon forces him to take his power to another level. An experiment gone wrong has led to a number of murders and Jackson seems to be the only chance anyone has in stopping it. Each time I read one of Thurman’s books I’m a bit surprised at how dark they are. All Seeing Eye is no exception featuring a number of crime scenes filled with cannibals and psycho killers – and even some questionable BBQ. I wouldn’t want to hang out in the twisted depths of Thurman’s mind though it does make for a great paranormal thriller. 3/13 Becky Lejeune

ALICE IN JEOPARDY by Ed McBain: Alice Glendenning oversleeps. She is still grieving for her husband who disappeared off his boat 8 months ago. Late to work at the real estate agency where she has yet to sell a house, she calls her lawyer and the insurance company still refuses to pay off, later she gets hit by a car and has her ankle broken. When she gets home her children aren’t there. They have been kidnapped and the ransom demand is for $250,000 : the exact amount due from her insurance. Maybe she should have stayed in bed. McBain proves once again that he can spin a tale without or without the help of the 8thPrecinct boys. A good one. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

ALL NECESSARY FORCE by Brad Taylor: This is the second book in an undoubtedly projected series about a secret cadre of elite service people serving outside the pale of normal military operations. They are known as the Task force and report to an oversight group consisting of leading public figures headed by the president of the United States. Their missions are set by the steering committee and must conform to professional standards which include attempting to respect the laws and traditions of the countries they operate in. Most of the Task Force consists of military personnel, although they have their own intelligence group, medical people and other necessary support groups as back up for the clandestine operations. While there are many books coming out today delineating the undercover wars against our terrorist enemies, All Necessary Force has one overriding feature which takes it from the ordinary into the obviously superior. The author, Brad Taylor, is a 24 year veteran of army special forces troops, retiring as a Lt Colonel commanding those forces. He also ended his career as an assistant Professor of Military Science at the Citadel in South Carolina. He has literally been there and done that. His descriptions of the thoughts, feelings and reactions of the characters in the books provides a great insight into people placed in kill or be killed positions brings the reader right into the narrative. And with Col Taylor’s background these reactions are surely right on. Pike Logan is a former special forces soldier forced out of the military by events in the first book of the series – One Rough Man. In that book he met Jennifer Cahill who forced him back into the world of the Task Force and has begun to supply a romantic interest that does nothing but make Pike more human and less a killing machine. Jennifer is indoctrinated into the Task Force, and becomes a part of their combat team. She has doubts about the nature of the combat operations but manages to look at what they do as a necessary evil in a world with enemies of our country. The target is a group of Islamic terrorists bent on a debilitating attack on the United States. Actions run from Eastern Europe where the terrorists pick up explosives for use in their projected action into the US, where the Task Force is not supposed to operate and into the US area which will come under attack. The narrative keeps the reader involved with the characters, their actions and of course reactions to events. The reader of this book is going to be waiting anxiously for the next in the series. 2/12 Paul Lane 

ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING by Lawrence Block: Scudder tries to help a fellow AA member who has attracted a mysterious boyfriend. Then his wife Elaine’s best friend is brutally murdered, with a letter opener purchased from Elaine. Is there a connection? Like Small Town, this book is set in New York City post 9/11 and seems darker and more brooding than previous Scudders. While AA is and should be the dominant force in the former practicing alcoholic’s life, sometimes this gets in the way of story flow, i.e., I don’t need the address and time of every AA meeting in New York. What would make a great series? TJ from Block and Tamara from Pronzini working together. Recommended. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick. 

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by J. T. Ellison: A ruthless serial killer has been stalking young women in the southeast. Dubbed the Southern Strangler, he has left a grisly trail of dead coeds in his wake. Each girl has had her hands removed, one of which will be found at the following crime scene, and each subsequent victim goes missing the same day the previous victim is found. When the body of the third victim is discovered in Nashville, Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is called to the scene. Her involvement with FBI agent John Baldwin leaves her privy to certain details of the case, even after it leaves her jurisdiction, and leads to a disturbing discovery. The killer has been e-mailing clues to a well-known reporter in the Nashville area – clues that could finally lead to the discovery of his identity. Meanwhile, Jackson has other problems to deal with including a rapist who has recently attacked the lead investigator on the Rainman case. To make matters even worse, there appears to be a leak within the Bureau and there are whispers of corruption amongst Nashville’s finest. Ellison writes like a pro – her details are dead on, her plot is engrossing, and her characters are engaging. This masterful debut is sure to keep readers up all night in suspense. I highly recommend All the Pretty Girls (first in a new series with books two and three set for release in 2008). 11/07 Becky Lejeune

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS by J.T. Ellison: Nashville homicide detective Taylor Jackson and her erstwhile boyfriend FBI Agent John Baldwin are on the trail of a serial killer, who targets pretty young girls for death and then leaves a grisly trademark. He removes the hands of his victims and at each murder site leaves one of the hands of his previous victim. Somewhat uneven, as most debuts are, but the seeds are here for what could be an interesting series. While there is no shortage of female detectives, private or official, Jackson is interesting. Hopefully, as the series develops it will become more focused and straight forward.04/09 Jack Quick

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones was brilliant, so it was with great expectation and some trepidation that I began Sebold’s latest. The opening is quite the grabber: “When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.” Another difficult subject for sure, but unfortunately, this story of matricide quickly becomes tedious. Helen has difficult relationships in her life; besides her Alzheimer’s afflicted mother, there is the ex-husband and her children. The book spans the course of one day, a mere 24 hours, yet seems so much longer than that, perhaps because it is missing the emotional wallop promised with that opener. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold: After reading Lovely Bones and Lucky, I was excited to read Almost Moon. My excitement didn’t last very long. Almost Moon is the tale of Helen Knightly, a divorced mother of two grown daughters. Her father having died decades earlier, it is up to Helen to take care of her emotionally abusive agoraphobic mother. Throughout the book the reader flashes back to episodes portraying the strained relationship she had with her mother. The first several chapters of the book were engaging. Helen can no longer take the strain and frustration of dealing with her mother, so she smothers her with a kitchen towel. The reader is then lead through Helen’s ritual of stripping and bathing her mother, then pulling her down the basement steps and putting her in the oversized freezer. A little out there, yes, but completely plausible. The remainder of the book goes downhill quickly and I completely lost interest. Almost Moonmight be a good book for those readers that haven’t read any of Sebold’s other work, and therefore have nothing to compare it to. But a diehard Sebold fan will definitely be disappointed with this one, as I was. 05/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ALONE IN THE CROWD by Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza: Garcia-Roza’s latest, Alone in the Crowd, is about as good a psychological mystery as I have read in a long, long time. It is not a thriller, but rather a psychological study of a very strange bank teller who the good Inspector Spinosa knew when they were both boys playing soccer in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The story begins like a James Joyce day in the life of an ordinary person story. The ordinary person in this case is an elderly lady, Dona Laureta Sales Ribiero. She spends most of the day waiting at her bank to withdraw her pension money. Then she goes to the grocery store, the pharmacy and the police station. At the station, she asks for the Chief and is advised that Inspector Spinosa is in a meeting but will be available later. She says that she will come back after dinner and leaves. Before she can return, she is run over by a bus. Like Sherlock Holmes, Spinosa is quick to sense the possibility of a crime before there is clear evidence of a murder to others. His investigation quickly centers on the teller at the bank, one Hugo Breno. Breno is a loner, who for reasons known best to himself, feels safest in a crowd. Spinosa eventually remembers their acquaintance as children and the remainder of the story is the way in which these two characters come to understand each other. And, as always in Garcia-Roza’s books, there is more than one puzzle for the reader. In this case, one side-puzzle is the behavior of Spinosa’s girl friend, Irena and her friend Vania. Although I would not classify this novel as a “thriller,” it does have an exciting finish. I am an unabashed fan of both Garcia-Roza and Inspector Spinosa and recommend this highly. 08/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

ALPHA by Greg Rucka: Marshall Karp gave us The Rabbit Factory, home of Rambunctious Rabbit and his Familyland theme park. Chris Grabenstein took us through all the Jersey Coast thrill rides, and now Greg Rucka brings us face to face with a nightmare at Wilsonville theme park. Retired Delta Force operator, Master Sergeant Jonathan “Jad” Bell, is Wilsonville’s lead undercover security officer. The threat begins with the announcement of a hidden dirty bomb, but quickly becomes something far, far worse. Jad’s daughter is one of the people caught up in the ensuing hostage situation. Definitely white-knuckle time. 10/12 Jack Quick

ALPHA by Rachel Vincent: The war that’s been brewing between the Prides has finally arrived. Just days after the events of Shift, Faythe and her Pride are ready to present undeniable proof that Calvin Malone has been manipulating and using the Council to suit his own needs, and at the expense of everyone else. But with the Council split between support for Malone and support for Faythe’s father, even now the task at hand seems impossible. The only option left is to fight to the death and hope that the good guys come out on top. It will mean losing some of their own but if the battle is lost altogether, it will mean much, much worse for Faythe and her family. In the midst of it all, Faythe’s own role with the Pride will change and she will finally have to decide who will lead alongside her: Jace or Marc. I’m sad to see the series go. With five books to build up the action and just one to tie it all up, I’m left wanting more from the story. I’m not sure what Vincent has planned next, but I’ve not doubt it’ll be great. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

Altar Music by Christin Lore Weber: A fascinating look at Catholicism and sex written by one who knows, an ex-nun. The story follows three generations of women and how their religion affected their lives. This book shows the darker side of the convent, as well as the personal damage that can be done in the name of God. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch 

ALWAYS SAY GOODBYE by Stuart M. Kaminsky: Sarasota, Fla., process server and occasional PI Lew Fonesca finally feels up to begin tracking down the hit-and-run driver who killed his wife, Catherine, a prosecutor in Chicago four years earlier. Hardly has he landed at Midway airport when Lew finds himself between two warring assassins-for-hire who believe Catherine had compiled a file of evidence against them that Lew now has. Chicago is obviously colder and more dangerous than Sarasota but this is something Lew has to do to move forward with his life. The fifth in the series, each one is better than its predecessor. 12/06 Jack Quick

THE AMATEURS by Marcus Sakey: Sakey writes these intense thrillers about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and he’s one of my favorite writers. The Amateurs is his latest foray into the genre, and here he looks at what makes people do the things that they do – especially when they know they are wrong. In this case, a group of casual drinking buddies, a couple of whom have pressing financial needs, decide to add a little excitement and money into their lives by robbing the owner of the bar they hang out in. But what seems like a lark turns much deadlier very quickly. Mitch is a hotel bellman with low self esteem and an unrequited crush on Jenn, the only girl in the group. Jenn’s a looker, but she’s just bored with life and being a good girl. She wants an adventure. Ian is the most successful of the group, but he’s also a compulsive gambler with big debt to the wrong people. Alex is the bartender where they hang out, and a single father who’s ex is planning to move cross country with his daughter. When Alex tells his friends that he saw a big cash delivery to his big shot boss, they decide to steal it. Jenn will get her adventure, Alex and Ian the cash they need, and Mitch gets his chance to impress Jenn. They cook up what seems like the perfect plan, but of course it goes awry; after all, they are complete amateurs at crime. Sakey creates believable characters in this heartbreaking story of good guys gone bad. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon: This year’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the beautifully written story of two men growing up together in New York. With WW2 at their backs, this historical look at the 20th century captivates the reader by introducing us to the golden age of the comic book. Their adventures in creating a comic book hero makes for a most compelling read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Amber Room by Steve Berry: If you’re looking for something after the Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown has a blurb on the cover,) this could be your book. A fascinating blend of history and suspense involving the Amber Room, whose walls were made of the precious stone which was carved into artistic panels and was looted from Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg by the Nazis during WWII. A judge from Georgia inherits some cryptic letters from her father after his death, including the ominous warning that whatever she does, she shouldn’t look for the Amber Room. So of course she does, and her ex-husband ends up chasing after her to Germany. A couple of assassins are leaving a trail of bodies, while this secret society of art collectors tries to zero in on the find of the century. It was impossible to put down this fast paced treasure hunt.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE AMBITION by Lee Strobel: Only in Chicago – the mob, crooked politicians, old time newspaper guys, and a mega-church pastor turned politician. Strobel ties them all together in a tale that wanders all over the map before reaching a biting climax. It starts with a fourth generation O’Sullivan, a down-on-his-luck lawyer with a gambling problem. When he must bribe a federal; judge in connection with an upcoming mob trial, he secretly tapes the exchange. Later, the dirty judge becomes a finalist for an open U.S. Senate seat. His challenger is Eric Snow, a dot-com millionaire who found religion and founded Diamond Point, a massively successful evangelical Christian group. Think Mark Cuban investing in God rather than the Dallas Mavericks. Newspaper reporter Garry Strider is the glue who ties it all together as he threatens to uncover both candidates’ secrets in an investigation that may cost him his life. If you enjoy Michael T. Harvey’s portrayal of the Windy City, you will likely want to add Strobel to your reading list as well. 08/11 Jack Quick

AMERICAN SKIN by Ken Bruen: Only Bruen could take a fairly routine plot about bank robbers disagreeing over the disposition of the loot and take it into totally new territory. The key players are Stephen Blake who has the money, and whose girlfriend, Siobhan, knows how to launder it, John A. Stapleton, hit man for the IRA, who thinks 100% is a fair share and Dade, so psychotic he hits meth to enjoy movies and is obsessively devoted to the music of Tammy Wynette. Is this literature for the ages? Probably not, but what a helluva read. If you are a Bruen fan, go get it. If you are not a Bruen fan, still go get it. You will become one.10/06 Jack Quick

AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld: Touted as a lightly fictionalized Laura Bush story, the author even includes a note stating that while names may have been changed, the people you recognize are, in fact, the people you think they are. That said, the Bush marriage has always puzzled me, and apparently a lot of other people too. This is the story of how a smart, pretty, hard working middle class librarian ended up married to a wealthy member of a political dynasty who achieved the Presidency of the United States, while often being perceived as a bumbling fool if not worse. I vaguely remember hearing about a car accident that Laura Bush was involved in, and this book pivots on that event. Alice Lindgren of small town Riley, Wisconsin, is a teenager when she runs a stop sign and kills a classmate. While never formally charged, this event affects the rest of her life. Alice is naive but sure of herself enough to be particular in who she dates. When she meets Charlie Blackwell, he charms her enough to sweep her off her feet and they marry within a few months. It takes her years to realize what even his own family knows; that he is lazy, bungling and a bit of an idiot. Alice feels that with her smarts and organizational skills, she can help Charlie meet his destiny, and she does, first as he buys a baseball team, then during his run for Governor and finally the White House. Fast reading for the most part and always interesting, especially the early parts of coming of age in a small town and even the marriage, but the ending was really over the top, bordering on ridiculous. 10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AMMUNITION by Ken Bruen: In this seventh Sergeant Brant outing, our hero is in a London pub brooding about the death of his idol, real-life author Ed McBain, when a gunman opens fire and then disappears. (Eats, shoots and leaves?) Although hit a number of times, he survives and to the dismay of criminals and cops alike he is soon back on the job, crankier than ever, and vowing revenge. Concurrently, Sergeant Falls and constable McDonald, key players in the previous adventures are having their own problems – Falls with a psycho named Angie and McDonald with the powdered white lady. It’s a train wreck in progress but somehow it all comes to a satisfactory end. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE ANALYST by John Katzenbach: Dr. Frederick Starks, a New York psychoanalyst, has adjusted to life as a single man during the three years since the death of his wife. His practice is successful and if asked, he would probably say he is content. All this explodes with a letter delivered on his fifth third birthday “Happy fifty third birthday, Doctor. Welcome to the first day of your death.” Suddenly he is in the middle of a horrific game designed by a man who calls himself Rumplestiltskin. The rules: in two weeks, Starks must guess his tormentor’s identity. If Starks succeeds, he goes free. If he fails, Rumplestiltskin will destroy, one by one, fifty-two of Dr. Starks’ loved ones—unless the good doctor agrees to kill himself. In a blistering race against time, Starks’ is at the mercy of a psychopath’s devious game of vengeance. He must find a way to stop the madman—before he himself is driven mad. Intense. 8/12 Jack Quick

ANATOMY OF FEAR: A Novel of Visual Suspense by Jonathan Santlofer: This has to be one of the most exciting new books to come out in a long time. Santlofer brings considerable skills to his latest endeavor, as both an emerging talent over the past few years as a thriller writer, as well as a life long career as a significant artist, with work represented in various museums. Graphic novels have gained significant popularity in the past few years, along with a healthy new respect – these are not your childhood comic books anymore. Now that respect for the illustration is transcending into other genres. In his latest novel, Santlofer combines his story with his art in the character of Nate Rodriguez, a police sketch artist of some renown. But this is no graphic novel; it is a thriller that happens to have an occasional illustration born out of Nate’s work that tends to help the reader visualize the story as well as propel the story forward. Nate is an interesting character; half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, and he uses both his heritages to his advantage. A serial killer is on the loose in New York City, leaving drawings of each murder victim at the scene of the crime. NYPD Homicide Detective Terri Russo thinks highly of Nate’s skills, and convinces her bosses to let him help out with the case. Meanwhile, Nate’s abuela, his Puerto Rican grandmother who dabbles in Santeria, is having vivid dreams that are somehow tied to the murders. Between his grandmother’s visions and his own visions, and the clues the police are able to obtain, Nate’s drawings are honing in on the murderer. This is a page turner of the finest kind, and the illustrations just ratchet the tension up a notch. I loved this book and ripped through it in one night, sadly turning the last page – I didn’t want it to end, and I hope we will see more of this character. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANCIENT LAWS by Jim Hansen: I have been a fan of the Laws series from the outset. Business interests and relatives in Denver have permitted me to spend enough time there that I feel I know the city. (If you visit the city, get someone to direct you to Gordo’s for great Mexican food served family style.) Situated between the fertile flat farmlands and the United States version of the Alps, Denver has always been a quirky place where women wearing boots attract less attention than men wearing ties. Jim Hansen has managed to capture this spirit completely. Bryson Coventry, his 34 year old serial womanizing, pickup truck driving, coffee drinking fanatic head of Denver’s homicide unit fits perfectly into the local scene. In this, the 8th of the Laws series, however, Coventry is away from his native Denver tracking a lead on a year-old murder. In Paris, he meets detective Ja’Venn Le Rue, whom Hansen advises will ultimately be the subject of her own Edge series. If they come even close to the quality of Laws, they will be great. In the meantime Coventry and Le Rue are pulled into a deadly game that will lead them from Paris to Cairo to the Valley of the Kings, a game involving ancient tombs, lost treasures, and archeological murders. 09/09 Jack Quick

AND EVERY MAN HAS TO DIE by Frank Zafiro: Another excellent police procedural about the men and women of the River City Police Department. Rookie B. J. Carson and the rest of the force are coping with a new threat. Russian gangster Valerity has big plans and is willing to do whatever it takes to make them a reality. Other gangs are dangerous and even deadly, but none as as ruthless as the Russians who think nothing of setting fire to homes with women and children as a way of proving their point. Instead of offering “protection” to businesses, they simply take them over and leave the former owner to run the business profitably or die. After all, to them, the American jail system is like summer camp, compared to what they previously faced in Russia. Zafiro is not yet in a class with Ed McBain but he is getting better with each outing. 05/11 Jack Quick NOTE: Kindle only

AND ONLY TO DECEIVE by Tasha Alexander: In the opening title of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, the newly widowed Lady Ashton finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving stolen antiquities. Emily was under no illusion that she was in love with her husband, but when he died quite suddenly after their nuptials, she was disheartened to realize that she knew little about the man. As she learns more about the deceased Philip Ashton, she begins to quite like him. Imagine her surprise when she begins to suspect that he may have been involved in some shady dealings with Greek and Roman antiques. And some unsavory characters have noted her interest as well. I needed a bit of a refresher now that the series is six books in and found my return to Lady Emily just as enjoyable as my introduction. Readers who enjoy smart period mysteries will love Alexander’s clever plots and playful writing. 12/11 Becky Lejeune 

AND SHE WAS by Cindy Dyson: This is a fantastic debut set in the Aleutian Islands in the mid 1980’s. When Brandy follows her boyfriend to this remote setting, she is left to her own devices as he ships off to sea on a fishing trawler. She manages to find work at one of the toughest bars in the world. Here, one of her favorite pastimes – collecting bathroom graffiti – causes her to get embroiled in a mystery of sorts that spans generations. Paralleling Brandy’s tale is that of three women and their female ancestors. In the 1700’s when explorers discover these remote islands, the men of the Aleutian society leave to protect their homes against the invaders. While the men are off fighting, the women and children are forced to fend for themselves. As hunting is a men’s task and all the men are gone, food is becoming scarce. Three women are forced to take matters into their own hands and in doing so they leave themselves open to being banished from their society. This is a story of self discovery and growth as well as one that gives insight to cultural differences and taboos. And She Was is a truly amazing read that I cannot recommend highly enough. Dyson’s writing is impeccable and the story will appeal to a very broad audience. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

AND THEN SHE FELL by Stephanie Laurens: This is part of Laurens’ Cynster series. Henrietta is known as the “Matchbreaker” because she’s willing to tell the truth when asked. Her brother’s best friend, James Glossup, is wooing a friend, but Henrietta knows he has to marry within a month or lose his inheritance. That bit of info causes the demise of that relationship, and James is quite put out. After he explains the situation, Henrietta feels bad and decides to become a matchmaker and help him find a bride quickly. But spending all that time together finds them falling in love, but neither will admit it as the matchmaking continues. Another enjoyable Regency romance from Laurens. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman: To her neighbors, Heloise Lewis would appear to be an everyday, average single mother. In fact, some even seem to be jealous of her ability to handle everything life throws at her: son, work, home life, she seems to have it all under control. What they don’t know is that behind the façade, Heloise is actually a high-class prostitute with her own corral of working women. She’s careful about hiding her profession and not drawing attention to herself all the while doing the best she can to provide a stable and nurturing home for her son. Scott will never know what his mother actually does for a living and he’ll certainly never know the truth about his father, Heloise’s one-time pimp and incarcerated business partner. But when Heloise learns that Scott’s father could soon be released from prison, her carefully built world begins to crumble. Laura Lippman fans first met Heloise Lewis in Hardly Knew Her, the author’s short story collection released in 2008. Lewis proved to be a fascinating character and one that I was more than happy to return to here in And When She Was Good. All of Lippman’s characters are complex, but Heloise is by far one of my favorites. She’s so layered and is developed in a way that makes her seem completely realistic. While it’s not necessary to have read “One True Love” or Scratch a Woman (Heloise’s short and novella from Hardly Knew Her) the collection is a fantastic one and I’d highly recommend it as follow up reading for fans of And When She Was Good. 9/12 Becky Lejeune

ANGELOLOGY by Danielle Trussoni: The St. Rose convent in Milton, New York, has been home for Sister Evangeline since she was just twelve years old; the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration her family for over a decade. But Evangeline comes from a long line of Angelologists who have been studying and fighting the Nephilim for ages. Legend has it that the Watchers, God’s angels, were so enamored with human women, that they took them for wives. They were punished, imprisoned deep beneath the earth, where they still wait today. The Nephilim are their children: beings not wholly human and not wholly angel. The Nephilim are dangerous and vengeful creatures that have long fought humans for dominance on earth. But Evangeline knows none of this. When a request to search the convent’s archives for correspondence from Abigail Rockefeller piques Evangeline’s curiosity, she is thrown headfirst into a battle that began thousands of years ago, and the search for the one item that could give either side the advantage over the other. Angelology is as imaginative and exciting as Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. A literary puzzle that unfolds with excellent precision, Trussoni’s fiction debut has it all: history, adventure, mythology, and a definite feeling that there will be more to come. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ANGEL’S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Zafón brings to life an eerie version of 1920s Barcelona in his second U.S. release. Readers will remember Sempere and Sons bookshop and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books from the author’s first release, The Shadow of the Wind. In Angel’s Game, author David Martin has been working for years writing penny-dreadfuls under a pseudonym. He longs for the recognition and respect deserving of a real author, however, and takes a commission from a strange man offering him unreal payment and favors in return. David, whose success prompted him to rent a foreboding home called The Tower House, has learned that there may be a deeper connection between himself and the previous owner of the home, a lawyer who left his business to write. As David digs into this man’s life and what led to his mysterious drowning, he begins to wonder what fate may await him at the end of his contract. Angel’s Game is very similar in many ways to Shadow of the Wind, but is no less magical a read. It’s one that begs to be savored and read slowly because, upon entering Zafón’s created world, you never want to leave. I’ve been waiting in great anticipation for Angel’s Game and was, obviously, not let down. I highly recommend that if you have not yet read Shadow of the Wind, you run out and buy both books now. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION by Keith Donohue: Margaret Quinn leads a very lonely life. Ten years ago, her daughter ran off with her boyfriend, a revolutionary planning to join the Angels of Destruction. Just a few years later Margaret’s husband died leaving her all alone. But one night, in the wee hours, a young girl appears on Margaret’s doorstep. The girl, Norah, reminds Margaret so much of her lost daughter, that she allows Norah to stay. The two create a story in which Norah is Margaret’s granddaughter, left in her care by the missing daughter who returned just long enough to abandon the child. Norah’s presence is just what Margaret has been longing for all these years. When Norah begins disrupting her classroom and then the town itself with her talk of angels and apocalypse, cracks begin to form in their carefully plotted cover story. Is it possible that Norah really is an angel sent to answer Margaret’s prayers? Like Donohue’s debut, The Stolen Child, Angels of Destruction is a blend of fantasy and reality. It’s a tale of loneliness and forgiveness and of childlike faith. It’s touching and sweet and sticks with you long after you finish. 03/09 Becky Lejeune

ANGEL’S TIP by Alafair Burke: New York City rookie police detective Ellie Hatcher, first introduced in Dead Connection, is out doing her morning run when she runs into the dead body of a teenage girl who’d been strangled, stabbed and had her hair shorn. The nineteen year old blonde was visiting the Big Apple with friends and hitting all the clubs while on break from college, which creates a whirlwind of bad publicity for the city. NYPD breaks the case very quickly – or have they? Turns out there are some weird similarities to some cold cases that Hatcher’s deceased partner had been checking out, and she is unconvinced they have the right perp. When another young woman is killed in a similar fashion, even the hunky district attorney has to admit there are some problems with the case, and Hatcher is getting a very uneasy feeling that somehow it’s personal. Lots of suspense and plot twists galore keep the pages turning, but it’s the personal storylines about Hatcher, her boyfriend, her brother, and her partner that makes Angel’s Tip a winner. 8/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANGEL’S TIP by Alafair Burke: A first rate police procedural from the daughter of James Lee Burke. In this second Elli Hatcher outing, the newly assigned NYPD homicide detective is first on the scene at the discovery of the mutilated body of a college student. She and partner J.J. Rogan have an abundance is suspects that come into and then out of the picture as more evidence is unearthed that finally leads to a manhunt for a serial killer. Very nicely done and suspenseful to the end; let’s hope we continue to see more of Ms. Hatcher in the months and years ahead. Completely different from, but potentially as enduring as her dad’s Dave Robicheaux. 09/08 Jack Quick

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: A big, sprawling novel of incredible description and complex characters. There are two stories going on here; the narrator of modern day writing a historical biography of his grandparents who helped settle the old West. Based on the life of Mary Hallock Foote, a writer and artist of the late 1800’s, Stegner combines her story with his imagination and comes up with a beautiful book. Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik: Five women, neighbors, meet in the early 1960’s in Minnesota and form the Freesia Court Book Club, but that name evolves into the Angry Housewives from a snide remark of the husband of one of the members. These women share their lives – their marriages, children, politics, and of course their love of reading, over the course of the next thirty-plus years. The characters are an interesting mélange of suburban housewives – Audrey, an independently wealthy woman who doesn’t leave home without baring her cleavage; Slip, the politically motivated feminist rebel; Faith, who has a past she’d rather forget; Kari, a slightly older widow who adopts a bi-racial baby; and Merit, the beauty who is married to the beast. Each chapter is written in the voice of the host (not hostess – Slip feels that feminizing nouns is demeaning to women), which begins each chapter, along with the book they are reading – which ranges from Love Story (they hated it) to The Total Woman (they really hated it – or was that me?) to On the Road (loved it) to A Confederacy of Dunces (thought provoking), along with the reason chosen or food served or highlight of the meeting, bringing a varying perspective to everything going on their lives and a nostalgic (for me) look back on the past few decades. This is obviously a book aimed at reading groups, yet it doesn’t come off as a commercial attempt at such, but rather a creative and fascinating look at the role of women over the last part of the twentieth century – the books are just an added bonus. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake: Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter. NOT a ghostbuster, mind you. As his dad did before him, Cas tracks down vengeful spirits that continue to wreak havoc well beyond their end. An angry ghost can stick around for ages, killing unsuspecting folks who wander within their territory. A tip has led Cas to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the ghost of Anna, a girl who died in the 1950s on the night of her high school dance. The locals call her Anna Dressed in Blood because of her once white gown now said to be drenched in her own blood for all eternity. In the years since Anna’s death, she has killed countless individuals who have stumbled upon her old home. Now Cas intends to send her where she belongs. But even after Anna kills another teen right in front of him, Cas finds himself unable to send her away. Never mind the fact that Anna inexplicably spared Cas, something about this ghost is different from those he’s met before. Cas finds himself strangely drawn to her and determined to learn her story. Anna Dressed in Blood is creepy and intriguing. Anna is just part of the story and I appreciated the secondary plot equally as much as Anna’s tale. I thought Blake did a fantastic job tying together all of the pieces. This is one that will definitely appeal to both teen and adult readers. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L. M. Montgomery: The 100th anniversary edition of this classic children’s book was released in 2008, and I finally took the time to read it. I’m sure I read it when I was a child, but that was thousands of books ago and while I remembered I enjoyed it, I didn’t remember much more. I loved it, probably more than I did as a child because my perspective is so different, and I couldn’t put it down. The writing is lovely, the characters fully realized, and Anne Shirley’s adventures at the Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada is a marvelous story that deserves to live on for  hundreds of years more. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory: John Costello survived the Hammer of God killings in 1984. His girlfriend did not. Ever since then, John has become obsessed with the why. Why do serial killers do what they do? What made him and Nadia a target? Why did he survive? He’s devoted his career to their study and is the only one to draw a connection between a recent series of murders in New York. When Detective Ray Irving is alerted to the fact that these seemingly random crimes are all exact copies of previous serial killers’ scenes, he is assigned as lead in the investigation. But the department wants to keep this one quiet and Irving will need Costello’s help to try and catch the killer before he strikes again. The Anniversary Man is just Ellory’s second release here in the States (he has seven titles available in the UK) and he’s quickly cementing himself as one of my favorites in the crime genre. His stories are dark and disturbing, his plots keep you guessing, and they never end quite like you think they will. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory: No sophomore slump here, as Ellroy’s second is, IMHO, a much better outing than 2009’s A Quiet Belief in Angels. This is an excellent story with much tighter writing and a tremendous plot. NYPD Detective Ray Irving risks his code of ethics and, ultimately, his life to track down a serial killer who is imitating the crimes of some of the worst monsters our society has spawned. Newspaper researcher John Costello, a psychologically damaged survivor of the “Hammer of God” killer, becomes a prime source of information even though twenty years have passed since his traumatic event. Costello inevitably becomes Irving’s number-one resource as well as his number-one suspect. The resolution is breath-taking. Definitely recommended. 08/10 Jack Quick

ANOTHER LIFE by Andrew Vachss: From 1985’s Flood to this, the18th Burke adventure (touted as the last one), Burke is either a character you love or hate. It is hard to envision anyone being neutral about this outlaw soldier-of-fortune investigator. Another Life starts as gritty as ever – Revenge is like any other religion: There’s always a lot more preaching than there is practicing – and proceeds to several seemingly unconnected sequences. A sniper shoots Burke’s “father” and the family tries to save “the Prof” sans hospital. Next, a representative of the U.S. intelligence establishment draws Burke into a kidnapping case. . Early one morning, somebody removed the infant son of a Saudi prince from his father’s custom Rolls, parked near an abandoned pier near the Hudson River. A prostitute, who didn’t realize the child was in the back seat, was servicing the prince, at the time. If you liked Burke before you will enjoy this one, if not, this one won’t change your opinion. Me, I liked it. 01/09 Jack Quick

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST by Jennifer Rardin: The second book in the Jaz Parks series picks up mere months after Rardin’s debut, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, left off. After recovering from her battle with the Tor-al-degan, a being that would have brought about the end of humankind as we know it, Jaz and her team have been brought together again for a new mission. The powers that be at the CIA have sent the team to Corpus Christi, Texas, where they will be attending (and much to Jasmine’s chagrin, performing in) the town’s Winter Festival. An ancient Chinese vampire has stolen a top-secret weapon prototype and the team must recover it before it is too late. Chien-Lung, the vamp in question, has taken an experimental set of armor that bonds to its wearer making him or her nearly invincible. Chien’s plan is to amass an entire army outfitted with the stuff and set off the next world war. The team’s mission impossible becomes even more complicated when they discover that they are up against a new enemy known as reavers. The reavers have been sent by none other than the Raptor, the government official who was behind the events of their last mission. Then, to make matters even worse, Jaz has been suffering from some killer nightmares, literally. If you can imagine Buffy and her Scooby gang growing up to work for the CIA, you have some idea what is in store for you with this series. Rardin has picked up some serious speed with book two; the characters are interesting and the plots are exciting and original. This is definitely a series that has to be started from the beginning. 12/07 Becky Lejeune

ANOTHER PIECE OF MY HEART by Jane Green: I’ve heard rumors that chick lit was dead, and this book from one of the mothers of the genre proves it. Welcome to the world of Jane Green’s women’s fiction, and she makes the transition beautifully. Andi married late, at 37, and to a man with two daughters but nonetheless, she still longs for a child of her own. As the years pass and it doesn’t happen, Andi struggles to deal with it. Then her stepdaughter gets pregnant and the predictable happens. But with Green’s superb story telling skills, she somehow elevates the story beyond what it could have been into something a bit more special and thoroughly enjoyable; a good read. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANOTHER THING TO FALL by Laura Lippman: Baltimore is the temporary home of a big budget television series, which doesn’t please the locals as much as one would think. Tess Monaghan manages to ruin a day’s shooting while out rowing, and in the process finds herself the sought after security detail for Selene, the twenty-year-old star of the show. Strange things are happening on set, and Tess agrees to baby-sit providing the producers give Crow’s latest project, Lloyd, a job. The details are worked out, but when Tess is outsmarted by Selene, she is forced to bring in extra help. Then one of the production staff is murdered, and it seems like everyone on set is suspect, from the producers to the actors to the writers and the staff. The production of a television series is complicated business, and Lippman includes lots of Hollywood detail in this Charm City murder mystery. It’s an interesting story with a lot of characters, but unfortunately Tess is the only character that is fully fleshed out. Not Lippman’s best effort, but fans of the series will want to read it anyway. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY by Lori Handeland: Elizabeth Phoenix is psychic who uses her abilities to help solve crimes for the Milwaukee Police Department. Lizzie’s foster mother, Ruthie, is found viciously murdered, and the police believe the killer to be Jimmy Sanducci, her former lover. Lizzie immediately begins the hunt to find Ruthie’s murderer, and soon discovers a world of demons, vampires, empaths, and shape-shifters. Lizzie’s investigating reveals a plot to enslave and destroy all humans. She discovers that Ruthie was a seer-an individual that could detect demons. When Ruthie died, Lizzie has inherited her powers. Lizzie also has the ability to “steal” the powers of others, but the method of obtaining such powers isn’t easy. ANY GIVEN DOOMSDAY is a faced paced, action packed read, the first book in the Phoenix Chronicles. The storyline and slate of characters revealed in this book grab you from the beginning. The biblical aspect of the storyline was quite interesting and added another interesting spin to the story. The second installment of this series is scheduled to release in May 2009, which can’t come soon enough. 11/08 Jennifer Lawrence

ANY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD by Kim Harrison: This third book of the Hollows series starts off with a bang and never lets up. It begins with Rachel trying to find a way to outsmart the demon Big Al while still upholding her end of the bargain made in The Good, The Bad and The Undead that would make her his familiar and slave. She is successful, for the moment, but her trouble doesn’t end there. Her boyfriend Nick has been more than just a little distant lately, but Rachel is still surprised when he leaves for parts unknown claiming that he will be back in just a few months. Afraid that this means the end of their relationship, Rachel finds herself giving in to her attraction to Kisten, that hunky vampire that she can’t seem to avoid lately. Then, a powerful new boss arrives on the scene in Cincinnati and Rachel must do everything in her power to prevent him from taking over. Add to that the fact that she has managed to royally pissed off her pixy partner Jenks and that she’s been hired to protect the one elf that she absolutely despises and you get an absolutely hilarious and bewitching read. This series just keeps getting better and better and I can’t get enough. Kim Harrison is one of the best and the brightest in the urban fantasy genre. This is a series that is not to be missed. 04/07 Becky Lejeune

ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol: I am not a big graphic novel (AKA comic book) fan, but I keep trying them. This one came blurbed “A masterpiece!” by Neil Gaiman right on the cover so I gave it a shot – and I loved it. This is the story of Anya, a teenage Russian émigré who lives a fairly lonely, isolated existence. She goes to a private school and her only friend is another Russian immigrant who isn’t especially nice to her. She has an annoying little brother and a single mom who worries about her. One day Anya is wandering around alone when she falls into an old abandoned well. If that isn’t scary enough, there is a skeleton lying there beside her. As she screams for help, a ghost rises up from the skeleton and introduces herself as Emily. Emily tells Anya that she and her parents were murdered ninety years earlier. Anya is rescued, and Emily comes with her. The girl and the ghost become friends, until Anya decides to try and solve Emily’s murder. The story takes some creepy turns and nothing is as it first appeared to be. This is a fast read with a terrific story, interesting characters and subdued illustrations that perfectly serve the mood of the book. My 18-year-old daughter read it after I did, and also loved it, calling it “creepy and wonderful.” Anya’s Ghost is extremely well done, and is my new favorite graphic novel. Check out the book trailer, and if you’re curious as to how a graphic novel is written and illustrated, check out the author’s website Verabee. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANYBODY ANY MINUTE by Julie Mars: Women have mid-life crises too, as amply illustrated in this occasionally amusing, occasionally tiresome look at one such crisis. Ellen Kenny is a middle-aged hippie leftover from the sixties. This book is set in the 1980’s, primarily I think, to avoid the use of cell phones and to hammer home the point that Ellen was able to drive through a small town in upstate New York and buy a farm using the cash advance on her credit card. Even with the price of real estate falling through the floor these days, that just would not be possible today, unless you have really good credit, I guess. She moves to the ramshackle farm, and I’m being kind here, leaving her good looking, attorney husband alone in New York City while she tries to figure out what she is doing with her life. She meets some local folk who at first, appear to be the odd sort one would generalize about small town people, but it turns out they are gifted in their own ways, and share their gifts with Ellen. She ends up taking care of a neighbor’s dog and her sister’s baby, learning to take care of herself in the process. An interesting premise but just a little too cliché for me. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ANYBODY OUT THERE by Marian Keyes: The lovable Walsh family (Angels, Watermelon) is back in Keyes’ newest endeavor, this time with Anna at center stage when she suffers serious injuries in a taxi accident in Manhattan and ends up recuperating at home with her parents in Dublin. But Anna has more to worry about: the escapades of her sister Helen, a private eye working for Irish gangsters; her best friend and her sorry romances; her sister Rachel’s upcoming nuptials; and her mother’s obsession with a dog that is being trained to poop next to the mailbox. Her physical wounds slowly heal and she gets the itch to go back to NY and find her husband Aidan, who is not answering her emails and seems to have become a rather shadowy character. Anna not only desperately misses him, she also misses her incredible job in the cosmetics industry and her New York lifestyle. Anna goes back, gets involved with a psychic and life takes some shocking turns. Once again Keyes has penned an intelligently written novel that is as funny as her previous books, but is ultimately much more heart-breaking. 05/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

ANYBODY OUT THERE by Marian Keyes: After surviving a terrible car accident, Anna Walsh returns to her parents’ home in Ireland to recuperate. While overseas, she places numerous calls to her beloved Aiden, wondering why he hasn’t come to see her or help her through this tough time. Upon returning to her home and her job in New York, Anna comes to the horrible realization that Aiden did not survive that fatal accident. Throughout her painful recovery and her subsequent return to New York, Anna recounts her experiences up until the horrible accident that changed her life. Her heart wrenching, but in typical Keyes fashion, amusing recovery will touch readers to the core. Fans will remember sisters Rachel, Claire and Maggie who have each been featured in previous Keyes titles. Helen’s part of the story significantly lightens things up as she plays private eye back in Ireland. This sweet and sad tale is surprisingly funny and has made a real Keyes fan out of me. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a light but touching read. 02/07 Becky Lejeune

THE APOCALYPSE CALENDAR by Emile A. Pessagno: Dr Pessagno is by education and background a very experienced Geologist and shows this skill in a book presenting both a factual and supernatural sequence of events. Dr Frank Miller, a geologist in a renowned Dallas Texas university, organizes an expedition into Mexico with four of his graduate students to do studies on the rock strata in different parts of the country. The author is very conversant with Mexico, it’s people and mores and of course with the actual opportunities for Geological exploration present there. This skill allows the groups travels, finds and contacts with various people to resound of being factual. The group hears about a fabled treasure termed Moctezuma’s treasure by the peoples inhabiting the villages and towns along the path of the expedition and takes a side trip to to try and find it. They do discover a stone hidden in a cave under the body of an ancient Mayan chief and take it back to Texas for study. There is a connection with a prehistoric visit by aliens from another star, as well as a curse placed upon it by a Mayan Shaman that leads to a spurt of international geological catastrophes of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and separation of land masses. The events take place in the period prior to “December 26, 2013 which is thought of as being the actual date of the predicted end of the world by the Mayans. The book has an interesting premise and coupled with Pessagno’s knowledge of what he writes about and where it takes place should be a winner but the author’s prose makes it resound like a badly translated novel although he is an English speaker. Given additional books published Dr Pessagno has to find a way to couple his good ideas with better styling. 3/13 Paul Lane

APOCALYPSE COW by Michael Logan: The United Kingdom has been overrun by zombie cows! Terry, a slaughterhouse worker, survives what will become the first attack but is taken prisoner by the man behind it all. He does manage to escape alongside Lesley, a reporter who stumbled onto the story, and one of the scientists involved in the plot, but his twisted would-be jailer is hot on their tail. Poor Geldof thought his biggest challenge would be surviving adolescence, but he was very wrong. His mother always said meat was murder but this definitely wasn’t what she meant. Now his family is offering reluctant shelter to their neighbors as well as Terry and Lesley, who have brought their pursuer right to Geldof’s door. Their only hope is to get off the island and escape to Europe. If they can survive long enough, Lesley might be able to break the story worldwide, exposing the truth behind the infection and possibly even saving the rest of the world from a terrible fate. Michael Logan’s debut is wickedly funny and definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s raunchy and twisted but will have the right audience rolling on the floor with laughter. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

APPALOOSA by Robert B. Parker: It is too bad the Spenser series is so good, otherwise we could petition Robert B. Parker to just write westerns. Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are “town tamers”, itinerant lawmen who come into a town, civilize it with Cole’s Colt 45’s and Hitch’s eight-gauge double barreled shotgun, then move on to other challenges. They have been doing this together for fifteen years following a pattern of success. However, their stint in Appaloosa doesn’t quite follow the usual script. In fact, it is totally different. A hint. In a regular western the hero rides off at the end on his horse. In an adult western, the hero rides off with the girl. Appaloosa is definitely an adult western, and a darn good one. We can only hope that Virgil and Everett make future appearances elsewhere. As always, Parker’s terse style evokes images well beyond the text. As the two of them are about to go up against at least four bad guys –“Today be a good day to die?” I asked. “We ain’t gonna die,” Cole said. “Good to know,” I said. Cole didn’t say anything. He was looking at everything, walking through the fight as though he had already seen the rehearsal….” 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

APPEAL DENIED by Peter Corris: Will this be Cliff Hardy’s last outing? His brushes with the law have finally caught up with him to the point that his license has been suspended. The final appeal of the suspension procedure has been denied, so Cliff must now turn in his ID card and gun – but, his friend and lover, newspaper reporter Lily Truscott, is found shot to death. Of course, Hardy is going to leave the matter entirely up to the police. Yeah, right. And that is before one of Lily’s associates approaches Hardy about the police maybe covering up aspects of the murder. Another solid Hardy adventure – but I’m not going to tell whether it is really his last. You will have to find that out for yourself. 12/07 Jack Quick

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen: In this [not-so-great] sequel to The Surgeon [which was gristly and great!], Detective Jane Rizzoli is called to a crime scene out of her jurisdiction. The victim is a wealthy doctor, found with his throat slashed, sitting on the floor of his living room in his pajamas, with a teacup in his lap. His wife is missing, but her nightgown is found folded neatly on a chair in the bedroom. The similarities to the serial killer Warren Hoyt, nicknamed the Surgeon, are unmistakable, but he is in prison, which leads Rizzoli to think copycat killer. The killing spree continues, Hoyt escapes, and the F.B.I. is interested and not saying why. Meanwhile, Rizzoli has to deal with the emotional trauma she’s neglected since Hoyt was put away, her growing attraction to Special Agent Dean, and the very real possibility that she will be the next victim. There is gore galore and plenty of techno-babble for DNA aficionados, but there were no real surprises here and the ending was not very satisfying. Still, fans of The Surgeon will want to read this sequel. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2002 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT by C.S. Graham: Husband and wife writing team C.S. Graham’s debut is a page-turning thriller with an interesting premise based on recently revealed government experiments involving psi soldiers. October “Tobie” Guinness joined the military hoping that her talents as a linguist would keep her from active duty. She was wrong. But her trip to Iraq ends with a psycho discharge and a stain on her record thanks to intel no one wanted to believe. Intel she herself could not back up thanks to the way it was acquired. Tobie subsequently learns that she is a talented remote viewer, able to “see” places and events simply by being given a set of coordinates on which to focus. Her involvement in a project at Tulane leads to catastrophic results when a black ops group is sent to eliminate both Tobie and the professor studying her ability. But getting rid of Tobie is not going to be so easy, especially after she receives help from a tough CIA agent determined to protect her. An absolute knock-out read. Fans of Steve Berry and James Rollins will love C.S. Graham. 11/09 Becky Lejeune

The Archivist by Martha Cooley: Intense, interesting, heart wrenching, excellent book and a must read for any T. S. Eliot aficionado. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ARK by Boyd Morrison: The story of Noah’s Ark has long intrigued Hasad Arvadi and discovering the Ark’s final resting place has been his life’s goal. But Hasad has been missing for three years. His daughter, Dilara, a renowned archaeologist in her own right, is surprised when Sam Watson, and old friend of her father’s, asks to meet under strange circumstances. Watson is murdered, dying before Dilara’s eyes, but not before passing along a shocking revelation: Hasad discovered Noah’s Ark. Not only that, but someone is planning to use Hasad’s discovery to kill millions and the only person who can help her is Tyler Locke. When Dilara finds Locke, he has no idea who she is. He’s never met her father and knows nothing about the Ark. What Locke does know is that Dilara is in grave danger and now his life is on the line as well. Their only solution is to work together to find out what Watson was trying to reveal and hope that they can stay alive long enough to prevent whatever catastrophe he was predicting. Morrison’s first Tyler Locke adventure is a fun read in the vein of James Rollins and Steve Berry. Lots of action, lots of science, and even a little fantastic truth in the mix that lends itself well to the believability of the tale. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

ARRANGED by Catherine McKenzie: After discovering her latest boyfriend’s a cheater, Anne Blythe comes across what she thinks is a business card for a dating service. Intrigued by Blythe and Company’s promise of “Arrangements made,” Anne hangs onto the card. When her best friend announces that she’s engaged, Anne decides to give Blythe and Co a try. Turns out, they’re not a dating service after all. Blythe and Company specializes in arranging marriages. Now, Anne must decide if she’s ready to take the plunge and if she’s comfortable leaving the process of finding a potential spouse in someone else’s hands. With Arranged, McKenzie’s leading lady is faced with just how far she’s willing to go to meet the man of her dreams and what to do if that person isn’t exactly what she’d imagined he would be. Like her debut, Spin, I loved McKenzie’s characters and her ability to maintain a light tone while tackling what can be a challenging topic. Arranged is a smart contemporary tale for chick-lit, romance, and women’s fiction fans. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

THE ARRANGER by L. J. Sellers: No matter where you stand on current government spending priorities, this one will get your attention. The year is 2023 and ex-detective Lara Evans is working as a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. On an emergency call she saves the life of the federal employment commissioner, although she herself is nearly killed by the commissioner’s assailant. The next day Laura is to begin the Gauntlet – a national competition of intense physical and mental challenges with high stakes for her home state of Oregon. The commissioner oversees the annual contest and offers to help Evans is she won’t report the attack. At the competition she spots the shooter lurking at the arena and soon after, everything starts to go wrong. Sellers has vividly painted a future world with massive government control, economic stagnation, and many of the same types of crime and misdemeanors we know today, but in a magnified form. On a parallel path, a government computer programmer is using his skills to “sell” opportunities for job promotions by sabotaging existing employees. The reason – he needs the money for cosmetic surgery to enable to have a social life. The evolution of social media and refinements of current technology have made this all possible, but is it something you would want? You will have to decide for yourself. Recommended. 09/11 Jack Quick

THE ART OF DISAPPEARING by Ivy Pochoda: Was it coincidence, fate, or magic that brought together Mel Snow and Toby Warring? Mel doesn’t know, but two days later she marries Toby. Life seems to be going well for the new couple: Mel, a textile consultant, lands a job with a new casino and Toby, a magician, gets a gig just off the strip in Las Vegas. Las Vegas: the destiny of choice for all magicians. But Mel knows that Toby’s show is the real illusion. Toby is a real magician. No sleight of hand or misdirection, but really real magic. Even Toby isn’t sure just how much power he possesses, but his ability has caused him some great emotional trauma throughout the years. His last human assistant disappeared without a trace and Toby has been careful not to make the same mistake again. Toby is just one step away from the fame and recognition he’s always wanted, and just one step from total ruination as well. Mel’s love is strong enough to hold them together through it all, but when Toby’s magic begins to twist their reality, Mel begins to wonder if anything in their life is what it seems. Pochoda’s debut is a magical tale of romance and loss, sweet and heartfelt. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach: Henry Skrimshander is a high school baseball player, but more than that, he is a gifted shortstop, living in a small blue collar town. When opposing team catcher Mike Schwartz sees him play, he recruits Henry for Westish College, a small private school in Wisconsin where Mike is team captain. Henry had never really considered college, but when he gets offered a scholarship he can’t say no. Henry lives and breathes baseball, and as Schwartz trains him and bulks him out, Henry starts attracting the attention of pro scouts. The president of Westish, Guert Aflenlighter, has never been a big baseball fan until he falls for Henry’s roommate, a brilliant scholarship student who plays ball brilliantly but sits and reads when riding the bench. Guert’s daughter Pella had run off and gotten married while still a high school senior, giving up a chance at Yale for a much older man. But Pella runs away from her husband and returns home to Westish, falling for Mike Schwartz soon after arriving. Then Henry has a bad throw which changes his life, and the story takes a different turn. Harbach is a young author whose grasp of story and ability to move a plot are extraordinary. In his hands these characters have depth and intellect, interact and intersect as they learn from each other about loyalty and independence and love. Baseball fans will surely appreciate this book, but so will those who just love a good story, well told. Don’t miss it. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach: The Art of Fielding is in a category by itself among the new books that I have read this year. That it is a young writer’s first novel is even more impressive. It is story-telling in the grand American fashion centering around the great American pastime. It begins when the special fielding ability of a skinny summer league baseball player named Henry Skrimshander is spotted by the opposing catcher, Mike Schwartz. Mike quickly recruits Henry to his college, Westish. Westish is a small college in Wisconsin (which the author reminds us) is the state that is shaped like a baseball glove. At the Westish campus, Henry’s life begins to be shaped by two major forces – Mike Schwartz, who starts him on a grueling training regimen to build him up and refine his baseball skills; and Henry’s roommate, a gay mulatto scholarship student named Owen Dunne. As the season goes on, the President of the University, Guert Affenlight (a Melville scholar) finds himself drawn to Owen. And when his daughter Pella leaves her marriage and returns to the campus, she is drawn into Mike Schwartz’s orbit. Unfortunately, same sex affairs between college presidents and male scholarship students create problems. And even baseball players with major league potential being pursued by scouts can develop problems in their game. And husbands one has left show up on one’s doorstep and want explanations. All this is dealt with by the five friends. In the end, this book is about loyalty to friends and institutions of higher learning. What could be more American than that. I could not help but admire the author’s easy style and access to the parts of the human heart that feel both joy and pain. I expect this to be my choice for book of the year. 10/11 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE ART OF MAKING MONEY by Jason Kersten: Counterfeiter Art Williams Jr. was born in 1972 and abandoned by his father to poverty, the gritty gangs of Chicago and a mentally ill mother. He slid into an underworld of theft and violence before a money crafter introduced him to counterfeiting. For the next 14 years, Williams produced millions of dollars worth of uncannily accurate bills till the Secret Service caught up with him. This isn’t fiction although it reads that way with characters like a Chinese mob leader known as the Horse and tales of giddy shopping sprees fueled by sex and fake bills It’s a tale of how a young smalltime crook with a meticulous eye for artistic detail and an addiction to the thrill of crime crafts millions in high-quality phony bills who is also, as portrayed by Kersten “a sensitive young man seeking paternal love and aesthetic validation”. Nicely done tale. 10/09 Jack Quick

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein: Now I know what all the fuss is about. And by fuss I mean all the sterling reviews and the fact that Starbucks picked it for their one book of the month and gave me a really cute bookmark. The truth is things like that may sway me to pick up a book, but often disappoint when I’m done with the book. But not this time. I read this five books ago and I can’t stop thinking about it and talking about it and making everyone within earshot learn why they should read this book. So why should I stop now? It’s not what the book is about, which is a nice story about a wanna-be race car driver, his family and his dog, most of which I have no interest in. I like dogs but I share residence with Edgar, the psycho-cat. I am indifferent to NASCAR – I just don’t get the fascination with watching people drive around in circles for hours. Even if the people in question are very cute guys and a pretty-as-a-model girl. You can’t see them in their cars anyway. I wouldn’t even have picked up this book except that a good friend who is extremely discriminating (read: hates almost everything) loved it and told me to read it. So I did. I will skip the blow by blow synopsis which frankly, is probably overwrought and just isn’t all that important. I will tell you what is wonderful about this book and why I loved it. I loved the voice. It is told from the perspective of the dog, Enzo. Yes, the dog is the narrator and don’t go rolling your eyes, Stein makes it work so well that he makes you wonder why dogs don’t narrate more books. This is a book that tugs at the heartstrings without being cloying or cliché. I learned about car racing and the technical side of driving and why things work the way they do. Who knew I was even interested in such things, but turns out in Stein’s capable hands, I am. The characters – the humans too – are so well drawn that I became totally immersed in their lives and their story. It’s a book about dogs and family, love and passion, loyalty and life. It is a book that will make you laugh and cry but is ultimately uplifting. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and you should read it too. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ART OF SURVIVAL by A. E. Maxwell: This is the fifth in the Fiddler and Fiora series by the husband-and-wife team, A. E. (for Ann and Evan) Maxwell published in the 1980’s. Hard-nosed, worldly private eye Fiddler breaks again with his successful financier wife Fiora and leaves their California home for Santa Fe, art capital of the Southwest. (The two are great in bed, but a hazard to each other’s health, otherwise). Fiddler gets drawn into the local art scene with gallery owner Olin Nickelaw and artist Maggie Tenorio. Nickelaw has recently paid a million dollars for a recently discovered painting by Georgia O’Keefe by Fiddler suspects there is more than meets the eye here and that Nickelaw and Tenorio are no more than a pair of hustlers. In trying to uncover the fraud, Fiddler inadvertently endangers Fiora. Excellent read. 03/09 Jack Quick

As Long as She Needs Me by Nicholas Weinstock: Sweet, funny contemporary British love story along the lines of Bridget Jones Diary, except the protagonist is the flip side, i.e. the guy. Very entertaining. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ASCENT by Ronald Malfi: Tim Overleigh has been spiraling downward since the tragic death of his wife. Once a promising artist—an up-and-coming sculptor who was the talk of the art community—Tim has found his inspiration has left him. His new efforts have gone into drinking and extreme sports, activities that have nearly cost him his life. When an old friend approaches Tim with a proposal, he initially brushes it off. It would be the chance of a lifetime, a trek through the mountains of Nepal to reach the never-before-explored Canyon of Souls, an area steeped in mystical legend and lore. Tim finally decides to go for it, understanding that the trip will be harrowing and may even cost him his life. He and his fellow adventurers have no idea what they are really in for, though. I enjoyed the adrenaline-fueled action and am an admitted sucker for this kind of setting. Overall, for a quick and fun read, The Ascent delivered. My one complaint is that while there is some useful character development, it’s really just enough to get the story by. If you’re looking for a deep read, this is not it. If you’re looking for a book in the vein of Vertical Limit (guilty pleasure of mine), then you’ll enjoy Malfi’s latest. 09/10 Becky Lejeune

ASK THE DICE by Ed Lynskey: Tommy Mack Zane has faithfully worked as a contract killer for Watson Ogg, the Washington, D.C. crime boss, for some twenty years. Apparently, Mr. Ogg has decided to retire Zane – permanently. After Zane is framed for the murder of Ogg’s niece, he fights back with the aid of his friends the mercurial D. Noble and burly Esquire to fight with Mr. Ogg and his mercenary “dark suits” for his life. The story is rich, but told in spare, lean prose reminiscent of Ken Bruen or Robert B. Parker. Nicely done. 12/11 Jack Quick Note: available as an e-book only

ASK THE PARROT by Richard Stark: By now everyone probably knows that Stark is AKA Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Donald Westlake. By any name, he always turns out great work and this is no exception. Parker is on the lam from the botched robbery in Nobody Runs Forever (2004) when he meets up with reclusive Tom Lindahl. Lindahl rescues Parker from a bad situation because he wants him to help rob a local racetrack. Parker sees it as a good deal and also feels he owes Lindahl. As usual everything falls apart and only Parker can put even some of the pieces back together. Parker is the cold blooded professional with little redeeming value that you end up rooting for in spite of who he is. Let’s hope that Stark/Westlake continues to see fit to give us periodic Parker updates. We need them. 11/06 Jack Quick

THE ASSASSIN by Rachel Butler: Selena spent her first twelve years as an abused child on the mean streets of Jamaica until a wealthy American drug lord, rescued her and raised her to take over his business. But Selena has other plans, and they don’t include running drugs. Fourteen years later, she still feels sufficiently indebted to Davis (the drug lord) to submit to his demand that she kill a Tulsa cop who’s getting too close to exposing Davis’s operation. Selena’s target is Detective Tony Ceola, godson to Tulsa’s chief of police and her temporary next-door neighbor. Has all the makings of a great series and the second installment – Deep Cover – is already in print. 02/06 Jack Quick

ASSASSINS OF ATHENS by Jeffery Siger: Interesting police procedural set in modern Athens, Greece. Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is investigating the murder of a boy from one of Greece’s most prominent families whose body turns up in a dumpster in one of Athens’ worst neighborhoods. The boy’s father is in the middle of a hostile takeover bid of Athens’ most respected newspaper and the fight has turned dirty – but has it led to murder. Kaldis’ politically incorrect search for answers takes him deep into the sordid, criminal side of Athens nightlife and on to the glittering world of Athens society where age-old frictions between old money and new breed jealousy, murder, revenge, revolutionaries, and some very dangerous truths. Nicely done and could be the start of a series featuring the dogged Kaldis, who will not take no for an answer. 02/10 Jack Quick

ASSASSIN’S SHADOW by Randy Wayne White: Ex-SEAL Dusky MacMorgan is at the elite resort of St. Carib. That’s where the rich and famous go to have their bodies perfected. A group of international terrorists have decided to wipe out the entire resort client list and it’s up to Dusky and his new found female partner to save the day. Think Bruce Willis meets James Bond in a Caribbean setting. Pure escape but fun, from White’s Randy Striker period. 01/09 Jack Quick

THE ASSASSINS GALLERY by David L. Robbins: It’s the waning days of World War II. Professor Mikhal Lammeck, a specialist in the history and weaponry of assassins, is in England, involved in training agents to be sent behind enemy lines. A former pupil, now a member of the United States Secret Service, arranges for Lammeck to come to the United States to look at a gruesome double murder on the beach near Newburyport, Massachusetts. Based on the evidence and Lammeck’s own knowledge he concludes that someone wants one last shot at altering history. An assassin is headed to Washington, D.C., to kill the most important soldier of them all – the U.S. commander in chief. Lammeck and the killer at the top of her profession circle the streets of the capital – one attempting to kill FDR, the other attempting to save him. Who will prevail? A first rate thriller. 12/07 Jack Quick

THE ASSOCIATE by John Grisham: Now I remember why I stopped reading Grisham. He’s a great storyteller, but I just can’t suspend my disbelief that much. Kyle McAvoy is the lawyer at the heart of this farfetched story. Brilliant student, editor of the Yale Law Review, and son of a hard working lawyer who believes in helping people, so no one can believe it when Kyle takes a job as an associate at the world’s largest law firm (more than 2000 lawyers) and goes corporate. What no one knows, except for the people blackmailing Kyle, is that he was present at the possible rape of a girl who liked to party with the frat brothers, but no charges were ever filed. But some bad people have hold of a video of the supposed rape, and threaten to destroy Kyle’s life by using it unless he become a corporate spy for them. Logic flies out the window and the brilliant law student is reduced to idiocy. The best thing I can say about it is that I managed to finish it. 02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE ASYLUM by John Harwood: Georgina Ferrars can’t remember anything from recent weeks. She has no memory of arriving at Tregannon Asylum and certainly no memory of checking in as a voluntary patient under the alias Lucy Ashton. When the doctor at Tregannon House tells her that she cannot be Georgina Ferrars because the “real” Georgina Ferrars is safe at home in London, Georgina finds herself officially committed. Under lock and key, she has almost no hope of proving her true identity or finding out who has taken her place, but she is determined to try. This latest from Harwood has all the same elements his fans have come to love in his work: a Victorian gothic setting and style as well as dual storylines that alternate from Georgina to a series of letters between her mother and a woman named Rosina. The mystery unfolds at a wonderful pace but the book ultimately falls a bit flat in comparison to Harwood’s earlier works. The reveal at the end is too hurried to truly live up to the expectation built throughout the novel. 5/13 Becky Lejeune

AT RISK by Stella Rimington: Ms. Rimington was the first female director general of MI5, having worked in all the main fields of the service including counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and counter-subversion before her retirement with 30 years tenure. In this, her first novel, she presents a taut, believable portrait of life in the service, warts and all. British Intelligence is facing an “invisible” – a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country and who can therefore cross its borders and move around the country without attracting attention. Her characters, particularly Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle, seem genuine and realistic as they pursue the bad guys both within and outside the various branches that have to coordinate their activities. The murder of a fisherman in Norfolk using an armor piercing bullet gets them on the chase fairly quickly but the who, where, when and how of the terrorist strike are more difficult to unravel. Like a kettle coming to boil the tension increases as the plot unfolds, knowing that Liz is not necessarily certain to succeed within the time available. A good “Brit” story, well told, and hopefully the beginning of a long relationship with Ms. Carlyle and company. Recommended. 04/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey: The “city” of the title is Chicago, and it’s “edge” is populated by gangs. Jason Palmer is a soldier, newly returned home from Iraq, where he received an “other than honorable” discharge. He is floating; disturbed and unsure what to do with his life. His brother owns a bar in one of the gang-ridden neighborhoods, but he is also a crusader, working behind the scenes to clean up the streets. He touches a nerve, because he is murdered in front of his 8 year old son, and his bar is burned down. Jason is forced into parentage and responsibility, chief of which is determining why his brother’s murderers are now trying to kill him and his nephew. He also needs to find out why his brother was killed, and ultimately who the murderers were. He is joined in this effort by Elena Cruz, a cop who works the gangs but has some murky history of her own. This is a haunting story, beautifully written with rich, evocative images and tension building on every page, until the shocking ending. Sakey wrote an amazing debut with The Blade Itself, and with his sophomore effort has outdone himself. 01/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey: In Sakey’s second crime novel Jason Palmer, a veteran of the current Iraq war, is back in Chicago and at loose ends. His older brother Michael runs a bar in their old South Side Chicago neighborhood and tries to raise his eight-year-old son, Billy, as a single parent. But when Michael tries to disrupt the current of gang violence that tarnishes the area he becomes a target. When Michael is murdered and Billy is threatened, Jason reverts to soldier mode and in the process rediscovers himself. I liked this one much better than 2007’s THE BLADE ITSELF, and look forward to his next effort. 08/08 Jack Quick

ATLANTIS by David Gibbins: The secret of Atlantis is lost for centuries because of a common mugging. Now marine archeologist Jack Howard may have found the key to uncovering this legendary sunken city. A scrap of papyrus discovered in an Egyptian desert, which may contain a secondhand account of the lost city, sends Jack scrambling to assemble a team. Once prepped and in position in the Aegean Sea, Jack and company find themselves caught up with Kazakhstan terrorists and a multi-country fight over a missing Soviet nuclear submarine—and that’s before they’ve uncovered the ancient secrets of the lost city. Think Clive Cussler with a hefty dose of science. The historical conspiracy angle is reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code book and unless you are a science fan, you might want to wait for the movie version. All in all a good story, but would have benefited from tighter editing. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS CODE by Charles Brokaw: Somewhat of a Da Vinci Code clone. Archeologist and linguist Thomas Lourds is trying to find the connection between a bell and a cymbal, both with writings in a previously unknown language. He is assisted in his quest by TV documentary producer Leslie Crane and by Moscow police inspector Natashya Safarov, sister of a Lourds associate who has been murdered. Opposing Lourds is Cardinal Stefano Murani, who is seeking the artifacts for his own evil purposes. From Alexandria, Greece to Moscow to Leipzig and Senegal, the chase is on. Could the artifacts be linked to Atlantis and do they hold a secret that will shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Eventually the answers are revealed. If you really, really loved the Da Vinci Code, you might find this one of more than passing interest. Otherwise, you might look elsewhere. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS PROPHECY by Thomas Greanias: Astro-archeologist Conrad Yeats has returned to Washington, DC after his near death experiences in Antarctica chronicled in Raising Atlantis. Vatican linguist Sister Serena Serghetti is back in Rome where she interprets Conrad’s father’s oddly sculpted tombstone which contains a cryptic message. Intrigued, Conrad investigates and discovers George Washington entrusted a treaty sealed in a celestial globe to the care of one of Conrad’s ancestors—but Conrad is not the only one looking for it. According to the Atlantis prophecy, when the stars’ align on July 4, 2008, with Washington, D.C., monuments, his sinister rivals’ new world order will begin clicking into place. Obviously in March, 2010, their sinister plan didn’t work, but who knows what the future lies – beyond the promised third volume of this exciting set. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE ATLANTIS REVELATION by Thomas Greanias: The final in Greanis three book series in which Archaeologist Conrad Yeats and Serena Serghetti, the beautiful Vatican linguist he loved and lost, battle the remnants of an ancient conspiracy who seek to ignite global Armageddon and revive an empire. Beginning with a sunken Nazi submarine and wending though Jerusalem, the city of God, a centuries-old secret awaits. Archaeologist Conrad Yeats discovers Hitler’s quest for Atlantis in the ruins of the Third Reich which yields the key to an ancient conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of every major government. Like the two previous outings Yeats and Serena are imperiled, but are up the challenge. Yes, it is derivative of The Da Vincie Code et al as well as Mission Impossible and Indiana Jones – but still a fast-paced fun read. Recommend reading all three (RAISING ATLANTIS, THE ATLANTIS PROPHECY, and this one (in sequence, of course). 03/10 Jack Quick

Atonement by Ian McEwan: This incredible novel started off slowly for me but soon became totally engrossing. Written in three parts, it encompasses love and war and betrayal and…atonement. Or does it? I didn’t like the main character, Briony, a precocious little brat, so I had difficulty staying inside her head at the beginning. But the way the author portrayed her, from the silliness and selfishness of that little girl, to her spiteful cruelty that changed the lives of so many, resonated throughout the novel. Once I got past the beginning, the searing heat between lovers Cecilia and Robbie made the book started clicking for me and I read the rest straight through. I found it totally engrossing, from the insanity of the family dinner to the insightful descriptiveness of war to the sterility of the hospital where Cecilia worked (not to mention the sterility of the nurses!) to the ultimate conclusion, the atonement. Simply put, it was beautifully written. Shortlisted for the Booker. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell: This debut is utterly charming, a slice of millennium life set at the brink of change, the then upcoming new century and all the fear and hysteria that went with it. Beth and Jennifer are best friends and colleagues at a small newspaper. Beth lives with her boyfriend, rock star wanna-be Chris, while Jennifer is married to romantic Mitch, who is pressuring her to have a baby. They share a good part of their lives through their company email. Lincoln works nights at the paper in security; it is his job to read the emails that the firewall software has flagged, and to issue warnings to employees who are breaking the rules. But as he reads Beth and Jennifer’s emails, he doesn’t have the heart to reprimand them and soon realizes that he has fallen for the very much taken Beth. Beth and Jennifer’s stories are told epistolary style, through their emails, while Lincoln has his own voice in alternating chapters. The mixed up format worked for me, and the comparisons to “When Harry Met Sally” are justified. Rowell offers up a cup of frothy fun, romantic reading at its best. I couldn’t put it down. 04/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan: Audrey Lucas has never had things easy. Much of her life was lived on the road taking care of her bipolar mother. When the woman was finally committed, Audrey made her escape to New York City. Now with an architecture degree behind her, Audrey is ready to embark on the next phase of her life. She’s landed a position with a great architecture firm and found the apartment of her dreams: The Breviary is strangely within budget, but that could be due to the tragedy that took place in Audrey’s new apartment when the previous tenant killed her own children before committing suicide. The building itself, an architectural marvel, is enough to inspire Audrey. The fact that the apartment is beyond what she could expect in this area of the city is almost secondary. But The Breviary is hiding a secret, one that is decades old, and Audrey has been chosen as the one who can finally unleash the evil that lives within. Langan’s previous novels, The Keeper and Missing, have earned the author much-deserved praise and respect in the horror community. Once again, she delivers. Langan builds a scenario packed with a creepy atmosphere, suspenseful plot, and tangible characters with deep-seated issues. 10/09 Becky Lejeune

AUGUST MOON by Jess Lourey: Battle Lake, Minnesota is scorching hot and apparently potentially deadly year round in this, the fourth Mira James’ Murder-by-Month mystery (following May Day, June Bug, and Knee-High By The Fourth of July).. What is not hot is Mira’s love life, so she has decided to move down to Minneapolis and become a “cat-collecting, fist-shaking, asexual English professor.” A murdered high school cheerleader changes her plans and soon she is investigating the Right Reverend pastor Meale who runs the evangelical New Millennium Bible Camp. When the camp’s Creation Science Fair only turns up as a disturbing “Stepford Wives meets Hee Haw” atmosphere, Mira begins to have second thoughts. Peppered with sparkling dialogue like, “Can you drive?” “Is the Pope Catholic?” “I’m pretty sure he is. But can you drive? “Not in the eyes of the law, but that doesn’t stop me from where I’m going.” All in all, it’s not bad as Mira sticks to her guns and survives to star in the upcoming September Mourn. 08/08 Jack Quick

AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale: Jane Hayes has relationship trouble. She’s obsessed with Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy – specifically Colin Firth’s version – and no other man can compare. Her great aunt is well aware of this obsession and warns Jane that she needs to embrace life and stop this fantasy. Jane does not listen. A few months later, Jane gets a call regarding her inheritance. It seems the great aunt that she barely knew has bequeathed her a vacation. The trip is an all expense paid, all inclusive, three-week stay at Austenland, a top secret Jane Austen resort. Vacationers “Experience” life as it was in 1816 – a Jane Austen life that is. No cell phones, no jeans, no cars, no exceptions. Ladies must adhere to the social norms of the time and dress appropriately. Jane, ready to give up on men altogether, decides to go out with a bang and immerse herself in “the Experience.” She hopes that this will finally allow her to get over Mr. Darcy. Or will it? Who could ask for a more sweet and enticing read? This oh-so-predictable happy ending is just what a girl needs sometimes and I absolutely adored it. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN by David Moody: It was a fluke that brought Carl, Michael, and Emma together. 99% of the population is now dead thanks to a mysterious contagion. Carl, Michael, and Emma are just a few of the remaining survivors, seemingly immune to the plague. The three come together in the beginning along with a larger group of survivors and hole up in a community center as temporary shelter. Soon they discover that some of the dead aren’t staying that way. With supplies dwindling, Carl and Michael decide that it might be best to find a better stronghold to set up in. Their plan is not met with much enthusiasm from the others, but Emma agrees that leaving would be best. The three set off, only to find that things are much worse than they’d feared, and the dead are getting smarter. Moody’s post-outbreak zombie horror is reminiscent of Survivors, with the addition of the walking dead, that is. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN: THE CITY by David Moody: In this sequel and companion to Autumn, Moody introduces readers to a new set of survivors. For those in the city during the outbreak, terror and confusion are ruling factors. Holed up in office buildings, department stores, and even a university building with no explanation of what’s going on, they are forced to watch as those around them first fall victim to an unseen plague and then begin to rise again. At first the dead seem to simply wander around, but then they begin to hone in on the survivors themselves and as more of the living come together, more of the dead follow. Moody is known for his great use of atmosphere in building suspense in his horror. Autumn and Autumn: The City both focus on the survivors and various challenges they face in this new post-outbreak world. Survival seems a bleak prospect, but I hope that the people left by the end of the tale will somehow make it through. Only time will tell. Autumn: Purification is due out in August. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

AUTUMN: PURIFICATION by David Moody: The two groups of survivors from Autumn and Autumn: The City have come together as one in Autumn: Purification. They have found temporary shelter in an underground military bunker. Thousands of undead swarm the ground above and those inside know that they won’t be safe forever. As the military prepares for a mass attack on the zombies, the rest of the survivors are forced to plan their escape back into the outside world. Moody once again pits his hearty survivors against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The continued breakdown of society as a whole, the loss of hope, and the few who manage to hold on to the last strings of civilization are the driving forces of this series. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

AVALANCHE by Zane Grey: Occasionally a break is needed, and for Western fiction there is no better than Zane Grey. This is a classic tale of two men who grew up closer than brothers, absolutely inseparable in the wild western country until both fall in love with the same fickle woman. It takes the raging fury of nature itself to mend the hate that had broken their friendship. 04/06 Jack Quick

THE AWAKENED MAGE by Karen Miller: The stunning conclusion to Karen Miller’s Kingmaker Kingbreaker series is here. It picks up exactly where The Innocent Mage left off. The discovery of an ancient library led Durm, the master magician of the Kingdom of Lur, to make a grave mistake. His own curiosity opened a door that allowed the monster Morg – a magician turned evil through his own thirst for power – to enter the protected sanctum of Lur. Now, King Borne, his wife, and his daughter all lay dead as a result of Morg’s spell. As the only living member of the royal family, Prince Gar has been named king. Gar, the only Doranen ever to be born without the gift of magic, has also fallen prey to Morg’s scheming. Morg gifted the prince with a finite taste of magical abilities – the only thing that has allowed him to take the throne. Now that magic has left him and he fears the entire kingdom may fall into anarchy. Gar’s only salvation is his friend Asher. Neither knows that Asher will bring the coming of a new age. They will all soon discover that this Olken is the only one who can protect the kingdom from an ancient evil long thought dead. Miller’s series is absolutely entrancing. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

Azarel by Karoly Pap: Very intense, very emotional novel about a boy’s crisis of faith. Set in rural Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century and never before translated into English, Azarel chronicles the life of young Gyuri, a rebellious nine-year-old boy whose father is a rabbi and whose grandfather Jeremiah is an Orthodox fanatic. Jeremiah thinks his son and his followers are going to “melt the Jewish people in the furnaces of exile” – prophetic and haunting language for a book first published in 1937. Pap died in Bergen-Belsen. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch


Fiction Reviews B: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

BABY CRIMES by Randall Hicks:  It’s been much too long since The Baby Game debut; I hope the wait isn’t as long for the next book in this wonderful series.  Toby is back, teaching tennis and lawyering on the side.  He’s seeing his childhood sweetheart, Rita, and life is good – until he’s hired to unravel a 16 year old adoption mess.  But there’s more to the mess than just a legal imbroglio; blackmail, organized crime and murder take this to a darker place.  Fully realized characters, intricate plotting, a bit of romance and good writing combine to make this a wondrous book; fun and compelling, yet comforting.  Hicks has a unique voice – don’t miss it.  09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY CRIMES by Randall Hicks:  Arrange an adoption.  That’s what Toby Dillon, Esquire does – when he is not serving as Assistant Tennis Pro at Coral Canyon.  The prospective parents are County Supervisor Nevin Handley and his wife; the child is healthy and apparently adoptable.  The only hitch?  Lynn, the sixteen-year-old tennis prodigy, has been living as the daughter of the Handley’s since birth.  It seems that they “adopted” her without benefit of the law sixteen years ago, and now are being threatened with blackmail, they think by Lynn’s birth mother.  Just the kind of mess Toby is best suited to stumble through and, hopefully, come out the other end relatively unscathed.  The follow-on to 2005’s The Baby Game is just as good.  Don’t wait for the library.  Go order a copy today.  The new kissing scene with Rita is worth the price of admission alone.  Think of the rest of the book as a bonus.  08/07 Jack Quick

THE BABY GAME by Randall Hicks: A renowned adoption attorney turns his hand to mystery and writes a winner about what he knows best – adoption.  Toby Dillon is a young lawyer who decides to keep his job as a tennis pro just in case the law thing doesn’t work out.  His two best childhood friends, Brogan and Rita, ended up married to each other and oh yeah, they’re like the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman Hollywood power couple (back when they were happy) and they ask Toby to help them adopt a baby.  Just as the happy couple are celebrating their successful adoption, they get a phone call that changes their lives.  Then the birth mother goes missing, bodies start piling up, the police are baffled and not very helpful, and Toby and Brogan decide to take matters into their own hands.  These are some wonderful, true to life characters (even the bad ones) and despite the desperation of the situation, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments as well as some really sweet ones, too, including one of the best “first kiss” scenes ever.  An incredible first effort that I couldn’t put down and didn’t want to end.  But it did, and it ended well.  I’m hoping for more from this gifted new author.  08/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BABY GAME by Randall Hicks: The Baby Game is one of those rare books where the improbable works seamlessly. The serious parts make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle and the funny parts are laugh out loud hilarious. An ex Peace Corps, assistant tennis pro, home schooled California attorney, who drives a Ford falcon convertible with a wooden cigar store Indian permanently wedged in the passenger seat sounds like the loser of a Dumb and Dumber contest, but Toby Dillon turns out to be believable, lovable, and competent, in roughly that order. The plot is deliciously twisty and at the halfway point, I still had no idea who the bad guys were. Although there is real jeopardy, there is still some question at that point as to whether a crime had even been committed. Well, actually Toby was well along the way to the five felonies he commits in the course of the book, but otherwise…All is well that ends well and the ending of The Baby Game – “And then I kissed her.” The best way to describe it, The Baby Game is similar to Lawrence Sanders’ McNally series, only a whole lot better. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BABY MOLL by John Farris:  Hardcase Crime #46.  Once in, never out.  Peter Mallory thought he had quit the mob, started his own business and built a home for his bride-to-be, but Florida mobster Macy Barr needs Mallory’s help and has the goods to force him to cooperate.  Otherwise, he can kiss his future wedding plans good-bye and maybe the rest of his life as well.  Prior to Mallory ever hooking up with Barr, a family was accidentally murdered after the father refused to be extorted.  Now someone is killing everyone associated with that arson.  Not only must Peter seek the killer, he also has to contend with a paid assassin, a rival mob chief and squabbles within the Barr household.  Classic pulp where the bad guys aren’t all bad, and maybe the good guys have some flaws as well.  Another good one from Hardcase Crime. 09/08 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK by Robert Fate:  Let me add my heaping of praise for this debut, a throwback to another era.  Set in 1952 Texas, the main character, Kristin Van Dijk, becomes known as Baby Shark. Her father was a pool hustler and she traveled the road with him until he was killed in front of her by a motorcycle gang, who then raped and savagely beat her, set the pool hall on fire and left her for dead. She survives and a year later she’s a trained killing machine, bent on revenge. Oddly enough, considering the male/female dichotomy here, there is something reminiscent of Mike Hammer in this character. It’s very well written and suitably fitting for the time period, touching on women’s roles, politics, and prejudice.  Hardboiled fiction really doesn’t get much grittier than this.  12/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK by Robert Fate: I understand a shark must constantly move to prevent its suffocation and that its attention span is so short that it can learn little from experience. Kristin, the baby shark of this book, moves a lot but she has also learned a lot and each experience leads her closer to the revenge she seeks. In October 1952, at the tender age of 17 she watched four bikers kill her pool hustler father in a Texas pool hall fight that leaves two other men dead as well. Sexually assaulted, beaten, and left for dead, she is rescued by the pool hall owner Henry Chin, a Chinese immigrant and father of one of the other murder victims. Since the local police are no help, Chin hires a private investigator to start searching for the killers. Then he hires two “tutors” for Kristin. She develops into one tough package, who also shoots a mean game of stick. At eighteen the Baby Shark is ready to hunt for the killers as she hustles pool in west Texas. Revenge is sweeter when it is served cold, but what happens afterwards. This is the first in a projected series of novels about a teenaged woman taking up the family business – pool hustling. I wish Mr. Fate well with his plans, as I think this will become a very interesting series of reads. 09/06 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S BEAUMONT BLUES by Robert Fate: Fate is apparently channeling the hardboiled masters of the 1950’s and 60’s with this terrific series that is just a breath of fresh air.  Baby Shark is Kristin van Dijk, the 17-year-old who was raped, beaten and left for dead in the first book.  She turned into a veritable killing machine, avenged those who did her wrong, and became a “girl dick” –  partnered with Otis Millett, Private Eye.  Set in the wild west of 1950’s Fort Worth, Texas, they are hired to find a runaway heiress.  But there are a few road blocks, several twists, a little romance and more dead bodies than even a coroner could wish for before they get the job done.  Don’t miss this fast, fun and furious page turner.  Baby Shark’s Panhandle Caravan is slated for release in March, 2008, and I can’t wait.  05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK’S BEAUMONT BLUES by Robert Fate: A tough talking private investigator who shoots a mean game of pool as an income supplement. No big deal, except she is the 5’ 7”, 130 pound Baby Shark. Kristin Van Dijk and partner Otis Millett are on the trail of a missing Texas oil heiress and have to contend with Beaumont gangsters, Dallas cops, and the overwhelming scent of Evening in Paris. This is definitely a Friday night book, because no matter how fast you read you are going to be up late, late, late, and suffer from an adrenalin deficit the next day. Baby Shark just keeps getting better. I’ve lost count of the number of guys she has put down and even though she has been shot, stabbed, and slugged, no one has gotten the best of her yet. Hey Robert, where and when for Baby Shark Number Three? 05/07 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S HIGH PLAINS REDEMPTION by Robert Fate: Pulp fiction makes a comeback with this series featuring Kristin Van Dijk, better known as Baby Shark, the pool-hustling, butt-kicking 18-year-old heroine of Baby Shark and Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues. Kristin is comfortable in her job as a private eye at the Millett Agency in 1950’s Texas. Their latest case seems simple enough; pick up bootlegger Travis Horner’s girlfriend and bring her back to him. Horner is one of the biggest bootleggers in Oklahoma, and his girlfriend happens to be the daughter of his biggest rival, Bull Smike. But someone doesn’t want that to happen, Otis is set up and Baby Shark walks into a fight and a shootout. The fights and shootouts continue nonstop until Baby Shark finds out that Horner considers himself to be a world class pool player. She challenges him to a game, and all scores are settled. These books must be read in order as there are no explanations as to what came before or how and why all these relationships were formed. The language is rough and the body count high in this fast paced shoot-‘em-up. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK’S HIGH PLAINS REDEMPTION by Robert Fate:  Bull Smike and Travis Horner run the two biggest bootleg operations in Oklahoma.  Bull controls the east and Horner runs the west.  In the middle are two things – Oklahoma City – and Baby Shark.  Kristin Van Dijk and her PI partner, Otis Millett, travel to Oklahoma to track down Savannah Smike, Bull’s daughter and Horner’s girlfriend, who ís being held for ransom.  Although they are successful, the entire operation raises questions, which turn into real concerns when Millett is later shot.  That leaves Van Dirk to kick some serious butt to get things back on track.  Third time out for the Shark, and another solid win for series character we hope will be around for a long, long time. 06/08 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S JUGGLERS AT THE BORDER by Robert Fate: Sometimes a series just flows and Fate sure has a handle on how to make that happen. This is Baby Shark’s fourth outing, and she hasn’t broken stride yet. Kristin Van Dijk, better known as Baby Shark, is 23 years old now, and a seasoned private investigator. When her partner Otis Millett’s ex-wife turns up dead, the case becomes personal. Dixie Logan, a stripper known on the circuit as the “Dallas Firecracker,” never actually filed for divorce, so Otis is her next of kin. They hook up with the Fort Worth police department working to help solve her murder, Kristin goes undercover with the reluctant approval of the police chief, and almost gets killed for her trouble.  As with all the Baby Shark books, there is lots of action, fighting and shooting in 1958 Texas, and this truly is an homage to the hardboiled detective stories of that time period. If you haven’t met Baby Shark yet, start with the first book, Baby Shark, and enjoy them all. 09/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BABY SHARK’S JUGGLERS AT THE BORDER by Robert Fate: The prettiest little pool hustler and private investigator in all of Texas is at it again. Its October 1958 and Kristin Van Dijk, AKA Baby Shark, gets involved when Fort Worth police discover the body of Dixie “The Dallas Firecracker” Logan, a former regular on the Texas striptease circuit and ex-wife of Kristin’s partner Otis Millet. Otis and Kristin go to work with a by-the-book straight arrow Fort Worth homicide detective to try to find the killer, but even he can’t help it when the bad guys badly under estimate Kristin’s abilities. A few broken bones and dead bodies later, the unlikely trio is chasing the bad guys across West Texas. Not gonna tell you who wins, but I can’t wait for the next Baby Shark. She is bad good.  09/09 Jack Quick

BABY SHARK’S SHOWDOWN AT CHIGGER FLATS by Robert Fate: You don’t tug on Superman’s Cape, you don’t wave a red flag in front of a bull, you don’t hang red meat in front of a shark – and if you don’t want a mess of Baby Shark in your face, don’t mess with Otis Millett, Baby shark’s private eye partner in Ft. Worth. Bloodthirsty murderer Walter Fairchild breaks out of a Texas prison with revenge on his mind, and the cantankerous, Fort Worth private eye Otis Millett is at the top of his list. After several failed attempts to kill Otis, the Fairchild clan finally finds success in kidnapping him. Baby Shark aka Kristin along with fellow operative Henry Chin are going to rescue Otis, with or without the help of U.S. Marshals and Texas law enforcement officials. It’s a bad day to be in Texas if your name is Fairchild. Outstanding. 8/12 Jack Quick

THE BABY THIEF by L J Sellers: In this outstanding outing, Sellers has set up a situation that can only lead to serious problems.  Elizabeth, a sexually abused adopted child becomes a doctor specializing in genetics, although she is, herself, unable to bear children. A holdup brings businesswoman Jenna McClure and free-lance journalist Eric Troutman together.  Their paths will soon cross with that of Elizabeth by way of a bizarre religious cult headed by a Doctor who also has extensive experience in genetics and reproductive matters. The reason? Jenna had gone to Elizabeth’s clinic where, almost by chance, Elizabeth learned that Jenna was her unknown sister.  Rather than sharing this information, Elizabeth decides to use Jenna to help her create the perfect child. If you like suspenseful thrillers, this one is for you. 12/10 Jack Quick

BACK FROM THE DEAD by Peter Leonard: Peter Leonard’s second  book pairing Holocaust survivor Harry Levin and death camp Nazi killer Ernst Hess against each other is actually a continuation of the first book, Voices of the Dead.  In book one Harry kills, or thinks he kills Hess, but book two finds Hess miraculously surviving and recovering from his horrific bullet wound in the Bahamas.  Similarly the action is fast, going from one crisis to the next without letup.  Unfortunately Leonard’s promise as a creative author is muted by stilted dialog and completely predictable situations.  Hess is hell bent on getting Harry, and Harry is forced to go after Hess again in order to save his own life as well as those of his loved ones. If this were Leonard’s second book it would be difficult to read a third one, but this is his fourth, and the author’s promise was indicated in the first three.  Based on reading and enjoying his prior books I would not hesitate to buy the next and trust that Peter returns to the creative form he displayed previously.  Very possibly the mistake was writing a sequel to one book which as a stand alone was quite complete, with the second becoming superfluous and without a logical plot being possible. 2/13 Paul Lane

BACK TO BOLOGNA by Michael Dibdin: Mr. Dibdin passed away not so long ago and this was his second last book. Reading it reminded me of seeing a Tom Stoppard play called After Magritte many years ago. As the play opened the entire cast was caught stopped in what appeared to be inexplicably ludicrous positions. As the play moved along, it told a story and by the end when the characters reassumed their initial positions, it all made perfect sense. Similarly, B to B seemed like slow going at first. But as I moved through it, I realized that Dibdin was just putting the characters in their necessary place to produce wave after wave of farce (at which I laughed as I read) until it culminated in a finish equivalent to Its a Mad, Mad, Mad World (at which I roared). I am going to miss Mr. Dibdin, his descriptions of the various locations in Italy and, of course, Inspector Aurelio Zen. 09/07 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BACK ROADS by Tawni O’Dell: This tale of a dysfunctional family is not a mystery per se. At the outset we know that the mother of nineteen-year-old Harley Altmyer is in prison for murdering her abusive spouse. Harley is left with the task of rearing his three younger sisters left behind. Working days as a bagger in the local grocery and delivery person for an appliance shop, Harley has to deal with cold cereal dinners prepared by six year old Jody and the way 16 year old Amber is sleeping her way through the town’s teenage boy population. Middle sister Misty, once her father’s favorite, seems to only be interested in shooting, a trait which worries him. Faced with these challenges, Harley ends up having an affair with married Callie Mercer, Jody’s best friend. The images evoked in this hardscrabble tale of struggle in the Pennsylvania backwoods are reminiscent of some of the efforts of Mark Billingham and Stephen Booth. Picked for the Oprah Book Club. Well written, but gloomy. Would avoid if easily depressed. 12/06 Jack Quick

BAD BLOOD by Linda Fairstein: Alexandra Cooper is back and she is feistier than ever.  I love the beginning of this book; Fairstein takes us immediately into the courtroom as Cooper’s star witness is destroyed on the stand by the defense attorney in a case about a wealthy man accused of hiring someone to kill his wife, but it goes beyond that when an underground explosion interrupts the trial.  Fairstein takes us along as she unearths the history of the water supply in New York City and the men who built the underground tunnels that support it, and more importantly, how they are related to the defendant.  Family tragedies coupled with heightened fears of explosions in the beleaguered city make this a timely, well executed story.  I have to add here that I have such tremendous respect for Ms. Fairstein and what she’s done for victims of violence in her work as the former chief of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  Taking that experience and running with it here works.  03/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BAD BLOOD by John Sandford: The first victim was Kelly Baker, killed in neighboring Iowa. Then her friend Bobby Tripp, working at a grain mill, kills Jacob Flood, a local farmer delivering his harvest.  Bobby himself is the next victim, as he is arrested and then found hanged in jail.  Jim Crocker, the deputy on duty, is suspected of the crime but when Virgil Flowers of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, called in by local Sheriff Lee Coakley, goes to Crocker’s house, he finds Crocker dead – another murder made to look like suicide. Coakley and Flowers catch a whiff of sexual abuse involving Bobby’s girlfriend, but have no idea of the depth and breadth of what they are about to uncover. As always, Virgil eventually always gets his man, but he also gets the girl. What Flowers lacks in polish is more than compensated for his ability to pull seemingly disparate elements together and doggedly follow them to the end.  Very nicely done.    11/10 Jack Quick

Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley:  It is good to have Easy Rawlins back in the ‘hood.  Time has moved on and Easy now has to deal not only with racist police but also Black Power activists and people with both white and black skins that try to manipulate them. Easy’s children are growing too.  Jesus wants to drop out of school and build a boat.  His daughter loves him unconditionally and is as vulnerable as such love makes a person.  Bonnie, the woman who is living with him, is steady and understanding.  While her character is not developed in very great detail in this book, she serves as Easy’s refuge and his moral rudder. The biggest change in the story line is that Easy’s friend Mouse is now dead (or thought to be dead).  Because Mouse was Easy’s dark side – the Black Man of strong emotions and violent reactions, Easy must now incorporate some of these characteristics in himself if he is to survive. But he is a survivor and his story contains interesting characters and an interesting perspective on society.  This book is worth reading.  While I am on the subject of Easy Rawlins, I have a few additional comments.  First, I still regard Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned as Walter Mosley’s finest book and regularly send it to my friends.  Secondly, it is interesting to note the parallels between Easy Rawlins’ experiences in a white society with Mickey Rawlings’ experiences of the dark sides of American history in Troy Soos’ baseball books.  Finally, this book took me back to a special time in my life when an entire generation believed that the world could be changed and made into a better, gentler, more loving place.  I am grateful that I had the opportunity to live in such a time. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

BAD DEBTS by Peter Temple: When Australian Jack Irish—ex-lawyer and sometime debt collector, cabinetmaker and barfly— gets a desperate message from Danny McKillop, whom he defended years before on a hit-and-run charge “at the beginning of the forgotten zone, the year or so I spent drunk,” he takes a while to call him back. When he does, Danny, who was fresh out of prison, is dead. Jack’s guilt fuels his search for the truth about Danny’s murder. 06/06 Jack Quick

BAD JUJU & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem by Jonathon Woods: Remember the old Name That Tune? I can review this book in one sentence – “I haven’t laughed so much over anything since the hogs ate my kid brother. Dashell Hammett Red Harvest.” No, that really doesn’t do full justice to this collection of violence, sex, and gonzo plot twists, which combine to make a diverting collection of 19 stories, most set in sun-and-blood-drenched borderlands. You really need the rest of the prologue “Oh, there is nothing better than intelligent conversation except thrashing about in bed with a naked girl and Egmont Light Italic. Donald Barthelme Florence Green is 81.” With descriptions like – A veneer of sweat covers her body like the glaze on a Christmas ham; shadows as murky as an abortion clinic in the Bible Belt; Her small conical breasts confronted him like twin interstellar ray guns – I enjoyed this bad boy even while lying in a hospital bed recovering from major surgery. Yes, it really is that good, even the one about a jealous archaeologist using a Mayan stone dildo to bludgeon to death the chairman of the Archaeology Department. Go ahead. Name three authors that have use that plot line in say, the last three centuries.  04/11 Jack Quick

BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child: Jack Reacher is back, and this time it’s personal – and really, really good.  If you are new to the series, this book will work because each book works quite well on its own, and if you’ve read them all, you will love this book because you finally get some of Reacher’s back story.  Reacher hooks up with some of the select military group that’s been hinted at in previous novels.  This time we get the real deal, meet all the characters and really learn what makes Jack tick.  A mysterious deposit into his bank account tips him off that something’s up and Reacher is off to California, where he hooks up with some of his former military team and finds out at least one of their members has been tortured and killed.  There’s lots of catching up to do, but more importantly, a murder needs to be solved, and avenged.  Park your disbelief by the door and enjoy – the action is non-stop, the body count high, and the pages just fly.  Child really has mastered the art of the series; every book betters the one that preceded it, and considering he started with a home run, that really says a lot. 05/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child:  Reacher’s newest adventure begins with the bad guys throwing a badly battered but still living Calvin Franz out of a Bell 222 helicopter 3,000 feet above the California desert floor.  Unfortunately for the bad guys, Franz was not only Military Police; he was a member of Reacher’s Special Investigations Unit. The rest of the book is reminiscent of the little boy in Sunday school who, upon hearing about the Crucifixation, looked up at his teacher and solemnly proclaimed, “They wouldn’t have done that if the Lone Ranger had been there.”  A former colleague sends Reacher a coded SOS; the two rendezvous in L.A. and they bring more members of the band back together, only to discover that Franz isn’t the group’s only casualty.  From there on it gets kind of hairy, so fasten your seatbelt and hang on for the best Jack Reacher to date.  Hint: the ending is imminently satisfying but definitely not for the faint of heart. 06/07 Jack Quick

BAD THINGS by Michael Marshall: Something sinister is waiting for John Henderson in the town of Black Ridge, Washington. Once, Henderson and his family called this quaint town home. But when John’s four-year-old son died, everything changed. It’s been three years and John, now a waiter in a beach restaurant in Oregon, is still trying to put his life back together. A mysterious phone call from a woman who claims to know what happened that fateful day finally prompts his return and a chance for him to gain closure. Maybe. The woman, Ellen Robertson, is recently widowed and still grieving her loss. At first, John can’t see any connection between the two events, but he knows that something is very wrong with Ellen’s story. As he begins to look into her situation, John comes to realize that there is indeed something strange going on in this tiny town. He should have left it alone. He should have never returned in the first place. But now it’s too late and John’s only hope is unraveling the mystery of Black Ridge. Michael Marshall is an amazing author who has yet to garner the attention he truly deserves. His combination of supernatural elements and superior plotting puts him right up there with the best in the thriller genre and also makes his stories appealing to a wide variety of readers. Bad Things is smart, gripping, and terrifying.  05/09 Becky Lejeune

BAD THOUGHTS by Dave Zeltserman:  Call it horror or call it crime fiction – either way it’s an intriguing read with a bizarre ending.  Bill Shannon is a police detective who is bothered with nightmares stemming from the discovery of his mother being murdered.  Now, approaching the twentieth anniversary of her death, the nightmares are worse and seem connected to current cases.  Is his mother’s killer at work again?  But he was sent to his grave twenty years ago.  Or could all this be a manifestation of Shannon’s own sense of guilt?  There’s no shortage of blood and gore, but if you don’t mind sinking into it, this may be the start of an ingenious series along the lines of Darkly Dreaming Dexter.  08/07 Jack Quick

BAD TRAFFIC by Simon Lewis:  When Inspector Jian receives a strange phone call from his daughter, begging for his help, he sets off from China to England determined to find out what is going on. Although is daughter has excelled in English studies, enough so that she can attend university in England, Jian has never been able to learn. He arrives without any resources but his own experience as a somewhat crooked cop and his resolve that he will not fail his only daughter again. The first thing he finds upon his arrival is that his daughter has not been attending classes for quite some time. Not only that, but she has moved out of her flat and no one knows where she is. He is able to trace her to her last place of employment where a gang of local Chinese proceed to rough him up in response to his queries. Sadly, Jian learns that the local tong have murdered his daughter in order to send a message to local business owners, her boss in particular. Hellbent on revenge, Jian meets up with an illegal worker who inadvertently gets caught up in his mission. Fast paced and completely enthralling, this stranger-in-a-strange-land mystery/thriller should be on everyone’s holiday reading list. Lewis grabs you from the beginning with that fateful voice mail and keeps hold all the way up to the surprising conclusion. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

BAGMAN by Jay MacLarty: No-questions asked delivery man Simon Leonidovich is approached by Big Jake Rynerson, a wealthy hotel magnate (think Donald Trump as portrayed by John Wayne). Rynerson’s daughter, an eco-activist, has just been kidnapped in South America, and he wants Simon to deliver the ransom. It doesn’t take long for Simon and Big Jake’s people to realize that the kidnappers have every intention of killing the daughter, money or not, and a simple delivery will no longer suffice. This is the second book of the series and the characters are much better developed than in the debut effort – THE COURIER. This has the makings of a great, somewhat offbeat, series. 07/06 Jack Quick

BAHAMARAMA by Bob Morris: Okay, I admit it.  I didn’t read this series in order.  But there’s only two books so far, this one and the recently released Jamaica Me Dead (review below) and either way, both books are as much fun as a romp on the beach with a frozen rum drink in hand.  In Bahamarama, we meet Zack Chasteen, a former Miami Dolphin who has been retired by an injury.  He’s living on his ancestral palm tree farm and working as a fishing guide off the coast of Florida.  That is, until he takes the fall for a counterfeiting ring that left their equipment on his boat.  Fresh out of two years in a country club jail, Zack finds trouble as he walks out the gate of the prison.  Instead of his girlfriend Barbara picking him up, there’s an SUV with a couple of gorillas quickly followed by a limo with a driver who claims to have been sent by the girlfriend.  A no brainer, Zack takes off in the limo leaving the gorillas behind and hurting.  He’s supposed to meet Barbara in the Bahamas, but when he gets there she’s working down on the beach.  She never returns and then there is a ransom demand.  Wonderful characters and crackling wit make this a page turner and one hell of a debut.  And you don’t have to read them in order.  11/05 Stacy Alesi, the BookBitch

BAHAMARAMA by Bob Morris: Well written debut tale of ex-Miami Dolphin strong safety Zack Chasteen who has just completed a two-year prison term on bogus charges.  His plans to join his girlfriend in the Bahamas are quickly disrupted by a gang of Cuban thugs who are after the loot Chasteen alleged had stolen.  Then his girlfriend is kidnapped.  Believable action thriller with a colorful cast of characters, and first rate descriptions of the Bahamas.  Adventure number two – Jamaica Me Dead – has already been released.  11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BAIT by Nick Brownlee: Jake Moore retired from Scotland Yard five years ago to become a partner in a Kenyan charter-boat business. The civil war outside Mombasa has frightened away European tourists leaving Jake and partner Harry owing the diesel dealer a bundle, and the general manager of the resort across the bay is taking all his charter business elsewhere. Daniel Jouma is a Mombasa police investigator, who meets and subsequently partners with Jake and the daughter of one of Jake’s friends who has been murdered.  Solving the crime may be their only hope for survival. Hopefully this is the start of a Jake and Jouma series.  12/11 Jack Quick

BALANCE OF POWER by Richard North Patterson: Patterson has written an extraordinary tour de force on gun control. Kerry Kilkannon, recently elected President (from Protect and Defend), is back and planning his wedding to Lara Costello. Lara’s sister Joan is being brutalized by her husband, and with Kilkannon’s background – his father abused his mother – he can’t just sit idly by. The inevitable tragedy occurs, but it takes Patterson a good fifty pages too long to get there. The tragedy and its aftermath spur political and legal maneuverings that were so repulsive, yet rang so true, that it literally turned my stomach. I had to put the book down more than once and just walk away from it to regain some emotional perspective. Patterson has an agenda here, and he is quite clear about it; he delves into tort reform, but primarily this is a treatise on gun control, for which he makes a very sound, exigent argument, although I’m afraid he’s preaching to the choir. NRA members wouldn’t touch the book with a ten foot pole, while former President Clinton blurbed it. The book does bog down in places and occasionally seems repetitive, but all in all Patterson does a brilliant job of explaining the intricacies and treacheries of exactly how our government works, while drawing us in emotionally with a compelling story and three dimensional characters that we can’t help but care about. 11/03 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BALBOA FIREFLY by Jack Trolley: What could be more challenging that preventing a madman from shooting down a commercial airliner in the glide path into San Diego’s Lindbergh Field? How about stopping two madmen, working independently trying to do the same thing? How about two madmen who know each and one is planning to frame the other for his actions? San Diego police sergeant Tommy Donahoo must prove himself up to the task in this well-written thriller in which Trolley weaves a complex plot so well that you can follow all the nuances. Hopefully he will do more. 03/06 Jack Quick

BALTIMORE NOIR edited by Laura Lippman:  This is the eighth volume in Akashic’s series showcasing dark tales of crime and place and Editor Lippman delivers a winner as editor and contributor.  Other brand new stories included are from Rafael Alvarez, Jack Bludis, Tim Cockey, Dan Fesperman, Lisa Respers France, Jim Fusilli, Rob Hiaasen, Sujata Massey, Ben Neihart David Simon, Charlie Stella, Marcia Talley, Joseph Wallace, Robert Ward, and Sarah Weinman.  Half of the sixteen authors have ties to the Baltimore Sun and the works range from noir to the supernatural with both period and futuristic pieces as well.  So how about some fresh Chesapeake Bay seafood washed down with some Clipper City brews.  12/07 Jack Quick

BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE: An Illustrated Novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden: After being injured by enemy fire, Lord Henry Baltimore, now Captain Baltimore, awakens to find himself left for dead in a trench filled with the bodies of his fellow soldiers. Strange bat-like creatures have descended into the pit to feed on the flesh of the dead. One of the creatures is distracted by Baltimore and approaches in curiosity. In his horror, Baltimore lashes out at the creature, slicing its face with his bayonet. His actions are the cause of a new unprecedented war between the vampires and humans, and the creature in question swears vengeance against Baltimore. In the time that has passed since the incident, a plague has spread amongst humans. Baltimore’s own family has fallen prey to the infection and months have passed since Baltimore’s friends have last seen him. The three men – a sailor, a soldier, and a doctor – have each received a summons from Baltimore. They are to meet him at an inn, and that is all they know. While waiting for him to arrive, each man tells two tales – how they came to meet the Captain and why they each accepted Baltimore’s strange tale as truth. Each man’s individual stories serve as vignettes that tie the whole thing together. This is not your typical vampire/horror novel. Instead, this is a look at war itself told through the scope of supernatural events. Well worth the read. 10/07 Becky Lejeune

BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS by Dai Sijie:  Set in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s, this is an extraordinary story about the life-altering power of literature.  This one probably should have gone on my Best Books of the Year list.  Sigh. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BANG BANG by Theo Gangi:  Mystery Scene Magazine calls Gangi the “Hip-Hop Elmore Leonard”.  Izzy is a 38 year-old stick up kid – a gunman who preys on other criminals.  He and his partner Mal have one absolute rule – if someone gets killed, than all the witnesses have to die.  Sometimes this can lead to a roomful of bodies, but since the victims are usually criminals themselves, well that’s the price of admission.  Now if you will suspend belief for a few minutes, Izzy meets Eva and likes her, then Eva walks into the middle of a job going down because of her junkie cousin Theresa.  For once, Izzy, just can’t apply rule one – which ultimately leaves him at the mercy of a gang of vicious Albanian drug dealers.  No, it’s not quite logical, but Gangi makes it work in this gritty debut thriller, that indeed, does read like an Elmore Leonard outing.  If you are a realist, never mind, but if you are willing to go with the flow, Izzy and his posse will guarantee you some entertainment.  Looking for a sequel. 11/07 Jack Quick

BANGKOK HAUNTS by John Burdett:  Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep shows old friend Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent, a vicious snuff film he’s received depicting the murder of an ex-lover of his named Damrong.  The two then set out to find Damrong’s killers, finding an important banker, an American teacher, a Buddhist and an exclusive men’s club called the Parthenon.  In the meantime, corrupt police colonel Vikorn, orders Jitpleecheep to help start a porn film business.  Add in the pregnancy of Chanya, a former prostitute with whom Jitpleecheep lives and it’s no wonder things can be a bit confusing.  However, if you persevere you will find that Burdett has once again woven an exotic tale with what has to be one of the most unusual policemen ever created. 07/08 Jack Quick

BANGKOK LAWS by Jim Hansen:  Thirty four year old Bryson Coventry, head of Denver’s homicide unit and serial womanizer, has survived four previous outings but this one may be his undoing, as he becomes involved in the collateral damage of a global killer.  Newly licensed attorney Paige Alexander is employed on her very first case.  It involves a deadly high-stakes international conspiracy that first manifested itself in Bangkok and will end who knows where.  The connection between Alexander and Coventry is San Francisco private investigator Ja’Von Deveraux who combines a lifeguard’s body with movie star features.  Deveraux has survived a terrible experience and is now looking for revenge.  She enlists Alexander to help her and then Coventry.  Not for the weak hearted but full of action and coffee drinking, crime solving Coventry and his cast of cohorts continue to evolve with each outing.  Rough as the Rockies, but also refreshing.  Can’t wait for the next in the series. 12/07 Jack Quick

BANGKOK RULES by Harlan Wolff: Carl Engel is an ex-pat Londoner who has been in Thailand for over 30 years working as a private investigator surviving through the twists and turns of Thailand’s chaotic political history. During a down period he is approached by an elderly American with a very unusual and potentially lucrative missing persons case, involving the client’s missing brother. Soon Engel is involved in the hunt for a particularly vicious current serial killer and a web of intrigue that stretches back to the Vietnam War. The trail leads Carl all over Bangkok and outside the country. Soon the danger becomes real rather than theoretical as the roots of the conspiracy and the amounts of money at stake involve forces and powers that could squash even Carl. Per the author’s notes, the character of Carl Engel is based on a real person. Overall I found this to be a decently written thriller that I would recommend. I have read better and also far worse. My biggest disappointment with the book was the plot, while well presented, tended to wander off at times rather than keeping me riveted into the story. Perhaps tighter editing would have helped. Not all thrillers have to unfold at a breakneck pace in order to be effective but there should be a reasonably constant thread of tension in order to hold the audience in. I didn’t feel that in this particular outing, but again, I did not read this under the best of circumstances so perhaps I am being too harsh. I would enjoy seeing the comments of other reviewers to prove or disprove my judgment. 6/13 Jack Quick

BANGKOK TATTOO by John Burdett: “Killing customers just isn’t good for business.” With this opening line for the sequel to Bangkok 8, Burdett returns us to District 8 – the underbelly of Bangkok’s underworld and Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Life is even more complicated post 9/11 and Sonchai must walk with care as he works through a particularly brutal murder of a CIA agent. Policeman by day and brothel keeper by night (the brothel’s co-owners are his mother and his police superior), Sonchai is very honest and moral but with values different from our expectations of cops. Burdett’s writing style brings his characters to life such as Sonchai describing an encounter with a recalcitrant prisoner – “ agonized over every cop’s dilemma in such circumstances: shoot the bastard or merely beat the shit out of him.” Sonchai’s take on a female CIA officer – “There is about her the restrained superiority of a senior librarian with access to secret catalogs,” and finally his description of “American” society – “The fear of letting go prevents you from letting go of the fear of letting go.” You will either love or hate Sonchai. I loved Bangkok 8 and think this one is even better. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BANISHED by Sophie Littlefield: Author Sophie Littlefield, who’s debut, A Bad Day For Sorry, recently won her the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, makes her teen debut with Banished. Hailey Tarbell doesn’t have it very good. Her grandmother is a hard woman who sells drugs out of their basement and Hailey is an outcast even among the worst outcasts at school. When a classmate takes a bad fall and lands unconscious, Hailey discovers that she has the ability to heal. Unfortunately, her newfound gift doesn’t win her any friends and sets a couple of strange men on her trail. At the same time, an aunt she’s never met shows up in town and promises to take Hailey and her foster brother away from everything, but not before it becomes clear that there are others willing to prevent her leaving at all cost. I hope that Banished is just the tip of the iceberg for Hailey Tarbell. Littlefield touches on the backstory behind the Tarbells, the Banished, and their powers, and it’s a fabulous one. Not to mention the sort of cliffhanger ending that will leave readers anticipating a sequel. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BARBARY PIRATES by William Dietrich: It’s 1802 and treasure-hunting adventurer Ethan Gage has come to Paris for some fun and maybe some debauchery. When Gage and his four companions are coerced into entering one of the city’s most notorious brothels, he never expects that it will lead to danger. Soon they are running for their lives, only to be arrested and turned over to Napoleon himself. It seems that Gage and Bonaparte share an enemy in the Egyptian Rite, an offshoot of the freemasons. Both the Rite and Bonaparte are interested in evidence that a devastating ancient weapon could be hidden in Greece, and Napoleon wants Gage to investigate. Not that Gage is given much of a choice. Readers be warned, The Barbary Pirates is a humorous and entertaining adventure, but one that begins three books earlier with Napoleon’s Pyramid. This fourth of the series can be read on its own, but there are numerous references to past adventures. 03/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BARBED WIRE KISS by Wallace Stroby:  Wow.  This one is good.  Former New Jersey state trooper and widower Harry Rane is semi-retired.  Then his best boyhood buddy calls. Bobby has gotten in a dope deal with Eddie Fallon that has gone bad. Bobby’s erstwhile partner has disappeared with the dope and with the rest of the money needed to pay Fallon.  When Harry gets involved things really get complicated. Turns our Fallon is married to a woman who 19 years before was forced to leave town by her parents after getting pregnant by Harry. At first glimpse you think the characters are all cliché’s but Stroby brings them to life in such a way as to create instant credibility.  It helps that the locale is the Jersey of Tony Soprano fame and Stroby makes you feel right at home. 02/10 Jack Quick

BARGAIN WITH THE DEVIL by F.J. Chase: Peter Avakian is a world class bodyguard but even he isn’t completely prepared for a routine business proposal that lands him in the middle of a complex plot to stage a political coup in Central Africa.   Knowing there is no way he can handle this alone, he turns to the CIA, who will help him for a price.  Avakian is to be the mole inside the conspiracy to gain control over the world’s oil supply, while dealing with assorted drug dealers, common criminals, and gunrunners, all loyal only to the one with the most money – at that time.  There are also two women to be dealt with – one is a CIA agent, the other a South African reporter.  Can either save him, or have him killed?  Nicely done contemporary tale of life in the international fast lane. 05/10 Jack Quick

THE BASINGSTOKE CHRONICLES by Robert Appleton:  The Fountain of Youth and time travel are among mankind’s oldest dreams, and although neither have come to fruition in real life (that we know of) the subjects continue to fascinate us.  Lord Henry Basingstoke and his friend, Rodrigo Quintas, are professional scuba divers, when a strange corpse is found floating off the coast of Cuba. The body itself isn’t that unusual but it is wearing a garment made from an animal extinct for over nine thousand years.  Attempts to solve the mystery actually open them to a daring journey back in time into a hidden land of rainforests, deadly creatures, and a doomed civilization.  Will they survive?  Will they return to the present?  It becomes, quite literally, a race against time. NOTE: This book will not be available until Sept., 2009.  06/09 Jack Quick

BASKET CASE by Carl Hiaasen:  This is a terrific mystery that hits a little closer to home for Mr. Hiaasen; the protagonist is a journalist.  Our hero publicly humiliates his publisher, and is subsequently banished to the obituary desk where he becomes somewhat obsessed with death.  When a rock ‘n roll star dies under mysterious circumstances, the caper begins.  While this time around there is a distinct lack of the usual frenetic insanity that often takes over his tales, I found this book hard to put down. Engrossing and entertaining. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BATTERED BODY by J.B. Stanley: The “Diva of Dough” has arrived at Quincy’s Gap to make the wedding cake for Milla and Jackson’s planned Christmas Eve nuptials.  The famous chef and television personality is Milla’s sister, and while her confections are sweet and beautiful, the Diva herself is demanding and rude.  When she is found dead all covered in cake batter there are no shortage of suspects.  James and the other members of the Supper Club in this fifth outing for the group, must sort the real clues from the false, kind of like separating egg whites.  Anyway, don’t get distracted by Lucy’s Hot Buttered Rum (page 47) or Mrs. Waxman’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie (page 110) or you will never be able to solve the mystery.  On the other hand, whomever overlooks the Diva’s Pecan Praline Cake does so at their own risk. Bon Appetit. 03/09 Jack Quick

THE BATTLE OF THE CRATER by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen: Forget the fact that Newt Gingrich is first and foremost a politician. He and William Forstchen have written several books together about various historical events in the form of novels. None of them have touched on the present day politics in which Mr Gingrich is immersed. The Battle of the Crater is their latest, and beyond any doubt their best to date. History is certainly subject to interpretation based on the documentation in existence about past events. The authors indicate that several years of research have gone into this book, and their thesis based on their findings is incredibly interesting. In 1864 northern and southern armies were facing off in trenches in Georgia engaged in a very costly and bloody stalemate with neither side having any advantage. The outcome of the Civil war which had raged for years looked like it would go to the south. Several divisions of Negro troops which had been used only as laborers were sent to the front and immediately picked up by General Ambrose Burnside to be incorporated into the fighting units he commanded on the Union side. These troops were desperate to prove themselves as fighting men. A plan was conceived by the north to tunnel beneath a fort held by the confederates and use a titanic amount of explosives to blow it up. The northern troops spearheaded by the Negro regiments would charge through the hole left by the explosion and take advantage of the resulting confederate chaos to go forward to seize important strategic positions with the almost definite result that the war would be ended and the south defeated. The digging under the fort goes forward and looks like the plan will be successful when a jealous General Meade changes all the factors and almost single handedly dooms it to failure. There is an inquest after the battle in which Meade is shown as a hero and Burnside actually removed from command and released from the army. Abraham Lincoln is informed of the real facts but will not change the verdict of the court because at the time he received the information Sherman has reached Atlanta and it appears that the tide has turned radically in the north’s favor. He does not want to “rock the boat” and incidentally ruin his chances of reelection at the forthcoming presidential election. Fascinating reading – like a good novel, with conversations set up for men that actually took part in these events. The reader once caught up in the book will believe that he or she is with the participants and feel the emotions probably felt like them. 11/11 Paul Lane

THE BAYOU TRILOGY by Daniel Woodrell: In the parish of St. Bruno, sex is easy, corruption festers, and double-dealing is a way of life.  Rene Shade, from “Frogtown”, is an uncompromising detective swimming in a sea of filth. Woodrell features Shade is three separate outings.  Not all the criminals are smart. Jewel Cobb’s cousin Duncan says about Jewel “ if you had a Sears catalog of dummies you couldn’t order a better one.”  Nevertheless Shade is still challenged as he deals with hit men, porn kings, a gang of ex-cons, as well as his own past, including a racist bar-tender brother.  It is not sweet, but it is vivid.  All in all, a good ride. 05/11 Jack Quick

THE BEACH by Alex Garland: While staying at a hostel in Thailand, Richard meets a strange man who calls himself Daffy. Daffy is decidedly off, but he tells Rich of a paradise island kept hidden from both locals and tourists. The following morning, Rich discovers Daffy dead at his own hand, but not before he copied the map for Rich. Rich is joined by a French couple and they set off to find this secret beach. Before leaving, though, Rich makes one mistake: he shares the map with two Americans. When the three travelers arrive, they find that all of the rumors are true—the beach is everything they expected, and more. There is a thriving community living there and Rich and his friends are welcomed, almost with open arms. Then it all goes south, fast. The Americans arrive and Rich is given the task of ensuring not only that they never find the beach, but that the map is destroyed. Meanwhile, a series of events at the camp will cause the islanders to face a reality that they have long since abandoned. Surprisingly, though it was released in 1996, this is my first time reading the book. It’s sort of a play on Lord of the Flies, an adventure tale that I think each generation of young adults can associate with. I love the movie adaptation, which amazingly, or not since Garland wrote the screenplay, follows fairly closely. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BEACH HOUSE by James Patterson & Peter De Jonge:  Sure to be the beach read of the summer, this fast paced, multi-chaptered (well over 100 chapters! – will someone please explain why he does that???) is set in the quintessential summer getaway, the Hamptons, and pits the working class against the rich and powerful.  Entertaining and fun. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEACH ROAD by James Patterson:  The James Patterson factory of book writing returns to the world of the Hamptons, where Patterson set 2002’s The Beach House.  Tom Dunleavy is a small-time lawyer who lands a big case defending a high-school basketball star accused of murdering three young men with whom Dunleavy plays basketball.  Dunleavy is assisted in working the case by his ex-girlfriend, a high-powered Manhattan lawyer.  The rich are truly different, as is amply pointed out in this typical Patterson larger than life tale. 06/06 Jack Quick

BEAR ANY BURDEN by Ellis M. Goodman:  The title of this thriller set in 1983 at the height of the Cold War is taken from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration speech. “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’  Sir Alex Campbell, head of an international business is on a regular trip to Poland, a country in the midst of political turmoil, on behalf of his company and to perform a “little job” for the British Intelligence Services.  He is supposed to deliver an airline bag containing money and passports to a British agent who is to help the world-renowned nuclear scientist, Dr. Erik Keller, escape across the Iron Curtain to the West.  What begins as one of many routine “little jobs” Alex has done for the SIS, quickly turns into an increasingly dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, involving murder, bribery, and international politics.  Alex ultimately has to face his own family’s history and himself.  What do you do?  Do you turn and run?  Or do you “pay any price and bear any burden” for liberty and freedom?  Nicely done. 01/09 Jack Quick

BEAT THE REAPER by Josh Bazell:  Pietro Brwna was a bright New Jersey teenager when the grandparents who raised him were murdered, and a year later, he takes his revenge.  This area of Jersey is run by the Locanos, a Mafia family who take in Pietro and use his skills as a hit man until he decides it’s time to retire.  But no one retires from the Mafia, and Pietro goes into the Federal Witness Protection Program, becomes Dr. Peter Brown, and hides out in an old New York City hospital where he contends with muggers, sexy pharmaceutical reps and patients who deserve better care than they are getting. One of the newest patients is a New Jersey mob member who instantly recognizes Brwna/Brown, and the real fun begins. Fast paced and macabrely funny, Brwna/Brown is a smart, sarcastic wise-ass and a memorable character for sure, but it’s the writing style, told in the first person and replete with footnotes, that makes this page turner unique and eminently readable.  01/09 Stacy Alesi

BEAT THE REAPER by Josh Bazell:  Move over House, there is a new doctor in town that is even more hinky.  Dr. Peter Brown is practicing at a decrepit Manhattan hospital when a former Mafia associate turns up as a patient and threatens to expose him.  You see, Peter Brown was born Pietro Brwna in New Jersey.  After a couple of thugs gun down his grandparents who have been raising him, Pietro is taken in by the Locanos, a mob family.  Pietro is bent on revenge and pursues and executes the killers.  The Locanos are so impressed that David Locano recruits Pietro as a hit man.  Eventually Pietro tries to make a break from his past by entering the witness protection program only to have his past re-surface.  Even though the POV is first person, Bazell is able to combine humor and tension to make this a first rate read. Recommended. 01/09 Jack Quick

BEATING THE BABUSHKA by Tim Maleeny:  Maleeny’s second Cape Weathers mystery begins with movie producer Tom Abrahams falling/jumping/being pushed off the Golden Gate Bridge.  Soon former reporter turned PI Weathers finds himself being pursued by Russian gangsters as he has apparently stumbled into the middle of a turf war between the Russians and the Chinese who share the bulk of the San Francisco drug business.  With the help of the Sloth and the beautiful but deadly Sally Mei, Weathers finds evidence that resolves the mystery of Abrahams’s death while dealing with drug dealing Russian, Italian and Chinese mobsters as well.  Nicely done. 01/09 Jack Quick

BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN by Charles Bock:  What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.  In this case, that’s a good thing.  This is the story of America’s “mutant” children, raised on video games, independence, and a disconnect with reality as most of us see it.  Newell is a twelve year old runaway, not from anything or toward anything, but just because he can.  Cheri Blossom doesn’t see anything wrong with mutilating her body in the name of “art”.  Bing Beiderbixze is into pornography as an alternative to the real world where he is singularly physically unattractive.  Ponyboy, who is mentally challenged, gay Kenny and his wacky aunt – all of these characters are larger than life and distorted by the life in which they exist.  “What am I supposed to do,” Kenny asks at the end of the book, not only on his own behalf but in the name of lost and confused humanity.  “Just what am I supposed to do now?”  BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN is not an easy read, nor is it a polished work.  I read it in an electronic version.  Perhaps in print, where you could more easily move back and forth to keep up with the various threads, it would be better.  I came away with that dull washed out feeling you get after too little sleep, too much stimulation, and wondering if it was all worth it. 04/08 Jack Quick

BEAUTIFUL LIES by Lisa Unger:  Ridley Jones is a freelance writer living in New York City and gets her fifteen minutes of fame when she saves a toddler who wandered out in front of a truck – and the incident is caught on film.  Her heroic deed gets her noticed by the Today Show and also by someone claiming to be her father.  Her parents deny and when new neighbor Jake saunters into her life, he helps her figure out what is really going on – or does he?  Twists and turns and lots of action make this an exhilarating read centered around a “Safe Haven” program where parents who don’t want their babies can leave them with no questions asked, like at hospitals or clinics.  While being touted as a debut novel, the careful plotting and well developed characters should tip off any reader that this author has been around – and indeed she has, as Lisa Miscione.  04/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BEAUTIFUL MALICE by Rebecca James: It’s never easy to be the new girl, especially when you’re hiding a secret as big as Katherine Patterson’s. When Alice befriends her, though, Katherine is sure that things are looking up. That is until she begins to see that Alice is hiding something as well. As their friendship unfolds and Alice’s true nature is revealed, Katherine must decide what is more important: her new life or her new friendship. Rebecca James’s debut is a dark story that makes you wonder just how well you know the people around you; one that readers are sure to gobble up in one sitting. I have to admit that I had Beautiful Malice figured out fairly early on. The way the plot played out, though, was both intriguing and intense. It is easy to see why James’s book has been garnering so much attention and I look forward to what she has planned next. 07/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BECOMING by Jeanne C. Stein: Anna Strong was on a routine job tracking down a guy planning on jumping his bail. But then things went bad. Anna was brutally attacked and violated. Even worse, she awakens to find that she’s become a vampire. Avery, a doctor and fellow vampire, takes her under his wing, and soon becomes more than just a mentor, but is he everything he seems? Anna knows that Avery and others are hiding secrets from her. The question is, which of her new “friends” is really her enemy? As she learns the ropes and is initiated into this new world, her loyalties to her past are tested and pushed to the limit. Now she’s on a different kind of mission, hunting the man who made her this way, and deciding which side of the line between light and dark she belongs on. Stein’s debut is the first in a series and thankfully just the beginning of Anna’s story. Although things wrap up very neatly in the end, there are several loose ends and plenty more to learn about Anna. I’ll be interested to see how her character continues to develop as the series moves forward. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE by Stephen Gallagher: Sebastian Becker is a former Pinkerton who’s recently relocated to England. His experience leaves him perfectly suited to a position as an investigator for the Lord Chancellor’s Visitors in Lunacy. Becker’s job is to investigate certain individuals to determine whether they are of sound mind and fit to manage their own affairs. His latest assignment involves Sir Owain Lancaster, the only survivor of a terribly cursed expedition to South America. Lancaster’s own account of the voyage claims the rest of his crew and his own family were the victims of creatures most believe could only be born of imagination. Becker is concerned that Lancaster could be involved in a more recent crime: the brutal murder of two children living near Lancaster’s estate. Gallagher’s latest is a great thriller/mystery with a unique character premise. I would love to see this developed into a series. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

BEDFELLOWS by Bob Garfield: A zany cast of characters highlight this light hearted mob story set in Ebbets Beach, a part of Brooklyn, New York. Jack Schiavone lost his job and ended up in jail protecting a girlfriend, and moves to Brooklyn to start over by opening a mattress store. He gets involved with the Donato family when one of their enforcers comes by to collect protection money. Business has fallen off for the Donato family with the economy and all, but the Russian mob is trying to move into their neighborhood so the Don hires a cut rate chiropractor/hit man to solve the problem. Meanwhile Jack has fallen for Donato’s daughter, a legal aid lawyer, and together they try to convince the Don to get out of the rackets and go legitimate. There is not a lot of action until the end; instead the story is propelled via anecdotes about the Family in all their glorious insanity. There hasn’t been a mob family this funny since “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Fans of Tim Dorsey will embrace these strange Bedfellows. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

BEFORE CAIN STRIKES by Joshua Corin: Former FBI Profiler and now consultant Esme Stuart and husband Rafe continue to experience marital conflict as set forth in the previous outing, “WHILE GALILEO PREYS.”  Their conflict boils over when Lynette Robinson, the woman Rafe had escorted to his high school prom, is found hand less, murdered, in a burned out home.  Rafe is torn between wanting Esme to find the killer and to not further risk their marriage and daughter. The villain himself. who would be described in a Brit procedural as a “wee shite” is only 14 but totally psychopathic. After his unsuccessful, (in his mind) experience with Ms. Robinson, he next abducts a three-month old baby. Adding to Esme’s problems are a seedy true-crime writer who is dredging up the deadly confrontation that nearly destroyed her. But that is just the beginning. Think FACEBOOK for serial killers.  Nasty and quite good. 08/11 Jack Quick

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver: Samantha Kingston is a senior, one of the most popular at Thomas Jefferson High and everyone knows it. In fact, today is Cupid Day, the day when popularity can be measured by the number of roses each person receives. Sam has been looking forward to Cupid Day, but by the end of the night she will be dead. And when she wakes up, it’s Cupid Day… again. Sam soon learns that she will relive the day over and over again. Every new action has a different reaction and if she can change the outcome of the day, maybe she can change things for good. Before I Fall touches on a lot of teen issues without ever becoming melodramatic. In fact, the story sweeps you along and becomes eye opening and heart breaking at the same time.  12/11 Becky Lejeune

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson: This debut novel is an unforgettable story about a woman who forgets everything. Everyday. Christine is a middle aged woman with a memory disorder. She can form new memories but when she wakes up the next morning she cannot recall anything, including her husband Ben. She wakes up in a bed with a man who is a virtual stranger. To help her, he has taped pictures of them together around the bathroom mirror which gives her some assurance that at least it is not a one night stand. She is working with a doctor behind her husband’s back as after so many years, he has given up hope on her ever getting better. This doctor has her write everything down in a journal, then he calls her in the morning and tells her where to look for it. The thing is that on the very first page she has written “Don’t trust Ben”. This is a book that is impossible to put down or to forget.  8/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson: Imagine if your memories were wiped clean every time you went to sleep. This is the reality that Christine faces. After a terrible accident, Christine’s short-term memory is damaged. She can retain new memories only for the span of a day. She’s suffered from the condition for so long, she no longer recognizes herself when she looks in the mirror. Instead, her husband retells her story every day. But Christine’s new doctor has her keeping a journal. As she reads about her own past—in her own words—, she discovers that her husband is keeping secrets. Christine begins to believe that if she can only unravel her own mysteries, she might be able to beat her condition. But why is her husband lying to her? Could it be for her own good or is there something else going on? No one can read Before I Go To Sleep without drawing connections to the film Memento, but as a plot device, this creates the most unreliable of narrators, making it a truly great puzzle for the reader to try to figure out every step of the way.  06/11 Becky Lejeune

BEFORE YOU KNOW KINDNESS by Chris Bohjalian: Very interesting story about a New England family and how they deal with a tragedy.  Twelve-year-old Charlotte accidentally shoots her animal-activist-vegan father with her uncle’s hidden hunting rifle.  Bohjalian presents more than just another family saga, however; the whole PETA-type tangent is front and center and clearly illuminated.  But ultimately it is the characters that drive the story; Charlotte, having to deal with more than any child should have to deal with; her uncle and his guilt over the gun; her cousin, with whom she shares a secret; her mother and aunt and their reactions; and the matriarch of the family, her grandmother, Nan Seton, of strong, stoic New England stock.  Much of the novel is autobiographic, especially the beautiful New Hampshire home and countryside which Bohjalian really brings to life.  Another fine effort from this very talented author.  04/06 Stacy Alesi AKA The BookBitch

BEFORE WE WERE FREE by Julia Alvarez:  Alvarez wrote one of my favorite books, In the Time of the Butterflies, about the politics and revolution in the Dominican Republic, and this is a young adult book on the same subject. Anita de la Torre lived in a house on a compound with all of her relatives in 1960. But then they started leaving, moving to America under various cover stories – escaping. She didn’t realize the regime she was living under until her favorite cousin moved to America and her favorite uncle disappeared. Their lives were turned upside down with visits from the secret police, the eventual arrest of her father and uncle, and Anita & her mother were forced into hiding. A very touching, intimate story, told from the perspective of this 12 year old girl as she grows up under the El Jefe’s regime. A heartbreaker – fiction, but not, and a must read. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BEGINNER’S GOODBYE by Anne Tyler: This beguiling, quirky book is about a marriage that ends with a sudden, unexpected death and meanders its way through the grieving process. Aaron Walcott edits a vanity press, where people go to have their books published when traditional publishers turn them down. The self publishing world has changed dramatically in the past year or two, but you won’t find any of that chaos here. Aaron’s wife Dorothy is a doctor, and she passes away in a bizarre accident. Her timing wasn’t good, she and Aaron were fighting about Triscuits, of all things, when she passes. Aaron is having a hard time letting go, despite his sister’s constant presence in his life. Then Dorothy comes to visit from beyond, and Aaron starts healing. These characters are vividly brought to life in Tyler’s skilled hands, and theirs is a story worth reading. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEGINNER’S LUCK by Laura Pedersen:  Sixteen-year old Hallie Palmer is a wise-ass with big plans; as the small Ohio town’s most successful gambler, she’s saving her money to buy a car to take her to Vegas.  But she skips school one time too many and gets kicked off the soccer team, gets kicked out of the casino permanently, loses her life savings on a bad bet at the track, and her mother is pregnant with child number eight, the cumulative effect being that Hallie quits school and runs away from home.  Fortunately, she doesn’t run far.  She answers an ad for a yard person and goes to work for the town eccentrics; Olivia Stockton, a sixty-something radical feminist who alternates writing sonnets with writing pornography; her husband, the Judge, is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s; her son Bernard, an antique dealer and old movie aficionado with an obsession for cooking gourmet meals with a theme; his lover, Gil, the “normal one” (although he is a tooth prognosticator); and Rocky, an alcoholic chimpanzee the Stockton’s saved from a certain death – he was trained to work with a paraplegic, who died.  Hallie moves into their summerhouse and into their lives, and gets more of an education than she ever would have at school.  This poignant, quirky, unforgettable coming-of-age story is filled with humor, pathos and love. Note:  This is the first trade paperback original published by the Ballantine Reader’s Circle.  It comes with the reading group guide, an interview with the author and an excerpt from the author’s next book (which was terrific – a comedic romance between a Scotsman with terminal cancer and a dying nun) all bound in the back.  Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett:  It’s interesting to note that the chief criticism with this book about terrorists holding over 70 people hostage for several months is that it is unbelievable.  A couple of the hostages fall in love and there seems to be almost a party air about the situation.  I got some feedback from my reading group, and read some of the customer comments on Amazon and I have to point out that this book, while fiction and heavily dramatized, is based on an actual event – a revolutionary group called Tupac Amaru’s takeover of the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru in 1996 that lasted several months.  There were stories in the media about apparent pizza parties, soccer games on the lawn, and romance – and these stories triggered this novel for Patchett, who added an interesting character to the mix; a world famous American opera star. It’s a fast moving story that is well written and deserving of all the awards and accolades it has won.  It is now being written as an opera. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BENEATH A WEEPING SKY by Frank Zafiro: This is the third in Zafiro’s River City police procedural series. Zafiro himself is a career law enforcement officer and obviously knows his material. On the surface it appears that Zafiro might be trying to channel either Ed McBain or Joseph Wambaugh, with a kind of ensemble cast featuring a mix of detectives and officers.  In this outing Detective John Tower is trying to stop a serial rapist whose assaults are getting more and more vicious.  Tower is afraid the rapes will escalate into homicides.  Officer Katie MacLeod and Officer Thomas Chisholm play key roles in the search for the River City Rapist. While some of his characters are stereotypical, i.e., the Italian Stallion, the despised Internal Affairs Lieutenant who hates all cops, the earnest young female striving to compete, etc., he does give them some neat dialogue like “Humility is an affectation that I don’t have time for. It tends to get in the way of accomplishing anything great.”  With all humility I would say Mr. Zafiro is not Ed McBain or Joseph Wambaugh but does tell a pretty good tale. 07/10 Jack Quick

BENEATH THE SHADOWS by Sara Foster: A cozy cottage in the country seems to be just the thing for new parents Grace and Adam. They inherit the home from Adam’s recently deceased grandparents and decide that it’s the perfect opportunity to raise their daughter away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. But their new beginning soon turns into a nightmare. Adam disappears after taking the baby out for an afternoon walk. Grace finds her daughter bundled in her carriage on the front stoop but Adam is nowhere to be found. A year passes and Grace returns to Roseby. Her immediate plan is to clean out the cottage and have it ready for rental. She also hopes that she might finally be able to find a clue to Adam’s fate. The problem with Roseby is that everyone seems to be hiding something. Do they know what happened to Adam, or is it just their standoffish nature against Grace as an outsider? Foster’s debut is a quick read that left me guessing almost to the very end. The best part, though, is the bleak and somewhat claustrophobic setting. Reading this one late at night will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. 6/12 Becky Lejeune

THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010 edited by Otto Penzler and Lee Child: What would our life as mystery lovers be like without Otto Penzler? This time he teams up with best-selling novelist Lee Child to produce this year’s edition of some of the finest mystery stories of the past year.  If you are only a casual fan of the genre, you got to read this one with contributors like Mary Stewart Atwell, John Land, Dennis Lehane, Philip Margolin, and Kurt Vonnegut, how can you possibly not find at least one jewel to be treasured. I have enjoyed each volume in this annual series since 1997 and this one is another winner. 10/10 Jack Quick

THE BEST AMERICAN NOIR OF THE CENTURY edited by Otto Penzler and James Ellroy:  The editors’ search through one hundred years of Noir in the United States has yielded thirty-nine stories by authors as diverse as Mickey Spillane, Patricia Highsmith, James Cain, Elmore Leonard and Joyce Carol Oates.  If you are even remotely attracted to this sub-genre of hard-boiled fiction you will find some favorites here.  Spanning the time period from 1910 to 2010, there is something for all in this dark, stark and almost overwhelming collection of flawed souls, unattainable big dreams, doomed alliances and cross purposes.  No, there are no happy endings to the stories but certainly satisfaction for the reader.  10/10 Jack Quick

BETRAYALS by Lili St. Crow: Dru, Christophe, and Graves return in the follow-up to Saintcrow’s (St. Crow) teen debut, Strange Angels. Dru Anderson has never had what most would consider a normal life. And recently her life has been turned even more upside down by the discovery that she is Svetocha, a rare female half-vampire. After narrowly escaping the vampire who killed her father, Dru and her friend Graves, now a loup-garou (a werewolf with all the perks and none of the downside), are sent to a school meant to train djamphir and wulfen teens. Dru’s would-be savior, Christophe, believes that there is a traitor in their midst, however, and has Dru on the lookout for clues during her stay. But when Dru is approached by other factions with revelations about Christophe’s past, and the school comes under deadly attack, she has to wonder which of those alongside her can truly be trusted. I’m hooked. I’m a big fan of Saintcrow’s adult series, so it’s really no surprise that I would enjoy Dru’s story as well, but the tone of this series is what sets it apart from a lot of the teen crowd for me. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

BETRAYERS by Bill Pronzini:  When you have written 35 books in a series, then you are allowed one or two that don’t quite make it.  This is one of them.  Nameless (who we now know is Bill) looks into a dispute over real estate that may be connected with a campaign of harassment, which includes a ghost and a cat poisoning.  Tamara Corbin, pursues a private matter–tracking down the man who called himself Lucas Zeller when he slept with her.  Nameless’s other partner, Jake Runyon, goes after a bail jumper. All in all, a less than satisfying outing. Don’t judge the series by this one.  07/10 Jack Quick

THE BEST A MAN CAN GET: A Novel of Fatherhood and It’s Discontents by John O’Farrell: Cute story about a man with a Peter Pan complex and how he learns to grow up the hard way. Chick-lit written by a man! Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011 by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler (Eds.): Best-selling novelist Harlan Coben is the editor of this year’s version of Otto Penzler’s awesome annual anthology of mystery stories. As usual, the author list is top notch, with familiar names like Lawrence Block, Loren D. Estleman, Ed Gorman, S. J. Rozan, and others. Even if you don’t enjoy all the stories, there is bound to be a nugget or two that you will savor. There is a reason this is the 15th annual edition of this anthology – it’s damn good. 10/11 Jack Quick

BEST KEPT SECRET by Jeffrey Archer: This is the third installment of the Clifton Chronicles, and these must be read in order – start with Only Time Will Tell, then Sins of the Father. I don’t know quite how he does it but this series is like crack; completely addicting, and I start jonesing for more as soon as the last page is turned. It may have something to do with the fact that the last page of each of these books ends in real cliffhanger. This book starts out with a judge deciding whether Harry or Giles will inherit the title and everything else. Despite the legal wrangling, the men really like each other and it doesn’t affect their relationship, that is until Giles marries Lady Victoria, a real bitch. Harry continues writing, together with Emma they try and control their strong-willed son Sebastian. He grows up, goes to his father’s school and is the first student in many years to win a place at Cambridge – until he gets “rusticated” for smoking, drinking and whoring. Afraid to go home, he visits his best bud Bruno in London. Bruno’s dad offers Harry a trip to Buenos Aires, if Harry will agree to accompany a package back to Sotheby’s. Rodin’s The Thinker is in the large crate, along with contraband that Harry isn’t aware of, but things go awry and the young Clifton’s life is in danger. Fade out to black… The first book in this series is undoubtedly the best, but once again I read this in a day, I couldn’t put it down. I am thoroughly invested in these characters and their lives and can’t wait for the next installment. 6/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Jennifer Weiner:  Childhood friends Valerie, the good looking one, and Addie, the fat one, have a falling out in high school and stop speaking.  Years later the slimmed down Addie is shocked to find Val on her front step, asking for help because she thinks she may have killed a man.  A Thelma & Louise type girlfriend adventure begins, with lots of looking back at their lives, a bit of mystery and of course, the possibility of romance with the cop who’s investigating. This one really stretched the bounds of plausibility for me.  Although there are some fun moments for sure, I expected more. 08/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook: Sandy Sullivan is an aging boomer who has reinvented herself several times. Her latest career is as a home stager to help people sell their homes in the declining real estate market in the seaside Massachusetts town where they live. She also wants to sell her home, and expects her retired husband and live-at-home adult son to help out, but they fall short of her goals. When an opportunity comes up to stage a boutique hotel in Atlanta, where her married daughter lives, she jumps at the chance. The break from her husband will do her good and she’ll get to spend time with her daughter and new son-in-law, or so she thinks. Instead, she meets a homeless woman and realizes how fortunate she truly is. This is typical Claire Cook; charming, warm, funny and fast. If you want something light and breezy, this is the perfect read. 07/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEVERLY HILLS DEAD by Stuart Woods:  World War II is over and Hollywood is in full swing.  Rick Barron, once a lowly Beverly Hills cop, is now a decorated war time pilot and head of production for Centurion Pictures.  He is cranking up a western that has all the makings of a smash hit using little known talent and shooting in the mountains around Jackson Hole Wyoming, a locale not previously used for movie making.  Then Rick’s friend, Sidney Brooks, author of the screenplay from which Rick is making his movie, is called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  But it doesn’t stop there as the witch-hunt extends to other close friends and even his wife, the glamorous Glenna Gleason.  Fast paced and full of action, Woods captures this time of uncertainty and turmoil when it was better to be “dead than red.” 01/08 Jack Quick

BEWARE THE JABERWOCK by Chester Campbell: The end of the Cold War benefited many, but rogue elements on both sides of the Iron Curtain now join in a deadly plot to maintain their hold on power. Months later, Cameron Quinn, a veteran clandestine officer with a drinking problem, draws the task of tracking down the nebulous codeword “Jabberwock.” Quinn turns for help to a former FBI buddy, Burke Hill, whose tarnished career ended years earlier. For Hill, it becomes a quest to prove his own worth after an accident forces him to continue the investigation alone, without CIA sanction. With the help of Quinn’s daughter Lori, a former CIA operative, he discovers a multinational team of killers rehearsing on an island off the Florida coast. Fighting both official and unofficial forces, Burke and Lori are the only ways who can stop a plot to assassinate both the American and Russian presidents. 10/12 Jack Quick

BEYOND REACH by Karin Slaughter: Lena gets a mysterious phone call from her uncle Hank’s neighbor, saying that he is in a bad way. But when she tries to reach him, she can’t, so she heads home and finds the stuff nightmares are made from. When Jeffrey gets a phone call that Lena’s been arrested as a possible person of interest in a gruesome murder, and hasn’t uttered a word, he grabs Sara and they head off for the small Georgia town of Lena’s childhood. Sara is escaping from a malpractice suit that has completely undermined her confidence in everything she believes in; her skill as a doctor, and more importantly, her trust in her patients. But something is rotten in Elawah County, and it has to do with methamphetamine dealers and crooked cops and crooked politicians and lurid deaths. I cannot remember the last time I read a book that made me this angry. And not in a good way. Without giving anything away, I will say that I am not sorry that I was two books behind in this series, but very sorry that I decided to read this one instead of catching up in order. If you are invested in this series, don’t read this book. If you’ve never read Slaughter and want to start here, go for it but you probably will never read another. The author left some comments at the end, and a longer explanation on her website (with lots of spoiler alerts) so I’m certainly not going to spill the beans here. But if anyone reads it, and wants to discuss it, I’d love to hear from you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. 09/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BEYOND REACH by Karin Slaughter:  Slaughter’s sixth thriller in her Grant County, Georgia crime series focuses primarily on the problems of reckless detective Lena Adams who gets mixed up in a dangerous web of methamphetamine trafficking, white supremacy, and long buried family issues.  Her boss, police chief Jeffery Tolliver, is trying to help Lena but also is needed by his wife, Dr. Sara Linton, the county’s resident pediatrician and medical examiner, who is mired in a devastating malpractice lawsuit.  Slaughter builds the suspense to a perfect crescendo, finally connecting every loose plot strand into a devastating and unforgettable climax.  As always she spares none of the ugly details.  Fast becoming one of my must reads alongside Burke, Rankin, Muller, Pronzini, Child, et al.  A warning.  If you are one of those people who habitually turn to the end of the book to “see how its going to end”, resist that temptation with this one.   08/07 Jack Quick

BEYOND THE NIGHT by Joss Ware: For fifty years, while the world was coming to a virtual end, Dr. Elliot Drake and his friends slept, totally unaware. They entered a cave system in Sedona in 2010, emerging to discover that decades had passed while they were inside. None of them has aged at all and the world as they knew it has vanished. What is left is a wasted wreck where the tattered remains of the human race fight for survival in a land with little resources. Elliot and his friends have been traveling for six months, searching for answers that will explain the events that have led them to this point. When they encounter a group of teens from Envy, they believe that their luck may finally have changed for the better. What they find in Envy—once Las Vegas—is a struggling resistance: a group searching for a way to defeat The Strangers, beings Elliot and his friends have been lucky enough to avoid. Until now. Jade, one of those fighting the Strangers, knows more about these enemies than anyone else. Her experience has left her wary and on edge, but also stronger than most. Now she’ll have to open up and trust Elliot and his friends so that they may save the remaining survivors. This first in the Envy series is an exciting blend of romance and suspense in a post-apocalyptic setting. And did I mention there are zombies? 01/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BIG BAD WOLF by James Patterson: There is something to be said for consistency. Alex Cross is back and even though he’s newly employed by the F.B.I., everything still feels familiar and right. “Club Fed” training is going as well as one would expect, Nana is still making the best coffee in town, and Alex is still feeling guilty about his workaholic ways. When the wife of a federal judge is kidnapped, making it F.B.I. business, Alex is pulled out of class and sent to the crime scene, creating an interesting dichotomy of newly minted federal agent/star. It turns out to be just the latest in a string of such kidnappings and the F.B.I. suspects a possible white slavery ring. The Russian Red Mafiya king has been shaking things up with La Cosa Nostra and tops the lists of suspects, and Alex has a nasty new nemesis to deal with. Things are shaking up at home, too – a custody dispute emerges when Little Alex’s mom blows into town. There are no tidy endings here, just an engrossing story that will leave readers clamoring for the sequel. The Big Bad Wolf is the biggest, baddest Alex Cross novel in years.  Copyright © 2003 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

THE BIG BAMBOO by Tim Dorsey: Tampa Bay’s master of the madcap crime novel is near the top of his form once more in The Big Bamboo.  The story involves Serge, Dorsey’s homicidical history buff psycho killer, travelling to Hollywood to perform a caper at the behest of his ancestor Sergio’s old cronies in crime.  Hollywood is, of course, the perfect setting for Serge.  Like Florida, Hollywood is a place that no one is from, but everyone comes to.  And like Florida, it is full of maps that tells you where what you think you ought to see is.  And like Florida, that means you overlook all the good stuff that made the place what it is in favor of what you want to see.  Fortunately, Dorsey and his alter ego Serge notice the important stuff and want to remind us about it. Unfortunately (for Serge and his faithful companion, Coleman), this caper involves kidnapping a movie star from two coke addled, hornier than hamsters studio executives whose studio is being financed by Japanese crime lords.  Serge is more than capable of dealing with the police and the studio thugs, but the crime lords have a secret weapon who is silent and deadly.  This cold-blooded killer has had his face tattooed as a skull and is consequently known in the trade as “The Tat.”  (Rhymes nicely with Wu Fat, by the way).  Will Serge and Coleman survive the Tat? More importantly, will he survive the movie actress? Even after a bout of Serge sex, she remains a spoiled whiner, who insists on going shopping.  The resulting sprees make them all folk heroes, but sort of expose them to everyone who is chasing them. All of this is grist for Dorsey’s mill because it gives him the basis for a slam bang chase scene finish with Harold Lloyd ladder stunts, frequent references to Its A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’s finale and reminded me no little bit of the romp through the studio at the end of Blazing Saddles (which for Dorsey, curiously, is not credited.) Along the way, Dorsey’s ear is as fine as ever.  His Hollywood cops do a perfect Jack Webb number early in the story.  The references to The Big Lebowski, one of my all time favorite movies, warmed my heart and of course, the homage to Mad World brought back high school in ’63 and seeing the movie on the big screen with The Blonde. I liked having Serge on the road and remain hopeful that he (Mr. Dorsey) will see fit to mine Southeastern Arizona and the old copper town of Bisbee one of these days. This is a very funny and enjoyable book and along the way you will learn a few things.  Buy it.  For that matter, check out Mr. Dorsey’s website, Serge’s store and the links to the late, great Bamboo bar in Kissimmee’s website. 04/06 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

THE BIG BANG by Max Allan Collins: The basic manuscript dates back to the mid ‘60’s, begun by the late Mickey Spillane and now finished by his longtime friend and collaborator Max Collins, giving us the treat of one more outing by Mike Hammer.  It starts with Hammer “accidently” interfering with a mugging in progress.  Then Hammer survives a street-corner knife attacker. The attacker ends up dead, although he was very much alive when Hammer left the scene.  Turns out Hammer and Horse are mixed up as the Mob is expecting a huge shipment of heroin an day and Hammer may be the only one who can hold up the delivery.  It’s the New York City of flashy discotheques, classy dames, bachelor pads, funky dialogue and vintage Hammer. So grab your rod and walk down the dirty rotten streets of Manhattan one more time with the man in the porkpie hat and his beautiful, deadly partner Velda. 05/10 Jack Quick

THE BIG BOOM by Domenic Stansberry: In Chasing the Dragon, Italian American Dante Mancuso, native of San Francisco’s North Beach, lost his father and his uncle. The former deep-cover CIA agent is back where he grew up, working as a private detective and trying to put his life together when a corpse found floating in the bay is identified as Angie Antonelli, a former lover. Her parents ask him to investigate, and the trail leads both back into North Beach history and forward into that twenty-first-century demilitarized zone where cyberspace collides with flesh-and-blood reality. Dante confronts Angie’s boss at a dot-com startup company and tracks down other employees who have moved on in the volatile job market. Soon the PI meets the crew of killers with a perverse fondness for drowning. The classic detective story lives on in Stansberry’s gritty but realistic portrayal of both sides of change, the good parts and the dark parts. Who gains and who loses. Hopefully there will be more. 07/07 Jack Quick

BIG CHERRY HOLLER by Adriana Trigiani: The second book in the Big Stone Gap series finds Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney married for eleven years to her Jack and busy parenting a ten year old daughter, Etta.  Losing their son Joe a few years earlier had devastating effects on both Ave Maria and Jack, but neither is facing the problem.  Stress builds as the coal mine closes and Jack is out of work, forming a construction company with a couple of likewise unemployed friends.  The marriage appears to be floundering, giving this novel a more serious tone than the first one, but Trigiani’s trademark humor is still present and perhaps more poignant because of the seriousness of the story.  A trip to Italy brings about more questions but ultimately the answers are found back in Big Stone Gap.  Trigiani has a gift for telling a great story that is driven by these characters that feel like family.  Can’t wait to meet up with them again in Milk Glass Moon.   02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD by Sean Chercover: Real-life Chicago PI Chercover, in his hard-boiled debut, writes Chicago like Ed Dee writes New York and Loren D. Estleman writes Detroit – gritty, dirty, scary, bold, and beloved by its citizens. Ray Dudgeon is a former Chicago reporter who has turned private detective. Bob Loniski is just trying to lock up some locations for movie making when he gets entangled in a ”Rent What You Don’t Own” scam. As a potential witness at the trial of the scammer, his life is threatened so he hires Dudgeon to look after him. Suddenly Dudgeon finds himself in the middle of an organized crime war complete with crooked politicians and assorted violence. Dudgeon turns out to be a classic private eye of the old school who can take a licking and keep on ticking – and quit is a word he never heard. Hopefully the first of many adventures for a guy that even has a nurse for a dame – and he needs one. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE BIG CLOCK by Kenneth Fearing: Number Four in an awesome anthology entitled CRIME NOVELS: American Noir of the 1930’s and 40’s. In the 1948 film of the same name, Charles Laughton played the punctuality obsessed, slave-driving head of a publishing empire (Earl Janoth) who won’t let his crime magazine’s star editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) take a day off to spend with his family. This was remade in 1987 with Kevin Costner as No Way Out. The overworked Stroud goes on a sorrow-drowning, barhopping bender with Janoth’s mistress. Later that night after Stroud has dropped her off at her apartment, Janoth murders her, and the next day Stroud is assigned to investigate, since a number of clues point to her having spent time with another man that night. Stroud, then, must not only find the real murderer but also sidetrack the investigation away from himself. 07/07 Jack Quick

BIG MONEY by Jack Getze:  Prior to the Bear Sterns collapse it was hard to picture a sympathetic character in the big time financial world.  But suspended and scruffy stockbroker Austin Carr is back to battle mobsters, women and his own big mouth.  The story starts with Carr in the company of a gorgeous naked lady – holding a shotgun.  It’s all in a day’s work for him as he’s being extorted into opening a money-laundering account for local crime boss Bluefish; an auditor who had been looking into his company’s books has turned up murdered; a female state police captain has him pegged as the key to her organized crime investigation; and his boss’s mother has been picked up for fixing her church bingo game.  Somehow Carr survived his previous outing in last year’s BIG NUMBERS, so he’ll probably survive all this.  Suggestion, try not to drink any beverages while reading this one, however, as you just might get the pages all wet. 03/08 Jack Quick

BIG NUMBERS by Jack Getze: This is one tough book. It arrived at my home in a package that looked like it had been used as a training aid for the USPS heavy equipment operators training school. Inside the somewhat battered covers was a dark but funny story about the near demise of a down on his luck stockbroker. Normally, one would not think of a stockbroker as a particularly sympathetic protagonist but when he is living in a truck bed camper in a public parking lot trying to avoid clients like Psycho Samson, a former professional wrestler whose first career choice of the NFL was denied him because of his “bad attitude”….. Austin Carr sums it all up “I swear the only subjects of interest around here are money, sex, and sports, in that order. Hopefully there will be a sequel to Big Numbers so we can get Carr’s take on sports. Recommended. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE BIG SECRET by Pete Earley: Nick LeRue is an unusual protagonist, a U.S. Senate investigator working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is approached by Melanie Cole, the twin sister of his former lover Heather, asking for his help in finding Heather who is missing in Mississippi. Heather, a reporter, is trying to unearth the secrets behind a 1955 lynching in that state when she is kidnapped and killed by one of the principals from the lynching. LeRue is a neat character but there is a bit too much woo-woo for me in the form of dream sequences that reveal key plot turns, etc. This is Earley’s fiction debut so hopefully future efforts will focus more on the reality of the characters rather than using plot gimmicks. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE BIG SWITCH by Jack Bludis:  Finally, I got a Jack Bludis’ book to read and it is great.  Kane is a Hollywood P.I. in 1951.  This particular job isn’t that glamorous, but the pay is okay and it’s not that difficult.  He has been hired to catch a cheating husband – not hard when the man has not one, not two, but three different starlets that are “special friends.”  But when Kane shows up at the errant spouse’s home to deliver his report, he finds that the lady of the house is not, in fact, the lady who hired him.  Before Kane can solve this one, starlet number one is found dead, and although Kane isn’t responsible, there is a possibility his fingerprints are on the murder weapon.  Throw in some good scotch, discreet sex, and drop dead gorgeous women, and you wonder why this isn’t a series.  Definitely recommended.  12/07 Jack Quick

THE BIG SILENCE (#6) by Stuart Kaminsky:  As usual with this series, Chicago Jewish policeman Abe Lieberman and his Irish partner, Bill Hanrahan, known to colleagues as “the Rabbi and the Priest,” have to handle a combination of personal and professional challenges.  Hanrahan, a former football lineman and recovering alcoholic, is nearly suicidal over a blown assignment that resulted in a kidnapping and murder.  It’s the second time this kind of thing has happened to him.  His partner, Lieberman, must take up the slack while dealing with on-going family matters.  I think the key to this entire series is contained in this one line quote – “Crimes are not so much solved as resolved.”  Whatever, it’s always a good read. 05/08 Jack Quick

THE BIG SWITCH by Jack Bludis:  Fun, sexy mystery set in the Hollywood noir of 1951.  Private Investigator Brian Kane is hired by a star’s wife to follow her husband and see if he’s cheating, but someone else wants the incriminating pictures and has the gun to prove it.  A starlet is murdered, then another, and the bodies start piling up.  Everyone has a secret, and after Kane’s call-girl-girl-friend gets involved, he takes it very personally.  To make things even more interesting, the women find Kane irresistible, and so is this book.  It was fun going back to the time before cell phones and all the high tech gizmos of today’s PI’s.  The writing was clean and crisp and well suited to the time frame and story.  This is good hard boiled crime fiction.  And check out the sequel, The Deal Killer. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BIG WAKE-UP by Mark Coggins:  “I know as much about Argentine politics as you probably know about the San Francisco Giants.”  Before Coggins’s fifth mystery to feature San Francisco PI August Riordan is over, Riordan knows enough about Argentine politics to stick with his beloved Giants.  A random fatal encounter at a Laundromat with  23-year-old Araceli Rivero leads to a job from her Argentine family – find the location of Araceli’s dead aunt, whose body was transferred from a Milan cemetery to somewhere in the Bay Area in 1974. After quickly getting a promising lead, Riordan learns that his clients have been less than straight with him – the missing corpse is actually that of Evita Peron.  Riordan needs all of his wits, his network of friends and associates, and an unexpected legacy from the dead father he has never known to help him survive the deadly intrigue between powerful Argentine movers and shakers, ex-military men, and a mysterious woman named Isis who is expert in ancient techniques of mummification.  Very nicely done. 01/10 Jack Quick

THE BIGGEST LIAR IN LOS ANGELES by Ken Kuhlken:  It is 1926, and Los Angeles musician Tom Hickey has a full plate with a dance orchestra to lead and a wild younger sister to raise. Then he learns that an old friend, a Negro, was the victim of a lynching the Los Angeles newspapers failed to report, and that officially didn’t occur.  Tom is determined to obtain justice for his dead friend and beatings, gunfire, and warnings from Leo, a speakeasy owner, and a Klansman, that he’s made formidable enemies aren’t enough to dissuade him. Among those arrayed against him may be infamous Police Chief Two Gun Davis, Examiner publisher and political heavyweight William Randolph Hearst, and Harry Chandler, owner of the LA Times, who owns more land than any man in the world.  It all appears to be tied to an upcoming referendum that will decide who the city’s future belongs to:  the railroads, whose plans include subways and elevated trains; or the oil, automobile, and suburban development interests, devoted to building highways.  Sometimes when you win, you lose. 05/10 Jack Quick

BILLY BOYLE by James R. Benn: Benn is not yet on a par with Ken Follett but shows promise of getting there. Billy Boyle is a Boston cop, from a family of Boston cops, who reluctantly goes to war in Europe in 1942. His family calls on cousin Mamie to help find Boyle a cushy safe job, but Mamie’s husband, Boyle’s “Uncle Ike” needs a hotshot detective. Since Eisenhower has been told Boyle fills that description he sends him off spy chasing. Good plot and the action builds to a strong climax, but a bit over-clichéd. A sequel should be stronger and even more enjoyable.  10/06 Jack Quick

BIRD OF PREY by Tom Grace:  An enormous global corporation run by a ruthless woman willing to commit high-tech murder to stop her competitors is the basis for this techno-thriller than evokes Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum.  Astronaut Kelsey Newton, fiancé of former Navy SEAL Nolan Kilkenny, is in danger, so Nolan sets out to find the source of the black space ship carrying a high-powered laser that has been knocking out space shuttles and communications satellites.  If it sounds like 007 in Moonraker, it does follow that same plot fairly closely.  Overall a crisp, enjoyable read with lots of action and just enough love interest. 01/06 Jack Quick

BIRDMAN by Mo Hayder:  In 1999, Mo Hayder made her debut with this gruesome and gut wrenching novel. London detective, Jack Caffery, was unlucky enough to pull call duty the week that five bodies are discovered buried in a construction yard. Each of the bodies is that of a young woman and all but one show serious signs of drug abuse. Even worse, each woman is found with a finch sewn into her chest. A piece of trace evidence found on one of the women leads the police to believe that they may already have a suspect in hand. Jack Caffery is not so sure. Jack is allowed a short period of time in which to follow up on his own leads but his discoveries may come too late and at a price. Caffery is an interesting character. He is smart and apparently attractive as many of the women around him seem to lust after him without his knowledge. He is unable to maintain healthy relationships, though, thanks to his obsession with the death of his brother. Hayder has the ability – through characters, setting, and plot – to induce every imaginable emotion from her readers – horror, sympathy, and disgust, to name a few. Birdman is sick, twisted, and highly disturbing. It is also a riveting thriller that introduced readers to the force that is Mo Hayder.  01/08 Becky Lejeune

BIRDMAN by Mo Hayder: Detective Inspector Jack Caffery has major problems. At work, he is dealing with a serial murderer who has killed at least five prostitutes, cut them open, and placed a live bird inside each brutally mangled corpse. At home, his girl friend, with whom he has decided there is no future, announces she is suffering a reoccurrence of her cancer. There’s a new DI from CID that’s trying to take over Caffery’s preferred position and lastly, Caffery remains obsessed about his next-door neighbor, a convicted pedophile who Caffery believes may have murdered Caffery’s own long-missing brother. Hayder does a good job winding all these threads together while creating a book that’s part mystery, part police/procedural and part thriller while displaying a fairly wide knowledge of British police techniques and basis forensics. Be forewarned, she is not shy in her descriptions, so those with a weak stomach may wish to pass. 09/06 Jack Quick

THE BIRTHING HOUSE by Christopher Ransom: After the death of his father, Conrad Harrison decides change is in order for his small family. After stumbling across an old Victorian in Black Earth, Wisconsin, Conrad makes a spur of the moment decision that will change their lives. Though their relationship has been on the verge of breaking for quite some time, Conrad believes that the house and the break from LA may be just what he and his wife, Joanna, need. But it’s not long before Jo becomes restless and leaves for work, adding more strain to the marriage. Conrad is left alone to fall under the spell of the home, and to learn it’s dark secrets. Strange noises in the night, stains on the floors and walls, and women appearing at his bedside are just some of the things that Conrad encounters in the birthing house—the house wants life and Conrad will soon find that what the house wants, the house has a way of getting. Christopher Ransom’s debut is so disturbing at times that it will truly terrify readers, quite an accomplishment for a debut, in my opinion. (The Birthing House brings to mind very early John Saul.) Ransom shows great promise in the horror genre. 08/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BITE by Michael Crow: After a major drug bust in Baltimore involving the Russian mob, Baltimore County Police Detective Luther Ewing and his partner “Ice Box” have been told to maintain a low profile. In his second outing, Ewing and Ice Box are sent up to the rural northern area of the county trying to get a handle on the crystal meth being cooked in that area. The Baltimore DEA Bureau chief is running a parallel operation and Ewing isn’t certain whether the two are in fact parallel or about to collide with a bang. Assorted villains and murders later, the entire structure comes tumbling down with Ewing frantically sorting the good guys from the bad guys. In the process he realizes he must break off his relationship with his girlfriend, Helen, who life has been put into danger by his actions. Ewing continues to be of the Dirty Harry, Jack Reacher mold and Crow’s writing is paced accordingly. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BITING THE BULLET by Jennifer Rardin:  This third book in the fantastic Jaz Parks series has Jaz and her team pitted against one heinous necromancer. Jaz, Vayl, and all the others have been deployed to Tehran where a necromancer called the Wizard is said to be hiding out – the man has been a government target for some time now and it looks like this is the best chance they will have to finally bring him down. Surprisingly, Jaz and her team are assigned to be working with her own brother’s Spec Ops squad. The twins have not spoken since Jaz had to kill Dave’s fiancé after being turned into a vampire. Things are rocky at first, but Dave must rely on Jaz and her team’s specialties since it seems that one of the Spec Ops members may be a mole feeding info to the Wizard. Things are further complicated when Jaz learns that a reaver has put a bounty on her head and Tehran is now teeming with the soul suckers. Paranormal mysteries and urban fantasy are fun reading. The use of a very real setting combined with supernatural elements leaves authors like Rardin a lot of room to play, making it that much more interesting. More and more elements are added to Jaz’s story with each installment, and the cast of paranormal characters keeps growing. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

BITTEN TO DEATH by Jennifer Rardin: The fourth book in the Jaz Parks series finds Jaz, Vayle, and David sent out on an op in Greece that should finally lead to the capture of Edward “The Raptor” Samos – readers will recall that the elite CIA team has been on Samos’s tail since the beginning of the series. Vayl and Jaz have received information that a family of vamps (called a Trust in vamp lingo) has been offered a unique deal by the evil Samos. Vayl and his team have cut a second deal with the leader of the Trust that will finally allow them access to their foe. Unfortunately, the team soon discovers that the Trust has recently been overthrown and the new leader has plans of her own – plans that involve manipulating Vayl in ways that seem to lead Jaz into a fiery fury. Always fun and entertaining, this unique urban fantasy series could be the start of a whole new sub-genre: Spy-Fi. I wish I had come up with the term first. Cool gadgets, creepy crawlies like you’ve never seen, action, romance, and a healthy mix of humor make this series one of my absolute favorites.  08/08 Becky Lejeune

BITTER END by Christine Kling: Seychelle Sullivan is back in this third entry to one of my favorite series. Seychelle is a strong, self-sufficient woman running her own tugboat & salvage business in Fort Lauderdale. She’s on her way to push out a sailboat when she sees a familiar yacht – it belongs to Nick Pontus, who ran off with her best friend Molly and caused the two of them to stop speaking to each other. Seychelle hears shots fired, then the yacht runs aground. She chases after it, finds Nick dead and tows the boat in for repairs before it can sink. It means a big commission from the insurance company for saving the boat, but then her old friend Molly is arrested for the murder. Seychelle knows something isn’t adding up even if the cops don’t and sets out to prove her friend’s innocence. This is a well written tale of intrigue and a fine addition to the series. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BITTER END by Christine Kling:  Since kindergarten, Seychelle Sullivan and her best friend, Molly, had been as close as sisters, but it all ended suddenly when Nick Pontus, a slick, older, up-and-coming entrepreneur, came along.  A smitten Molly quit school, married her new beau, and never spoke to Seychelle again.  After thirteen years, it still stings but when her back-from-the-blue friend asks for help, Seychelle can’t just weigh anchor and cruise.  Seychelle didn’t see the sniper who picked Nick off at the helm of his yacht, but she knows that there are plenty of people in South Florida who wanted to see the gambling-boat tycoon dead: the Russian mobsters looking for a piece of his casino action, the Indian gamers who resent his competition, and the ecological activists fighting his plans to develop Fort Lauderdale’s waterfront.  Protecting Nick and Molly’s son, proving Molly’s innocence, and navigating between squalls of gunfire add up to a tall order as salvage jobs go, but Seychelle is equal to the task.  Another good one. 04/06 Jack Quick

BITTER LEGACY by H. Terrell Griffin:  First they shot Matt Royal’s friend Logan who survived only by a freakish coincidence.  Then they sent a guy with a gun to bring Royal in.  Add in the death of a lawyer, a tourist left for dead, and a reclusive billionaire.  Throw in a bad-ass biker gang and an ancient document and you have the makings of a  mystery that threatens Matt Royal as well as some of the most entrenched financial interests in Florida.  If you are fan of Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford of James W. Hall’s Thorn, you will love this ex-Green Beret, ex-lawyer, good guy who stays in shape and can dish it out with the best of them.  My first Griffin, but certainly not the last. Very nicely done. 02/11 Jack Quick

BLACK by Christopher Whitcomb: The scariest part of Whitcomb’s first novel – a can’t put down techno-thriller involving terrorists, technology and today’s world – is the fact that Whitcomb spent 15 years with the FBI as a sniper, instructor and Director of Intelligence. You suspect that truth here may in fact be stranger than fiction. Special Agent Jeremy Waller is drawn into webs of intrigue when Jordan Mitchell, CEO of Borders Atlantic and one of the world’s richest men threatens to sell an encryption device to the Saudis. Accusations and bullets fly almost taking down a US Senator before it’s over. A good read, lots of action, beautiful women in peril and the good guys ultimately win. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLACK AND WHITE by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge: It’s Heroes meets X-Men in the style of classic comics as authors Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge team up to put their own spin on the superhero genre in Black and White, the first of the Icarus Project series. Jet, a Shadow power and official superhero of New Chicago, is a by-the-book gal who always follows the rules as set forth in her Academy training. Once, she and Iridium were the best of friends. Now they are powerful enemies. But neither of them truly understands the pieces that have been set into play. Jet believes that they are on opposite sides, that she fights for good while Iridium has followed in her father’s footsteps along the path of anarchy and misrule. Jet will soon discover that the line between good and evil is not as clear as she once believed, and it could tear apart the fragile control she maintains over her power. Excellent, excellent read. Kessler and Kittredge work together with seeming ease and have created a tale that is addictively readable. Shades of Gray, the second installment in the series, hits shelves this summer. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

BLACK & WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER by John Darnton:  There is murder afoot in a major national newspaper which bears an uncanny resemblance to the New York Times.  The first victim is a widely disliked egomaniacal (aren’t they all?) Assistant Managing Editor named Theodore S. Ratnoff who is found with an editor’s spike plunged deeply into his chest.  Other murders soon follow. It represents quite a puzzle to young ambitious female NYPD lieutenant Priscilla Bollingsworth who has a plethora of suspects, the mayor breathing down her neck and her every move under the intense scrutiny of big city news people.  The story is some ways mirrors the declining, some same dying print newspaper industry and Darnton has included all the key players in the rapidly changing situation – the resentful old guard, the clueless publisher, the aggressive career builders, the talented but unappreciated reporters, the self-centered columnists, and the ruthless international media tycoon. Probably enjoyed better by people outside the newspaper industry, Darnton has drawn a painfully accurate picture of the challenges facing today’s journalists, or as he prefers “hacks.” 01/10 Jack Quick

THE BLACK ANGEL by John Connelly: Parker, his new partner Rachel and their infant daughter Sam, are now in Maine away from the turmoil of New York City.  However, at Sam’s christening the aunt of Louis (one of Sam’s two gay Godfathers) shows up, seeking help in finding her daughter Alice, a New York City prostitute.  Parker is soon back in the game in New York City and the Czech Republic on the trail of the Black Angel, a statue sought be evildoers for centuries.  As always, Connolly delivers a very intense blend of Parker’s authentic soul searching in his own unique way. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE BLACK BOX by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch is back working open, unsolved homicides. This time the case is about the murder of a Danish reporter during the Rodney King riots twenty years earlier. Harry is butting heads with his new boss, who he considers a political hack, and that puts additional pressure on the detective. He has grown more comfortable with his young partner David Chu, using him for his computer skills on a regular basis. Harry is still dating Hannah and things at home with his daughter Maddie are much calmer. But some things never change, and Harry is as hard headed as ever when he gets his teeth into a case. This one is personal; he was the homicide cop that first looked at the crime scene but those times were crazy and nothing ever came of it. He decides to start with the only clue they found, a gun casing, and then follows the gun, applying today’s technology to yesterday’s crime scene. It works, but this is still a very complex storyline, and Harry has to deal with an accusation of impropriety on top of everything else. Connelly once again lures the reader in and doesn’t let go until the very last page and I couldn’t put it down despite the lateness of the night. Another great read from the master of crime fiction. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLACK BOX by Michael Connelly: During the LA riots in 1992, Harry Bosch and his partner are sent from death scene to death scene. One case remains in his mind and 20 years later he re-opens the cold case. The victim was a young female photographer from Scandinavia who was shot in the head execution style. Now Harry is “walking back the gun” after he finds it has been used in multiple killings, mostly gang-related. He thinks the murder of the photographer may have been no more than a “gang initiation”. Like an investigator combing through the wreckage after a plane crash, Bosch searches for the “black box,” the one piece of evidence that will pull the case together. As usual, an outstanding outing for Connelly. 12/12 Jack Quick

BLACK CATHEDRAL by L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims:  When corporate employees on a “survival week” trip to remote Kulsay Island all go missing without a trace, the Ministry of Defense decides that it is time to call in Department 18. This group of paranormal investigators is trained to deal with the strangest occurrences out there, but in Kulsay Island, they may have met their match. The Ministry stipulates that Department 18’s Robert Carter must be involved. This is a bit of an issue considering Carter just recently lost his partner on a case; lost in the literal sense considering she vanished without a trace as well. Carter draws the connection to Kulsay Island, however, and agrees to go. When the team arrives, all seems normal except for the palpable air of menace that surrounds the place. As with the other group, the Department 18 folks find themselves cut off from the rest of the world and forced to defend themselves against an evil that has existed for hundreds of years. A fun sort of haunted house tale that brings to mind the old Poltergeist TV show. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

BLACK CROSS by Greg Iles:  Iles is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been going back and reading his older books that I had missed.  I believe this was his second novel, and while it is very different from his more recent books, it is excellent and Iles considers it his best book, with good reason.  The plot is basically built around a young doctor attending his physician grandfather’s funeral.  He meets a Rabbi at the cemetery, who asks for a ride back and proceeds to tell the young doctor a story about his grandfather that makes up most of the book.  This is a Holocaust story, and a chilling one; Iles did a lot of research for this and it shows.  The premise is that Dr. Mark McConnell, “Mac”, a pacifist, was doing research in poisonous gas when he is manipulated into going on a dangerous mission with Jonas Stern, a Zionist terrorist, into Nazi Germany.  The Nazis had developed Sarin, and Soman, deadly gases that the Allies had no protection against, other than this plan.  With Winston Churchill’s blessing, these men set off for training and their mission.  This is a frightening story that is intensely riveting, and a terrific read. 04/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLACK DEATH REPRISE by Don Pendleton:  Don Pendelton’s Mack Bolan was a pulp staple of the 1970’s, waging war on the Mafia all across the world in a series of action packed bloody adventures.  Now Bolan is back seeking a missing virologist with ties to an order of monks that legend proclaims was the mastermind of the Black Death.  The order has sent forty couriers to major cities around the globe to unleash a new plaque on the world.  Only Bolan can stop this diabolic assault on the modern world.  Will he succeed?  Let us hope so.  After all, a sequel would be nice. 08/08 Jack Quick

BLACK DOG by Stephen Booth: After hearing people rave about Stephen Booth for quite a while  now, I have to say my expectations were so high I figured no book could possibly live up to them.  But this one did – I loved this book. I’ve never been to the U.K. but Booth took me there, to the Peaks district in Northern England, and it was a vivid, exciting journey.  Detective Constable Ben Cooper is struggling with family demons when the body of a teenage girl is found in the woods.  He is paired up with the prickly Diane Fry, newcomer to the Peaks District, with her rather formidable reputation preceding her.  But Ben also has a reputation – his father was a cop who was killed in the line of duty.  Everyone in this small town knows Ben, and knows what happened, and they just love him, which really rubs Diane the wrong way.  She has her own history though, and their stories and their burgeoning relationship are as interesting as the who-done-it.   Happy note:  this is the first of a series, and is followed by Dancing with the Virgins then Blood on the Tongue, with hopefully more to come. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLACK DOVE by Steve Hockensmith:  There is a joke about a fellow from Minnesota who took as his bride, a lady from Palestine.  To honor both their cultures, they named their firstborn son “Yassir Youbetcha”.  Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer find themselves in Chinatown in San Francisco in 1893.  Although cowpokes by training, the brothers fancy themselves experts as “deducifying” like their idol, the immortal Sherlock Holmes.  The brothers face guns and hatchets while defying the San Francisco Police Department, brutal Barbary Coast hoodlums and the deadly Chinatown tongs.  Their friend, Dr. Chan, is a victim of the hunt for the mysterious, exotic, and enigmatic hard to find “Black Dove.”  All that’s missing is Jackie Chan as “Chon Wang” from Shanghai Noon.  Definitely not your every day mystery but definitely amusing.  05/08 Jack Quick

BLACK GHOSTS by Victor Ostrovsky:  It’s the return of the Cold War.  General Peter Rogov was head of a special deep intelligence unit called the Black Ghosts. Similar units existed in other countries – “The Patriots” in the Netherlands, the “Gladiators” in Italy and the “Left-Behinds” in Norway.  At the end of the Cold war these units were to be disbanded, but not all did. In fact the Patriots began operating a “Think Tank” in London which was a cover for carrying out off the books intelligence operations for the West.  Likewise, in Russia the Black Ghosts remained active even though General Rogov was in a Siberian prison. Now he has escaped and plans to reunite the Union of Soviet Social Republics, by overthrowing the current Russian government and doing the impossible – kidnapping the President of the United States. The author, a former Mossad (Israeli intelligence) case officer, knows his stuff, Outstanding. 05/11 Jack Quick

BLACK IRISH by Stephan Talty: It is about time someone wrote a crime story set in my old hometown, Buffalo, New York again.  To those of us who grew up there, the City is a character all by itself.  And Stephan Talty gets that character right – the ghostly figures of the empty steel mills, the pollution that remains after the jobs have gone and the kicking of slush off behind the tires on your car before it freezes are all true notes. And I am pleased to report that he has placed a fine character, Abbie (Absalom) Kearney, in the still beating heart of that city. Abbie is a police detective who grew up in an Irish neighborhood and is the daughter of a retired hero of a policeman.  When she is called in to investigate the murder of a meter-reader whose body has been stuffed into a small space in a vacant Catholic Church, her detective senses begin to tingle. And rightly so, as this is the first in a series of murders where the bodies are carved for more than killing, the corpses are posed and placed significantly and a toy monkey is always concealed at the site.  These factors and the Irish connections of all the victims lead Abbie into a search through the Irish bars, the Irish secret societies and the Irish policemen of Buffalo.  At times, it seems like both the Irish community and the police department itself are stonewalling her.  And then, at the height of her frustration, she comes home to find a toy monkey hanging from her front door. The story moves along well and has a satisfying resolution.  I have put this book on my “Buffalo shelf” along with Dan Simmons’ Hard Freeze and Hard as Nails. More, please. 04/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BLACK KNIGHT IN RED SQUARE by Stuart Kaminsky: Four dead, poisoned during the Moscow Film Festival.  Chief Inspector Porifry Rostnikov must stop the female terrorist who seems determined and capable of making the Russian police look as stupid and vulnerable as those of five other countries in which she has worked.  Written in 1984, Rostnikov is quite different from the brooding Arkady Renko of Martin Cruz Smith.  More like a John Rebus in Russia.  12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLACK MAPS by Peter Spiegelman: Former up-state New York cop John Marsh is now working as a private investigator in New York City in this debut revival of the classic PI tale. Marsh is engaged through an attorney friend to track down a blackmailer and extortionist who is threatening an investment banker. Marsh knows a bit about that life, as he walked away from the investment-banking firm controlled by his family to become a rural sheriff’s deputy. Marsh had enjoyed his stint upstate until the death of his wife drove him back into the city. You sense Marsh could become very good at this or else fall into the bottomless pit that had claimed many others. Intense, well written, and full of action, makes you look forward to his next adventure. Well-deserved winner of the 2004 Shamus Award for Best First Novel.  08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLACK MONDAY by R. Scott Reiss: Wow. What a thriller. The world has finally come under attack by a deadly microbe, but its not attacking humans directly. Instead it has contaminated almost all the world oil supply, effectively shutting down all cars, planes and machines—anything driven by oil. Food supplies and electricity run out. Police have no way to patrol the streets. Gangs and marauders seize control in the world capitals. In the middle of this, Dr. Greg Gillette, a Georgia Tech graduate and epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must figure out how to stop the epidemic and restore order. The action ranges from rural Massachusetts to the Nevada desert as Gillette tries to remain focused on the problem and not his attractive boss whose presence threatens his marriage like nothing before. Not surprising that this one is already in production as a movie produced by Tom Jacobson. 04/07 Jack Quick

BLACK MONDAY by R. Scott Reiss: When a microbe infects the world’s oil supply, one analyst predicts that we will have just 50 days to discover the cause and rectify the situation or there will be no turning back. Greg Gillette finds himself racing against time to discover the source of the microbe and, if possible, a way to reverse the effects. The U.S. quickly degenerates as food supplies and other resources become scarce and people turn against one another in an attempt to save themselves. Neighbors begin looting and even killing as they fight to survive. Martial law becomes the norm and death is the punishment for even crimes such as looting. As a doctor with the CDC, Greg believes the “outbreak” should be treated the same as any other. His superiors do not agree and Greg is forced to try and solve this thing on his own. This timely and creepy debut is guaranteed to keep you up all night – a definite must-read for any thriller fan. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

BLACK OPS by W.E.B. Griffin:  We all need certain comfort foods and for avid readers, “comfort authors.” Griffin is one of my comfort authors.  Each book seems to have the same plot and the same cast of characters, with only variations in location, characters’ names and era, 1930’s to the present.  Nonetheless I always find Griffin satisfying and his gung-ho fifth presidential agent novel (after The Shooters) is no different.  In this one, the U.S. president assigns LTC Charley Castillo, a member of the Office of Organizational Analysis to track down the terrorists who murdered an American diplomat in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This leads to an Iranian-run bioweapons factory hidden in the Congo.  While sometimes lacking realism, you can’t fault the characterizations of the planning and the bureaucratic tussles that have to occur before the first bomb goes off.  Another good one. 01/09 Jack Quick

BLACK ORDER by James Rollins: It begins with a historical note regarding experimentation during World War II, specifically an experiment called die Glocke, or, the Bell. This latest Sigma Force novel finds Painter Crowe isolated in the Himalayas and exposed to a mysterious outbreak that causes its victims bodies, and minds, to deteriorate rapidly. Meanwhile, Grayson Pierce has been sent to Copenhagen to investigate a recent slew of black market purchases of works by Victorian scientists. When he is sent to check on a particular item of interest, Charles Darwin’s bible, Gray discovers that these buyers will stop at nothing to get what they want. The two veins are linked through one thing, the Bell – an experiment that ties into the Thule Society and the theory of quantum evolution. Some readers may find Rollins’ titles are not always completely realistic or plausible, but no one can deny that they are fun. Each one is like a summer blockbuster and all that’s missing is the popcorn. Black Order is no exception; it’s an action packed novel that draws from very interesting background theories. Rollins elaborates more on the inspiration in both the forward and the afterward of the novel. Rollins’ fans will tear into this novel and will also be pleased to see the return of some familiar faces. 11/06 Becky LeJeune

BLACK OUT by Lisa Unger: This is a startling and complex stand alone thriller from the author of a couple of excellent thrillers (Sliver of Truth and Beautiful Lies) and mysteries (written under her maiden name, Lisa Miscione).  Annie is a complex woman with a hell of a past, and all her tragedy is played out as a story within a story within a story – three stories merging together in one psychological thriller.  She’s the fiercely protective mother of a young daughter, the loving yet dependent wife of a mysterious man, and is in therapy for her vastly abusive childhood; she’s also the daughter of a fervently religious woman who spent her life subservient to men to the point of marrying a convicted serial rapist and murderer while he was in prison.  Annie has issues, as they say, and is trying to work them out with the help of her husband, her therapist, and her in-laws in this tense, multi-layered and very compelling story.  She’s on shaky ground, and then her past starts to haunt her in ways that could shatter her new life.  A very thoughtful, thought-provoking book and one that I couldn’t put down.  06/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLACK PATH by Asa Larson:  The story is relatively simple but the delivery is complex.  Inna Wattrang’s frozen body is found on a frozen lake, in an ark, a small cabin used for ice fishing.  Inspector Anna-Maria Mella and her longtime partner, Sven-Erik Stålnacke are assigned to the case, for which there are few clues.  New prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson is added to the team, although she is recovering from mental problems that have sidelined her.  Together the team focuses on the business of Kallis Mining, the company for which Inna worked.  More of a psychological thriller than a mystery, the book is delightfully dark and twisty and conveys the sense of life in a society different from say, mainstream America.  Great read. 08/08 Jack Quick

BLACK SITE by Dalton Fury: Dalton Fury is probably well known as the Delta Force commander that was tasked with the hunting down and killing of Osama Bin Laden after 9/11. He has created a Delta Force operative, Kolt Rayner, as the main character in this novel revolving around a black operations plan to free American captives held by Taliban terrorists.  Rayner had, in the past, disobeyed direct orders in an operation and lost several of the men in his command as well as having others taken prisoner. Rayner is asked if he will go back into Afghanistan on a seek only assignment to determine if the captives are still alive and if they can be rescued.  With Dalton Fury’s background and years of experience as a Delta Force commander the scenario lives in the minds of the reader.  The action, the danger, the interaction back and forth are real and one knows that this is the way it would probably happen. The project goes forward with starts and stops, missteps and advances. The further appearance of Raynor in future Delta Force novels is a forgone conclusion and I look forward to the next one.  2/13 Paul Lane

BLACK SWAN RISING by Lee Carroll: On her way home one rainy afternoon, Garet (Margaret) James takes cover in a strange antique shop. Garet, a jewelry maker who’s recently gained local recognition, is commissioned by the store’s owner to open a silver box coincidentally bearing a seal identical to the signet ring Garet’s mother gave her before she died. When she returns home, Garet immediately sets to work, but just minutes after opening the box, her home is broken into and her father is shot. The thieves get away with some very valuable paintings… and the box. And this is just the beginning. Soon Garet finds herself part of a magical and chilling other world that exists all around us. A handsome hedge-fund vampire, the King of the Fairies, sylphs, and other fey folk live amongst us, influencing events and quietly changing the course of everything. But one man, John Dee, would set the world into chaos and it is Garet who must stop him. This is undeniably urban fantasy at its very best. Lee Carroll (husband and wife team Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky) have created a world filled with wondrous magic and fairy tales, all of which come alive in their version of New York. 06/11 Becky Lejeune

THE BLACK TOWER by Louis Bayard:  Eugène François Vidocq was a soldier and criminal who lived in France at the time of the revolution. He later went on to become the founder and first director of the Sûreté National, France’s plain-clothes detectives division. Vidocq and his legacy provide the backdrop of Bayard’s latest literary mystery in which a Dr. Carpentier recounts his experience with the legendary detective and a case that traces back to a lost prince of the French monarchy. Twenty-six year old medical student Hector Carpentier is visited by Vidocq one afternoon after a body is discovered carrying the as-yet-graduated doctor’s hidden on his person. What Hector and Vidocq don’t know is that the man was not searching for Hector at all, but instead his father, a glass grinder and retired doctor who died eighteen months prior to the event in question. Hector is wrangled into acting as Vidocq’s unofficial partner in the investigation and ends up right in the middle of a state conspiracy that has been years in the making. Bayard’s combination of historical fact and creative license breathes new life into one of the most interesting players in all of criminal justice history. I can imagine that Vidocq himself would be pleased to be given the chance for one last adventure of this caliber.  08/08 Becky Lejeune

BLACK WATER by T. Jefferson Parker: This is the third installment in the Merci Rayburn series but it was my first foray into Parker’s work.  This is a series that should probably be read in order, and I can’t wait to read The Blue Hour, and then Red Light, which was an Edgar nominee.  It took me most of the book to figure out some of Merci’s background, but it was well worth the trouble.  She’s a single mom and a smart, dedicated homicide detective in Southern California.  When she is sent to a crime scene that overwhelmingly points to a murder-suicide of a cop and his wife, she remains unconvinced and sets out to find the truth.  Good, tight story and wonderful characters make Black Water a winner. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLACK WATER by T. Jefferson Parker: Merci Rayborn is about the only one who thinks deputy Archie Wildcraft didn’t kill his beautiful young wife and then turn his service weapon on himself. The evidence against Wildcraft–now hospitalized with a bullet lodged in his head–seems overwhelming, but Merci (from The Blue Hour) is resisting pressure from her boss and a headline-hunting D.A. to arrest Wildcraft and charge him with murder. Then the deputy, who’s lost his memory and maybe his mind as a result of his injury, goes missing from his hospital room, intent on tracking down the real killers and managing to stay a step ahead of Merci. It’s a page-turner all the way. 03/06 Jack Quick

BLACK WATER RISING by Attica Locke: It is not the way it was supposed to be. Jay Porter is a struggling black lawyer in Houston, Texas in 198 with a pregnant wife and a dingy strip mall office. His most promising case is a call girl who was injured in an automobile accident while “servicing” a local bigwig. The police report indicates the gentleman was stopped for a broken taillight and makes no mention of the hooker or anyone else being in the car. Porter’s run for the American Dream was derailed by an FBI file, some guns, an informant and a trial that almost destroyed him. When he thinks things can’t worse they do. He saves a woman from drowning — and opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life in a mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers. Somewhat uneven as most debuts, it will be interesting to see if Ms. Locke continues Porter as a series character or moves on to something else. 09/09 Jack Quick

BLACK WIDOW by Randy Wayne White:  Doc Ford is never boring and this 15th outing is packed full of action as Ford answers a desperate appeal for help from an old friend.  Shay Money is the 26-year old daughter of an old Florida swamper.  Her pending marriage is in jeopardy after a girls night out on St. Joan of Arc led to the production of a video revealing her and her friends in sexually compromising positions.  Ford is asked to get the tape back and protect her.  The trail leads him into a sophisticated blackmail racket with a long list of victims.  Tomlinson is Tomlinson, there are women after Ford, and Ford continues to resent authority.  Hang on tight as the ride is bumpy in parts. 07/08 Jack Quick

THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY by Felicia Donovan:  Computer forensics, surveillance technology and feminine intuition – a powerful combination dedicated to bringing justice to wronged women.  The four Black Widows are ex-cop Katie Mahoney; Margot Norton, mistress of disguise; office manager; Jane Landers, equally adept at dealing with numbers and hot flashes; and cybergoddess Alexandria Axelrod, keeper of her own tarantula.  These are the ladies at the Black Widow Agency and when they hear Amber Gordon’s heartbreaking story of sexual harassment, ending in a ruined career and lost custody of her daughter, they vow to spin a trap for the sexist automotive company run by Amber’s former father-in-law.  Ladies rejoice, for men, it’s the Sisterhood from Hell.  They celebrate their triumphs with something called chocolate genoise cake, an airy sponge cake sliced in half and layered with a chocolate mousse filling, then a white chocolate mousse filling made of marscapone cheese, all chilled and then covered with a silky fudge frosting, topped with fresh whipped cream, fresh strawberries and a melted dark chocolate drizzle.”  Then it’s back to the grindstone.  Definitely different, with lots of funny lines, i.e., his girlfriend is a doorknob – everyone gets a turn. 11/07 Jack Quick

BLACK WIND by Clive Cussler: The villain is a South Korean industrialist working for the North Koreans with an eye toward unifying Korea by ridding the country of American troops, allowing for an invasion of the South. His plan is to aim a sea-borne rocket filled with a combo of deadly viruses at Los Angeles, with clues laying blame on Japanese terrorists, thus distracting America while the North makes its move. The heroes are Dirk Pitt Jr. and his sister, Summer added by a white haired older man named Clive Cussler.  But villain and modus operandi matter less than the series of exciting hairbreadth escapes wrought by Dirks Jr. and Sr. and Summer—including Dirk Sr.’s escape from being poached alive in a minisub trapped underneath massive rocket boosters spewing an inferno of flames. 1/13 Jack Quick

BLACKBIRD, FAREWELL by Robert Greer: Damion Madrid chose a different path than that of his best friend, Shandell “Blackbird” Bird. The two were all-stars on their college basketball team and Shandell has been drafted for the NBA. Damion turned that life down in lieu of medical school. When Shandell is gunned down just days before his new career is to begin, though, Damion vows to unmask his killer at any cost. What Damion uncovers about his friend’s hidden life is something he never expected. Shandell is being accused of everything from point shaving and possible mob links to selling performance-enhancing drugs on the side. Damion enlists the help of a friend and ex-marine bailbonds-woman, Flora Jean Benson, in the investigation. Blackbird is a traditional whodunit wrapped up in the dirty side of professional sports. Although this is technically being considered the 7th title in Greer’s CJ Floyd series, Floyd is actually only a peripheral character. As such, Blackbird can be read as a stand-alone or as the latest in the series.  11/08 Becky Lejeune

BLACKBIRD HOUSE by Alice Hoffman: Alice, if you are reading this I loved your book! I spent a college summer on the Cape. As I rode my bike around looking at all the wonderful old houses, walking in the cemeteries there were so many stories to be told. You told them! The people, the smells, the tastes, the light– all unique to the Cape. This book is a wonderful gift to anyone of us who has stood in front of an old house and imagined what it was like to live there. Knowing that the life of a house is in the people, the trees, the plants, the animals, the birds, the water and our relationship to them. Thanks for taking me there Alice! ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa.

THE BLACKJACK CONSPIRACY by David Kent:  This is the third story of Department Thirty — a secret government agency that erases the identities of top-level criminals in exchange for the kind of information people would kill for.  Alex Bridge, a young, pregnant widow has been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from her employer, a giant media conglomerate and of killing an FBI agent investigating the embezzlement.  Faith Kelly of Department Thirty, a newly promoted case officer and former deputy U.S. marshal, offers Alex full protection in exchange for her testimony about her employer’s financial malfeasance.  The problem is Faith and Alex are up against a vast conspiracy that goes far deeper than a corporate accounting scandal, one that reaches back more than a century to a notorious frontier massacre in Oklahoma Territory and continues to this day in the highest levels of American justice.  05/06 Jack Quick

BLACKLANDS by Belinda Bauer: Belinda Bauer’s award-winning debut is a slim and bleak novel that packs a punch. For Steven Lamb, growing up in the shadow of his uncle, Billy Peters, has been rough. Missing for eighteen years, everyone knows Billy was a victim of Arnold Avery, a serial killer who stalked children in the area until he was caught and put away for life. But Steven’s grandmother waits for her son’s return every day. At twelve, Steven has become fixated on finding his uncle’s body and bringing him home for his nan. He knows that Avery buried the bodies out on the moor and he spends all of his spare time mapping it out and digging. When Steven begins writing letters to Avery, in hopes the killer will reveal the hidden grave, things take a very disturbing turn. This shocking tale pits a twelve-year-old boy against a sick and twisted serial killer. Steven is an excellent protagonist and carries the story well. In him, Bauer has done an amazing job of creating a believable young hero that readers will root for. Note that although Steven is just twelve, this is very much an adult novel with adult subject matter. 12/10 Becky Lejeune

BLACKLIST by Sara Paretsky: In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Chicago private eye V.I. (“Vic”) Warshawski is asked by a longtime client to investigate his mother’s suspicion that trespassers are living in the empty suburban Chicago mansion her father built and in which she lived for most of her life. On the first night Vic finds the body of Marcus Whitby, a young African-American journalist. Marcus’ sister then hires Vic to look into his death. This leads to Benji, a young Arab student and the likelihood that her lover, Morrell, on assignment in Afghanistan, is in danger. Paretsky reminds us that although victims change, prejudice is still alive and all too well in one of her deeper efforts. 01/06 Jack Quick

BLACKMAILER by George Axelrod: Hardcase Crime #32 is a re-print of a 1952 release by the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Seven Year Itch, among other efforts. Take a recently deceased Hemingway-esque character, a short balding man with a high pitched voice that reminds you of Truman Capote, add a sexy Hollywood starlet, and you can see why Dick Sherman, New York publisher will risk much to find what could be the literary coup of the century, the last unpublished manuscript of one of the most noted authors ever. Some people would even kill for such a manuscript, as Sherman soon learns. Even an old lover is mixed up in the mess somehow, Sherman learns after being beaten, kicked, and slugged a few times. Classic pulp action.  06/07 Jack Quick

BLACKWATER SOUND by James W. Hall: In the prologue, young Andy Braswell is killed in a tragic confrontation with a blue marlin. Now ten years later bone-fishing iconoclast Thorn is involved in a rescue operation after a passenger plane crash that leads him into the lunatic world of the Braswell family. The surviving Braswell children – psychopathic Johnny and dangerously beautiful Morgan – make an impressively deadly combination and their plans to market a terrifying device promises a reign of terror of awesome proportions. Overriding that story is an even greater one of the magnificent blue marlin, which the Braswells have hunted for a decade like Ahab after Moby Dick. It’s a great sea story and possibly one of Hall’s best. 03/07 Jack Quick

THE BLADE ITSELF by Marcus Sakey: Danny and Evan grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a working class neighborhood.  They became partners in crime, stealing cars and doing small time burglaries, until Evan escalated the stakes with a pawn shop robbery gone bad.  Danny managed to get away but Evan does hard time; while Evan’s in prison, Danny’s been scared straight.  He’s a project manager for a small construction company, has a nice apartment and a great girlfriend – as long as he stays straight.  So when Evan gets paroled seven years later and wants to renew their partnership, Danny isn’t interested.  But Evan feels like Danny owes him, and prison certainly hasn’t softened him any.  In fact, it’s turned him into Danny’s worst nightmare.  The tension escalates as Evan starts putting the screws to Danny, and somehow Sakey keeps ratcheting it on up until the last page.  This is an old story, but it is told so well that it feels new.  This debut has garnered starred reviews and raves galore, drawing comparisons to Dennis Lehane’s masterpiece, Mystic River, as well as the writing styles of George Pelecanos and Joseph Finder, leaving me wondering: how can any book live up to all that hype?  Read it and find out –  because it did. 01/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLADE ITSELF by Marcus Sakey: A burglary goes bad. Evan McGann goes to jail, his partner Danny Carter gets away. Carter is now a well-paid, respected construction manager in Chicago with a great girlfriend and a comfortable life when McGann is released from prison with plans to resume their alliance. Danny isn’t interested, but Evan threatens to expose Danny’s past, including his presence when the shop owner was shot. Danny feels he has no choice but to go along with Evan’s plan to kidnap the son of Danny’s boss for ransom. Then it quickly becomes apparent that Evan can’t be controlled by Danny or anyone. Its one of those where you keep turning the pages and then realize the reason you are lightheaded is that you have forgotten to breathe. Start it on a weekend if you can, otherwise the next day at work is going to be a rough one. 02/07 Jack Quick

BLAZE by Richard Bachman: Stephen King has unearthed and revamped a final Bachman tale.  Blaze was originally written in 1973 and misplaced until just recently.  It is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., an unfortunate man whose life began with promise and went downhill from there.  As a boy, Blaze was smart and studious, until his father pushed him down a set of stairs leaving him forever changed.  Blaze then became a ward of the state and was sent to Hetton House, a home for orphaned boys.  Here, Blaze learned the value of friendship but not much else.  Blaze is large for his size and not particularly bright, but loyal to a fault, and this eventually leaves him a perfect target for thieves and criminals in need of a strong-arm.  After much experience with simple con jobs, Blaze and his partner George have devised the perfect kidnapping.  Unfortunately, George dies and Blaze decides to pull it off on his own, sort of.  While I enjoyed this dark and bleak tale, I missed the distinctive style that was present in all of the previous Bachman books.  I think this comes from the length of time between when it was originally penned and when it was edited (1973 and now).  This edition also includes a short story called “Memory” that is the inspiration for King’s upcoming novel, Duma Key.  A must read for all King fans.  06/07 Becky Lejeune

BLEACHERS by John Grisham: After reading The Summons, I swore off Grisham books – there’s just too much good stuff out there to waste my time on crap. But Bleachers intrigued me; there was nary a lawyer to be found between its small covers.  And this book is small – it almost feels like a long short story more than even a novella.  Neely Crenshaw, long ago star quarterback of the Messina Spartans, has returned home to his small Georgia town because his legendary football coach, Eddie Rake, is dying.  This is a town that is on the map because of their high school football team and their thirteen state championships, all due to Rake.  Over the course of a couple of days, most of the boys – now grown men – who played for Rake over the thirty years he coached have come home to wait.  Neely had a promising career cut short by a college injury, but the injury went much deeper than just the physical wound and he’s been floundering for fifteen years.  The men sit their vigil in the bleachers and talk about the coach, and their lives, and Neely finds some peace.  At times it borders on being overly sentimental, but nonetheless it is a sweet and charming book and a pleasant diversion from Grisham’s usual fare. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLEEDERS by Bill Pronzini: Bleeders is what Nameless calls blackmailers, grifters and con men who “bleed” their victims, but the blood quickly becomes real with two killed and Nameless spared only by a misfire. The experience is shattering and the now sixty-year old Nameless begins to really think about the future. Kerry wants him to slow down and turn over more of the work to Tamara and maybe hire a new operative. This is the transition book from the old Nameless agency to the new and it works pretty well in setting the stage for future episodes. All in all, another good outing for Nameless. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

A BLIND EYE by G.M. Ford: Mr. Ford is yet another fine mystery writer who has moved over to the thriller arena. As in the case of Harlen Coben and Thomas Perry, the move has been a success. His previous effort in this genre – Black River, featuring a wayward journalist named Frank Corso, was a solid first foray. A Blind Eye follows Corso, into further frightening adventures. A Blind Eye opens in a car in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. Corso and his photographer friend, Meg Dougherty, gradully realize that they are going to have to save themselves or die. It is a desperate struggle, too. Then, just when they are starting to thaw and the reader is ready to catch a breath, Corso and Dougherty discover a corpse beneath the boards of a deserted barn. Zigzagging across country ahead of a Texas grand jury left over from the previous book, the pair discover that murder, terror and just plain weirdness still exist in small corners not far from our biggest cities. The suspense and danger don’t let up, but they are leavened by Corso’s mordant humor. There has not been as cynical an investigative reporter since Gregory McDonald’s Irwin Fletcher. This book will send chills down your spine even on a hot summer day. But I miss Leo Waterman and the boys. And Myron Bolitar too, for that matter. Bring back the mysteries. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

BLIND EYE by Stuart MacBride: In this fifth outing Aberdeen Scotland Detective Sergeant Logan McRae is looking for the person or persons responsible for attacking and blinding Polish immigrants.  The case becomes more complicated when a local mobster is victimized.  Is this part of the Oedipus case or the opening salvo in a brewing turf war?  Throw in a pedophile who becomes an inadvertent—but key—witness, and various other victims and miscreants and you have a rollicking good police procedural with lots of funny lines and no shortage of action.  MacBride is rapidly becoming oen of my favorite UK authors.  Hope he is able to keep this series going for a long, long time.  BTW, for maximum effect read MacBride in order to fully appreciate the relationships he has developed among his characters.  12/09 Jack Quick

BLIND FEAR by Lynn Abecrombie:  In this follow-up to The Body Box. former Atlanta police detective Hank Gooch, bored with retirement, returns to work with a vengeance when his former partner, Sgt. MeChelle Deakes of the cold case unit, is abducted.  The kidnappers aren’t asking for ordinary ransom – what they want is for Gooch to solve old homicide with proof that would stand up in court.  Deakes is still the character from the previous outing while Gooch is Mr. Steady. Another nicely done police procedural. 06/09 Jack Quick

BLIND MAN’S ALLEY by Justin Peacock: Duncan Riley is a young lawyer on the fast track to partnership at a top law firm in New York City; that is, if he does what he’s told. That becomes difficult when his pro bono eviction case turns into a murder rap and the managing partner wants him to plead it out. Rafael Nazario is accused of murdering the security guard who turned him in for smoking pot, the basis of his housing project eviction. Duncan’s firm’s biggest client is behind the conversion of the housing project to a mixed-use property, but that doesn’t seem to cause any conflict of interest. Duncan is convinced his client is innocent, and a reporter feeds him information that will help his case, if he is allowed to try it. It starts looking like the firm’s biggest client is more involved than Duncan originally realized, creating additional pressure and some interesting twists. Verdict: While not as strong as Peacock’s Edgar Award–nominated debut, A Cure for Night, nonetheless this is good legal fiction with carefully crafted characters and deliberate pacing. Should appeal to fans of John Grisham or John Lescroart. 08/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

BLIND RAGE by Terri Persons:  In the follow-up to Persons’s Blind Spot, FBI Agent Bernadette Saint Clare is called to assist on what appears to be a rash of coed suicides. Each of the girls has emotional/psychological issues and has displayed suicidal tendencies. There’s something fishy going on, though, and Bernadette isn’t completely convinced that these girls were responsible for their own deaths. When the latest vic turns up dead in her bathtub, Bernadette gets her chance to take a closer look and hopes that her unique talent will come in handy. See, Bernadette has the power to touch an item and see through a killer’s eyes, and her current boss is the first one to support her and her gift.
Of course, it’s not an exact science and Bernadette still has to use regular investigative skills as well, and that’s what makes this a stand out series. Bernadette even occasionally gets some help from beyond the grave, but must do everything she can to keep her ability under wraps in order to be taken seriously. Sadly, Bernadette’s mysterious landlord is absent from this installment (no spoilers there). Persons’s second novel holds up to the expectations set by Blind Spot and I can’t wait to see what happens next for Bernadette. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

BLIND RUN by Pat Lewin:  Ethan Decker is a broken man.  Something went wrong while on assignment for the CIA and his five-year-old son was killed.  He leaves his wife and his job and is hiding out in the desert fighting his demons.  A few years later an old operative from his team shows up, two children in tow.  She dumps the kids and takes off, and when Ethan catches up with her, she’s dead.  The only clue is the last call she made on her cell phone – to Ethan’s ex-wife, Sydney.  The children tell him a fantastic story of being kidnapped and held on an island by people they call the “Keepers,” and thus begins a cross country chase where the line between the good guys and the bad guys keeps jumping.  Plan on sitting put for a while, this one is hard to put down. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLIND SIGHT by Terri Persons:  FBI agent Bernadette St. Clare and her boss Tony Garcia return in this fast-paced third installment to the series. When a hunter discovers the mutilated body of a teenager in the woods, Bernie and Tony are called in to investigate. The girl, the missing daughter of a U.S. senator who is very outspoken against the feds, had been pregnant, but the body of the fetus is missing. Nearby folks whisper of witchcraft and Satanism, a fact that becomes very significant when investigators discover a pentagram etched in blood on the dead girl’s forehead—a pentagram that is subsequently wiped off by a person, or persons, who aren’t keen on their group coming under investigation. Bernadette must once again rely on her very unreliable “sight” to help solve this case. Meanwhile, she and Garcia are growing ever closer, a fact that must remain as secret as her special ability. Persons does a great job of balancing the supernatural element with what is essentially a traditional police procedural series. 05/09 Becky Lejeune

BLIND SPOT by Terri Persons: Everyone has heard that twins have a special connection. When Bernadette Saint Clare and her sister were young, they developed a special talent – they could see through each other’s eyes. Then, her sister died in a car accident and somehow Bernadette’s vision was transferred to that of her sister’s killer. Now, Bernadette can see through murderers’ eyes and uses her talent to help her in her job as an FBI agent. After being transferred to yet another new office, Bernadette finds herself in an odd situation. Her new supervisor seems to believe in her ability. On her first day in St. Paul, Minnesota, two boys find a hand while fishing; a body is discovered that afternoon in the woods. The first problem is that the hand is that of a woman and the body is that of a man. The second problem is that just one month ago, a hunting dog brought home a severed hand and a body was discovered shortly thereafter. Bernadette’s gift leads her to a serial killer hell-bent on his own form of retribution. Although the “psychic” detective is appearing quite often lately, it’s still a concept that I find intriguing. Persons’ thrilling debut makes a great stand-alone, but I sincerely hope, and suspect, that we will see more of Bernadette Saint Clare in the future. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT by Morgan Hunt: Imagine a giant popcorn machine spewing out words faster than you can read them. That’s the only way I can describe the frenetic pace of Hunt’s writing. (Opening lines: “Bristly black legs of foot-long tarantulas crawling over your naked body. In a locked room. Forever. That was the personal vision of hell of my best friend in high school. …My own version of hell would include Ron Jeremy, long hypodermic needles, and a looping soundtrack of the Oz munchkins. I spare you further details”.) Once you get used to the rapid fire diction which seems to come at you in all languages and all areas of the brain, you have a pretty good story. Amateur sleuth/breast cancer survivor Tess Camillo and her pregnant friend Beth are visiting an exotic earthworks art exhibit in the New Mexico desert called The Lightning Field. Tess has recently been involved in two homicides and is actually yearning the adrenaline rush that comes with a good murder, when lo and behold, there’s a body. Beth gets arrested, Tess solves the murder, a rabbi reveals all, and before it’s over, Tess faces being `blinded by the light’? This third outing from Morgan Hunt, herself a breast cancer survivor, is alternately funny and poignant, as you realize that there are real people facing some of these challenges every day. 04/09 Jack Quick

BLINDSIGHTED by Karin Slaughter:  This terrific thriller by first time author Slaughter is gripping as well as gruesome.  First of a series with a small town pediatrician/coroner as our protagonist with just enough romance thrown in to make things interesting.  Very well done – this author is one to watch. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLISS by Lauren Myracle: Being the new girl can be tough, but in 1969, being the new girl who was raised on a commune is even tougher.  Bliss has never been to a regular school and views the new experience as something of an adventure. Anxious to make friends and open to all of the possibilities, the discovery that Crestview High is haunted by a malevolent spirit Bliss seems to be able to hear is troubling. As she settles into her new life, and takes great pains to avoid the ominous presence on campus, Bliss learns more about the spirit haunting the old commune. Unbeknownst to Bliss, there is another who can hear the ghost and this girl has terrible plans. Bliss is a chilling teen horror story that’s both quick and creepy. At times gruesome and disturbing, Myracle also incorporates real life events of 1969 to add depth to the tale.  12/11 Becky Lejeune

BLOCKADE BILLY by Stephen King:  King combines his love of baseball with suspense in this new novella.  “Blockade Billy” gets the nickname because of the way he guards the plate. The only problem is the catcher has a habit of bloodying base runners who try and get by him. He also has a rather unsettling habit of continually talking to himself, in the third person no less. Turns out there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Basically, it’s a good short story but as most of the reviews online point out, probably not worth spending the jacket price of $25 on. Definitely worth a visit to the library though. William Faulkner once said, “Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.” King should probably stick with what he does best, those big, sprawling novels. 06/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLONDE by Duane Swierczynski: He had flown to Philadelphia to meet the divorce lawyer representing his wife. Good enough reason to stop in the lounge for a quick one. Then, the blonde sitting next to him in the airport bar calmly tells him she has poisoned him. In order to earn the antidote Jack Eisley must stay within 10 feet of her. Obviously she is crazy, but then he encounters a relentless assassin, a double crossing spook, a violent waitress, shady cab drivers – and suddenly the blonde seems to be the only sane person in Philadelphia. Another wowser from the author of The Wheelman. Gotta get it. 11/06 Jack Quick

BLOOD AND RUBLES by Stuart Kaminsky:  Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov is a rarity among Russian policeman: shrewd, utterly incorruptible and destined to survive each complex political shift. Three young boys are robbing and killing drunks, a warehouse of invaluable artifacts disappears, and in a scene reminiscent of the best of “Hill Street Blues”, the prostitute Mathilde Verson, the only person to ever break through the robot exterior of Emil Karpo, is killed in a shoot-out between tattooed Russian Mafioso.  Add in a black American FBI agent, the kidnapping of a wealthy “entrepreneur” and you have another well written police procedural of the first rank. 03/08 Jack Quick

BLOOD BLADE by Marcus Pelegrimas: In the first of this new urban fantasy series, Pelgrimas presents yet another original spin on the popular vampire/werewolf tale. Cole Warnecki is a mild mannered video game producer out for a little adventure in the wilderness. But when he signed up for an extreme vacation in Canada, werewolf attack was not on the agenda. Cole survives the attack and promises a dying man that he will contact a woman named Paige and tell his tale. Paige immediately flies Cole to her location where she reveals to him that she, and the man that Cole spoke with, are part of a small group of people called Skinners, people who hunt vamps, werewolves, and shapeshifters that pose a threat to the public. Cole is given the chance to return to his normal everyday life, or train to become a Skinner himself. From there, he is catapulted into a dark underworld that he never imagined existed. It always amazes me how many different stories you can get out of a common theme. Pelegrimas’s series has so many different elements that it really does stand out from the rest. I hope the MEG (ghost hunters) guys play more of a part in subsequent books, though.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BLOOD DETECTIVE by Dan Waddell:  Family historian and genealogist Nigel Barnes has never been approached to work on a police investigation, but there’s always a first. When a body is discovered in a London cemetery, the connection between Nigel’s work and a reference number carved in the dead man’s chest is not initially made. Not until DS Heather Jenkins recalls her mother’s brief interest in their family’s history. The number bears a striking resemblance to those used for historic birth, death, and marriage archives. It just so happened that Nigel was the man Heather’s mother hired back then, so Heather and her superiors call on his expertise to help them now. Nigel is able to trace the number back to another murder, this one over a century old, but hits a literal dead end from there. Or does he? Nigel discovers that this was actually the second in a string of murders in 1879. Sure enough, the police have an unidentified body of a homeless man that fits the pattern from back then. Unfortunately for them, the original killer struck again within a matter of days and left a total of five bodies behind before he was caught. With Nigel’s help, the police must trace the original case in order to identify their own killer before it’s too late. I loved this. It was fresh and original, a wonderful combination of historical and modern mystery. It’s also an ensemble mystery rather than a solo one. Nigel’s specialty is the driving force, but the whole cast of characters really make the book such an amazing read. First in a new series. 06/08 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD DIAMONDS by Ed Lynskey: Longtime grifter and suburbanite Jonas Blades works in a sash-and-door mill, so when Jacquie Mantooth, a voluptuous schemer who is putting together a plan to pull off a big diamond heist, offers her a slot, he jumps at it. She has no idea he will double cross her and grab the stolen diamonds all for himself.. Nine years later when Jacquie gates out of prison, she tracks down Jonas with a few hard questions. Things are complicated by Jonas’s current girlfriend Rita Jo Chapelle, Cullen, Jacquie’s goon brother and Virgil Högman, Jacquie’s old boyfriend who knows about the heist and where they can find Jacquie. A four-way scramble punctuated with mayhem, betrayal, and murder ensues to see which victor ends up with the “blood diamonds.” If noir is your thing, this one comes through is spades, uh, make that diamonds. Another great outing from another underappreciated current crime fiction master. 8/12 Jack Quick

THE BLOOD GOSPEL by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell: James Rollins is a prolific author of adventure novels and this is the first of the Order of the Sanguines Series. Due to the new collaboration with Rebecca Cantrell this book combines adventure with horror, religion and the supernatural. Dr Erin Granger, a noted archeologist is working on a dig in Israel when an earthquake hits the region around Masada killing hundreds of people and opening a tomb located there. Dr Granger, Jordan Stone a military forensic expert, and Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest, are called to the site by the Israeli government to investigate the tomb. The trio discover the mummified remains of a young girl but are than attacked by a force of flying vampires and forced to flee the site. Father Korza reveals that the tomb had possibly contained an ancient tome that may have been written by Jesus Christ himself in his own blood and revealing the secrets of his divinity. Led by Father Korza the trio begins a search for the book and find themselves embroiled in an ancient battle between nearly immortal evil vampires and priests converted to a race of good vampires that do not feed on human blood, but on sanctified blood blessed by the church. Accepting the thesis of a hidden long term battle between Christianity and dark forces being waged for centuries, the book becomes fascinating in it’s descriptions of the struggle and makes for an engrossing read. The ending neatly sets the stage for sequels. Well done and certainly a good collaborative team in the making between the authors. 1/13 Paul Lane

BLOOD HARVEST by Brant Randall:  Apparently Bruce Cook is the John Doe of authors.  Brant Randall is the Bruce Cook who wrote Philippine Fever (an excellent book) but has elected to publish this stand alone as Brant Randall to reduce confusion.  No matter what the author’s name, Blood Harvest is a good read.  Not as famous as the Hatfields and McCoys in Kentucky but just as serious was the feud between the DeCostas and the MacKays in Massachusetts.  Nick DeCosta is a hard working immigrant whose wine-making skills ably prepared him to make a fortune as a moonshiner in the 1920’s.  Unfortunately, even though he is wed to the wild young daughter, Mary Elizabeth MacKay, the business is too lucrative for the MacKay clan to allow competitors.  So is this why DeCosta was lynched?  Or were there other reasons?  Nicely done. 06/08 Jack Quick

BLOOD ISLAND by H. Terrell Griffin: Matt Royal is a lawyer in FL who always seems to get into trouble of some sort. His ex-wife, Laura, contacts him. Her stepdaughter, Peggy, is missing and she needs his help to track her down. Since she’s a legal adult, the police don’t seem concerned. Matt tracks Peggy down to a private island in the Keys, Blood Island. The island, and a number of “questionable” businesses in the area, are all owned by the same Bahamian corporation. Matt soon discovers a hidden world of at-risk teens, drugs, cults, and prostitution. Just as Matt saves Peggy, he uncovers a terrorist plan to destroy several churches in large cities. BLOOD ISLAND is action packed from page one and keeps you hooked till the end. This is my first taste of Griffin’s work and I hope to read more of his work in the near future. 01/09 Jennifer Lawrence

BLOOD LINE by Mark Billingham: This one opens with a scene all too familiar to me. Thorne and Louise are being told their child-to-be isn’t viable and Louise should have an immediate D&C. This happened to sweet wife and me 42 years ago and I still felt the same numbness as Thorne.  From there Thorne eagerly takes charge of what seems like, for once, an ordinary domestic murder. But when a mysterious sliver of bloodstained X-ray that was found clutched in the victim’s fist is replicated at other crime scenes around the city, it becomes clear that the past is coming back to haunt the city of London. Detective Thorne realizes that a killer is targeting the children of victims of an infamous serial killer from years before. Before everyone on the list is killed, Thorne must stop the most twisted killer he has ever hunted. Another awesome outing from an author Lee Child has called “the new wave leader” of crime fiction.  07/11 Jack Quick

BLOOD MAKES NOISE by Gregory Widen: Widen has done several screenplays prior to this his first novel and his writing is clear and crisp with no false steps in telling the story. An afterward indicates that the idea is based on true events occurring after the death of Eva Peron (Evita) in Argentina with, of course fictional license involved in creating the entire story. Michael Suslov, one of the first actual CIA agents working for the new agency and a man raised in Argentina is serving at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1955 with a group consisting mainly of FBI agents. A contact of Michael’s and a member of Argentine Military Intelligence summons him to a secret vault which contains the body of the legendary Evita. He is asked to move the body to a new location due to the probable fall of Juan Peron from power. Michael feels obligated to do it and makes arrangements to do so. While preparing for the move there is a home invasion at his house, and in the chaos surrounding the break in, he accidentally shoots his wife and kills both her and their unborn baby. Sixteen years after these events Michael Suslov is barely able to go through the days and nights with the horror of his crime haunting him. The same member of Argentine Military Intelligence that contacted him to hide Evita’s body contacts him again, asking for help to bring her back to Argentina in the light of the probable return to power of Peron. In an attempt to somehow quiet the demons haunting him, Michael agrees. There are other forces anxious to get hold of Evita’s body and all their interactions are carefully delineated within the book. Widen does an excellent job of fleshing out the principal characters allowing the reader to understand their thoughts, reservations, ideas and consequent actions. Blood Makes Noise is truly a book to sit down with and enjoy for the story, the writing and the descriptions of the events of the period after Evita’s death and the later passing of Juan Peron and subsequent rise to power of his last wife Isabel. 05/13 Paul Lane

BLOOD MATTERS by Taffy Cannon: Roxanne Prescott is an experienced Austin, Texas cop, but a relative newcomer as a detective at the San Diego Sheriff’s Department when she and her colleagues catch a high profile case. Adoption agency CEO Sam Brennan has been beaten to death with a statuette of Michael Jackson. You know this one is gonna be kinky. The list of suspects begins with two ex-wives and a rejected lover but quickly expands when the detectives determine the extent of Brennan’s wealth, the tell-all book deal that he has entered, and his agency’s niche business of reuniting adopted children with their birth families. It is up to Prescott to figure out a way to lure the killer out of the mass of suspects. Don’t let the author’s name fool you. This is no cozy, it’s a first rate police procedural. Following on 2001’s Guns and Roses, which also featured Prescott. 06/07 Jack Quick

BLOOD MEMORY by Greg Iles: Natchez born Cat Ferry is a forensic odontologist, an expert on teeth and the damage they can inflict. The alcoholic granddaughter of Dr. William Kirkland, owner of the sprawling Malmaison estate and the most powerful man in Natchez, has worked with the New Orleans Police, in particular Detective Sean Regan before. But this time she is pregnant with Sean’s baby and feels she must go home to sort things out. There she accidentally discovers old bloody footprints hidden in the carpet fibers of her childhood bedroom. She thinks one footprint might be hers, made on the night her father died of an ill-explained gunshot wound. All this pushes her toward the depression she has experienced since she was fifteen. Possible child sexual abuse and repressed memories surface as Cat searches for the truth about her father’s death. Dark, but excellent. 02/07 Jack Quick

BLOOD MONEY by James Grippando: The book opens with an immediate crisis for lawyer Jack Swyteck and does not stop at any point to allow the reader to rest. Swyteck has defended a woman accused of killing her two year old daughter and gotten a not guilty verdict for her. In spite of the verdict, a star reporter for a large media company has worked hard to cause a public outcry at the trial results. She has accused the woman of getting away with murder. Sydney Bennett is scheduled to be released from the Miami jail but a large crowd gathers outside the prison to demand that justice be done. A Sydney Bennett lookalike is caught walking outside the prison and set upon by an angry mob. She is gravely injured and sent to the hospital where she lapses into a coma. This incident sets the scene for a complicated scenario involving Sydney herself, the lookalike injured girl, a mass murderer fascinated by Sydney, Jack’s FBI fiancée Andie Henning, a mercenary head of a large media company that blatantly shapes public opinion regardless of truth of what is happening. There is also the star reporter that stops at nothing to keep her reputation as the absolute leader in her industry and the scheming lawyer for the media company that goes against Jack in a lawsuit launched against the media giant as being culpable in the look alike girl’s injury. Jack Swyteck is very familiar to readers of Grippando’s books, and each novel can be read as a standalone with a plot differing from the last with the difference being that certain characters reappear. A very fast and fascinating read well worth the sleepless night or two involved in finishing it. 1/13 Paul Lane

BLOOD OATH by Christopher Farnsworth: Rumor has it that in the 1800s a sailor thought to have killed his shipmates by draining them of their blood was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. Nathaniel Cade, a vampire, was spared that day and from then forward became one of the President’s men. Through a blood oath, Cade vowed to protect the President and all other keepers of the office from then forward. In this capacity, Cade is also the prime investigator of all things paranormal. When Zach Barrows is assigned as Cade’s partner, the young political worker gets a crash course in everything weird and supernatural. And right away, the two are sent out on a new case. Someone is shipping body parts into the country and Cade is sure that this can only mean one thing: a new terrorist plot involving an old nemesis. Farnsworth’s debut is just a super cool read. A screenplay writer and former journalist, Farnsworth clearly knows how to write for maximum impact. Blood Oath is fascinating and entertaining, and adds new blood to the current vampire craze. 05/10 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD OF ANGELS by Reed Arvin: Thomas Dennehy is an assistant District Attorney in Nashville who is famous for convicting two men of the same murder; one for negligent homicide, the other put to death for murder, and the irony is that the men convicted didn’t even know one another.  But then a convict claims to have committed that same murder and asserts that the wrong man was put to death for it.  If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Dennehy’s latest case involves the rape and murder of a white woman by a refugee of Sudan, causing racial tensions to escalate quickly.  Meanwhile Dennehy’s partner is retiring, he has to deal with conflicted emotions about an alibi witness in the rape case and an ex-wife and daughter who may be in danger.  A tightly twisted story that is propelled by crisp writing makes for an excellent, dark novel of suspense.  12/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLOOD ON THE LEAVES by Jeff Stetson:  African-American professor Martin Matheson polarizes current students and the entire Jackson, Mississippi, community with his incendiary lectures about local lynchings and other atrocities at the height of the civil rights struggle which leads to a series of revenge killings.  Because blood evidence links Matheson to the killing of unrepentant racist Earvin Cooper, he’s tried not for inciting murder but for the act of murder itself.  Matheson is defended in court by Todd Miller, a venerable white liberal past his courtroom prime, while the prosecutor is a meticulous and well-respected black deputy district attorney, James Reynolds, who becomes the story’s moral center.  Interesting look at the legacy of attitudes and emotions of a half century ago. 04/06 Jack Quick

BLOOD RED SQUARE by Pat Mullan:  UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in the Congo in 1961. Although considered suspicious at the time, no evidence surfaced to show that it was anything other than an accident.  Now in 1997 new Russian entrepreneur Misha Kedrov steals Secret KGB documents pointing to collusion between Moscow and Washington in the death of Hammarskjold.  Kedrov, consumed by revenge for the murder of his parents, plans to use the documents to seek vengeance.  Owen MacDara, special envoy of Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, is the only one with a chance to stop Kedrov.  An action packed thriller, mixing fictional and real characters in a believable manner. 05/06 Jack Quick

BLOOD RELATIVES by Ed McBain: I thought I had read all the 87th Precinct novels but then discovered this one while packing for a pending move. What a joy.  From 1987, it starts with bloody handprints on each of the glass paneled doors of the 87th Precinct.  In this episode, Detective Steve Carella attempts to track down a psycho who has killed Muriel Stark, the seventeen year old cousin of  fifteen year old Patricia Lowery right in front of her eyes. Just when Carella thinks he has a positive ID, it turns out to be the wrong guy. 07/11 Jack Quick

BLOOD RIGHTS by Kristen Painter: Chrysabelle is a highly sought after comarré of exceptionally pure blood. Trained and sold to the highest bidder, she has served her vampire patron for a century. On the day she would have earned her freedom, though, her patron is murdered and Chrysabelle is the prime suspect. As the Elder of the House of Tepes, Lord Algernon possessed immense power and wealth. He also possessed a ring of great importance. Tatiana, a power-hungry Tepes with plans for the ring, will do anything to track down Chrysabelle and pin Algernon’s murder on the comarré. Chrysabelle knows that if Tatiana finds her and the ring, there will be terrible ramifications. But when Tatiana kidnaps Chrysabelle’s aunt in an attempt to draw her out, the comarré has no choice but to seek help in the most unlikely of places. This first in the House of Comarré trilogy is an intricately crafted near future world with new and unique beings. The vampires themselves have a different origin than most urban fantasy, one that is revealed through the plot and plays well with the overall arc of the story. 11/11 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD SACRIFICE by Michael Lister: This fifth book featuring former cop turned prison chaplain John Jordan has an exorcism turned murder at the heart of this complex story. Jordan’s marriage has fallen apart for the second time and he seeks counseling at St. Ann’s, an abbey in bucolic Gainesville, best known for being the home of the University of Florida Gators. Lister never mentions the college; instead, he shows us the rapidly dwindling unspoiled Florida wilderness that is rarely found anymore. The company that owns the abbey, an old abandoned paper mill nearby, and all the surrounding land wants to develop the property. An oversexed and deeply troubled young woman is murdered at the abbey, and the Priest performing the exorcism is the chief suspect. Her cousin is the small town cop investigating, and he asks Jordan for help. Intriguing characters populate the small town, and their relationships are integral to the mystery as one red herring after another forge stumbling blocks. Lister creates a dark and complex combination of religious and environmental mystery that should appeal to fans of Margaret Coel and Julia Spencer-Fleming. 10/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

BLOOD SHOT by Stuart MacBride:  This one is quite different from Sara Parestsky’s fifth Victoria (V. I.) Warshawski 1989 outing of the same title.  McBride’s third Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae police procedural begins with the Aberdeen police on the trail of a serial rapist, when they catch Scottish sports hero Rob Macintyre stalking MacRae’s live-in lover, Woman Police Constable Jackie Watson.  Macintyre’s arrest ignites public sentiment against the police, stifling the investigation.  Bad things come in threes as MacRae also has to deal with a case that drags him into the local s&m scene and a third case involving an eight-year-old killer.  Throw in a couple of cranky, childlike detective inspectors demanding overtime and loyalty, and you have a fine kettle of fish as they might say, slowly cooling in the relentless sleet that seems to torture Aberdeen half the year. 01/09 Jack Quick

BLOOD TIES by Pamela Freeman: In a world ruled by warlords, where ghosts walk amongst the living, one man is planning an act of revenge that has been generations in the making. Thousands of years ago, Acton and his troops spread throughout what would become the Eleven Domains, raping, plundering, and murdering the original inhabitants. Those who survived took to the road, becoming known from then on as the Travelers. Bramble and Ash both carry Traveler blood within them and though they lead very different lives, their fates are intertwined and their paths will finally intersect in this first book of the Castings Trilogy. This story is primarily theirs – Freeman weaves their tales together, telling their separate histories and the trials that will lead to their involvement in the events to come. Their stories are interspersed with that of Saker, the enchanter who helps to set events into motion, and others that are met along the way. This is Freeman’s first adult title and marks the beginning of what promises to be a fascinating fantasy trilogy that melds together political intrigue and magic. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

BLOOD’S A ROVER by James Ellroy: At the outset, I should warn that James Ellroy has a very distinctive writing style and a very distinctive view of the world. He has a lot of fans and they will really like this book. However, if you haven’t read anything by him before, I would recommend that you leaf through a few pages in a bookstore before you decide to buy this two pound opus rather than blindly ordering the book online. Blood’s A Rover is the final volume in Mr. Ellroy’s Underworld USA Trilogy. As with the earlier two volumes, American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, it is readable as a stand-alone story. The Trilogy, as a whole, reflects Ellroy’s distinctive view of the world or at least the United States that I mentioned above. In this view, there is no innocence, no golden age. It is a country and a time wholly populated by bent cops, perverted private detectives, the Mob and venal politicians, all powered by drugs and all out to get theirs. Blood’s a Rover covers roughly the years from the 1968 assassinations to 1974, although it begins with a flashback to an armored car holdup in Los Angeles in 1964. Ellroy, in his staccato, jazz style draws a dark picture of candidate and President Nixon allowing Howard Hughes to take over Los Vegas and the mob to penetrate the Caribbean after being evicted from Cuba. At the same time, he portrays J. Edgar Hoover, as an aging, senile “old girl” trying to infiltrate and subvert the black power movement by facilitating their entry into the drug trade. This 600+ page vision of paranoia is told in generally short sentences, consisting of impressions, some very clever and some not-so-clever wordplay, and nonstop descriptions of drugs and violence. Ultimately, everybody dies a violent death. In short, think the mind of G. Gordon Liddy writing like Jack Keruoac. I liked the book, but not without some reservations. Mr. Ellroy is a unique writer and it is important to look at the underside of the rocks in what we complacently think of as our pretty gardens. I don’t know if you have to live there though. 10/09 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BLOOD’S PRIDE by Evie Manieri: When it was discovered that the ore in the mountains of the Shadar could be forged into weapons like none other, the Norlanders took the area by force. For two decades, the Shadari have been their slaves, forced to work the mines for the Norlander governor. Now, though, the governor lies on his deathbed and his daughter Frea has control. Eofar, the governor’s son, is hiding a secret that would tear his family apart and his youngest sister Isa longs for a chance to prove herself. The time is right for a Shadari strike and they’ve banded together to hire one of the land’s most notorious mercenaries to help. The Mongrel has her own plans, however, and though the Shadari are sure to win with her by their side, they aren’t sure if they can truly count on her. Manieri’s epic fantasy debut features an interesting world and a complex set of characters. Because the story begins already in progress, much of the beginning of Blood’s Pride is a bit confusing. Fortunately, Manieri’s pacing is such that the story does progress quickly and details become clearer as the reader continues. 2/13 Becky Lejeune

BLOODLINE by Jeff Buick: Colombian Pablo Escobar is dead. Fingerprint, dental records and DNA confirm it. So how can he be withdrawing money eleven years later from an account to which he alone had access. His ex-partners want him found, so they kidnap the wife and daughter of Escobar’s cousin and give him two weeks to find Pablo or the access code for the bank account. If you ever needed reminding there is nothing glamorous about the cocaine trade, this book will do that. The opulent life styles of the drug lords combined with their willingness to do anything to maintain power is amoral. Stacks of currency, unbelievable excesses, all fueled by the snow-white cocaine. An action packed thriller about life in a country where drug lords are in control and the relatives and even casual acquaintances of those in the trade are at risk all the time. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLOODMONEY: A NOVEL OF ESPIONAGE by David Ignatius:  Much of this novel is intellectual but there is enough violence to please even the most discriminating action junkie.  A super secret CIA intelligence unit is attempting a new tactic in the war against terror.  Instead of identifying and neutralizing their opponents with force, they do it with money, lots and lots of money. In fact, the Hit Parade, as the unit is called, is earning billions through Alphabet Capital, a London hedge fund, that benefits from insider knowledge collected by the CIA and wielded for maximum financial impact.  The proceeds are then funneled to Pakistani militants in a scheme to subvert them.  What they don’t count on is one brilliant Pakistani, whose family was killed in a CIA drone strike, who is immune to their money, and in fact, sees that as just one more tool for exacting revenge against the CIA for his family. When two Hit Parade agents are unmasked and killed, Sophie Marx, a young CIA officer with an attitude is assigned to handle the situation. However, the closer Sophie gets to her quarry, the more she realizes that nothing in this gallery of mirrors is quite what it seems. An outstanding novel where the price of unchecked government is paid in blood, and peace can be bought only through betrayal. 06/11 Jack Quick

BLOODPRINT by Kitty Sewell: Madeleine Frank has effectively put her past behind her, but that doesn’t mean that she’s forgotten or that she’s even gotten over it. The death of her husband in a Florida hurricane left her devastated. Madeleine picked herself up, however, and relocated to Bath where she now practices as a psychotherapist. Her mother, a priestess of Santeria, has been institutionalized but is doing well enough and her father, a famous artist, is still going strong. Then one day Madeleine is approached by a new patient: Rachel Locklear, a woman with a dark past who is trying to free herself from an evil and domineering lover. After so long, Madeleine believes that in Rachel she may have found the daughter that she gave up for adoption so many years ago. Is it true or is Madeleine making connections where in fact none exist? Regardless, it is clear that Rachel is in some serious trouble and Madeleine may be the only one who can help her. Kitty Sewell does it again. Her debut novel, Ice Trap, was absolutely amazing and Bloodprint is equally so. Sewell builds the suspense in this tale slowly, weaving Madeleine’s own tragic past throughout,  and creating an intense psychological story that’s as rich and entrancing as its settings.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

BLOODSTONE by Nate Kenyon: An ancient evil lies waiting below the surface of quiet White Falls, Maine. Billy Smith’s nightmares have been preparing him for the danger to come and he answers the subconscious call that leads him there. Along the way, he kidnaps Angel, a woman who shares Billy’s nightmares, and brings her along for the ride. The two soon realize that although they have no idea what awaits them at the end of their journey, they do share a common bond and their once hostile relationship evolves into something more. Jeb Taylor has lived with the stain of his father’s horrible crime all his life. Now his father is dead, but his ghost won’t let Jeb be. In fact, people all over White Falls find themselves tossing and turning nightly with strange nightmares, haunted by the sins of their pasts. I guess this Stoker nominated title just wasn’t for me. First off, it reminded me way too much of another nominated title (from the same year) Sarah Langan’s The Keeper. Kenyon’s book, however, is slow to develop and left me with a feeling that there was something missing. The build-up to the final revelation is underwhelming and I still don’t really “get” what was happening. I wanted to like it but was sadly disappointed. Overall, other reviews of the book have been positive, though. 05/08 Becky Lejeune

BLOODTHIRSTY by Marshall Karp: If you haven’t read THE RABBIT FACTORY by Marshall Karp, its time to grab it. In THE RABBIT FACTORY two LAPD cops, Mike Lomax and his partner Terry Biggs, are investigating the murder of Rambunctious Rabbit, or at least the pedophile employee who wears the bunny suit at the Sherman Oaks, CA “Familyland,” a Disneyland clone. In BLOODTHIRSTY, the dynamic duo have been approached about making a movie about the Familyland case. Before they can even decide which current Hollywood hunks will play the daring pair, their would be producer, Barry Gerber, one of the most hated men in Hollywood, is a no-show for a red carpet event. The next morning he turns up dead, killed in such a bizarre way that neither Detectives Mike Lomax nor Terry Biggs nor anyone in Forensics has ever seen anything like it before. Two days later, the prime suspect – another despised show-business bad boy – is found murdered in the same sadistic manner. The list of suspects then becomes as long as the credits in a summer blockbuster. Sure its serious, I mean, as disliked as these folks are, Lomax and Biggs will never get their movie made until the killing is stopped. As their boss advises, “If you don’t solve this thing fast, I’m the guy who is gonna rip you a new asshole. You wouldn’t want that to happen would you, Biggs” “No, sir,” Terry said, “The last thing this department needs is another asshole.” Terry to Lomax, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, blah, blah, blah.” “I believe that’s for postal workers,” Lomax replies. “Post office, police department.” Terry said. “What’s the difference” We’re all just guys in uniforms toting guns.” You gotta love ‘em. 05/07 Jack Quick

BLOODY AWFUL by Georgia Evans: After killing off the vampire that terrorized their little town in Bloody Good, Alice, Peter, and their friends begin their search for the next enemy. As a werefox, nurse Gloria Prewitt has always kept her Other-ness a secret from those around here. Now, however, she will find that not only is she finally able to be herself, but her talents will come in handy in the War. The Germans’ plans may have been set back by the loss of one of their own, but their remaining minions will carry on with the mission. This time, the vamps send one of their more powerful members into Brytewood, posing as the new town baker. Alice, Gloria, and the others are not fooled, though, and immediately begin hatching a plan to save their village. As Brytewood’s group of defenders grows, more town Others are revealed. Can they prevail and save their town, or will they succumb to the evil plot that has wormed it’s way inside? This is such a fun premise for a series. I can’t wait for what’s to come, but I’m so attached to this cast of characters that I’ll be sad to see it end. The final book, Bloody Right, hits shelves next month. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

BLOODY GOOD by Georgia Evans: This first in a new and original paranormal/fantasy trilogy is one of my new favorites. It’s World War II and the tiny village of Brytewood is about to get some unwanted visitors in the form of four blood-sucking vamps sent straight from Germany. Their plan is to infiltrate the small town, hiding out as loyal British citizens, wreaking havoc and giving the Axis the upper hand in the war. Worse yet, they are being helped by internal spies. When Dr. Alice Doyle finds a man stuck in a tree and in pretty bad shape, she rushes him back to her clinic for immediate treatment. The man seemed in dire condition, but apparently he was well enough to walk away when no one was watching. Then a local farmer dies of an apparent heart attack, and Alice demands further investigation. It’s discovered that the man had been completely drained of blood. Strange and inexplicable in and of itself, but then she hears that some local livestock has also been recently drained. Alice, part pixie, has always denied the existence of her “other” blood, but now she and her friends can no longer deny that something evil has entered they quaint town. I love everything about this series: the English countryside during WWII, all of the different “others” that are making an appearance, and the perfect blend of humor, romance, mystery, and, of course, paranormal stuff. Book 2, Bloody Awful, is due out in July and book 3, Bloody Right, will be released in August. Georgia Evans is a pseudonym for paranormal romance author Rosemary Laurey. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

BLOODY HARVESTS by Richard Kunzmann: On the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, detective Harry Mason and his crew are trying to discover whether the mutilated corpse of a young child is the work of a serial killer on the loose; or the work of a cult leader practicing a tribal killing—in which children are sacrificed for their body parts in order to elicit powerful “medicine.” Mason’s police partner, Jacob Tshabalala, who is both a tribesman and a cop, is also faced with his own questions, whether the evil is emanating from a man a man or a true witch. The stress is taking a toll on the two men’s friendship which is further complicated by the presence of Nina Reading, a young reporter, and her own investigation into slave trafficking, which puts her in deep danger. What would be an interesting police procedural become even more engrossing with all the various cultural factors added in. My second South African author, with his first novel. Hopefully there will be more. 11/06 Jack Quick

BLOODY MARY by J. A. Konrath: Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels is back in this fast, funny and worthy sequel to Whiskey Sour.  This time Jack is having problems with her mother, her ex-husband, a psycho cat from hell named “Mr. Friskers”,  and her partner, who seems to be having some sort of mid-life crisis.  Not to mention a serial killer who is killing call girls but also has some sort of problem with Jack and amazing access to her personal effects.  Jack is a great character of the kind familiar to mystery lovers everywhere, the good cop with all the baggage, but somehow Konrath makes her feel fresh.  The pages fly by, the suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat, yet the laughs keep coming in this terrific, twisty thriller – don’t miss it. 07/05

BLOWBACK by Brad Thor: Scot Harvath is caught live by Al Jazeera television in an off the books operation which threatens to end his career and maybe even bring down the President. But this quickly become a side issue as the United States discovers that Al Qaedia has access to a biological weapon that only kills non-Muslims. Starting in Cyprus and then to London, Paris, Italy, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia Harvath races the clock to stop possibly the greatest challenge ever faced. Along the way he hooks up with the lovely Jillian Alcott, a major intellectual who brings focus to his efforts. Another high tension non-stop thriller from Brad Thor. You hope this is all fiction. 10/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BLOWN AWAY by Shane Gericke:  Lucille Crawford apparently drove her car into a cemetery chain-link fence after a shot to the head.  The gun is on the seat beside her, still in the car.  After meeting Commander Martin Benedetti at the scene, new cop Emily Thompson and the rest of the police there initially decide it was a suicide.  Soon they learn this is the latest of a series of murders, all of which connect to Emily   Every murder includes not only her police card but also clues which point to one of the board games she played as a child.  Eventually Emily realizes that she is the ultimate target with her fortieth birthday as the target date.  Although she is surrounded by protection the final hours before Emily’s birthday prove that police protection isn’t enough.  Through a series of flashbacks we know who the killer is well before Emily does.  Well written, but could have benefited from better editing, i.e. fewer flashbacks, later in the book, each with more substance. 05/06 Jack Quick

BLUE BLOOD by Susan McBride:  This is the first of the “Debutante Dropout” mystery series featuring Andrea (Andy) Kendricks, daughter of an old Dallas moneyed family who has banked her trust fund to live on her income as a web designer for small businesses and charitable organizations.  Molly O’Brien, Andy’s best friend from high school or as her mother refers to her, “the scholarship girl,” calls Andy for help – she’s been arrested for murdering her boss, the notorious owner of Jugs, (think of a sleazier “Hooters”) but swears she only nicked him with that big knife…Andy’s mom Cissy gets her law firm to send out a young lawyer, Brian Malone, to defend Molly, but apparently Cissy has other motives as well – this turns out to be the beginning of a hot romance for Andy (or maybe that’s my wishful thinking?)  The cops are convinced they have the murderer so they aren’t into doing any additional investigating, causing Andy to think along the lines of “what would Nancy [Drew] do?” and try and find the real murderer.  Deciding the best way to do that would be to work at Jugs, she dons her tightest jeans, stuffs her bra and throws herself on the mercy of the former Dallas cheerleader/restaurant manager and finagles her way in.  Turns out the murder victim had lots of people who wanted him dead, but Andy is determined to clear her friend regardless.  Great characters and a fast moving story make this a terrific read, and the start of what should be a terrific series. 04/04 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLUE CHEER by Ed Lynskey:  PI Frank Johnson didn’t just build a fire.  He didn’t build an oak fire.  The fire he built was aromatic red oak, lit with sappy pinecones and kindling.  How can you not enjoy this quality writing?  Johnson is living in rural West Virginia, looking for peace and quiet when a Stinger missile explodes in the air over his property.  One thing leads to another, he is beaten up, the wife of his best friend is murdered, and Johnson, an old time PI with lines like “Awaking the next morning on the cusp of the DTs, I quit drinking cold turkey, a knack the Black Irish carry in their genes” follows the trail of a cult called the Blue Cheer.  The real cheer here is that anyone who likes a good old fashioned PI novel with booze and dames, and even a shotgun pistol and mountain oysters is in for a treat.  The only jarring note is that Johnson is driving a Geo Prizm, when he ought to be in a big tired old Buick with a gas drinkin’ V-8.  Recommended.  08/07 Jack Quick

BLUE CHRISTMAS by Mary Kay Andrews: This lighthearted return to Weezie Foley and Savannah hits just the right note for a fun holiday read. Weezie’s antique business is doing well, and so is her relationship with chef Daniel, except for his aversion to Christmas. Weezie is on a mission to win the historic district’s holiday decorating contest, but has stiff competition from the gay couple across the street. Then a mysterious woman starts showing up in odd places, and things go missing from the shop and Weezie’s house. But this is a holiday story, so there is a very happy ending. Fun stuff. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathon King:  Journalist-turned-first-time-novelist King has written crime fiction with all the requisite elements of a top-notch book; slightly damaged characters, interesting setting and page-turning suspense.  Max Freeman was a cop in Philadelphia until he took a bullet in the neck, but he killed a child in the process.  Unfortunately Max is not quite as forgiving of himself as the police department was, so he quits.  He wants to be alone, and he contacts his friend Billy, a brilliant, good-looking, successful Latin lawyer in south Florida who also happens to have a stutter.  Billy arranges for him to live in a secluded shack deep in the Everglades, which gives Max exactly what he craves most; time to be alone.  I’m a long time south Florida resident, but like most area residents I’m not real familiar with the Everglades, so I just loved the descriptions in this book. The story centers around Max finding the body a baby in a canal near his shack.  He reports it to the ranger, and it turns out the cops are already on the way.  Living in isolation as he is, Max is not aware that there is a serial killer that has been hiding children’s bodies in the Glades and Max becomes their first suspect.  Soon it becomes apparent that someone is trying to set him up, and the story just starts twisting and turning like the waters of the Glades after that, culminating in a strong, although not terribly surprising ending.  This is the first book of a series; the second one comes out in April 2003. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLUE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT by Jonathon King: Eerie. Ex-Philadelphia cop Max Freeman, has retreated to an isolated cabin in the Florida Everglades, after he kills a child during an armed robbery attempt. I was in Chapter 2 of this book when I received a telephone call that a foster child my youngest son had been caring for had been killed in similar fashion. Anyway back to the book, when Freeman discovers the body of a kidnapped youngster he immediately becomes a suspected serial killer as this is the fourth similar slaying to have taken place. Helping Freeman establish his innocence is black attorney and friend Billy Manchester. The setting is James W. Hall, the writing style evocative of James L. Burke, with the sparseness we associate with Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. What is not to like. I plan to spend some more time with Mr. King and Max Freeman in the coming weeks. 04/07 Jack Quick

BLUE EYED DEVIL by Robert B. Parker: This will probably be the last western from the hand of Parker who died earlier this year and it is a good one. Wisecracking gun slinging saddle pals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are back in Appaloosa where there is literally, a new sheriff in town.  Amos Callico is as crooked as Cole and Hitch are straight and with 12 rifle-toting cops of dubious background, he thinks he has the wherewithal to handle Cole and Hitch.   Time proves how wrong he is.  Meanwhile, Cole kills the son of a prominent rancher in a fair fight, renegade Apaches plan an attack on the town, and a mysterious dandy arrives in town with a sinister agenda. As usual, Cole and Hitch are smart and resourceful and survive the trickery, gunplay, throat-cutting and general mayhem, still standing at the end.  This one is leaner than a steer being grazed on sparse grass but as pleasing as an ice cold beer after a dusty day on the trail.  Adios’ brother Parker, we will miss you and the boys. 08/10 Jack Quick

BLUE HERON MARSH by Douglas Quinn:  I picked this book because the author lives in the Albemarle Sound area of Eastern North Carolina, a place old-timers swear could have been the site of the original Garden of Eden.  I made a good choice.  Evocative of Randy Wayne White.  A forty year old murder claims additional victims in this well written first mystery effort.  Army veteran Webb Sawyer got into trouble in Serbia and has recently been released from a U. S. Army psychiatric hospital.  Amanda Eure hires Webb to exonerate her friend Clara who has been arrested for the murder by hanging of her father, Willard Haynes.  While Webb and Amanda are searching for information to prove Clara innocent, Clara kills herself.  This is too much for Amanda but Webb can’t let the matter go.  Eventually he finds four victims who died in a similar fashion to Haynes.  All had attended a private school, where forty years earlier, seven white boys, all students, had hanged a black man.  The crime was covered up and the boys never charged.  Is the victim’s son now enacting revenge, or is something else at work here?  What is truth and where is justice?  And if you find them, what do you do with them.  Nicely done debut. 11/07 Jack Quick

BLUE JUSTICE by Ilona Haus: When Daryl Eugene Wardell kidnaps her — his next victim in a long line of female prey — he thinks she is just another hooker no one will miss. He has no idea she is, in fact, a Baltimore cop working as a Vice decoy. It is up to Detective Kay Delaney, and her fellow officers to find Detective Micky Luttrell, who hopefully, is still alive. Delaney faces her toughest challenge yet in this, the third Blue outing. Not for the faint of heart. This is police work at its grittiest. 04/09 Jack Quick

BLUE MONDAY by Nicci French: Husband and wife writing team Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) kick off a new series with Blue Monday, a psychological thriller introducing psychotherapist Frieda Klein. When Klein takes on a patient from a colleague, she ends up getting embroiled in a major child abduction case. The man, Alan, claims to have vivid dreams in which he longs for a son of his own, a son who sounds a lot like the missing Matthew Farraday. Klein believes her patient may have some knowledge of the abduction—or could be responsible himself—and reluctantly brings her information to the police. It’s not until a possible connection to another abduction appears that the detective on the case begins to take Frieda seriously. With no way of knowing whether Matthew could still be alive, they find themselves racing the clock to find the boy and solve the crime. I liked Frieda and I enjoy Nicci French’s titles. I admittedly had some difficulty with Blue Monday though. The style is odd: transitions between characters were abrupt and at times awkward or almost out of place. I assume a lot of it was an attempt to set up more character development for the series as it’s not something I recall from their other books. Not a major sticking point, I enjoyed Blue Monday overall. 3/12 Becky Lejeune

BLUE MOON by Alyson Noël: It seems like everything is finally going perfectly for Ever and Damen now that Drina is gone (see book one of the Immortals series, Evermore), until Damen begins acting strangely. It starts with the loss of his powers, and then all of a sudden he has an aura. To make matters worse, he’s begun to look at Ever as though he has no idea who she is. This man, who has chased her from one life to the next, through the centuries, to be with her and share the gift of immortality, has abandoned her. And the rest of the school seems to be following. Everything has been flipped upside-down in Ever’s world, and it all coincides with the appearance of new kid Roman. The solution lies in Summerland, an alternate world that Ever has never been able to enter without Damen’s help. This time, though, their fates and his life depend on her being able to find the answers herself. Noël’s second release is sure to please fans of her bestselling debut, Evermore, and the end will leave them desperate for the next installment. It’s a creative play on the popular teen paranormal romance trend. A definite must for the young adult set. 07/09 Becky Lejeune

BLUE MOONLIGHT by Vincent Zandri: Dick Moonlight is a private investigator who has survived a suicide attempt that left a bullet fragment lodged in his brain. The side effects are memory loss and the occasional blackout, usually in the midst of a stressful situation. When he wakes up handcuffed to a larger than life ex-football player turned FBI agent on a turbulent airplane, Moonlight realizes he may be in trouble. The FBI is bringing him in to help them find a flash drive that Russian mobsters and Middle Eastern dictators are after. Moonlight had the flash drive and gave it to a cop who decided selling it to the highest bidder would make his retirement a little easier. Unfortunately, the cop hooked up with a rogue FBI agent and Moonlight’s ex, and the three of them are holed up in Florence, Italy. This is a gritty story, reminiscent of the hard boiled private eyes of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane, but with modern day sensibilities. While dark, there is quite a bit of zany humor that lightens the story. This should appeal to Ken Bruen and Lawrence Block fans.  9/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

BLUE NOWHERE by Jeffery Deaver:  Set a thief top catch a thief.  This time the thief is a computer kracker (a malicious hacker) who is stealing the lives of his victims.  Phate has managed to get into their computers and, in each case, lure them to their death.   A desperate head of the California State Police Computer Crimes Division uses the only weapon he has, convicted hacker Wyatt Gillette, to aid the investigation – against the loud protests of the rest of the division.  You don’t have to be a computer weenie to enjoy this state of the art police procedural featuring Gillette and Detective Frank Bishop, an old-school homicide cop who’s accustomed to forensic sleuthing.  This one will keep you occupied to the very last page, and completely different from the Lincoln Rhyme series. 07/09 Jack Quick

THE BLUE PLACE by Nicola Griffith:  Well written romantic suspense with a bit of a lesbian twist set in Georgia and Norway.  The descriptions were beautiful and mesmerizing, bringing the red clay of Georgia and those Norwegian fjords right into my lap.  I actually figured out whodunit, which is most unusual for me, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment any. It was recommended by Dennis Lehane, so I was very curious to see what one of my favorite authors likes to read.  I’m happy to report that I absolutely loved it.  Griffith is an interesting and multi-talented author. She won the Nebula award (for sci-fi).  Her next book, STAY, is the sequel to this one yet Griffith is shedding her “genre” label altogether and moving over to the literary side of Doubleday, edited by the extremely prestigious Nan A. Talese. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BLUE PLACE by Nicola Griffith:  The blue place is that state of mind when you know that only violence will save you, when the adrenalin is rushing, your muscles are burning, and the blood beats in your veins like champagne…Aud Torvingen is a former cop, martial artist, and Scandinavian to the core.  She is also a graduate of Georgia Tech who lives in Atlanta and is trying to find an art thief and killer.  In the process she finds and falls for Julia, a smart, beautiful art dealer mixed up in the crime.  The writing is crisp and clean and the descriptions of both Norway and Atlanta strikingly accurate.  Although much more emotional, the writing is evocative of Bruen or Parker in its terseness.  A great read, and a truly fascinating character.  Totally different from Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox, but still a truly kick ass lady.  10/07 Jack Quick

BLUE SCREEN by Robert B. Parker:  Sunny Randall meets Jesse Stone in this fast paced Spenser adventure.  Private Investigator Randall is hired by Buddy Bollen, a Hollywood producer and overall sleaze to act as bodyguard for his girlfriend Erin Flint, who is trying to become major league baseball’s first female player.  When Erin’s younger sister turns up dead in Paradise, Mass, police chief Stone joins forces with Randall to solve the whodunit.  Coincidentally both Stone and Randall are on the rebound from failed marriages which adds a great deal of spice to what otherwise is a fairly ordinary mystery. However, Parker fans can look forward to future adventures with Sunny and Jesse as sleuthing and romantic partners.  This isn’t Parker’s best work, but it may be his most lighthearted. 07/06 Jack Quick

BLUE VALOR by Illona Haus: Baltimore Homicide Detectives Kay Delaney and Danny Finnerty are drawn into an investigation unlike any they have ever worked in Haus’ second Delaney adventure. They are called upon to solve a series of brutal crimes obviously committed by a madman who has left them a human heart calling card. Haus is already working on her third book, and if she can maintain the pace, we may well have a new V .I. Warshawski, but this one is on the force, not private. 03/06 Jack Quick

THE BLUE ZONE by Andrew Gross: After five co-author billings with James Patterson, Gross takes full credit for this thriller. Benjamin Raab is a dealer in jewels and fine metals in the Bronx who gets caught up in an FBI sting operation. He has been a participant, witting or unwitting, in a Colombian dug cartel money laundering scheme, and now the FBI demands his cooperation and testimony to avoid a twenty year prison sentence. Because this is occurring in the midst of a turf war amongst the Colombians, not only is Raab’s life at stake but also that of his family. Raab goes to prison, and his family, with the exception of Kate, a 23-year old medical researcher, go into the witness security program. A year later, Kate’s choice has kept her in danger and causes her to dig further into what her father had done and why. A bit heavy handed at times, Gross is definitely a talent and with some more experience, should be a first rate addition to the ranks of thriller writers on his own. 05/07 Jack Quick

BLUES IN THE NIGHT by Rochelle Krich:  This delightful mix of romance and suspense, charismatic characters that inspire interest set in the always quirky Los Angeles, made for a really good read.  Molly Blume is a Modern Orthodox divorced crime reporter with a couple of true crime books under her belt.  She has a family that is loving and close, but not too close, and a job that she loves.  When her high school sweetheart Zack Abrams dumped her, she moved on and in fact married, albeit badly.  But Zack comes back to town as the new Rabbi of Molly’s ex’s synagogue and before you can say Yenta, they are out on a date while Molly wonders if history is going to repeat itself.  Meanwhile, Molly is intrigued by a story of a hit and run that happened in a ritzy area of town during the middle of the night, but what intrigues her most is that the woman was hit while wearing a nightgown.  While she pursues her story, the Rabbi pursues her.  Krich was thoughtful enough to include a page of pronunciations for the Yiddish scattered throughout the book, but some of the explanations inserted into the story were distracting.  Despite that minor grievance, I thoroughly enjoyed this book reminiscent of early Faye Kellerman, and I’m looking forward to the next one in this new series. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BLUETICK REVENGE by Mark Cohen: When a couple parts ways, it’s always the dog that suffers. So why shouldn’t Pepper Keane steal Prince, champion bluetick hound from Bugg, the leader of a sadistic biker gang, after Bugg’s girlfriend, the dog’s co-owner, departs with three hundred grand of the gang’s loot. How could Keane possibly have thought he would end up with a price on his head with gangs from everywhere looking for him after he agrees to babysit the girlfriend until she can be entered into the Witness Protection Program. And since Keane is looking after the girlfriend, why not accept payment from Bugg to find her. Kind of a Robert B. Parker by way of Elmore Leonard caper story in Cohen’s second Pepper Keane work. A lot of fun. 12/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BOBBIE FAYE’S (KINDA, SORTA, NOT EXACTLY) FAMILY JEWELS by Toni McGee Causey:  Bobbie Faye, the Contraband Queen and walking disaster of South Louisiana, is back and better than ever. Bobbie Faye’s latest adventure begins with a surprise visit from some of her nefarious cousins. It seems Bobbie Faye’s aunt, Marie, has gone missing with some diamonds and her estranged husband is willing to do just about anything to get them back – the diamonds, not necessarily his wife – and he’s not the only one, either. Homeland Security, gangsters, and Irish mafia all take shots at Bobbie Faye before too long, each group expressing their need to be the ones that Bobbie Faye makes her delivery to. Problem is, Bobbie Faye doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Too bad for her, though, ‘cause no one is in any mood to listen. Where Bobbie Faye goes, disaster is sure to follow and this time she’s once again leaving behind her a trail of demolished property, terrified law enforcement agents, and bankrupt insurance companies. If you like the Stephanie Plum series, you’re going to love Bobbie Faye. She’s a tough and gutsy Cajun who’s not willing to take crap from anyone – I love it. Toni McGee Causey does for South Louisiana, and my hometown, what Janet E. does for the Garden State. Highly recommended. 06/08 Becky Lejeune

BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY by Toni McGee Causey: Today, Bobbie Faye was supposed to be presiding over the opening ceremony at Contraband Days – a festival held in Lake Charles, Louisiana that plays on the pirate history of the area. Then she was scheduled to meet with Social Services to show that she is a fit guardian for her niece. Unfortunately, Bobbie Faye is a walking disaster. No, really. Bobbie Faye awakens to find that her trailer has flooded thanks to the washing machine her no-good brother was supposed to fix. Then Roy (the no-good brother) calls to say that he has been kidnapped and his captors are going to kill him unless Bobbie Faye delivers her mother’s tiara to them. Her mother, the unofficial Queen of Contraband Days, wore the tiara each year in the parade and passed both title and tiara onto her daughter when she died. Why anyone would want the tiara is a mystery to Bobbie Faye but she’ll do whatever it takes to save her brother. When Bobbie Faye goes to the bank to get the tiara out of her safety deposit box, she ends up being accused of robbing the bank. The real bank robbers steal the tiara and Bobbie Faye has to force a man at gunpoint to chase them down and it’s only 10 am. Before the day is over, Bobbie Faye will have to deal with car chases, explosions, gun runners and more than one pissed off ex-boyfriend. This hilarious debut is an absolute must read. I couldn’t stop laughing. Bobbie Faye is fantastic and fun. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

BOCA KNIGHTS by Steven M. Forman:  I couldn’t wait for this book because it was billed as a humorous suspense story set in Boca Raton, where I live.  It is humorous, in the “guy has conversations with his penis” sort of way, and it is set in Boca, but the suspense is secondary to the real story of a Boston cop who retires and moves to south Florida and has some trouble adjusting.  Eddie S. Perlmutter’s life story is the most interesting aspect to this book; grandson of a Russian with a mysterious past, blessed with a mysterious middle initial like his father that no one will explain, a mixed marriage – Eddie is Jewish and marries an Irish Catholic girl – and a decorated career on the North End of Boston, which means the Mafia makes brief appearances.  Then there is the south Florida/Boca Raton humor, reminiscent of Seinfeld – the cemetery that sells crypts and an after-life-style for upwards of a quarter of a million dollars, the country club politics, the early bird dinners.  But Forman doesn’t just poke fun at my hometown (and believe me, there is plenty to poke at), there is also subplot about the local cops and the good they do for the community.  So even though it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was a fast read, made me laugh and I’m looking forward to the sequel.  02/09 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND by Jeffery Deaver:  An interrupted 911 call leads Deputy Brynn McKenzie to the Lake Mondac weekend home of Steven and Emma Feldman.  What the rural police force doesn’t know is that Ms. Feldman is an attorney who has stumbled across major union corruption and consequently has been targeted by a professional hit man.  McKenzie survives the initial encounter with the two paid killers but loses her car, gun, and cell phone in process.  In exchange she acquires Michelle, the pampered city girl weekend house of the Feldman’s whose presence was a surprise to the two hit-men.  A lengthy cat and mouse chase ensues as the bad guys try to catch the good girls before they can get to help.  Not bad, but not up to Deaver’s usual standard.  It seemed padded and there was far too much information about Wisconsin woodlands, unless you plan to visit there later this spring. 02/09 Jack Quick

BODILY HARM by Robert Dugoni: David Slone is an attorney on the verge of winning a huge medical malpractice judgment against a pediatrician whose patient died. On his way into court, a crazed young man, Kyle Horgan, thrusts a folder into his hands saying that he’s the one who killed the child. Perplexed, Slone takes the folder and finds a design for a toy that is in pre-production testing. That folder makes Slone the target of an ex-CIA agent turned assassin, and Slone’s wife ends up murdered, thrusting his stepson into the middle of a nasty custody battle. Slone survives, determined to get his stepson back, but first he has revenge on his mind. Horgan disappears, the toy company is stonewalling trying to protect their potential moneymaker, and then another child dies, probably from the same toy. VERDICT: An intriguing premise incorporated with lots of action makes this a real page turner, but the courtroom is where the heart of this story lies. The combination of legal, corporate and even some political thrills will appeal to fans of Richard North Patterson and Joseph Finder. 05/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2010 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

THE BODY BOX by Lynn Abecrombie: This is the first of two books by Walter Sorrells using this penname, featuring a feisty African-American detective Mechelle Deakes.  Let me say first that I am mildly claustrophobic and generally avoid “buried alive”, spelunking, scuba diving or submarine books.  I also avoid those that involve child abuse or animal abuse.  However, I made an exception in this case, and am glad I did. Abecrombie is an excellent writer and his character has a lot going for her.  Deakes has been demoted to the Atlanta Police Department’s cold case unit after getting busted for buying crack, and ends up working on a series of unsolved murders in the city and surrounding areas that date back to the ’80s. Each case involves children whose bodies exhibited unusual bone decalcification, the result of malnutrition. Deakes and her shady partner, Lt. Hank Gooch are determined to solve the case. How they get there is a great police procedural. Recommended. 06/09 Jack Quick

BODY COUNT by P.D. Martin: Not a bad book at all, but overall it was slightly disappointing. When Sophie Anderson came from Australia to Washington, DC to attend FBI profiler training, she fully intended to return to her native Australia where she might even be able to uncover some evidence from the childhood murder of her brother.  However, her psychic powers quickly set her apart from her peers and led to an immediate job offer with the FBI. Now six months into her stint with the Behavioral Analysis Unit, in Quantico, Anderson gets assigned to the baffling D.C. Slasher case after Samantha “Sam” Wright, Sophie’s friend and fellow profiler, becomes one of the victims.   Complicating the situation is FBI agent Josh Marco, who may have past links to the D.C. Slasher, and who may also have romantic designs on Anderson.  Now for the bad part.  I know it would be impossible for me to accurately write anything about Melbourne or Sydney or any other Australian city, so the fact that Australian author Martin gets so much right in this book, make the few errors quite glaring and enough to “take me out” of the story. Two examples – I-95 runs through Washington, not I-75, and US television stations do not have numbers in their call signs, i.e. WX40-TV should be something like WXRA-TV.   For someone unfamiliar with Washington, these might fly right by, but for me, it became a problem. With that caveat, I do recommend the book and refuse to divulge the ending. 09/09 Jack Quick

BODY WORK by Sara Paretsky: Chicago PI V.I. Warshawski is back in her 14th adventure which focuses on her cousin Petra, the local avant-garde art scene, and a performance artist Karen Buckley (aka the Body Artist) who invites members of the audience to step on stage to paint her nude body.  Chad Vishneski, a troubled Iraqi war veteran, is disturbed by the performance and so when two nights later someone shoots the woman who upset Chad outside the club, Chad is the logical murder suspect.  Chad’s estranged parents hire Warshawski to clear their son’s name and V.I. soon finds her path stretching from Windy City’s neighborhoods to Gulf War battlefields. Anger seems to be the dominant theme though out the book although a new love interest and on-going encounters with her aging neighbor provide some needed relief.  Having just finished Barbara Fister’s Through The Cracks with her Chicago P.I. Anni Koskinen, I would love to see them pair up on a case. 10/10 Jack Quick

BOMBSHELL by Barbara and Max Allan Collins:  Max Collins has been one of my favorite authors for a long time.  In BOMBSHELL, Collins and his wife offer an extraordinary what if? look into history.  In 1959, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev comes to the U.S. to address the UN and meet with President Eisenhower.  The other two things he wants to do are visit the new Disneyland and meet Marilyn Monroe.  The mercurial Khrushchev is delighted with his Monroe meeting but incensed when his Disneyland trip is cancelled.  Marilyn helps hatch a plan to protect “Nikki,” who winds up getting his Disneyland visit after all–and with a very comely guide.  While aspects of the book read like a Doris Day movie of the era, it is all played out before the backdrop of nuclear annihilation.  If you lived through those times, you will never forget the Civil Defense films, the fallout shelters, and the very real fear that one miscalculation could send the world over the brink.  Definitely a different read and recommended. 05/09 Jack Quick

BOND GIRL by Erin Duffy: Erin Duffy’s hilarious debut offers an inside look at Wall Street from a woman’s perspective. Sure it may have seemed odd that Alex Garrett set her sights on a finance job at such a young age, but it was a goal that she stuck with. Straight out of college, Alex lands a sweet job at Cromwell Pierce, one of the biggest and best firms on Wall Street. She knows she’ll have to work her way up from the bottom, but nothing could have prepared her for the reality of the industry. From distasteful chauvinistic antics, to crazy college-style pranks, and even one cheesy punishment for showing up late, Alex experiences the worst the finance world has to offer. But the high rolling investors, late night parties, and camaraderie with her team may just help balance out the bad. While Duffy’s debut felt a bit lean on the development, it’s an amusing and quick read a la The Devil Wears Prada. The Wall Street setting makes it a bit unique and Alex is a character readers will root for all the way. 3/12 Becky Lejeune KINDLE

THE BONE HOUSE by Brian Freeman: Mark Bradley has already been accused of one crime: having a sexual relationship with one of his teenage students. Despite his claims of innocence and the girl’s own insistence that nothing happened, Bradley’s reputation has been completely blown. He’s lost his job and the townspeople aren’t ready to forget the stories they’ve heard. So when the same girl’s sister is murdered at a hotel where Mark and his wife are vacationing, he again comes under scrutiny. Hilary Bradley believes her husband is innocent, but even she has to admit that the timing and the evidence are bad. Unwilling to give up, the two know that they have to find out what really happened in order to clear Mark’s name. Freeman, known for his Jonathan Stride series, changes gears a bit with this standalone, introducing new characters but maintaining his signature plot twists, always sure to keep readers guessing until the end. 03/11 Becky Lejeune

THE BONE POLISHER by Timothy Hallinan:  Simeon Grist is a Los Angeles private detective who his beginning to sense his own mortality.   In this sixth outing, Grist is trying to solve the mystery of a serial killer whose victims are all gay.  Grist’s ostensible client is dying of AIDS and one of the few “non-suspects” in the murder of a 77 year-old former actor.  Grist gets beaten up by both the cops and bad guys but eventually solves the crime.  Nicely done, more than the usual PI tale, with its look at the meaning of age in a youth-obsessed and media-saturated culture.  Recommended.  11/08 Jack Quick

BONES BURIED DEEP by Max Allan Collins:  Based on the television show created from Kathy Reichs’ book series – Special Agent Seeley Booth is missing a confidential informant when he receives a “bag of bones”, literally a wired together skeleton dumped on the steps of the Chicago federal building.  Tempe quickly establishes that the remains come from not one but four different corpses.  A suspected serial killer is taken into custody but as Booth’s missing informant case heats up with violence and bloody discoveries, a tie to one of Chicago’s most notorious and gruesome killers emerges.  Tempe’s life is at stake now to find the solution. 07/06 Jack Quick

BONES OF BETRAYAL by Jefferson Bass: Collaborators Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson return with their latest in the Body Farm series. In this fourth installment, readers may be surprised to find that Dr. Bill Brockton’s forensic anthropology skills take a bit of a backseat. Instead, it is nearby Oak Ridge and the town’s history with the Manhattan Project that shine. It begins with the discovery of a body frozen in a hotel swimming pool. Brockton helps to recover the remains and they find that the man has died as a result of deadly radiation poisoning thanks to a tiny iridium pellet in the man’s guts, a pellet still packed with enough radiation to have near fatal results on the medical examiner working on the body. Brockton goes along as the investigators on the case search the dead man’s house hoping to find something that will lead to the killer. They are shocked, however, when the search leads to evidence of yet another murder, only this one is from he 1940s. At they try to unravel the two cases, they find that everything leads back to the secrets that are woven around Oak Ridge and the facility involved with creating the world’s deadliest weapon. I loved this book. As with the other books in the series, the science in this book is the star, and it’s absolutely fascinating.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest: Steampunk, according to Wikipedia, is an offshoot of fantasy and sci-fi that takes place in a time “where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era England.” And it’s everywhere. It’s in books, movies, and video games, and I’ll bet most people don’t recognize it. But it’s fantastic. Boneshaker is the first in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century steampunk world. In this alternate history, 1880s Seattle has been destroyed by a giant drill called Dr. Blue’s Incredible Boneshaking Drill Engine. It was designed to make gold mining in the northwest easier. Instead, its fateful first run tore through the city, releasing a gas that infected any and all in its path, transforming people into the walking dead. The thick cloud of Blight, as the yellow gas is called, was effectively cut off with the wall that now surrounds the city. Briar Wilkes and her son, Zeke, live outside the wall, haunted by their connection to Blue. But Zeke has found a way into the city and is determined to clear his father’s name. And now Briar will once again have to face her past, and the place that was once her home, in order to save her son before it’s too late. Priest is an excellent storyteller. A definite must read for anyone and everyone, sci-fi fan or no. From cover to cover, readers will find themselves entranced and wholly engaged by Briar’s journey to find her son. 12/09 Becky Lejeune

BONEYARD by Michelle Gagnon:  FBI special agent Kelly Jones was all set to go on vacation when she was asked to look into a possible serial killer case on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and Massachusetts.  The case is complicated because both officers from both states are involved and definitely do not see eye to eye.  It appears initially that the victims are all male prostitutes.  But these problems pale when it becomes apparent that there is a copycat killer at work as well.  Nicely plotted and interesting all the way to the end as Kelly races to save more victims from the bone yard.  10/08 Jack Quick

BONEYARD by Michelle Gagnon:  FBI agent Kelly Jones is back in an explosive follow-up to last year’s The Tunnels. Jones is about to embark on a much needed vacation when she is assigned to head up an investigation in Massachusetts. It seems a mass grave has been discovered in a state park and remains are found strewn across the Vermont border. It’s up to Jones to determine whether this is an interstate crime and if the feds should take over altogether. Unfortunately for Kelly, some of the locals seem to be less than cooperative in the case. Complicating matters further is the fact that ever since the events of The Tunnels, Kelly is finding that her motivation and passion for her job have been waning. She eventually determines that the locals can handle the case with just some coordinating help and decides to stick around until the end. The case takes an odd turn, however, with the discovery of even more bodies, and the team determines that they may be dealing with not one, but two serial killers. The question becomes this: can Kelly keep it together long enough to unravel the truth, or will these two mad men add even more victims to their growing lists. I find Kelly Jones to be one of the most captivating new characters in mystery. Her colored past and her emotional struggles, combined with the fact that she’s feisty and smart as hell, make her very real and easy to sympathize with. With just two books behind her, Michelle Gagnon has already proven herself to be one of the strongest new voices to the genre. Her characters and her intelligent plots make for truly addictive reading that will keep you awake long after midnight. 07/08 Becky Lejeune

BOOBY TRAP by Sue Ann Jaffarian:  Gentlemen prefer blondes and so does the serial killer labeled the Blonde Bomber who has already claimed four victims, all well-endowed long legged attractive flaxen haired ladies.  Odelia Grey, the plus sized middle aged sleuth, is ambushed first by a messy chicken parmigiana sub and then by her luncheon companion’s bombshell of her own.  For reasons she won’t go into, Lillian suspects her son, Dr. Brian Eddy, plastic surgeon to the rich and famous, is possibly the serial killer?  Odelia would never have suspected Dr. Eddy, but now that his name has come up, she decides to stick her big nose into the case, but not until she attacks the marinara stains on he blue blouse.  New husband Greg and dog Wainwright, friends Zee and Seth, Detective Dev Frye, and her boss Mike Steele, all get involved in this, her most complex case yet.  So warm up the mac and cheese and get settled in. After all, it isn’t every day a 2x lady gets measured for an XXXX stripper’s outfit. 03/09 Jack Quick

THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS by Michael Gruber: Fire damage at an antiquarian bookstore leads to what could be the most important literary discovery of all time in this new intellectual thriller by Gruber. When aspiring film student Albert Crosetti and his coworker Carolyn Rolly take home some damaged merchandise from Sidney Glaser Rare Books with orders to break the books and save the prints for sale, they never expected that it would land them in a whirlwind of trouble and intrigue. The two find a group of letters hidden in the binding of one of the books written by a man named Bracegirdle who claims to have spied on William Shakespeare. In these letters, his final correspondence to his wife, he claims to have knowledge of a hidden manuscript written by Shakespeare himself. The timeline of the letters seems to suggest that this could be a previously unknown play. Crosetti realizes that he is sitting on a potential goldmine and at Carolyn’s suggestion brings the letters to a well-known Shakespeare expert for authentification. Crosetti comes to believe that he and Carolyn could be in some serious trouble as a result of their discovery, and he agrees to sell the Bracegirdle letter to the man. Fortunately, he keeps a copy along with the remaining documents, some ciphered letters that also accompanied this letter to Bracegirdle’s wife. Said Shakespeare expert then takes the letter to Intellectual Property lawyer Jake Mishkin. Soon, the expert is found tortured and killed and Mishkin finds himself being threatened by Russian mafia. Gruber, who was once the ghostwriter for Robert Tanenbaum, made his own debut on the thriller scene with the Jimmy Paz trilogy (Tropic of Night.) This new release further proves that he truly is a brilliant and original voice that deserves to be recognized. 04/07 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF FATE by Brad Meltzer: A word of caution: don’t start this book unless you have time to finish it – you won’t be able to put it down.  Wes Holloway is a young, cocky rising political star and aid to the President of the United States, until an assassination attempt is made.  President Manning is unhurt, but his deputy chief of staff, Ron Boyle, is killed, and Holloway takes a bullet to the face.  He survives but is permanently disfigured, both physically and emotionally.  And that’s just the opener.  Things become more complicated some years later when Holloway surprises an intruder who appears to be none other than the dead Ron Boyle. Throw in a psychotic murderer who believes the Freemasons have plotted to kill his mother and some unsavory political types, if you can imagine such a thing, and honey, the plot thickens.  The Book of Fate is a fast paced, suspenseful novel of political intrigue that will keep you on the edge of your seat until you turn the last page. And don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end, it’s fascinating.  Note for south Floridians –  see if you can find the reference to the popular morning radio show hosts, Paul and Young Ron.  09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A BOOK OF HORRORS, edited by Stephen Jones: This latest anthology edited by Stephen Jones features all new, original stories from the likes of Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Michael Marshall Smith, John Ajvide Lindqvist, and a slew of others. In Peter Crowther’s “Ghosts With Teeth” a couple returns home to find something strange is happening in their little town. A father and son experience terror like no other in John Ajvide Lindqvist’s “The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer.” A recently widowed man returns to England in hopes of connecting with his dead wife’s past in Elizabeth Hand’s “Near Zennor” and a nurse discovers pain can be a real monster in Stephen King’s “The Little Green God of Agony.” From ghosts and monsters to other dimensions, these fourteen tales return to the roots of horror. This is one of the best horror collections I’ve read in a while. An absolute must have for any horror fan, and one that will definitely leave you in the mood for more. 9/12 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF ILLUMINATION by Mary Ann Winkowski and Maureen Foley: Anza O’Malley has a very special talent: she can see and speak to the dead. She’s recently left that life behind, however, and has been focusing her attentions on being a good mother and working as a bookbinder. When a friend of a friend, a fellow bookbinder, calls with a problem, though, Anza agrees to meet with her and see what she can do to help. The woman in question is working on restoring some books from a collection belonging to the estate of a recently deceased man. Much of the collection is being housed at the Anathaeum, in Boston, and one book in particular seems to have come with some unexpected bonus material. The bookbinder believes that the tome is a very valuable illustrated piece called The Book of Kildare, and it seems that the monks originally responsible for creating the book are now haunting the Anathaeum. Anza is sure that she can help them cross over, but the text is stolen before she is able to do anything. Now she will have to help find the manuscript before it is sold on the black market, or worse, destroyed and sold off in pieces. The Book of Illumination is the first in a new series coauthored by Winkowski—producer and basis for the Ghost Whisperer tv show—and Foley. A light mystery with a paranormal twist, and overall a very enjoyable read.  11/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF LIES by Brad Meltzer:  Brad Meltzer has been one of my favorite thriller writers since his first book, The Tenth Justice, which still ranks as one of the best legal thrillers out there.  He’s done other things, like graphic novels, and with The Book of Lies, he combines his interest in the two into a fascinating story that spans history as we know it. He raises questions and seeks answers; we all know Cain slew Abel, but what was the murder weapon?  And is the mark of Cain necessarily a bad thing?  Swing ahead to the 1930’s when Jerry Siegel’s father was shot to death, yet the case was never solved and the murder weapon never found.  The traumatized Siegel created the world’s first bullet-proof man, who we all know as Superman.  And then to today, when Cal Harper drives around Fort Lauderdale helping the homeless.  One stop brings Cal face to face with the father he’s hasn’t seen since he was a child, when his father was convicted of killing his mother.  Meltzer manages to tie these stories together along with a hard look at father/son relationships in a fascinating read that is more mystery than thriller, more psychological than just action-packed. The Book of Lies is an unforgettable tale from a very gifted storyteller. I couldn’t put it down.  09/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BOOK OF LIES by Brad Meltzer:  Ever wonder what Superman and Cain have to do with one another? Brad Meltzer’s latest ties the two together in one strange but entertaining thriller. It seems that Superman co-creator Jerry Seigel’s father died under somewhat mysterious circumstance in 1932. The case was never solved but proved to be the inspiration for Book of Lies. Calvin Harper is not an avid Superman collector but when his father, last seen by Cal nineteen years ago, turns up having been shot and carrying a delivery that yields a very rare copy of the first ever Superman comic, Cal decides that this is one adventure he must follow through to the end – especially since it could mean clearing his own name in regards to the murder of a federal agent. A fun twist of superhero lore and Biblical history. 09/08 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES by M.J. Rose: The L’Etoile family has been a well-known name in the perfume business for generations. Now, it has fallen to siblings Jac and Robbie to save the company from disastrous failure. Their father has lost his mind and the debts have been piling up for years. Jac is certain the only solution is to sell two of their signature scents, but Robbie believes he could be onto a breakthrough that will not only save them, but also put the L’Etoile name back at the forefront of the industry. Before he can convince Jac and complete his work, Robbie disappears and a dead body is discovered in his workroom. Now it’s up to Jac to find her brother and maybe unravel a mystery that’s lasted through generations of L’Etoiles. The Book of Lost Fragrances continues the series begun with The Reincarnationist but can also be read as a stand alone. As always, Rose’s attention to detail and research is clear. From ancient Egypt and the Tibetan belief system to the French catacombs and the history of perfumes, each element of the book is fascinating and adds to the overall depth of the plot. 4/12 Becky Lejeune

THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly: It is 1939 and David’s mother has finally succumbed to a disease that has ravaged her body for years. Shortly thereafter, David’s father remarries and moves himself and his son into his new wife’s home. Within a year, David is a big brother. Something strange and secret also happens to David this year. David has always been intrigued and enthralled by books; his favorite books of all are fairy stories. Now, he can hear them speak. Each and every book in existence has a voice and only David can hear them. He also begins to black out for no apparent reason. One night, David follows his mother’s voice into the garden. He soon finds himself in a land where trees bleed and wolfmen roam, where twisted versions of his favorite fairy tales live and breathe. This fairy tale for adults, similar in some cases to The Wizard of Oz, makes for a magical and entertaining story. The book also contains some revamped versions of classic fairy tales and I can honestly say that I will never look at Little Red Riding Hood the same again. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

THE BOOK OF TOMORROW by Cecelia Ahern: Tamara Goodwin’s life has been completely turned upside down. Her father is dead and her mother has retreated into herself, sleeping all day and barely talking at all. They have even lost their home and have been forced to move to the country to live with Tamara’s aunt and uncle. When a mobile library stops by one day, Tamara picks out a book for distraction. But this book isn’t any regular book. It’s a diary—a diary that begins to show Tamara her future, one day at a time. Tamara discovers that it’s within her power to change that future… if she chooses to do so. Cecelia Ahern can always be relied on to deliver a great story. This one was a little different than I’d expected. Some of her past books have had the same touch of magic, but Book of Tomorrow was a little darker than I’ve seen from Ahern before. No less fantastic, though. I especially loved the teen protagonist. 1/11 Becky Lejeune

BOOKED TO DIE by John Dunning:  This is a fascinating look at the rare book business with murders thrown in to make in even more interesting.  First in a series featuring cop-turned-bookseller Cliff Janeway.  Next up: The Bookman’s Wake. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BORDER LORDS by T. Jefferson Parker: This week in Birmingham, Alabama two police officers were found not guilty of violating a felon’s civil rights for actions taken when they arrested him after a half hour plus high speed chase through the city which included almost wrecking a school bus loaded with children and striking a police officer with his van while the officer was attempting to place spike strips on the Interstate (the policeman lived with two broken legs and likely an end to his career, the felon is serving 20 years for that part of the episode).  ATF undercover agent Sean Ozburn, a close friend of LS sheriff’s deputy Charlie Hood, may have a more difficult time in convincing the jury.  After 15 months undercover, Ozborn has apparently gone rouge, invading a safe house under ATF surveillance and killing four young North Baja Cartel gunmen. Ozborn’s wife shares with Hood e-mails that indicate her husband “has been called by GOD to fulfill a MISSION” and indicates he may have begun taking performance enhancing drugs. Hood knows he has to bring Ozburn in, but his efforts are complicated by the wife’s attempting to save her husband. The porousness of the U.S.-Mexico border and the ease with which guns, drugs, and killers pass back and forth is nowhere better illustrated than in Parker’s Charlie Hood series. Although other writers have amply covered the drug trade, no one that I am aware of has addressed corollary gun issue to the extent of Parker. An excellent read, although it reinforces the fact that there is little hope the Mexican drug trade will be contained anytime in the near future when it is Mexico’s largest economic activity, supported by a thriving US contribution in the form  of weapons and drug users. 02/11 Jack Quick

THE BORN QUEEN by Greg Keyes: The fourth and final installment in Keyes’s epic Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series is here and all will finally be revealed. Anne Dare has taken the throne and declared war on the church and all of its followers leaving her own mother hostage at the hands of the neighboring kingdom of Hansa whose ruler has been harboring the usurper Robert. The natural law and order of death has been broken and Leoff and his young pupil Mery must try and set things right and in order to help defeat Anne’s enemies. Meanwhile, Cazio the swordsman, has discovered that opposing forces have infiltrated the kingdom without Anne’s knowledge. Aspar, the King’s woodsman has been fighting mythical beasts that have been unleashed in the forests, and Stephen, the scholar, has finally uncovered the ancient diary of Anne’s ancestor, the first queen, Virgenya. All of their discoveries could help Anne finally restore peace to her kingdom. Prophecies foretold ages ago are finally coming to be as this amazing fantasy series comes to its end. Mythology, political machinations, action and adventure, and fantastical beasts – this series has it all. Keyes handles his multi-layered plot with ease, shifting from character to character without losing steam and always maintaining their individual voices. It’s easy, even for non-fantasy readers, to get completely sucked into these books. Epic fantasy has never been better. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

BORN TO RUN by James Grippando:  Miami criminal defense lawyer Jack Swyteck gets caught in a dangerous web of intrigue and murder at the top levels of the United States government in his most high-profile and disturbing case yet.  Son of two-term Florida governor Harry Swyteck, much of Swyteck’s life is public knowledge, in spite of Jack’s efforts to maintain some family secrets.  When Harry’s friend, the vice president of the United States, goes hunting for alligators in the Everglades and winds up dead, the president positions Harry to be his new VP.  In spite of some previous family discord, Harry immediately asks Jack to be his lawyer.  The prestige that comes from the job turns lethal, however, when Jack finds himself at the heart of a complicated cover-up that spans nearly fifty years and the globe.  The very life of the President of the United States is at risk.  A real page-turner. 01/09 Jack Quick

THE BORROWER by Rebecca Makkai: This is a quirky debut novel about a children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri. Lucy Hull graduates from college with a degree in English, and isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do with her life. She ends up in this job courtesy of a fellow alumni, and really seems to enjoy her job. She is especially fond of Ian, a ten year old boy who is a voracious reader. He also seems to strike most adults as a child most likely to grow up homosexual, which upsets his fundamentalist Christian mother. She takes him to Pastor Bob for classes in preventing the “gayness,” which upsets Lucy to no end. The mom also restricts Ian’s reading to avoiding books about “Satanism…adult content matter…authors like Harry Potter” [sic]. Lucy helps Ian sneak out books that he actually wants to read by checking them out on her own card while he hides them down his pants. Eventually, Ian decides to run away and of course he ends up at the library, where he basically blackmails Lucy into helping him. They hit the road for a surreal trip which is highlighted by the author’s liberal insertions of familiar prose – she rewrites children’s classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight, Moon so that the words are hers and fit this story, but the cadence is immediately recognizable to parents and children’s librarians. I read this book in one sitting, often laughing out loud and reading bits out loud to my family. I thoroughly enjoyed this and heartily recommend it to children’s librarians and booksellers everywhere. 12/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BOSTON NOIR 2 (THE CLASSICS) edited by Dennis Lehane: Who better than Mr. Lehane to edit an anthology of stories about his native Boston – and what stories there are. A rare gem from Robert B. Parker featuring an early adventure of Spenser, joined by an outing of Carolotta Carlyle (Linda Barnes cop-turned-private detective). Add in Joyce Carole Oates, David Foster Wallace and George V. Higgins, among others, and you have an outstanding collection from Akashic. 1/13 Jack Quick

BOUND by Sally Gunning: In 2006’s The Widow’s War, Gunning introduced readers to Lyddie Berry, a woman whose husband is killed in a whaling accident. The book takes place in eighteenth century New England and Berry, a woman who craves independence in a time when women were supposed to be quiet and submissive, is a compelling character. Berry and Freeman, her lawyer companion, appear again in Bound. This is not their story, though. Bound is about Alice Cole, a girl who is traded into indentured servitude at the age of seven. Her contract is to end when she is eighteen, and she is to be taught to read and taken care of by her master until that time. At first, things are not so bad and Alice is treated like one of the family. When she is fifteen, Alice is given to her master’s daughter and son-in-law. Alice is abused by both her new master and mistress and finds herself faced with two options, stay and endure it, or run. She chooses to run and soon makes the acquaintance of Berry and Freeman. Berry takes her in and gives her a job, but Alice’s new peaceful existence soon comes to a very dramatic end. Set amidst the turmoil of the beginnings of the American Revolution, Gunning again brings to the forefront the issue of women’s rights, or lack thereof, in colonial America as well as that of indentured servitude, and rape. A moving read filled with captivating characters. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

BOX 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom:  Some of the words evoked by this book are – ruthless, cruel, cold, despair.  I didn’t enjoy it so much as I survived it.  Yes it is well written.  The characters are very lifelike, too much so, in some cases, in this U.S. debut of addiction, sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse, and revenge set in Stockholm’s seedy underworld.  The protagonist is Ewert Grens, a veteran detective whose police officer wife is an invalid due to the actions of one notorious criminal Jochum Lang, whom Grens vows to put away for life.  Meanwhile, the detective arrives at a crime scene where a teenage prostitute, Lydia Grajauskas, has been nearly beaten to death by her Russian pimp.  Throw in Hilding Oldeus, a junkie, and Lydia’s friend Alena who, like Lydia, was lured from Lithuania to Sweden only to become sex slaves, and you have a cast that would depress a saint.  I would recommend this one only on a bright sunshiny summer day. In the dead of winter it could be devastating. 11/09 Jack Quick

THE BOY FROM REACTOR 4 by Orest Stelmach: This debut thriller takes the reader from New York to the Ukraine. Nadia Tesler is an immigrant’s daughter, and while she is fluent in the language, she is not close with her mother, and lost her father as a young teenager. All she remembers of him is a perpetually angry man, and she knows nothing of her family background. A stranger contacts her saying he knew her father well and they arrange a meeting, but he is shot dead on the street in front of her, whispering a cryptic message in her ear as he dies. She quickly realizes her own life is in danger, and sets out on a quest to decipher the message, learn some of her family history and keep one jump ahead of whoever is after her. It isn’t until she visits her ancestral homeland that she really starts deciphering her family story.  She meets Adam, a young hockey star who grew up skating at Chernobyl and suffers from radiation syndrome, but has a secret that many want – and will kill to get. This is a fast ride with lots of thrills and will appeal to adrenaline junkies.  3/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne: Ostensibly a book for young adults, it is nonetheless a powerful story for all readers; in fact, I’m not sure children would even get all the subtleties and nuances of this story.  The title gives a hint as to the substance of the book, it is a Holocaust story, but it is told from the perspective of a nine-year-old German boy named Bruno.  Bruno’s father is a high ranking military officer and they live in luxury in Berlin.  One night the “Fury” comes to dinner, and Bruno’s life is turned upside down when his father receives a promotion to Commandant and the family is forced to move to “Out-With”.  They live in an isolated house and a tutor is brought in for Bruno and his sister.  But from his window Bruno can see a barbed-wire fence surrounding a large area that he assumes to be a farm. Eventually, even though he is forbidden from doing so, his boredom and loneliness drive him to explore his surroundings.  He follows along the fence and finds a young boy sitting on the other side, wearing striped pajamas and no shoes.  Separated by barbed wire, Bruno and the boy, Shmuel, start talking and find they have much in common.  They are the same age, in fact they share the same birthday, and they become friends through the fence.  But to tell more of the story would be doing the book a disservice. For it is in the telling of the story, in the way it unfolds, that completely captures the imagination and the heart, yet it is a maleficent, devastating story that is finally unfurled.  It is a book to be read in one sitting, then shared.  It is a book that has haunted me since I read it a few months ago, and I suspect will haunt me for quite some time to come.  09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BOYOS by Richard Marinick:  Jack “Wacko” Curran and his coked-out brother, Kevin, work for mob boss Marty Fallon, wholesaling drugs to a network of area dealer in and around “Southie,” South Boston’s working-class Irish-American enclave.  Local “boyos” like Curran resent the steady influx of young working professionals, who are gentrifying the area and pricing the old-time residents out.  Jack dreams of replacing Fallon and figures that the bankroll from the armored-car heist he’s planning will put him on his way.  What he doesn’t know is that Danny King, Curran’s getaway driver, has spilled the beans to Fallon.  Meanwhile, the police are systematically raiding the Irish mob joints in Southie and the Italians are hungry for revenge.  Written by a one-time Southie gang member and ex-con, you can cut the tension with a knife.  It’s not Robert B. Parker, but it’s in the neighborhood. 02/07 Jack Quick

THE BRACELET by Roberta Gately: Gately brings her real life as a humanitarian aid worker and nurse into the realm of fiction in the guise of United Nations nurse Abby Howell. She is on her way to her first assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan but has a layover in Geneva first.  There she witnesses a woman falling to her death, but the body is gone when the police arrive. Abby is haunted by the woman’s death, especially of the distinctive bejeweled bracelet on the dead woman’s arm.  She arrives in Peshawar to track statistics on the UN vaccination program, but quickly meets a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who is supposedly there to interview the American nurse braving the politically unstable Pakistan. In reality, he is there to write an expose about human trafficking, a horrific story but one that may have been better served by the author showing instead of just telling.  There is a tepid romance between the reporter and the nurse, and just enough suspense to keep the pages turning, but it is the realities of life in Pakistan that is at the heart of this story. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission

BRANDENBURG by Glenn Meade: Originally published in May of 1998 and now reissued in a paperback edition, the background and circumstances depicted in the original hardcover are more in keeping with today’s economic and political conditions than in 1998. Against the backdrop of world wide economic problems, joblessness, monetary crisis and political unrest, Joseph Volkmann, an international policeman is given the name of a German reporter, Erica Kranz, as the person that has information concerning murders he is investigating in different parts of the world. Volkmann contacts Erica who willingly tells him what she knows about the crimes and asks that he investigate the murder of her cousin in Asuncion, Paraguay. Volkmann obliges and with her aid begins the lengthy process of uncovering what is in reality an amazingly well thought out plot to change the political situation in the world. Meade delivers the scenario of this plot for the reader in a crescendo of events taking place in many different countries in South America, Europe and the United States. There are no haphazard twists and turns to the story, but a logical series of related events leading to one of the most amazing climaxes possible. This is a work of fiction, but it will be impossible for anyone reading it not to immediately recognize conditions described with actualities of today. That romantic feelings develop between Volkmann and Erica is certainly expected, and may allow future books based on International crime and detection to pair them again and will be welcomed by anyone reading Brandenburg. 4/13 Paul Lane

THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly:  Connelly is probably the best crime fiction writer today, and somehow he just keeps getting better and better.  Fans of his long running Harry Bosch series were nonetheless enthralled when he wrote The Lincoln Lawyer, more of a legal thriller featuring a new character, Mickey Haller.  But close readers and long time fans realized that there was a relationship between Haller and Bosch, and in The Brass Verdict, these two characters come face to face, on opposite sides of the table of course.  Haller has been laying low, recovering from a painkiller addiction and is tentatively stepping back into the law business when he inherits a high profile murder case; Walter Elliot is a Hollywood movie mogul accused of murdering his wife and her lover.  Elliot’s lawyer, Jerry Vincent, is murdered and Haller is appointed to replace him.  Harry Bosch is on the case of the murdered lawyer and Haller & Bosch get to know one another.  Great characters and a fast paced yet complex storyline keep the pages flying in this second Haller book and fourteenth Bosch book.  Great fun and a great read.  10/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly:  I work in the newspaper business and am eagerly anticipating reading Connelly’s latest – SCARECROW  featuring Jack McEvoy, the LA Times reporter from THE POET who is being downsized from his job.  That is the reality of being in the newspaper business today. I have enjoyed all of Connelly’s previous Harry Bosch efforts but feel that THE LINCOLN LAWYER, with Mickey Haller, may have, in fact been his best ever.  Now, Mickey Haller is back.  His friend and fellow attorney Jerry Vincent is murdered, and Mickey inherits all Vincent’s cases, including a career-maker: the trial of a studio executive accused of killing his wife and her lover. Imagine my delight 46 pages in to learn that, in fact, Harry Bosch is the detective working the Vincent murder, and then on page 59, guess who shows up?  Jack McEvoy.  To say much more might introduce plot spoilers.  Let me just say if you enjoy good legal thrillers, this one is for you.  If you like police procedurals this one is for you.  If you like good writing, this one is for you.  If you like interesting characters, well, you get the point. 06/09 Jack Quick

BRAVA, VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani: This is the fabulous sequel to last year’s wonderful Very Valentine. Trigiani says she tries to write each book to also stand alone, and I think she succeeds to a point, but these characters are so much richer for having known their history with the first book. Valentine Roncalli has a struggling shoe business that receives a life-saving infusion when her brother Alfred becomes her partner. Neither is thrilled with the deal, but it is what it is and they get to work on growing the family business. Along the way Valentine finds a long lost family member in Buenos Aires, and there’s another trip to Tuscany as well for the globe trotting shoemaker. Love is in the air from an unlikely source, but love doesn’t happen easily for Valentine, and that leaves the door wide open for the next book in this series; sad to say we have to wait another year for that. Meanwhile, grab up this captivating, fun and funny family story and enjoy every page. It’s truly a delight. 02/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BRAZEN BRIDE by Stephanie Laurens:  This is book 3 of the “Black Cobra” series set during the early 1800’s in England. Not sure why I picked this up as I’m just not a fan of romance novels, but I feel like I should try them every now and then. The basic premise of the book is that Linnet Trevission, a gorgeous woman who lost both her parents and inherited all their property and businesses, likes to save people, so when Logan Monteith literally washes up on Guernsey’s shore, Linnet nurses him back to health, healing his wound and his amnesia. Before that happens, Linnet decides he should repay her hospitality by teaching her about sex. Yes, she turns our hero into her sex toy.  The first half of the book alternated between daily activities and nightly passion. Finally he remembers he’s on a dangerous mission, and off he goes, taking Linnet along. She is the most emancipated, independent 1800’s woman, and meets several more like-minded women on her journey. Meanwhile Logan and Linnet fall in love after having all that amazing sex, and they get their happily ever after. I always thought part of the romance formula was that there is supposed to be some sort of impediment to that happening, but it was so weak as to be pretty much nonexistent. The cliff hanger ending, and I use the term loosely, has nothing to do with their romance, but rather with this “Black Cobra” insanity, all of which was pretty boring and repetitive and will be forthcoming this fall in the next book of the series. The sex was hot but the book was not. 07/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BREACH OF TRUST by David Ellis: Dirty politics, Chicago style, is front and center in this sequel to Ellis’s acclaimed series debut, The Hidden Man. Jason Kolarich, still grieving the loss of his wife and baby daughter in a car accident, decides to pursue what happened that night; he feels guilty that he wasn’t with his family because he was waiting for a call from Ramirez, an informant. Ramirez was also killed that night, and Kolarich decides that solving that case may bring him some peace. He starts digging and, through a former client, finds his way into a lucrative contract as a state attorney to get closer to the files he needs. The next thing he knows, he’s in the middle of an FBI investigation of the governor. Forced into a position he never sought, Kolarich turns informant as he works his way into the governor’s innermost circle while searching for Ramirez’s killer. VERDICT The reality of ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s trial (Ellis was the impeachment prosecutor) lends credibility to this intense, suspenseful tale set in a political cesspool. Ellis has turned out a sharp political thriller that should appeal to fans of David Baldacci and Vince Flynn. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2011 Library Journal, a division of Media Source Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

BREACH OF TRUST by D. W. Buffa: San Francisco trial lawyer Joseph Antonelli.  is approached by former classmate Thomas Browning, heir to a legendary Detroit auto empire and lately vice president of the United States  to defend another classmate, Jimmy Haviland, who is going to be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for the murder of a beautiful law student who fell from an eighth-floor window during a Christmas Eve party in 1965.  Because of his loyalty to his classmates, Antonelli reluctantly takes the case, which is being prosecuted by an ambitious Brooklyn Catholic district attorney. The national political implications of this case go all the way to the White House.  Nicely done.  11/11 Jack Quick

BREAKPOINT by Richard A. Clarke: The Internet has ushered in a new age, but it has also brought new possibilities for disaster.  Its 2012 and someone has crippled access to the Internet world wide by blowing up key facilities in the United States which have heretofore only been lightly guarded.  Add in a computer program called Living Software, designed to surge across the Internet, invent new software and clean up past mistakes on its own, without any human help and a group called the Transhumanist Movement, where children with extraordinary new chromosomes are being grown.   The results are fascinating but frightening.  Well written with enough detail to keep even the non-technocrat interested.  It’s all logical and which makes it even more scary. Recommended. 04/09 Jack Quick

BREAKING GLASS by Joe Kosiewska:  The aptly named Looking Glass Bar and Restaurant is a front for Stan Glass, information specialist and professional paranoid.  Businessman David Ringer is killed shortly after hiring Glass, whose initial investigation reveals two David Ringers.  Then Glass is accosted by two mob types and his long-time friend Eddie Dedman, a private investigator and former operative for the CIA who had referred David Ringer to him in the first place, is also killed.  Glass has to find out what he has stumbled into in order to save his own life from the mob and from Dedman’s wife Angela who shows up with a gun demanding answers.  Glass has secrets of his own having spent the last decade incognito, shifting from town to town and identity to identity in an effort to stay one step ahead of the vague government and corporate agencies pursuing him.  Although it stretches credibility, it is a fun read, and who knows, may be the blue print for the P.I. of the future, who carries a laptop instead of a gat. 12/07 Jack Quick

BREAKING SILENCE by Linda Castillo: Police Chief Kate Burkholder returns in this latest thriller from Castillo. A rash of hate crimes against the Amish has the local PD on their toes. As the crimes escalate, Burkholder is called to the scene of what seems to be a terrible accident: three members of a local farming family dead and four children orphaned. Kate is no stranger to tragedy, but it’s the children that get to her the most. Then the accident is determined to be a possible homicide and Kate has to wonder if it could be connected to the recent string of crimes—if it’s possible that their local criminal has now turned to murder. Castillo never shies away from controversial topics or violence. This third of the series maintains the momentum set by the first two installments: great pacing and a nice balance of character development to move along the series. 06/11 Becky Lejeune

A BREATH OF EYRE by Eve Marie Mont: What if you found out you could travel into the pages of a book? Emma Townsend is faced with just this question. It’s a new year at Lockwood, the exclusive prep school Emma attends on scholarship. For her English lit essay of the year, Emma has chosen Jane Eyre. Though it was her mother’s favorite book, this year will be the first time Emma has read the classic. When an accident after a party lands her in the middle of Jane’s tale, Emma is certain it’s a trick of her mind. But after spending more time in the story, she begins to be part of it herself. As she travels back and forth, she must decide if the allure of Jane’s world might be more compelling than the future her own world holds for her. This latest from Mont is an interesting way to present teen issues: Emma is faced with challenges of loyalty, friendship, family, and the uncertainty of what’s to come but in a fresh and interesting way. A Breath of Eyre is the first in a new teen trilogy and each new title incorporates a different classic. 4/12 Becky Lejeune

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon: Fans of the series will be very happy with this sixth installment that is well worth the weight, and that is no typo.  This is a doorstopper of a book and at 992 pages tightly packed pages, it may be the bargain of the year.  If you haven’t read Gabaldon yet, skip this review and head right out and start with Outlander.  For everyone else, run out and buy this one.  Jamie, Claire, Brianna & Roger are all living on Fraser’s Ridge on the eve of the American Revolutionary War and in Gabaldon’s extraordinary hands, a fascinating time it was.  Gabaldon has done her usual impeccable research and the story is simply mesmerizing.  These are characters that I enjoy spending time with; I laugh with them, I cry with them and now I will be impatiently waiting for the next (last?) book. 09/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BREATHE by Sarah Crossan: Earth’s oxygen levels have been all but depleted, making it impossible for humans to breathe. For the lucky ones like Quinn and Bea, there is the pod. Quinn and Bea are best friends in spite of the fact that Quinn is a Premium (the upper crust and the only ones who can afford enough oxygen for sports and exercise) and Bea is an auxiliary (the lower class). Bea and the other auxiliaries are allowed a limited amount of oxygen and are fined for any use over that amount. Quinn and Bea were meant to be leaving the pod for a two-day camping trip, but a run in with Alina changes everything. Alina is a member of the Resistance, a group of people intent on proving Breathe and the Ministry wrong. Breathe controls the air inside the pod and everyone has been told that it will be generations before the Earth can regenerate enough plant matter to make outside air breathable. The Resistance believes otherwise. Now the three teens will find themselves at the center of a struggle that could have catastrophic results for everyone. Crossan’s latest is an environmentally driven teen dystopian with great world building. The basics of Breathe are pretty general but the specifics give it a unique spin on the dystopian setting. I loved Crossan’s characters and can’t wait to see what will come next. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

BREATHING WATER by Timothy Hallinan:  To write or not to write? That is the dilemma facing Poke Rafferty after he wins a bet to write the biography of Khun Pan, a major-league bad guy in a poker game.  The next morning Poke gets a call that he, his wife Rose, and daughter Miaow, will all be killed unless he drops the project.  Then Poke is abducted, taken to a high rise office building, and told that the same fate will occur if he doesn’t write the book.  So what is Poke to do?  Wisely he goes to Khun Pan, and lays it all out on the table.  Pan wants him to write a book, but maybe not the one the others want written.  Throughout it all Hallinan paints absorbing portraits of life in Bangkok, which is merely hard for many and all but unendurable for others.  The best Poke Rafferty yet. 11/09 Jack Quick

THE BREATHTAKER by Alice Blanchard: Sheriff Charlie Grover lives in Promise, Okla., deep in “Tornado Alley.” He is recently widowed and the father of a 16-year-old daughter enchanted by a teenage storm-chaser.  After Promise is hit by a severe tornado, Charlie discovers three bodies in a house that has sustained only minor damage.  All three have been impaled with wooden items and each has had a tooth extracted and replaced with another tooth.  As tornado season progresses, more victims are found and it is up to Charlie and scientist Willa Bellman, a “storm-chaser” herself, to solve the mystery.  Nice characterization but the connection to the majesty and destructive powers of tornados really set this above others of the ilk.  It will definitely make you think twice when storm clouds gather and the wind begins to pick up, particularly if you live in any of the nation’s “tornado alleys.” 08/08 Jack Quick

BREED by Chase Novak: For Alex and Leslie Twisden, starting a family of their own would be pure bliss. Blessed with great careers and a comfortable fortune, the couple is deeply devoted to one another. Unfortunately, after trying every option available, they have been unable to conceive. When they hear about a doctor in Slovenia who has had unprecedented success in helping infertile couples, everything about the rumor seems too good to be true. In spite of their concerns, they decide to give it a shot. Leslie becomes pregnant almost immediately but their hopes and dreams soon become nightmares. Breed is an entertaining read reminiscent of campy 80s horror. It also marks the horror debut for Novak (aka Scott Spencer). 9/12 Becky Lejeune

BREEDING GROUND by Sarah Pinborough: Matt and Chloe are expecting their first child and things couldn’t be better for the couple. Until, that is, Chloe’s pregnancy begins changing her in ways that are beyond normal. Matt’s in for a real eye opener, though, when he realizes that his wife is not the only woman this is happening to. All of the women in his small town, all of the women in England and maybe even the world, have begun to show the same strange symptoms. And what they give birth to may just mean the end of humankind. Matt and a small band of survivors manage to escape to relative safety, but no one knows just how long they will be able to hold out. And no one knows what’s caused the infestation or how to can defeat it. Breeding Ground is great—creature feature horror just doesn’t get any better than this.  09/09 Becky Lejeune

BRETHREN by Robyn Young: The Knights Templar, or the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was created after the First Crusade in 1119 as an order of knights set to protect Christian pilgrims headed for Jerusalem. They were originally endorsed by the Catholic Church, but were eventually proclaimed to be heretics and forcefully disbanded. Their historic secrecy left them shrouded in mystery that still fascinates historians and readers today. Robyn Young’s Templar trilogy begins in 1260 as young Will Campbell begins his training to join the order. When Campbell’s champion is murdered, he is taken under the wing of a scribe who happens to belong to a secret order within the Templars called the Anima Templi. While the Anima Templi believes that all religions can live together in peace, their fellow knights – both Templars and other orders – believe that this can never be and to speak such a thing is heresy. Campbell’s initiation into the secret order will be just the beginning of his adventures as Young traces the final days of the Templars. Brethren is an adventurous read packed with interesting historical facts. Young also attempts to tell the tale through the eyes of the Mamluk forces on the other side of the epic confrontations that occurred in the Crusades, an effort that lends a nice balance to the tale.  02/09 Becky Lejeune

A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN by Phyllis Smallman:  When Sherri Travie was thirteen, her mother’s boyfriend, John Ray Leenders, tried to rape her.  Now he is back in Jacaranda, Florida living with the single mother of a teenage daughter. The mother is one of Sherri’s tenants in the building which houses the Sunset bar that she owns, and while Sherri does not want to get involved, she can’t ignore the situation.  Then Sherri’s father, Tully Jenkins, also reappears in her life, dragging Sherri deep into the swamp to exact revenge on the men who set fire to Uncle Ziggy’s junk yard. Like Sherri says, there have only been a few murders in Jacaranda in anyone’s memory but Sherri was involved with all of them.  So if there is more trouble, you can bet she will be in the thick of it. 03/10 Jack Quick

THE BRIDES HOUSE by Sandra Dallas: A warm, engaging story about three generations of women who live in the same Victorian house. We first meet Nealie Bent, a young girl who has run away from home for very good reason. She ends up in Georgetown, Colorado, a small mining town in 1880. She is a serving girl in a boarding house, where she meets and falls in love with the wrong man. The right man has fallen in love with her but she doesn’t realize it until much later. There is a beautiful house being built in town, which Nealie’s beau christens the “Bride’s House,” and eventually Nealie gets to live there. The story next follows her daughter Pearl’s life there, and finally Pearl’s daughter Susan. The three women have much  in common, including a propensity to pick the wrong men. The history of the area is interwoven into this rich story filled with real characters we get to know and enjoy. This is a lovely, charming book and a very enjoyable read. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE

BRIDES OF THE IMPALER by Edward Lee:  Cristina Nichols managed to make it through a tough childhood and has become a very successful artist and businesswoman. Her line of twisted collectors dolls, cheerfully called Cadaverettes, are in high demand and her boyfriend, attorney Paul Nasher, has just purchased and refurbished the perfect Manhattan dream home for the two of them. Unfortunately, the fact that the home was obtained at a literal steal from the Catholic Church should be a bit of a concern to them. Cristina has begun to notice some changes in herself since moving into the home. Crazy nightmares plague her sleep, and the creepy set of homeless women that are always lurking nearby aren’t helping. Meanwhile, local detectives are investigating a series of murders in which the victims have been impaled on whittled stakes and propped up on Christmas tree stands. Who could possibly guess that all of the events are somehow tied to the legend of Dracula himself? Lee’s gory play on the tale of Vlad Dracul makes for entertaining reading. If you’re a fan of the hardcore, shocking variety of horror, Lee is your man.  08/08 Becky Lejeune

THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier: When a person dies, they live on in the memories of others. Brockmeier has taken this to a whole new level, playing off some African beliefs where the soul exists on three planes. The city of the dead is filled with those people who, having passed on, exist in this interim world as long as someone living remembers them. For reasons unknown to its inhabitants, the city is quickly shrinking both in size and in population. Meanwhile, in the land of the living, Laura Byrd finds herself trapped, alone, at a research site in Antarctica. With no communication to the outside world, her fellow researches set off, days ago, to find help. Laura, left with dwindling supplies, is forced to make a decision. She can wait and see which kills her first, the hunger or the cold, or, she can trek across the ice and try to find help on her own. This is an incredibly engaging tale that is both hilarious and thought provoking. Surprisingly, though the topic would seem to be heavy reading material, this is a very quick read driven by Brockmeier’s clever and dark humor. 12/06 Becky LeJeune

BRIGADOOM by Susan Goodwill: It is a pity this debut effort wasn’t written when Doris Day was in her heyday, because no one could have played Kate London like Doris Day. London deserved the court ordered anger management classes. After all, she was angry when she attacked her cheating fiancé, aka Mayor Ronnie Balfours, with a golf cart after she found him in the rough with Estelle Douglas on the seventeenth hole. Whether she intended to knock him and the port-a-john in which he had taken refuge down the hill toward eighteen, well… Of course, that really didn’t justify his condemning her Aunt Kitty’s beloved Egyptian Theatre to the wrecking ball, nor did it justify someone killing Ronnie and leaving the body in the trunk of her car. As a former lover, Sheriff Ben Williamson might have shown a little more compassion, but every time Kate finds a dead body, he insists on putting her in jail. And you thought Stephanie Plum had problems. Somewhere there is a mystery in here, but there is also a lot of non-mystery action as well. A light, pleasant read. 03/07 Jack Quick

BRIGHT FUTURES by Stuart Kaminsky:  In this sixth Lew Fonesca outing, Lew has been hired by a 17 year old student from a local school for the gifted to prove a friend of his did not kill a wealthy eccentric politician.  The plot thickens when Lew’s client’s grandfather wants to hire Lew to not pursue the case.  Soon an unknown assailant is taking pot shots at Lew with a pellet gun.  Although he escapes, two others are injured.  No one does it better than MWA Grand Master Kaminsky whose portrayal of a man battling constant depression is uncanny. 02/09 Jack Quick

BRIMSTONE by Robert B. Parker:  After Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch cleaned up the rough-and-tumble Old West town of Resolution., they set out to find Allie French, the woman who stole Virgil’s heart in Appaloosa. It took them over a year but they finally found her in a small-town brothel and the three head out to the aptly named town of Brimstone.   Pike, the town’s richest citizen hires Cole and Hitch to keep the peace in Brimstone.  Strangely the most danger appears to be from the sanctimonious church leader, Brother Percival, who professes to save the souls of Brimstone with his own brand of fire.  In the process the Reverend’s actions seem to be benefitting Pike more than saving souls.  Anyway, with Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, the situation is always in hand, even if it isn’t.   Robert B. Parker sure knows how to write a book. 06/09 Jack Quick

THE BRIMSTONE MURDERS by Jeff Sherratt:  Ex-cop and now attorney Jimmy O’Brien has his problems.  The police suspect him of murdering the alcoholic mother of a client.  She is found dead with Jimmy’s card in her hand.  O’Brien had been to see her to obtain her consent for him to attempt to have her son Robbie declared insane in order to save him from conviction for murder.  Then Robbie steals a deputy’s gun at the court hearing and escapes.  Can things get any worse for this Los Angeles criminal defense attorney?  Oh yes, the challenges are just beginning.  Like, where is his missing gun?  The one the guys cops think killed Robbie’s mother.  A breezy read about cults, criminals, and the trials and tribulations of attorneys.  Reminiscent of David Rosenfelt or Paul Levine. 01/08 Jack Quick

BROKEN by Karin Slaughter: Past and present collide violently as Slaughter brings her Grant County and Atlanta characters together for a second time. When Dr. Sara Linton returns home to Grant County, Ga., for Thanksgiving, she hopes to steer clear of the local police, especially Detective Lena Adams, whom she blames for the murder of her husband, police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver. In truth the department has spiraled downward after Jeffrey’s death and is put to the test when college student Allison Spooner is found dead in a lake. Tommy Braham, whom Sara treated as a mentally challenged child, is arrested for the murder but the investigation soon spirals out of control after Tommy dies in custody. When Sara calls in Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Will Trent from Atlanta to take over the case, the local police greet Will’s arrival with suspicion. Trent must weigh Sara’s personal vendetta against Detective Adams with the facts of the case, which grow more confusing the deeper he digs into the small county’s secrets. 07/10 Jack Quick

BROKEN PLACES by Sandra Parshall: Cam and Meredith Taylor are murdered within hours of one another, and veterinarian Rachel Goddard is dragged into the case because she heard – but didn’t see – Cam’s murder.  The Taylors had arrived in Mason County as volunteers in the 1960s War on Poverty, and they stayed on, making loyal friends and bitter enemies, so there is no shortage of suspects.  Cam had been badgering a number of people including newcomer Ben Hern, a cartoonist, for money to help him keep his local newspaper afloat.  Rachel grew up with Ben and can’t believe he could be involved.  Further complicating the situation – the victims’ daughter Leslie is the former girlfriend of Deputy Sheriff Tom Bridger, who is now dating Rachel.  Passions run as high as the Virginia summer heat as Rachel and Tom try to solve the crimes before others get hurt. 02/10 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN ONES by Stephen M. Irwin: The poles have reversed and the economy has tanked. What’s worse, everyone is now haunted by their very own ghost. They called it Gray Wednesday, the day the ghosts appeared. Since then, everything has changed. Oscar Mariani was one of the officers assigned to the newly formed Nine-Ten unit. The Nine-Ten, nicknamed “Barelies,” were supposed to investigate any case linked to ghosts. For Oscar, the assignment was basically a punishment for a failed dogged investigation into a fellow officer. Oscar still holds a grudge and when he and his partner, Neve, are called to investigate a body dump with a possible supernatural link, he’s set on keeping the case. The body is that of a Jane Doe, mutilated by machinery but still intact enough that Oscar can see strange markings carved into her skin. As he digs further into the case, Oscar discovers that something weird is going on after all. Irwin has such an original and fresh approach to standard horror tropes. The Broken Ones is a fantastic blending of mystery and paranormal, making it appealing not only to horror fans but also to fans of overall dark and well plotted suspense.  9/12 Becky Lejeune

BROKEN PREY by John Sandford: Lucas Davenport is an investigator for the Minnesota State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Along with his partner, Detective Sloan, they chase a serial killer who has claimed at least three victims. Although evidence points toward a recently released sex offender named Charlie Pope, there are inconsistent elements as well. Eventually Davenport and Sloan realize they are chasing a team of killers. Fast moving and well written, another fine entry in the “Prey“ series. 12/05 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple:  Homicide cop Joe Cashin is supposed to be recovering from an injury, but gets drawn into the beating death of Charles Bourgoyne, an elderly millionaire.  After three aboriginal teenagers try to sell Bourgoyne’s missing watch, the cops get them into a gun battle killing two.  For them the case is closed, over and done with, but Joe thinks there is more here than a simple murder case.  His explorations lead him into the worlds of child pornography and racism.  Excellent writing and a deliciously twisty plot put you right into Australia today, or at least a vivid portrait that would seem to be realistic and accurate.  Recommended. 01/08 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN WINDOW by Jeffery Deaver:  In this eighth novel featuring paraplegic forensic consultant Lincoln Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs, the two are faced with what seems like an open and shut case.  A painting is stolen, its owner is murdered, there is an anonymous witness, and loads and loads of evidence including DNA.  The only thing – the alleged perp is Rhyme’s cousin.  When he reluctantly enters into the case, he quickly finds other cases which are almost identical.  This leads him to a psychotic who is using 21st century technology including data mining to commit crimes.  In the process, they discover tangential connections to a company that specializes in collecting and analyzing consumer data.  Further investigation leads them to some startlingly Orwellian revelations:  Big Brother is watching your every move and could be a homicidal maniac.  Another awesome Deaver book. 07/08 Jack Quick

THE BROKEN WINDOW by Jeffery Deaver:  It’s been a decade since I read a book by Deaver, and boy…was I missing out! The Broken Window is the eighth installation in Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.  For those unfamiliar, Detective Lincoln Rhyme is a paraplegic forensic consultant for the NYPD. Combined with his cop girlfriend Amelia Sachs, the two forms an amazing crime-solving duo.  In this installation, Rhyme and Sachs have been called in for assistance when Rhyme’s cousin Arthur gets arrested for murder.  Evidence found in his home and car is undeniable.  Although Rhyme and his cousin haven’t talked in years, Rhyme agrees to help.  Quickly they discover that this case involves much more than a “simple” murder.  Rhyme and Sachs are introduced to the world of data mining, where companies collect personal data on individuals, including their shopping habits, medical history, etc. The unsub, referred to as 522 because his first crime was committed on May 22, is tainting the lives of several innocent people just by typing a few keystrokes. The Broken Window takes the reader on a fast-paced adventure with unexpected twists and turns. In the end, it leaves me very paranoid about the information that is collected each time I swipe my credit card.  08/08 Jennifer Lawrence

BROKEN WING by Thomas Lakeman:  In this third book of Lakeman’s series, FBI agent Mike Yeager is approached by his superiors with a very serious request. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, a New Orleans mob boss is attempting to rebuild his territory. Mike played a crucial role in bringing down the organization years ago and now is his chance to finish the job. In order to do so, though, Mike has to be able to infiltrate the group himself and that’s the worst part of the deal. The powers-that-be arrange for some missing evidence to be found in Mike’s possession, which leads to a very real investigation into his “questionable” actions. It’s supposed to be a maneuver to prove to the mob that Mike is dirty, but it’s beginning to look as though the feds can’t be trusted. Mike must take matters into his own hands to complete the mission and make sure that his own record is not permanently ruined in the process. Lakeman has succeeded once again in producing another gripping thriller that can be read all on its own, or as part of Yeager’s continuing story.  03/09 Becky Lejeune

BRONX JUSTICE by Joseph Teller: Although second in the series, this outing goes back to the late 1970’s and a particular case that would shape the future of criminal defense attorney Harrison J. Walker, better known as Jaywalker for his rebellious tactics.   Darren Kingston, whom Jaywalker had previously successfully defended against a robbery charge, has been arrested for raping five white women in Castle Hill, an area of the Bronx long forgotten by the city. Darren, a young black man who is married and works at the post office is positively identified by four of the victims as the fifth prepares to do the same. It appears to be a slam dunk case with solid eyewitness testimony.  What Jaywalker learns during the course of the trial will stay with him the rest of his life. 04/10 Jack Quick

BRONX NOIR edited by S.J. Rozan:  This Akashic city-themed crime anthology addresses the borough called the Bronx, New York City’s northernmost borough, coterminous with Bronx County, and the only one of the city’s five boroughs situated primarily on the United States mainland rather than on an island.  Locations from the mean streets of South Bronx to affluent Riverdale are featured in 19 tales by a variety of authors.  Landmarks like Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo are featured in efforts from Thomas Adcock, Kevin Baker, Thomas Bentil, Lawrence Block, Jerome Charyn, Suzanne Chazin, Terrence Cheng, Ed Dee, Joanne Dobson, Robert Hughes, Marlon James, Sandra Kitt, Rita Laken, Miles Marshall Lewis, Pat Picciarelli, Abraham Rodriguez Jr., S.J. Rozan, Steven Torres, and Joe Wallace.  There’s some noir, some sex, betrayal, despair, murder, mischief and mayhem, but hey, whadda you expect, a Bronx cheer?  This is truly an awesome series.  12/07 Jack Quick

THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES by Paul Auster: Early in his career, Mr Auster was one of the new American authors struggling against traditional forms. Now rounding into a career as an author, he seems to be more concerned with story. As is often the case with his work, the story is set on ground that is familiar to him and to his readers, New York City. Follies’ central character is a retired insurance salesman named Nathan Glass who has come home to Brooklyn to die. But he meets so many interesting people in his neighborhood that it seems more important to live. Along the way, he is able to use his maturity and accumulated wisdom to help all sorts of people, especially including a nephew, Tom Glass who reminded me of the unformed protagonist of Annie Proulx’ Shipping News. One of the main venues of this story is the bookstore where Tom works. His boss is a charming congenital liar who could be right out of Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels. This book is funny and charming. It is well-written and well worth reading. It will be on my 10 best list for this year.  11/06 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

BROWN-EYED GIRL by Virginia Swift: Take a ride with “Mustang” Sally Adler (for the car, not the horse) to Laramie, Wyoming and you won’t be sorry.  Laramie’s most famous resident, prize-winning poet Meg Dunwoodie, has passed away and left behind a legacy – an endowment chair at the University of Wyoming with more strings than a marionette.  First of the irregular provisos is that the University hire Sally (at a rather large salary for an academic) followed by the orders that she live in her house, be sole archivist to her papers, write her biography and not tell anyone anything about it.  The offer is enticing enough to get Sally to move back to her old stomping grounds, while unbeknownst to her, Hawk Green, the big love of her life, is also moving back.  Sparks fly when they meet up, but rumors abound that there is a fortune hidden in the house and strange things start to happen, and the state’s richest eccentric is suing the school over the stipulations of the endowment.  And therein lies the mystery in this not-especially-suspenseful “novel of suspense,” but why quibble when the characters are so real, the place so well defined and the writing is so fine. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny: The fifth installment to Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines series is a wonderful mystery. Just the right amount of cozy and non to appeal to readers across the board. When the body of an unidentified man is discovered in the Three Pines bistro, Gamache and his team are sent in to investigate. At first, though everyone is a possible suspect, it seems unlikely that anyone in the small town is involved. Not only does the man seem completely unknown to Three Pines residents, but the bistro is merely a dump site. Unclear as to why the body was left there in the first place, the inspectors are still at a loss as to where the man was actually killed. Gamache suspects that Olivier, the bistro owner, is hiding something, but even those closest to him cannot imagine the secrets this man holds. Olivier knows the dead man’s identity. But why would he keep it secret and what does it mean that the body was found in his restaurant? The Brutal Telling is a great place to start this series and Penny is a marvelous storyteller. Her setting is beautiful, her plot is thoughtful, and her characters are so rich you can almost imagine them sitting next to you as you read. A must read. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE BUBBLE GUM THIEF by Jeff Miller: An ominous warning–“This is my first crime. My next will be bigger”–is printed on a business card with a pilfered stick of bubble gum taped to the back. It is found at a convenience store, the first in a series of odd and increasingly serious crimes. Finally, after the same note is found at the scene of a bank robbery in Cincinnati, the case is brought to the attention of the FBI. Dagney Gray is a driven, anorexic FBI agent who needs to get healthy to do her job. She’s working the case while attending a class on terrorism taught by “the Professor,” a brilliant agent who has been pushed into a basement classroom due to office politics. Gray is starting to see a pattern in the case, but the Bureau is reluctant to take her seriously, and she is relegated to menial tasks. While the assistant FBI director puts thousands of agents on the front line, Gray, the Professor, and Gray’s newly appointed rookie partner, Victor, work the case on their own. There are lots of twists and turns here, and just when the case appears to be solved, it isn’t. A gripping plot and a terrific cast leave the reader hoping that this is the first of a series; these characters are too good for just one book. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

Bubbles in Trouble by Sarah Strohmeyer:  Bubbles Yablonsky, hairdresser/reporter, is back in a delightful mystery reminiscent of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but with a definite voice of her own.  This time, Bubbles slightly inebriated rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”, air guitar and all, at a bachelorette party, has apparently convinced the bride-to-be to not be a bride.  She doesn’t show up for the wedding, Bubbles is blamed and sets off to find her.  Her first stop is at the home the bride shares with her uncle, whose body Bubbles find lying on the bathroom floor.  Not an auspicious beginning, and soon her chase takes her to the Amish country in Pennsylvania, with drug lords, theme park developers and other unsavory sorts crawling out of the hand carved wood work.  Bubbles goes undercover as Sally Hansen, Amish widow, which is no easy task for our bleached blonde, spandex addicted heroine.  In a strange twist of fate, hottie Steve Stilleto likes her new look and their romance heats up a notch as Bubbles gets the story, and her man.  Nicely plotted with lots of laughs, lots of surprises and more recipes for homemade beauty products, including a hangover cure (not that I’d ever need that.)  Treat yourself to a fun read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BUBBLES UNBOUND by Sarah Strohmeyer:  I had a lot of problems with this book.  The author thanks Janet Evanovich for being her mentor but she doesn’t have to, the book screams it on every page.  Besides emulating her mentor with each and every character and plot device, there is also the matter of the gimmicky, although cute, home-grown beauty recipes strewn throughout the book.  The story itself is good and moves along briskly with some real good belly laughs along the way. It’s the beginning of a series so I will remain optimistic that Ms. Strohmeyer will find her own voice eventually. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC by Julie Otsuka: This is the story of Japanese girls who were sent to America by their families to become brides to Japanese men who came before them. Set at the eve of World War II, these women were sent photos of young, handsome men and were told they were professional men in need of wives to run their households. These were girls from impoverished families, many farming families where the women worked days in the fields and nights in the home, often starving in the process, their families wanting this better life for their daughters. Written in the collective “we” voice, this is these brides’ stories, from their voyage overseas through the immigration process, marriage, childbirth, but mostly about their lives in America through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Poignant, often disturbing and beautifully written in lyrical language with enough detail to bring this time and place, and these women, to life, this is a mesmerizing piece of fiction. Sure to please fans of Otsuka’s first novel, the excellent When the Emperor Was Divine, and sure to earn her new fans as well. 11/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch KINDLE

BUDDHA’S MONEY by Martin Limon:  South Korean based Army CID investigators George Sueno and Ernie Bascom come to the aid of a Buddhist nun who is being attacked by what appears to be a GI.  Afterwards, Ernie finds himself the keeper of “Buddha’s money.”  Which he will need as he and George pursue the kidnappers of the adopted daughter of ex-infantry sergeant.  There are villains aplenty in this third adventure for George and Ernie and while it roams farther afield that Limon’s previous two efforts, it is still a good one. 02/06 Jack Quick

THE BUGHOUSE AFFAIR by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini: I have enjoyed many books by these two authors together and separately, but I found this first of a new series of lighthearted historical mysteries set in 1890s San Francisco, featuring former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her detective partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon to be somewhat disappointing. The best way to describe it is “forced”. It is almost as if the book were written as a modern day Sharon McCone and then  substitution was employed to add a period flavor with yeggs, miscreants, hacks, dips and swag. The result does not make for smooth reading and the plot wherein two unrelated cases become intertwined just wasn’t that convincing. I guess this shows that not everyone has a perfect outing every time. 2/13 Jack Quick

BUILDING STORIES by Chris Ware: This is the latest graphic novel from the brilliant Chris Ware and I would say it is more art than book, but that would be doing it a disservice. It could stand alone as a book or as an art piece and either way it is just fantastic. I am not prone to hyperbole, so trust me when I say fantastic in every definition of the word. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “1) imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality: (of an object) seeming more appropriate to the imagination than to reality; strange or exotic. 2) extraordinarily good or attractive: of an extraordinary size or degree.” Point by point, I have to agree. The book comes in a box about the size of a board game.  Inside the box are fourteen pieces of ephemera; hardcover books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers. The story may be read in any order the reader chooses; all you need to know is that it is about the residents of an apartment building in Chicago. The NY Times called it “magnificent,” Publishers Weekly named it the best book of 2012 and I have to agree with both assessments. This is a book that belongs in every library (and I am sad that my library isn’t buying it due to the difficulties of storing such a piece.) Don’t miss it. 11/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BULLET FOR A STAR by Stuart Kaminsky: Its 1940 and Toby Peters, Private Eye to the Stars has the assignment of protecting Warner Brothers hot new property from blackmail and perhaps murder. The property, one Errol Flynn, is featured in a very compromising photo with a very young appearing female. Is the picture real? Does it matter? In the wrong hands it could end Flynn’s career now. Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Humphrey Bogart and the Maltese Falcon all play a role in this first Toby Peters outing published by Kaminsky back in 1977. Like his other series featuring Lew Fonesca, Porfiry Rostnikov, and Abe Lieberman, this promises to be a good one – and one that I will hopefully be able to read entirely in order. Guess good things do come to those who wait. 04/09 Jack Quick

 

THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE by Lawrence Block: Bernie Rhodenbarr is a gentleman burglar who runs a used bookstore in between criminal acts, steals mostly from the rich, and only hurts people when it becomes absolutely necessary. The Paddington is where Bernie goes to liberate the letters of a reclusive writer named Gulliver Fairborn from a literary agent. Fairborn’s resemblance to J.D. Salinger and, of course, the fact that the woman who hired Bernie to steal the letters had an affair with Fairborn when she was a teenager, no doubt lend the book its title. But by the time Bernie gets to the Paddington, the agent has been shot, the letters already liberated–and a cop in the lobby recognizes our favorite burglar from a previous encounter. Now all Bernie has to do is find out who else wanted those letters badly enough to kill for them. 05/06 Jack Quick

THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL by Lawrence Block: Another fun adventure featuring burglar extraordinaire, Bernie Rhodenbarr. Always up for a little larceny, Bernie’s cleaning out some poor chum’s safe when the fellow happens to come home with a companion and a drink. From his hiding spot under the bed, Bernie witnesses a crime. And shortly afterward, one of Bernie’s legit clients is gunned down outside his bookstore. Can the burglar save the day? Can the burglar save himself? Stay tuned for details. 05/06 Jack Quick

BURIED PREY by John Sandford:  Lucas Davenport’s newest case is also his oldest. Back in 1985, young cop Lucas davenport got involved with the case of two missing girls.  Their bodies were never found and the bosses declared the case closed, a conclusion that never set well with Lucas. Fast forward to today. A house demolition in Minneapolis reveals the bodies of two girls, wrapped in plastic that look like they’ve been there a long time. For Lucas, its a do-over, and this time he won’t stop until the ultimate truth is out, even though the search costs other lives. One of Sandford’s better outings. 07/11 Jack Quick KINDLE

BURIED SECRETS by Joseph Finder: This is the long awaited sequel to Vanished, featuring the private spy Nick Heller. What is a private spy you ask? Well, in this case he’s a retired Special Forces operative who has set up business as a private investigator in his hometown of Boston. An old family friend contacts him, Marshall Marcus, a hedge fund wunderkind whose teenaged daughter has gone missing. Marcus refuses to call the police and insists that Nick find Alexa. A link is sent to a live video stream showing Alexa has been buried alive with barely enough food and water to sustain her, along with a special request from the kidnapper. To complicate things further, Marcus is being investigated by the FBI. This novel moves on breakneck speed and I couldn’t put it down, staying up late into the night to reach the surprising and climactic denouement. It was worth the wait – don’t miss it. 06/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch  KINDLE

BURN DOWN THE SKY by James Jaros: The Earth has become a wasteland in the aftermath of a climate catastrophe and mankind has been wiped out thanks to a virus the likes of which we’ve never seen. Small outposts of humanity still remain, but they fight for everything they have, including their children. Marauders sent by religious zealots steal food, water, supplies, and the biggest commodity: young girls, trading them for gold dust and fuel. When Jessie’s youngest daughter is kidnapped, she vows to find her and bring her back home. But young Ananda is a tough one and even when faced with the most unimaginable horrors, she’s been taught to survive. James Jaros’s (aka Mark Nykanen) bleak future is a violent and chilling one to be sure. Burn Down the Sky is an interesting and disturbing post-apocalyptic thriller. 05/11 Becky Lejeune

BURN ZONE by James O. Born:  Burn Zone is the follow-up to Field of Fire and a complete departure from the light-hearted Bill Tasker series. The protagonist is Alex Duarte, an ATF agent in south Florida who is the strong, silent type, so it’s been a slow process getting to know him. This book helped with that. Alex has strong ties to his family, in fact, he lives in an apartment over the garage of his parents’ home and still takes most meals with them.  His brother is a hot shot lawyer, and in this tight-knit family, that doesn’t mean a whole lot.  Alex’s mom works on keeping everyone well fed, and his father worries about whether or not his sons are making a difference in the world.  Alex delivers, especially in this story.  He’s investigating a huge shipment of pot that’s being smuggled into the US.  But what he doesn’t know is that the drugs are just secondary to the mysterious package that is also being smuggled in from a power-mad Panamanian.  This case takes Alex on the road and away from his girlfriend Alice, who helps out long distance with her forensic lab skills and connections. This story moves through Florida, New Orleans, and Houston before it ends – and I loved the ending.  02/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE BURNING GIRL by Mark Billingham: 4th adventure for Detective Inspector Thorne by one today’s best British authors. A teenage girl is set on fire and later commits suicide. Compounding the horror is that she was not even the intended victim, she was just mistaken for the daughter of a local gangster. Now her assailant is about to get out of jail and someone is harassing the DI who originally handled the case. At the same time Thorne’s father is suffering from Alzheimer’s which is becoming more of a problem for both him and his Dad. Add in the murder and mutilation of several of gangster Billy Ryan’s people as well as an undercover officer and Thorne is kept quite busy. Billingham has made Thorne a real person, not just a cop, but a man with problems, doubts, fears, and flaws, who still tries his best to uphold the law and do what is right. Thorne’s ideas and methods are often in conflict with his superiors but through sheer doggedness he manages to hold on and get results. Well done. 05/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE BURNING GLASS by Lillian Stewart Carl: Ferniebank Castle, in Stanelaw, Scotland, has seen its fair share of tragedy. It is said that Isabel Sinclair, the daughter of the lord of Ferniebank in the mid-sixteenth century, was set to marry a man of her father’s choosing although she loved another. She was locked away until her wedding day, mourning her true love. On the day she was to be married, she and her lover plotted their escape. Isabel was to set the tower on fire and get away in the confusion. The fire got out of hand and Isabel died. It is said that she still haunts the tower today.

A local “mystic” plans to revamp the castle and turn it into a sort of new age resort and Jean Fairbairn has been sent to write a story on Ferniebank for Great Scot magazine. Not so coincidentally, Jeanne’s “friend” (hopefully soon to be more) Alisdair Cameron has been hired on to provide security for the castle. Just before her arrival, Jean receives word that the famed Ferniebank clarsach has gone missing. The clarsach is the treasure of the castle, a harp that was said to have been played for Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots. Soon after the harp disappears, so does Angus Rutherford, a local councilor in Stanelaw. Wherever Jean goes, it seems trouble will follow and she and Alisdair are once again investigating strange occurrences and possibly murder. The third in a series, The Burning Glass is an entertaining mystery that can be read and enjoyed on its own – great for readers who are craving something light and fun.  09/07 Becky Lejeune

THE BURNING LAKE by Brent Ghelfi:  Russian agent Alexei Volkovoy first met the dissident journalist Katarina Mironova, known around the world as Kato, during his service in the Chechyen war.  Now he learns she is the 22nd journalist to die under the new regime. Volk will not allow her death go unavenged and his investigation takes him from Moscow to Mayak, the site of a nuclear reprocessing plant where a massive explosion occurred in 1958, then to Las Vegas.  All the while the life he has known with his long-time lover, Valya, and his patron, the General, slowly unravels as details about his secret ties to Kato begin to emerge.  At the same time secrets about the tragic consequences of a nuclear alliance among venal Russian, American, and French politicians are coming out and the American and the French governments will pay anything to keep them hidden.  Another outstanding thriller from the man described by fellow author Keith Thomson as a cross between Robert Ludlum and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. 11/11 Jack Quick

Burning Marguerite by Elizabeth Inness- Brown, Knopf:  What a wonderful novel. Almost like reading a series of love letters.  Intertwined masterfully, each unravels the mystery of Marguerite. It reads like a poem in places – – – richly told with textures, colors, smells, sounds, tastes floating from the pages. There is much here to pause over, to reflect on, but the elements of suspense keep you reading. The price of love becomes a dear one to pay. Inness-Brown is the author of two acclaimed collections of short stories, SATIN PALMS and HERE. This is her first novel. Sometimes when reading novels by seasoned short story authors it seems to me they have taken different stories and inedeptly woven them together to create a novel. Not true of this. I’ve heard it compared to SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (maybe cause of the weather), but I don’t agree. You’ll love Marguerite. She is her own woman and needs no comps.  PS: The author lives her setting – – she lives (and the novel is set) on an island in Lake Champlain, VT. Doesn’t that sound like bliss?  ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

THE BURNING WIRE by Jeffery Deaver: My hot water heater failed and I was dissatisfied with the new one even after the technician came back twice to adjust it.  On the third visit the supervisor came along, and advised this was a new “low energy” hot water heater and we would just have to make do with it.  That night lying in bed, I had a thought.  I got up, went to the breaker box, and as I suspected the breakers for the hot water heater were OFF. Next morning I had a nice warm shower.  All leading up to the plot of this book, which revolves around the use of electricity as a weapon – in ingenious and heretofore unused methods.  While Lincoln Rhyme, et al, are dealing with the threat to Algonquin Consolidated Power, Rhyme is also staying in close touch with Mexican army and police commander Rodolfo Luna, who’s tracking dangerous assassin Richard Logan (aka the Watchmaker) in Mexico City. The twin investigations take an increasingly dangerous toll on quadriplegic Rhyme’s precarious physical health. Truly, an electrically charged thriller. 08/10 Jack Quick

BURNOUT by Marcia Muller:  In Muller’s 26th Sharon McCone outing, Sharon is wrestling with her future and that of her San Francisco detective agency.  She has retreated to her high desert ranch where she is unwittingly drawn into a local case.  Hayley Perez, the estranged niece of ranch manager Ramon Perez, has been murdered and Hayley’s teenage sister, Amy, and their alcoholic mother, Miri, have disappeared.  Bodies start to pile up as McCone looks into the Perezes’ family history.  By the end McCone has learned that she really can be effective as both an investigator and an executive, which bode well for the continuation of the series.  Has Muller ever written a bad one? 11/08 Jack Quick

THE BURNT HOUSE by Faye Kellerman: Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker are back! California citizens are reeling after a plane crashes into a local apartment building. Decker and team are inundated with looting and vandalism complaints as well as the understandable aftermath of the crash. One particular call hits a nerve with Peter, however. Farley and Shareen Lodestone are convinced that their daughter Roseanne Dresden did not die in the plane crash. They think that her husband Ivan killed her and then used the crash as a convenient way to shift the blame. Roseanne, a flight attendant, was rumored to have hitched a ride on the doomed flight so that she could later cover a shift for a fellow employee. She was not issued a ticket and she was not listed on the original passenger list. Then, excavators finally uncover female remains at the bottom of the wreckage. Unfortunately, the remains are not that of Roseanne. In fact, they are determined to be much older than those associated with the downed flight. Now Decker and crew must discover the truth behind Roseanne’s disappearance and they have new crime to solve as well. I have been a huge fan of this series for some time now. Kellerman never disappoints. 08/07 Becky Lejeune

BURY ME DEEP by Megan E. Abbott:  Inspired by the true story of Winnie Ruth Judd (aka the Trunk Murderess) this features Marion Seeley, a young woman whose doctor husband has gone to Mexico on undisclosed business, in 1931, while she remains behind to work in a clerical job at the Werden Clinic.  She eventually pairs up with Louise Mercer, a co-worker and good time gal.  From Louise, Marion learns which doctors have been misbehaving with the clinic’s nursing staff, and from that to involvement with Joe Lanigan, a close friend of the doctors.  Lanigan is a ready source of money and fun for the often cash-strapped nurses.  When Louise and Ginny Hoyt, Louise’s roommate, confront Marion about her relationship to Joe, the women get into a heated argument that leads to murder.  Slow start, but picks up steam and roars like a freight train at the finish. Abbott is good. 08/09 Jack Quick

THE BURYING PLACE by Brian Freeman: Returning to normal after nearly losing your life is hard on anyone. This is what Lt. Jonathan Stride faces after the events of In the Dark. Stride, now plagued by panic attacks, heads to Grand Rapids with girlfriend Serena Dial for some much needed time away from it all. Their recuperation is brought to an early end when the local sheriff asks Stride to step in on a missing persons investigation: Denise Sheridan’s own niece has disappeared, which makes the case too close to home. She also admits that her people simply don’t have the resources to handle the investigation. Meanwhile, Maggie Bei has stepped in for Stride in Duluth and is dealing with a possible serial killer in the area. When one of her own cops stumbles upon the killer in the act, the young officer becomes a target herself. Freeman pushes his characters to the absolute limit. Each of them struggles with cases that hit too close to home and the emotional impact of dealing with such high-stress situations. As usual, I’m anxious to see what happens to each of them next. Freeman has built a wonderful character base that readers can really connect with. 04/10 Becky Lejeune

THE BUSINESS OF DYING by Simon Kernick: London detective sergeant Dennis Milne is the main character in Kernick’s debut novel and what a character.  After years of dealing with London crime, he has finally decided to pursue justice in his own way : as a cold-blooded hit man.  Things begin to come apart when the drug dealers he thought he was taking out turn out to be a civilian and two customs agents.  At one level an excellent police procedural as Milne works diligently to solve the murder of a young hooker, on an other level a fascinating look into the real world of crime and what it can do to people on both sides of the ledger.  I look forward to more from Mr. Kernick. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

BUST by Ken Bruen & Jason Starr: Hard Case Crime Number twenty features two of the best in an awesome collaboration. A wealthy and successful New York City business owner wants to get rid of his nagging wife so he can shack up with his sexy secretary. When the secretary introduces him to Dillon, a former IRA hit man, Max (the businessman) thinks his problems are solved, when in fact they are just beginning. What Max doesn’t know is that Angela (the secretary) is Dillon’s lover and that the two plan to double cross Max as soon as it is profitable. Enter wheelchair-bound Bobby Rosa, an ex-con with a taste for lewd photography, guns and blackmail, who has his own objectives. It’s pulp fiction at its finest, combining the best (worst) of both the Irish and New York City underworlds. 11/06 Jack Quick

BUSTED FLUSH by Brad Smith: What happens to a decent man who’s besieged by scoundrels and con men after his inheritance? When Dock Bass dumped his money-grubbing wife and real estate job, he thought he’d find peace in Gettysburg, remodeling the tumbledown house he inherited. Instead, he discovered unknown pictures of Abraham Lincoln, and, possibly a recording of him. Suddenly Bass is the focus of the media, as well as of a crooked antiques dealer and his partner. Smith has created a strong, independent man, worthy of the reader’s interest. Busted Flush is a fun story, with a humorous, likeable hero.  06/06 Lesa Holstine

BUSTED VALENTINE by Jerry Oster: Someone has killed the mistress of Solitaire’s best friend and mentor when he was on the force. The ex-cop is on disability and playing at being a Private Investigator. His name reflects his situation, down and out, but still with dreams of a better world, and the realization that he probably won’t ever see it. As he begins to look into the murder he quickly concludes that the killer was someone in the victim’s close circle, which means they are also likely to be part of his own daily life. His attempts to reconcile the moral issues interfere with his focus and may cost him his life. Entertaining, but not top shelf. 12/06 Jack Quick

BUTCHERS DOZEN by Max Allan Collins: After cleaning up Chicago, Eliot Ness and his band of Untouchables have moved on to Cleveland which is in the grasp of a madman who has already cut up at least a dozen victims leaving body parts strewn across the city. Ness has to go undercover and risk his own life to stop the butcher of Cleveland and save the life of a gorgeous woman who doesn’t understand the word stop. The usual first rate Collins applied this time to the roaring 30’s. 03/06 Jack Quick

A BUTTERFLY IN FLAME by Nicholas Kilmer: When I attended Georgia Tech many years ago, I studied many things. Unfortunately, art appreciation wasn’t among them. However, even a philistine like me can enjoy a good mystery, even one that revolves around art. Stillton Academy is a small art college in its sleepy namesake Massachusetts town on the New England coast north of Boston. Fred Taylor has been hired by Clayton Reed to go into the college undercover after one of the school’s instructors disappears with a female student who is the daughter of the Academy’s only significant donor. Soon Fred is deep into the campus scene and can’t decide whether he is uncovering incompetence or brilliance at disguising a deeper agenda. Artists or eccentrics? Fred Taylor better find out sooner rather than later because, after all, people are dying, and not just for the sake of art. Nicely done.  11/10 Jack Quick

BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT by W.E.B. Griffin: Griffin is the undisputed dean of military writers. Like a pioneering jazz tenor player, He laid much of the groundwork for future attempts of this type. Coonts, Clancy, et al, all drank at the same fountain.  Not only is he thoroughly versed in the military, his “Shield” series about the Philadelphia PD is a textbook crime series…and by the way… dead nuts on target.  I know, I was a resident of the COBL (city of brotherly love) for a fair amount of time.

WEB’s entry here is from his Presidential Agent series, but it involves characters from several of his ongoing story lines. A 727 is hijacked and flown to parts unknown. A CIA op, who happens to be special forces, writes a memo to all stations, which is ignored.  Enter Carlos (Charley) Castillo…by order of the President, he’s tasked with assessing who’s sleeping and who’s not within the defense and intelligence community. Along the way, he’s nearly killed by a Russian arms dealer, who ends up being his most reliable ally. Take it from there.  I refuse to blow the ending here, you’ll have to read this one yourself.  Those of you looking for an old fashioned shoot-em-up are going to be disappointed.  Very little action actually takes place.  Griffin’s whole point here seems to be twofold:

1. Bureaucracy, by it’s very nature, can’t deal with this kind of problem in a timely fashion.

2. A small group of people using their heads….can.

GREAT READ ….and especially timely. 02/06 DOC

BY THE CHIMNEY WITH CARE ed. by Tony Burton: This holiday crime story collection might be just what you’re looking for as we get closer to the busy time of year. Twenty different authors offer stories of hauntings, theft and murder during the Christmas holidays. Herschel Cozine offers a murderous take off of “The Night Before Christmas” in his entry, “The Plight Before Christmas.” Suzanne Flaig’s “Whatever Happened to Sandy Kloss” introduces a child witness that no one will believe. “Popcorn for Christmas” is a sad, lonely story set in New Orleans. It’s an anthology with a little for everyone – stories of forgiveness, stupidity and nostalgia. The authors have all given their stories so that proceeds from the book will benefit Toys for Tots. 11/06 Lesa Holstine

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt: Detective John Cardinal (Blackfly Season) is back, and this time it’s personal. His wife, Catherine, who has been hospitalized on and off for depression for years, has seemingly leapt off of a roof to her death. She left a note and the coroner and police department rule it a suicide, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Bell, concurs. Cardinal starts having some doubts when disturbing notes arrive at his home, but he quickly realizes that he is the only one with doubts. Fellow police officer Lise Delorme feels bad for her friend, but she is tied up trying to track down a local pedophile who has plastered pictures of a young girl all over the Internet. More suicides among Dr. Bell’s patients in this small Ontario town further convince Cardinal that something is amiss, and contrary to departmental policy, he continues to investigate on his own while assisting Delorme with her investigation. Ostensibly a police procedural, this beautifully written and unusual story is really more of a suspenseful, psychological study into evil. 02/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS by Giles Blunt: “By the time you read this, I will have hurt you beyond all forgiveness.” So begins the suicide note left by Detective John Cardinal’s wife. After years of suffering from manic depression and psychiatric treatment, Catherine Cardinal has finally given up. At least, so it seems until John begins to get disturbing and anonymous “condolence” cards that lead home to believe otherwise. Further investigation leads to the revelation that the suicide note had been written months before the actual event occurred. Concurrent to John’s own investigation, fellow officer Lise Delorme is asked to investigate the discovery of a cache of child pornography that was discovered in Toronto. The photos are all of the same girl, ranging from the age of seven to thirteen. An analysis of the photos leads the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit to believe that the victim is from the Algonquin Bay area. While the subject matter is both chilling and disturbing on many levels, this is a truly page turning read. The characters are well developed and the writing is superb. This is actually the fourth book to feature Detective Cardinal and cast, but it reads as a stand alone, which makes it perfect if you are new to Blunt’s work. 02/07 Becky Lejeune


Fiction Reviews C: 1998-2013

December 23, 2013

Cadillac Beach by Tim Dorsey: Tim Dorsey has really hit his stride with Cadillac Beach, another maniacal ride through the Florida scene. Serge the psychopathic history buff, has found his niche as a historical tour guide in Miami. Murph the Surf, the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in Miami Beach and of course, just 92 miles across the sea, Fidel Castro. All are grist for Serge’s mill. This time out, the ever-obsessive Serge is making a list – launch business, solve grandfather mystery, embarrass Castro, restore CIA pride (after the Bay of Pigs invasion), decimate mob, find gems. It is quite a list. But Serge has help – his sidekick Lenny Lipowicz, still smoking dope at 48 and still living with his parents – and the two cocaine “party girls,” Town and Country. Just like Santa Claus, in his heart, Serge knows who is naughty and who is nice. Unlike Santa, the outcome for those who are not nice in Serge’s universe is far worse than a lump of coal. Dorsey’s pace is non-stop and each page is funnier than the next. Buy two copies of this book – one for yourself and one to send someone from out of state. Neither of you will regret it. 03/04 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey` R. Hamlin.

A CALCULATED RISK by Katherine Neville: If you enjoyed the 1999 film Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, you will love this one. Verity (True) Banks is a 32 year old “bankette” who specializes in bank systems security and whose career path has just been short circuited by her bumbling jealous boss. This leads her to accept a challenge from her former mentor, a reclusive computer genius/Renaissance man, Dr. Zoltan Tor. Which of them can steal $1 billion, and invest it to earn $30 million in only three months? (Of course, the money will be returned, and no one will be injured.) And so, the race is on. I didn’t complete this one in a single night, only because #1 USC was playing and getting beaten by Oregon State. I loved it. 10/08 Jack Quick

CALICO JOE by John Grisham: The title is the nickname of a baseball rookie phenom who emerged from AA ball in the summer of 1973 for the Chicago Cubs. Warren Tracey was an aging pitcher for the New York Mets, determined to teach the rookie a lesson. He did, with devastating consequences. Warren’s son Paul was there, a young boy on the brink of manhood who learned many valuable lessons that summer. This is one of the best baseball stories I’ve read, but it is so much more than that. It is also the story of Warren and Paul Tracey and their father and son dynamic. Even though he’s known mostly for his legal thrillers, Grisham really excels at these types of stories, stories fraught with humor and pathos rather than suspense. I loved this book for its charm and nostalgia, but especially for the way Grisham brings these characters to life – they will be with me for a long time to come. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CALIFORNIA FIRE & LIFE by Don Winslow: My second Don Winslow. Is he ever good. Captures the California surfing scene as well as producing great procedurals. Jack Wade is “basically a Dalmatian” – when a fire happens he’s there. Jack, who works to live and lives to surf, was a sheriff’s department fire investigator until he got caught planting evidence in a warehouse arson to protect a witness, and is now the top claims adjuster for California Fire and Life. When Pamela Vale passes out drunk and accidentally burns down the west wing of her Dana Point mansion, along with half a million dollars of her husband’s antique furniture, Jack thinks maybe it wasn’t an accident. It turns out the victim was the half-sister of his ex-girlfriend which made it really personal. Jack’s opponent is Pamela’s estranged husband, Daziatnik Valeshin, now known as Nicky Vale, who has survived a Russian prison camp to make himself over into the model of a perfect Southern California gentleman. The more Jack learns the dirtier it gets and the more danger for him. A great read. 02/10 Jack Quick

CALIFORNIA GIRL by T. Jefferson Parker: Back in 1954, the Becker brothers, David, Nick, Clay and Andy, win a fight with the Vonn brothers at the Sunblesst orange packinghouse. Afterwards, the Vonns’ little sisters, Lynette and Janelle, show up to throw rocks at the Beckers. In 1968, Janelle is back at the packinghouse, only now she’s lying dead on the floor, her decapitated head several feet from her torso. Nick is with the county sheriff’s department working his first case as lead detective, brother Clay has been killed in Vietnam, Andy is a reporter on a local newspaper and David is a minister. More twists and turns than a back mountain fire trail – can you believe Richard Nixon as a cameo? One of Parker’s best. 03/06 Jack Quick

THE CALIFORNIA ROLL by John Vorhaus: If you even mildly enjoyed Redford and Newman in The Sting you will laugh out loud and love con artist Radar Hoverlander, the master of the snuke and its bafflegab and the scourge of every mook. From his early days of conning his grandmother (an Altzheimer’s victim) through running Ponzi schemes on his grammar school mates, and selling “exotic purebred” dogs to adoring yuppies, Hoverlander has learned it all. He can “read lips, pick pockets, pick locks, run a six-minute mile, hot-wire a car or disable its engine, field strip an M-16, throw a pot, and build a working computer from scratch.” He knows “biology, geology and half a dozen other -olgoies including theology.” Hoverlander is going to need all his skills and then some working with the dazzling and highly intelligent Allie Quinn. Radar simply wants to avoid prison or being killed and to work toward the grand snuke, the California Roll, the last payday he’ll ever need while it seems everyone in the world is set against him. The entire book is laugh out loud funny with lines like the driver of the SUV “my car ass-ended” was “a soccer-mom looking gal, with a Shroud of Turin coffee stain down the front of her white cable knit.” 02/11 Jack Quick

CALCULATED LOSS by Linda L. Richards: Madeline Carter’s ex-husband committed suicide, or so she was told. But her ex, the chef, certainly wouldn’t have done it by preparing a poisonous duck à l’orange. But the real giveaway that this suicide was really a murder? The wine that was served with the duck was a shiraz, a definite no-no to any self-respecting chef. Madeline goes to the police with her suspicions, but they blow her off. Since theirs was an amicable divorce, Madeline feels determined to figure out what really happened to her ex. This is a fun, fast mystery and book three of the series. Hopefully, there will be more to come. 09/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CALCULATED LOSS By Linda L. Richards: Madeline Carter is a former New York stockbroker turned day trader, now living in Malibu. In this third outing she learns that Braydon, star of the Food Network and her former husband, is dead, officially a suicide. When she goes to Vancouver to the funeral, her ex-mother-in-law asks her to look into the business Braydon has built, thinking something is amiss. Those initial suspicions are confirmed when Madeline learns Braydon supposedly killed himself through dining on a poisoned duck a l’orange and beef Shiraz. Knowing Braydon would never have had that type of combination meal because of the conflicts in taste, she begins seriously investigating. This brings out all kinds of suspicions regarding possible financial malfeasance that led to the murder of Braydon and might even precipitate a second “suicide” if she isn’t careful. Well plotted and well written. 10/06 Jack Quick.

CALIBRE by Ken Bruen: Using the same mechanism as Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct outing, FAT OLLIE’S BOOK, Bruen has Inspector Brant writing his first crime novel, to be called CALIBRE. Although Brant can’t write, he can pick up stories from his peers, and he can, in his own, blundering take-no-prisoners fashion catch criminals. In this case, the “Manners Killer” (Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME) who thinks anyone misbehaving in public is fair game to be added to his victim list. With anyone else, this all might be derivative, but you can always count on Bruen to give it his own special nuance and with his unique sparse prose, pull it all together. VIXEN was good but CALIBRE is better. 01/08 Jack Quick

CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Former PGA star and small town hero Ted Beaudine is about to marry Lucy Jorik, the former president’s daughter; that is, until her best friend/maid of honor, Meg Koranda, shows up and convinces her to rethink that decision. The bride runs away and Meg is left stranded, broke and the most hated woman in town. It’s an interesting twist to see the hero as the beloved good buy and the heroine as a mess, but nonetheless Meg is a very likeable character. Lots of angst, high drama and laughs before the usual happy ending. A fun, entertaining read, as light and sweet as cotton candy, and I’m a fan. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CALL ME PRINCESS by Sara Blaedel: Assistant Detective Louise Rick is well aware of the dangers of online dating. In fact, a reporter friend has recently covered these stories in detail for a local publication. When Louise is asked to interview a rape victim who was discovered bound and gagged in her own apartment, the detective could never imagine that she herself would become embroiled in a chilling game of cat and mouse with a twisted suspect. The victim reveals that she met her assailant on a popular online dating site. They had dinner at her place and everything seemed utterly normal. The victim admitted that her date was quite charming, until he turned on her, viciously attacking her. She survived, but the second victim isn’t so lucky. Now, Louise must put herself in the attacker’s sights, posing as “Princess,” a single woman looking for love online. This is not a book for the faint hearted; the attacks are described in brutal detail. The translation itself is good, if a bit dry—I’d imagine some of Blaedel’s style is stripped away in the process. Call Me Princess is technically the second of Blaedel’s books to feature Louise Rick, but is the first to be published in the US. 08/11 Becky Lejeune

CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS by Laura Benedict: Everyone knows that teen girls can be cruel. When friends Roxanne, Del, and Alice plot against one man in particular, they can’t possibly imagine how it will come back to bite them in the end. Playing at witchcraft and Santeria, the girls thought they brought back an angelic being in the form of the perfect man. They were wrong. This man was very real and now this man is very angry. All grown up now, Del is happily married with her very own young step-daughter. But still, Del yearns for more. Roxanne is a successful artist, living the single life and seemingly loving it. And Alice, poor Alice, her marriage is falling apart and her husband is having a child with another woman. But then Alice meets a man who changes everything. She doesn’t know that Varick, her new lover, has been meeting with Del and Roxanne as well. She doesn’t know that man from all those years ago is finally having his revenge and Varick is the one who will bring it all about. Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is quite a bit darker than Benedicts debut, Isabella Moon. Benedict tears down her characters, displaying their emotions and motivations with agonizing accuracy. Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts is a chilling read about the darkness that lives in us all. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

CALUMET CITY by Charlie Newton: What a great name for a mystery. The book itself supports the title with cool artwork and pages that feel gritty and dirty. Patti Black is Chicago’s most decorated cop, with a secret past. Several unrelated cases threaten to reveal her horrific childhood as an abused runaway and teenage rape victim, so Patti goes on the hunt for Roland Gantz, who she suspects is behind the crimes. She must also find her adopted son whom she thinks Roland is also trying to find. From Chicago to Calumet City to Arizona, a houseboat on Lake Michigan, a disintegrating slum building – a shoot out, a tornado. I mean, what more could you possible expect. If you can’t deal with violence, don’t even start. 08/08 Jack Quick

THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE by Brian Andrews: Will Foster is special. Actually, it’s his blood that’s special and that’s why Vyrogen wants him. The company has kept Will under quarantine for five months, telling him that he’s infected with a rare and highly contagious form of flu. But now Will’s escaped and Vyrogen is willing to do whatever it takes to get him back. When Meredith Morley hires the Nicolora Foundation, she attempts to cover up what Vyrogen has been up to, claiming Foster is a terrorist who infiltrated Vyrogen intent on stealing their creation. But the foundation, nicknamed the Think Tank, is staffed with some of the best and the brightest. Soon Nicolora’s employees begin to uncover the truth about Morley and Vyrogen. And while Will is running for his life, the Think Tank could be his best ally. I enjoyed Andrews’s debut. It was an entertaining premise and a nice blend of action/adventure and medical thriller kind of in line with a James Rollins Sigma Six novel. The Foster’s backstory was one of my favorite parts, so it was interesting to discover that Andrews had released a free ebook companion, Ring of Flowers, focused on just that part of the tale. There were a few first novel hiccups but it seems Andrews is primed to turn the Think Tank into a series and I’d like to see what they do next. 8/12 Becky Lejeune

CAMOUFLAGE by Bill Pronzini: You don’t have to like your clients, but you do need them to stay in business. It starts out as a routine case for Nameless: Find David Virden’s ex-wife — and they know where she is. Deliver some papers to her and it’s all done. But she refuses the papers, sends a message to Virden to never contact her again, and slams the door. His colleague, Tamara, tells Nameless that Virden threatens to sue, stops payment on his checks, and claims that the woman they located isn’t his wife. Then Virden disappears and his fiancée hires Nameless to find out why. It gets curiouser and curiouser. Meanwhile Jake Runyon’s case is far more personal. Someone is abusing the son of his girlfriend Bryn. The boy, a pawn in Bryn’s divorce is clearly in danger but Runyon’s options are limited – until murder enters the picture. As usual, an outstanding effort from Pronzini. 07/11 Jack Quick

THE CANDIDATE by Paul Harris: Jack Hodges is a presidential hopeful with a powerful message. His supporters are ardent and believe that he will be able to bring about great change for this nation. Mike Sweeney is one of Hodges’s strongest supporters as well as one of his staffers. When Hodges becomes the target of an attempted assassination, Sweeney is assigned to find out why. At first glance, Hodges is clean as a whistle. The would-be killer is keeping totally quiet and no one knows why she’s gone after Hodges at all. Sweeney is finally able to trace the woman back to Guatemala and what he discovers could mean the end of Hodges’s campaign. The Candidate is a good political thriller and a very timely release. Harris certainly knows his stuff but never overwhelms readers with unnecessary politics or over-the-top explanations. He keeps the plot moving and includes just the right mix of behind-the-scenes campaign bits, policy workings, and history to make The Candidate an equally interesting read for folks with a little (or no) interest in political goings on as well as those with more insight into politics. 10/12 Becky Lejeune

CANDLES BURNING by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell: On Calliope Carroll Dakin’s seventh birthday, her father is found murdered in a very “unpleasant” way. Upon the reading of his will, it is discovered that the family fortune is gone. Fearful, Calley and her mother flee to Merrymeeting, a boarding home in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Here, a rotating round of regular visitors, along with owner Merry Verlow, provide Calley with a sort of supportive family unit. The supernatural elements of this story are more peripheral than anything — Calley is occasionally visited by ghosts but the purpose of these visits is usually unclear. There is talk of her large ears that enable her to hear the dead, an element that is not fully developed until the story is almost through. More than anything this is a strange sort of coming of age story. The pacing is somewhat slow, but deliberate, and forces you to savor the book. Though we can never know how the story may have progressed had the McDowell completed it prior to his death, I think King did a fantastic job. The transition between authors is, to me, seamless. Readers more familiar with either of these authors’ past works may be able to discern their individual styles but it won’t effect the overall enjoyment of the book. 11/06 Becky LeJeune

CANDY FROM STRANGERS by Mark Coggins: Veteran P.I. Augustus Riordan is trying to help his cross-dressing friend and assistant, Chris Duckworth, avoid a beating when he discovers the fresh corpse of a missing teenage girl in a San Francisco alley. Then Ellen Stockwell calls. Her husband is a Palo Alto police lieutenant and their daughter Caroline, an 18-year old art school student, hasn’t been seen in three weeks. Riordan’s search for Caroline leads him to additional gruesome discoveries and into the undercover world of Internet sexual predators. Is Riordan San Francisco’s version of Robert Parker’s Boston PI, Spenser? Could be, could be. At least this is his third strong outing so far. 12/07 Jack Quick

THE CAPABLANCA VARIATION by Douglas Quinn: The Capablanca Variation is named for José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (1888–1942), who was World Chess Champion from 1921 to 1927. Quinn chose the name for his third in a series of books that begins with The Spanish Game and The Catalan Gambit. Although named for chess terms, there is nothing sedate about this action adventure series. The plot of this one is built around an effort to trap a terrorist using a young American woman (Jennifer Ellis) as bait. A team of specially trained operatives is in place to protect her and to seize the terrorist once he is lured into place. What can go wrong? Everything! Dr. William “Bill” Nash is mysterious, well-connected, fearless and nearly omnipotent. Clearly, he is a man to trust. Agent Mark David, Jennifer’s erstwhile boyfriend, proves himself to be a pompous, macho, ego-driven twit who is not to be trusted. Jennifer and her friends Remei Savall and Blair Fontaine – all resourceful, skilled, intelligent women – prove themselves to be more than equal to the men. They are able to accomplish what much of the special forces team members cannot. All are likable, authentic characters. vaguely reminiscent of Charlie’s Angels crossed with James Bond working with the CIA; no previous chess required. 12/10 Jack Quick

CAPE PERDIDO by Marcia Muller: Muller steps outside her Sharon McCone series for a new adventure in Northern California’s Soledad County – this one pitting environmental interests against the plans of developers. In this case international developers want to harvest water from the Perdido River and transport it in huge bladders down the coast to the Southern California cities that need it. The locals know this will destroy the remnants of their tourist-based economy. This book is interesting in that succeeding chapters are written from the standpoint of different characters, and today’s events are the natural outcome of a single night many years ago. A different pace but still the same strong talent. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

CAPER by Parnell Hall: Parnell Hall’s latest features his hapless, cut-rate private detective Stanley Hastings. Stanley ’s sleuthing is normally limited to client-getting for a voracious personal injury trial attorney, Richard Rosenberg. Stanley knows his limits and is generally content with the cards that have been dealt him. Until the day Fate draws a card from the bottom of the deck and causes a beautiful woman to came into his office for help.
Because this is a detective story, the woman is trouble and things are not what they seem. Stanley knows that he is in over his head from the get-go, but feels compelled to play the hand out. Naturally, the result is a humorous disaster, with bodies appearing whenever Stanley goes to any apartment other than his own. I am pleased to report that Stanley is ultimately able to muddle his way through with help from his sarcastic, but supportive wife, Alice; his sarcastic, but supportive, contact in the police department, Sergeant MacAullif; and his sarcastic, but supportive boss, Richard.
Mr. Hall writes well and his Stanley Hastings stories are always enjoyable. This time out, it seemed to me that maybe his boss, Richard, was acquiring more of a voice and a place in the story. It would not surprise me to one day see that Mr. Hall has managed to sandwich a Richard Rosenberg novel in between his Stanley Hastings and his Puzzle Lady works. And when he does, I will buy it. 08/10 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

CAPTAIN FREEDOM: A SUPERHERO’S QUEST FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE CELEBRITY HE SO RICHLY DESERVES by G. Xavier Robillard: It just goes to show that even a world-renowned superhero is no match against corporate sabotage. When Captain Freedom finds himself suddenly laid-off by Gotham Comix, there’s nothing left for him to do but enter therapy and begin writing his memoirs. Readers will laugh out loud as the unemployed superhero tells his tale and analyzes his inability to find an arch-nemesis. From his transformation as a sidekick into the superstar of his own comic, Captain Freedom takes you on a rollicking trip through the stand-out events of his life (you know, the ones that make for the best blockbuster flicks). This witty satirical read pokes fun at just about every aspect of pop culture including illegal pirating, pop music, politics, and even cars. Robillard, already a hilarious web presence, should be huge. I just dare you not to crack up and fall out of your chair while you read his debut. 02/09 Becky Lejeune

CAPTIVE OF SIN by Anna Campbell: Sir Gideon Trevithick is viewed by his fellow countrymen as a hero, but his survival of the ordeal that dubbed him so has left him a troubled man. This doesn’t keep him from coming to the rescue of Lady Charis Weston, though. Hiding out from her malicious stepbrothers, Charis knows that she only needs to make it to her twenty-first birthday. When Gideon finds her beaten and bedraggled, she purposely hides her identity, fearing that he will return her to her guardians. She couldn’t be more mistaken. Gideon is determined to help the woman, but it the end, it just might be Charis who helps him. Anna Campbell adds her own twist to the classic damsel-in-distress tale in Captive of Sin. As romance goes, Captive is about as escapist as you can get—it certainly moves quickly and keeps the reader interested throughout. Not being a regular historical romance reader, however, I had expected a much darker story based on other reviews of the book. Perhaps for romance, this is the case. As a regular reader of darker genres, though, Captive was only so-so in this department. 11/09 Becky Lejeune

CARAVAN OF THIEVES by David Rich: Rich has created a very intriguing picaresque character that is the star of this appealing novel. Rollie Waters is a marine working as an undercover agent in Afghanistan. His background includes a childhood with a father who has taught him how to lie, cheat and gain things he wants via being a con artist. Rollie is most comfortable working under cover utilizing identities other than his own. while working undercover in the field, he is seized by his own command and thrown into the brig. It is indicated that his father, Dan Waters, has stolen a great deal of money while in Iraq. Rollie is told that he is responsible for finding his father, and returning the money to the general in charge of his unit. In order to find his father, comply with the orders, and get himself out of trouble Rollie has to retrace his youth, wade through years of lies and deceptions and contact Dan. It is years since he saw his father and the task is formidable. Action takes Rollie back and forth between the US and Afghanistan and features an amazing amount of twists and turns. All are logically handled and incorporated into the book. Writing is crisp and engrossing and sweeps the reader along right from the start including a full picture of the complicated relationship between, to say the least, a very unusual pair of father and son. 9/12 Paul Lane

CARNAL SIN by Allison Brennan: The newest release in Allison Brennan’s combination police procedural/paranormal romance series finds Rafe, Moira, and team up against the second of the recently released Seven Deadly Sins: the demon Lust. The Los Angeles PD has had a chain of recent murders that at first seem to be unconnected, but when a morgue employee discovers identical birthmarks on three of the recently deceased, she puts in a call to Santa Louisa. The markings are strikingly similar to those found on the demon Envy’s victims, so Moira, Rafe, and Sheriff Skye McPherson travel to the City of Angels to investigate Though they are not exactly welcomed by the locals, Moira plans a quick trip to the scene of the latest crime and ends up invoking the wrath of more than just the demon itself. As Moira and Rafe prepare for battle, Anthony travels to Venice where he makes some startling discoveries about the coming war between good and evil. Carnal Sin is a great follow up to Original Sin: Brennan definitely set readers up for a whirlwind of a series and has delivered just that so far. As the series continues to build, Brennan weaves a world of amazing detail and plots with fantastic cross-genre appeal. 06/10 Becky Lejeune

CARNIEPUNK by Rachel Caine et al: It’s that time of the year, the time when the carnival arrives. The tents are raised, the barker is in position, and the smell of cotton candy and funnel cakes is in the air. But underneath it all is something strange and slightly foreboding. Carniepunk brings together some of the top urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors of the day. The collection ranges in subject and tone but they all have one thing in common: the carnival theme. In “The Three Lives of Lydia,” Delilah S. Dawson takes readers to the world of her Blud series with the story of the tattooed woman. Allison Pang sets Melanie St. James against a formidable foe in a prequel of sorts to her Abby Sinclair series. In “Werewife” Jaye Wells explores marital discord with a twist. And in “Parlor Tricks,” Jennifer Estep sends her Elemental Assassin lead to the carnival to help her sister track down a missing teen. The anthology includes fourteen authors total and each story stands completely alone even though some tie into existing series. If you’re a fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, this anthology is an absolute must have. Highly recommended. 7/13 Becky Lejeune

CARNIVAL by Elizabeth Bear: I don’t mind books that are challenging to read, as long as they reward you for your hard work. This book, though, just seemed difficult for no reason.
It has a great premise—two gay men are sent as diplomats from Earth to a planet that is entirely run by women, since they will not allow any straight men from outside to visit. All them men on the planet are more or less slaves, most required to fight in gladiator-style tests until they retire to father children for the women. The women are the political and business leaders, and they’re really badass—they fight duels and wear pistols and get involved with all kinds of political machinations.
Then there’s this whole other thing, where the city they live in is kind of a sentient entity, and there are these dragon things that…protect them? Or something? And the earth government is run by computers that were invented by environmental extremists who killed off almost the entire population except for the creative geniuses, I think.
The main problem I had was that there was just too much going on, and I couldn’t tell what the characters were even trying to do, much less what their loyalties were. Even the ending was confusing. Still, I did finish it, and I would probably read something else by the author, since I like her ideas. 05/07 Jenne Bergstrom

THE CARRIE DIARIES by Candace Bushnell: Hot on the heels of the blockbuster Sex and the City 2 movie comes a new book, this time offering us a glimpse into Carrie’s background. Aimed at the young adult market but being read by women of all ages, this is the story of Carrie’s last year of high school in a small New England town and how she made her way to her beloved New York City. As a long time fan of the show and the films, it was important to me that the Carrie I know be portrayed in this book, and she really was. We can see how she developed into the woman that we know, right up until the last page when the timeline goes awry – at least my memory of it. Nitpicking aside, it’s a good look at how Carrie developed her fashion sense, her feminism, and her belief in the power of friendship. 06/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CARRIER OF THE MARK by Leigh Fallon: Megan Rosenberg is a very special girl with a very special gift – she is a Carrier of the Mark. When she and her father relocate to Ireland, she is immediately drawn to the wickedly handsome Adam DeRis. Adam finds himself equally drawn to Megan. Theirs is a connection that is written in legend and a connection that may not be meant to be. As Megan learns about her strange heritage and the powers that come with it, she and Adam grow ever closer, but a group called The Knox has been searching for the ones like Megan and Adam. The Knox will do anything they can to bring down those who bear the Mark. This teen debut and first in a new series is an original concept and a quick read. Fallon’s twist on Irish folklore will be a nice addition to the genre and a welcome one for readers looking for something a little different. 10/11 Becky Lejeune

A CARRION DEATH by Michael Stanley: Michael Stanley is the pen name of the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop. Sears lives in South Africa and Trollop divides his time between South Africa and Minneapolis. I include this information because there is no trace of Minnesota in this first outing by the duo. Its strictly Africa and you can feel the heat, smell the dank vegetation and acrid animal smell on every page. This is home for Detective David “Kubu” Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. Like the hippopotamus (“Kubu” is Setswana for “hippopotamus”) that lives in his native land Bengu conceals a deceptively dangerous streak beneath a placid exterior. His large size is in keeping with his presence, whether it is on the sun-baked and blood soaked plains of the Kalahrai riverbeds or the plush and lavish offices of international conglomerates, Kubu will follow the trail to its end. A welcome addition to the likes of Kaminsky’s Porfiry Rostnikov, Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko, and even Ian Rankin’s John Rebus as larger than life, imminently entertaining but also flawed detectives who can’t be bought, or scared off. Looking forward to the next outing. 06/08 Jack Quick

CARTWHEEL by Jennifer duBois: Lily’s semester abroad becomes a nightmare when she’s arrested and charged with murdering her roommate. Her family is reeling from the news, sure their daughter must be innocent. The head prosecutor on the case is confident of Lily’s guilt, however, especially in light of her odd behavior after the murder. But did Lily really do it? What happened in the weeks leading up to the murder to cause such a horrendous crime? It’s no secret that Jennifer duBois’s latest is highly influenced by the Amanda Knox case. The book is being described as a thriller by some but I found that not to be the case. Instead, it’s more of a character study. The “did she or didn’t she” question is the driving force of the book, but stylistically duBois tells her story in a very roundabout way. It’s a definite wordiness that’s not at all overly descriptive but was difficult to read and made it hard for me to connect with the characters and become captivated by the story itself. 10/13 Becky Lejeune

CASANEGRA by Blair Underwood, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due: Casablanca is Spanish for white house, casanegra means black house. In this black oriented adventure Actor Underwood (Sex and the City, etc.) teams up with accomplished authors Due and Barnes to produce a romp through Hollywood. Tennyson Hardwick, a semi-successful actor, ex-gigolo and incipient sleuth has to clear himself from a murder charge using his good looks and charm, a $2.5 million house inherited from a devoted client, martial arts skills and connections on both sides of the law. All the elements are there to create an on-going series — the sex for pay industry, the grind and glitz of Hollywood and the rap biz, some black film history, and a cool dude with a future. Could this be the John Shaft of the new millennium? 09/07 Jack Quick

CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson: Private detective Jackson Brodie is trying to resolve three old London cases. Two sisters are looking for their missing sister, a retired lawyer is seeking the killer of his adult daughter, and the sibling of a killer is trying to reunite with a niece who witnessed the murder as a baby. Brodie’s efforts heat up all three cases in this tale of family dysfunction and random fate. To me, the book suffers from too many characters. Although well-written, you have to maintain a scorecard to keep up with the shifting cast. A case of too much spice and not enough stew. 01/06 Jack Quick

CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson: The opening book in Kate Atkinson’s highly-praised and acclaimed Jackson Brodie series begins with three cases: a toddler who goes missing in 1970, a girl who is murdered in 1994, and a young wife who kills her husband in 1979. Enter Jackson Brodie. When the father of the toddler dies, two of the remaining daughters hire Jackson to find out what happened to their sister. Then, Theo Wyre hires Jackson to find his daughter’s killer. Finally, the murdering wife’s sister wants Jackson to track down her missing niece. Narrators rotate throughout the book: Jackson, the sisters, Theo, and others offer up their points of view and their pieces of the story. Atkinson also employs a sort of switchback narration when characters’ stories overlap, taking the story back to a prior point with a different narrator and then offering another perspective on an occurrence. Case Histories is an entertaining and often lighthearted mystery and Brodie is a character readers will fall in love with, literally. Case Histories is the first in the series and the first three Brodie books have recently been adapted into a BBC show rumored to be airing on Masterpiece in the US in the near future. 09/11 Becky Lejeune

A CASE OF REDEMPTION by Adam Mitzner: Dan Sorensen was a very successful defense attorney at the start of a promising career with a large New York law firm. Just after winning a high profile case, his wife and daughter are killed by a drunk driver. Dan, traumatized and devastated by the sudden loss, sinks into a period of despair leaving the firm and doing very little other than sinking towards the path of becoming an alcoholic. About 18 months after the tragedy, Dan is coerced into attending a dinner party given by relatives. He is approached by a beautiful woman and talked into coming back into the law in order to represent a rapper that has been accused of murdering his pop star girl friend. The rapper (stage name “Legally Dead”) has fired his first attorney, and based on Dan’s win of the case settled before the deaths of his wife and daughter, wants Dan to represent him. A partnership is set up with Nina, the woman that approached him at the dinner, when it develops that she is leaving a law firm in order to try and get more meaning into her life. The two meet with L.D. (Legally Dead) and he agrees to have Dan and Nina represent him. The pair begin preparations and work at Dan’s house on the administrative aspects of the defense. In the course of the trial the two find that they are falling in love, with Dan the biggest beneficiary of both the relationship and work on the trial when he finds that he is coming back to an interest in life again. Adam Mitzner’s day job is as a practicing attorney in New York, making his descriptions and analysis of the trial and byplay in it as real as possible. His characters live and breathe, acting as they undoubtedly would if involved in the action surrounding the trial. The end is not telegraphed but is a logical one and the reactions of all participants in the story definitely what they would have been in real life. A page turner, and a forecaster of Adam Mitzner’s success in the literary world. Certainly making sure that the reader looks forward to future books by him. 05/13 Paul Lane

CASTAWAYS by Briane Keene: If you like Survivor, you’ll like Castaways. Even if you hate Survivor, you’ll love Castaways. Contestants on a reality survival show find that they are fighting for much more than prize money in Keene’s latest horror release. First, a massive storm is headed straight for the island where they are shooting. The producers admit that while they can’t force anyone to stay on the island, anyone who chooses to leave will forfeit the game. No one who has lived through the grueling challenges thus far is ready to give up now. Then they find that the so-called uninhabited island is very much inhabited and the locals are not so welcoming to the contestants. In fact, the locals are downright bloodthirsty and the competitors are beginning to look like pretty good eating to them. Keene throws in one more wrench for his characters, but I don’t want to give it all away too soon. This gruesome and chilling “beach read” comes from a tale Keene wrote as tribute to the late, great Richard Laymon. A must read for today’s horror fans. 01/09 Becky Lejeune

THE CAT DANCERS by P.T. Deutermann: Two lowlifes escape punishment after robbing a gas station, murdering the attendant, and incinerating bystanders when they shoot up the gas pumps, because the Manceford County, North Carolina, police failed to read the suspects their rights. Soon thereafter, a mysterious e-mail arrives in the department, a link to a video of one of the murderers being executed in a homemade electric chair, ending with a voice announcing, “That’s one.” The shocking video spreads throughout the Internet, drawing the attention of local, state, and federal authorities and national media, and putting intense pressure on these same authorities to find the vigilante before he claims his second victim. Outstanding. 05/06 Jack Quick

CATCH ME by Lisa Gardner: Boston police Detective D.D. Warren is back and when we last saw her, she was newly pregnant. Baby Jack has been born and D.D. is just heading back to work after maternity leave, sleep and caffeine deprived but ready to go. Her first case involves the homicide of a pedophile, which is quickly linked to an unsolved murder of another pedophile. Sex Crimes Detective Ellen “O” quickly muscles her way into the case and brings a level of expertise to the table, spouting facts that scare the crap out of D.D. and parents/readers everywhere. While visiting the crime scene, D.D. sees a young woman hovering near her car who then takes off with D.D. in hot pursuit. Turns out Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant just wanted to check out the detective because she believes she will be the victim of a murder in a few days. Her two best friends were murdered on Jan. 21st on the two previous years. D.D. is intrigued and starts looking into the young woman’s story and finds the truth there. Grant is a police communications officer, keeping watch over her officers and handling 911 calls with aplomb, lending credence to her story. This is a fascinating look at the lives of 911 operators, the unsung heroes of the police department, and at a very interesting case. Lots of twists and turns and a whopper of a surprise ending made this a book that kept me up late into the night. Gardner just keeps getting better. 2/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins: Peeta and Katniss beat the odds and came out of the Hunger Games alive—together. As the twelve Districts begin to actively rebel, Katniss’s final act in the Games is blamed as the catalyst. After all, only one was supposed to survive, but Katniss and Peeta managed to convince viewers that they were so in love they were willing to die together rather than leave one another. As Katniss learns more, she finds that things are not quite what they seem. Capitol control of the Districts has been precarious for some time and she and Peeta are pawns in a game they cannot predict. As the rules change around them, they must fight for survival once again. Oh, a cliffhanger ending if ever there was one. At least the series wrap up, Mockingjay, is already out ‘cause I am dying to know what happens now. 12/10 Becky Lejeune

CELEBUTANTES by Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper: Hollywood’s newest generation takes a swipe at life in La La Land; Goldberg is the offspring of über-producer Leonard Goldberg, and Hopper is Easy Rider Dennis Hopper’s progeny. Together they’ve penned the story of Lola Santisi, daughter of a powerful director who’s up for his second Oscar. The story is set during Oscar week, and each chapter counts down the days and hours until the big event. Every party, picnic and religious event is documented with inside dirt, dish and name dropping galore, along with some thinly veiled pseudonyms – even though I was completely out of my element, I managed to pick up on the “Uncle Jon”/Jack Nicholson reference. After flopping big in her acting debut, Lola turns her talents to helping her Best Gay Forever friend Julian Tennant, wannabe fashion designer to the stars, by getting one of the A-List celebrities to wear one of his gowns on the red carpet at the Oscars. If you read People magazine religiously and channel surf between ET, Showbiz Tonight or whatever celebrity gossip shows there are out there, then this is the book for you. For me, reading this book was rather like watching a train wreck; I was disturbed, shocked, even horrified at times, but couldn’t stop looking. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CEMETERY DANCE by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: In the latest Pendergast thriller, the illustrious detective must team up with D’Agosta to investigate what appears to be a killing by zombie. Worse yet, the victim is someone the two men consider a close friend. All evidence points to the killer being one of the vic’s own neighbors, a man who turned up in the morgue prior to the killing. Pendergast calls on the help of his childhood tutor, a man who specializes in Obeah and vodou, when the search leads to a strange cult centered in Manhattan. Public sentiment regarding the group in question has always been on the negative side, but the link to this recent murder is just what certain protest groups need to feed the fire. Soon it seems as though all of Manhattan is watching, just waiting to see what will happen, and Pendergast and D’Agosta are right in the middle. Preston and Child have done it again. Pendergast is as good as ever and, as usual, readers will be dying to know what comes next for this strange and fascinating character and his friends. 05/09 Becky Lejeune

CEMETERY GIRL by David Bell: When Tom Stuart’s daughter reappears after four years, the first question on everyone’s mind is, “What happened?” A witness claimed to have seen Caitlin with a man and soon others come forward with the same story. But Caitlin refuses to give any details about the past four years of her life, and when a suspect is arrested, she refuses to testify against him. As her father, Tom is determined to protect his daughter. As his marriage and his family fall apart in the aftermath of such a tragedy, he searches for answers that will explain how something like this could have happened and who can be held accountable. Cemetery Girl is a disturbing debut. Not only is the subject not for the faint hearted, but the misery that Bell conveys through Tom and the other characters, and the unsettling revelations that are slowly revealed about Caitlin’s past, make the book an uncomfortable read. 10/11 Becky Lejeune KINDLE

CERTAIN GIRLS by Jennifer Weiner: Weiner writes good chick-lit. She’s the author of In Her Shoes, which became a blockbuster movie with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Weiner’s first novel was the chick-lit bestseller Good in Bed and Certain Girls is the sequel. In Good in Bed, our heroine Candace “Cannie” Shapiro gets dumped and reads about it in a magazine article written by the dumper. In retaliation, she writes a very angry, very funny novel that becomes a huge bestseller. Now we meet up with Cannie about 10 years later, as she’s getting ready for her daughter Joy’s bat mitzvah. The story is told in alternating first person chapters between Joy and Cannie, so we get both perspectives of the coming-of-age, mother-daughter relationship in all its glory. Being a mother of a 15 year old who went through the bat mitzvah process not that long ago, I could easily relate. Cannie has been pseudonymously writing a young adult sci-fi series for years and reveling in being a wife and mother. The angst arises when Joy gets hold of a copy of her mother’s bestseller, which raises all sorts of questions about her family. Certain Girls has lots of angst, lots of laughs and a very bittersweet ending – I loved it. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CERTAIN JEOPARDY by Captain Jeff Struecker: Fairly routine thriller about a team of six Special Ops soldiers who attempt to confirm the existence of an Al Qaeda base in Venezuela. In the process they stumble upon a plan to transport a kidnapped nuclear weapons expert from that camp to Iran. Labeled as Christian fiction, the action ebbs and flows around discussions of family and faith, which can be unsettling when juxtaposed with firefights and murder. Reminds me of the local anti-gambling folks who insist that Jesus likes Bingo but doesn’t approve casino gambling. Think Rambo, but “G” rated. 09/09 Jack Quick

CHAIN OF COMMAND by Colby Marshall: The President and the Vice President are both killed, catapulting the Speaker of the House into the White House as the first woman President of the United States. And that is just the opening of Marshall’s first novel. Talk about a thrill a minute; the book is definitely that and than some. Journalist McKenzie McClendon, relegated to second tier on the newspaper she works for, takes a popular opinion that U.S. Navy SEALS committed the crimes and writes a scathing condemnation of these elite warriors. Former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins has an entirely different opinion of the crimes. His former buddy is found dead and blamed for one of the murders. He does not believe this and decides to go after the real killers. He convinces McKenzie to work with him with the carrot of being able to write the story of the century about the truth. The duo come into contact with several groups involved in the assassination plot; a violent feminist organization, foreign terrorists and crooked politicians. When the reader thinks they have the plot all figured out, there is another twist added, and all in all there are more twists and turns than a roller coaster. The ending is not telegraphed, although clues do appear in the scenario. Definitely a book that is impossible to put down, and needs to be finished in one sitting savoring the literature. Hutchins and McKenzie may appear in a future book but the most important thing is that there should be future books written by this talented author. 2/13 Paul Lane

CHAIN OF COMMAND by Caspar Weinberger and Peter Schweizer: A former Secretary of Defense working with an experienced author yields a debut political thriller of the first magnitude. The weapon of Secret Service Special Agent Michael Delaney is used to killed the President and wound the Vice-President. The new President declares a state of national emergency, putting the entire nation under martial law, and then prepares to take out a right-wing militia he claims is responsible. Delaney and others have doubts that quickly grow in proportion to the new President’s actions. All the action takes place in a hectic nine-day span. Maybe the dialogue isn’t the greatest but what a plot. 02/06 Jack Quick

A CHAIN OF THUNDER by Jeff Shaara: The second in Shaara’s planned trilogy about the western battles in the Civil War. The focus of this book is on the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, a battle that established the reputation of Ulysses Grant and his later promotion to commander of the entire union army. Shaara uses the same format as he has done in his other books: that is, a great deal of research and the use of characters, both fictional and real. In relating the stories he sets up both conversations and interactions between the main individuals which have the ring of being possibly those that actually took place at the time. The reader’s interest is captured by the feeling that he or she is reading a well done novel with the understanding that facts presented are those that actually took place at the time of the book. General Grant looked at the capture of Vicksburg as a military necessity in order to disrupt the supply line for the Confederacy and achieve control of the Mississippi river. At a great cost in casualties he crossed the Mississippi and drew a line at the city. Due to the heavy casualties suffered by his army he elected to lay siege to Vicksburg rather than attempt to take it by frontal attacks. Shaara uses both Grant and General William Sherman as key commanders directing the siege, and Bauer, a private that was used in his book Blaze of Glory previously to depict the human side of the conflict. The Confederate side uses both Generals John Pemberton who commanded the men defending Vicksburg and Joseph Johnston who chose not to come to the aid of the troops under Pemberton, but remained in Tennessee indicating that the siege of Vicksburg was nothing but minor skirmishes between the armies. There is also the use of a civilian living in Vicksburg, Lucy Spence who was an actual person, and distinguished herself by volunteering as a nurse at a hospital ministering to the Confederate wounded. The book is ideal for any reader interested in Civil War history, but actually anyone that would like to immerse themselves in an excellent novel with the knowledge that it is based on fact. 7/13 Paul Lane

Chains Around the Grass by Naomi Ragen: This beautifully written tale brings the impoverished Markowitz family to life as their American Dream turns into a nightmare. Set in the 1950’s in the projects in The Bronx, those “chains around the grass” are metaphoric as well as physical for little Sara. Her strength of character comes from the strength of her faith and is a wondrous thing to behold. The autobiographical nature of this novel makes it a heart wrenching and compelling read. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CHALICE by Nancy Bilyeau: In the year since the closing of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford and her fellow sisters and novices have tried to make a home for themselves in the local village. Their residence has been met with some conflict, however, with Henry’s ardent supporters’ increasing animosity towards everyone of the Catholic faith. Joanna is set on beginning a new life for both herself and her half brother, even planning to set up shop creating tapestries like those she worked on at the Priory. When they are both offered a chance to visit family in London, Joanna agrees thinking it will offer a bit of relief and a temporary change for the two of them. But all is not well in London. Joanna’s relatives are intent on setting in motion a prophecy that Joanna has long tried to escape, one that could mean a restoration of the Church and even possibly her order. The cost of this path would be steep, though, and Joanna fears for the fate of her immortal soul. This second in Bilyeau’s historical fiction trilogy is filled with political intrigue and mystery. It works well as a stand alone but is a perfect follow up to The Crown and set up for the forthcoming third part of the story, The Covenant. 9/13 Becky Lejeune

CHARLEMAGNE PURSUIT by Steve Berry: In the fourth title to feature Cotton Malone, Berry finally gives readers a glimpse into Malone’s past. In 1971, Cotton Malone’s father was stationed on a navy sub that went down in the Atlantic, or so he and his mother were told. Unofficially, the sub sank while on a mission to Antarctica – the files have been sealed ever since. Cotton requests access to the files as a favor from his boss, and within minutes of receiving the information he is attacked. He escapes, but then comes face to face with a set of ruthless twins who claim that their own father was part of the same mission as the elder Malone. It seems the sub may have been on a covert op that was inspired by Hitler’s own search for the Aryan race. Malone will have to retrace his father’s long lost steps in order to get out of this one alive. Meanwhile, back at the home base, Malone’s boss is teamed up with none other than the president’s right hand man in an attempt to lean the reason behind the mission and who has been keeping it under wraps all these years. Charlemagne Pursuit is full of the page-turning suspense that readers expect from Berry. The plot is expertly woven and the insight into Malone’s character is a welcome addition to the series. My favorite Berry title yet. 12/08 Becky Lejeune

THE CHAMELEON CONSPIRACY by Haggi Carmon: Third outing for Agent Dan Gordon, Senior Investigative Attorney for the Office of Asset Recovery and Money Laundering of the U.S. Department of Justice, who holds law degrees from the United States and Israel and has a three year stint in Mossad, as well as CIA credentials. It will take all of Gordon’s skill and experience as he goes against the master criminal and con man known as the Chameleon who has eluded international law enforcement for twenty years. As Gordon pursues his prey, he uncovers the fact that there is yet another side to the mysterious Chameleon – he’s an undercover sleeper agent. The Chameleon has been on the loose for twenty years, but he has never had Dan Gordon on his trail, an agent who will go anywhere, anytime, anyplace to face any danger – to succeed. 05/09 Jack Quick

THE CHAMELEON’S SHADOW by Minette Walters: Lieutenant Charles Acland returns to England a broken man after barely surviving an attack on the reconnaissance convoy he was leading in Iraq. The two soldiers that accompanied him are both dead. Acland himself has suffered severe head injuries and facial fractures that have left him with debilitating migraines, minor amnesia, and constant ringing in his ears. The attack cost him one eye and left major scarring to the side of his face. His temperament and personality have also been affected. He has become short-tempered, distrusts everyone around him especially women, and has broken off all ties with any remaining friends. Has he become a killer, though? Shortly before being shipped off to Iraq, two men were brutally attacked and murdered in London. After Acland returns to England, a third man is attacked shortly after an altercation with him at a bank ATM. Acland’s behaviors of late certainly seem to work against his favor but those around him doubt that he is responsible. That is until the evidence otherwise begins to pile up. Minette Walters is one of England’s queens of psychological suspense. Her subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) manipulation of readers through the use of unreliable characters leaves fans guessing until the very end. In some ways, Chameleon is similar to one of her previous works, The Dark Room. True to form, however, Walters has once again delivered an original and gripping edge of your seat thriller. 01/08 Becky Lejeune

CHANGELESS by Gail Carriger: In the second Parasol Protectorate installment, London’s supernaturals are all in a tizzy after a recent case of human temporarily afflicted them all. As a preternatural, Alexia, the new Lady Woolsey and muhjah to the Queen, is one of the few with such a power—with a touch she can render a vampire or werewolf completely mortal and exorcise ghosts as well. But even Alexia doesn’t have the ability to turn all of London’s paranormal beings at once. Her new official position on the Crown’s Shadow Council allows her to investigate on the Queen’s behalf, so she follows her husband to Scotland where he’s recently traveled to visit his old pack, consequently and unfortunately now without an Alpha to lead them. Alexia believes the strange events of late can be traced back to various packs and their recent travels and may have followed the Scots back to their territory, especially once she discovers that the Alpha-less wolves haven’t been able to change for some months. Undoubtedly, where Alexia goes trouble follows, but it’s never too much for the spirited and willful heroine to handle. Carriger’s quirky series is filled with witty sarcasm and humor. Truly enjoyable and completely original. 02/11 Becky Lejeune

CHAOS by Escober: What a week for British soldier Alex Fisher who has escaped to Mexico to try to put his life back together after a tour in Bosnia. It starts with a blackout, and then he is arrested for rape – a crime he is certain he did not commit. After the “police” work him over on a deserted beach, he is convince the cops, legitimate or not, plan to kill him, so he beats them to the punch, literally. Now there are two bodies, just the start of a series of life-threatening encounters, all of which seem related to a chance meeting with a mysterious woman named Angela. Mentally, Fisher is less than whole and the things that come creeping out form the cracks are not at all pretty. Where will it end. Sometimes the truth is harder to accept than the lies. This is the first of four books by a popular Dutch writing duo, and is their American debut. 08/09 Jack Quick

CHARLOTTE STREET by Danny Wallace: Jason Priestly believeed it might just be love at first sight when he helped a girl on Charlotte Street one afternoon. She was laden down with boxes and trying to hail a cab when Jason stepped in to help. After she was off, he realized he still had her camera. Thinking it would be a great opportunity to meet her again, he returned to Charlotte Street, imagining the conversation he’d strike up while returning the item. Unfortunately he misses his chance. Soon his roommate has convinced him to develop the film and together they begin a scavenger hunt for Jason’s dream girl, following in her footsteps and tracing her path through the twelve pictures. But is Jason ready for reality or is he better off living a dream? Danny Wallace’s debut is a wonderfully charming story about love, life, and friends. Jason makes mistake after mistake and ultimately has to face up to his future, but he serves as inspiration—and a source of frustration—to all of those around him. Charlotte Street is a fun and thoughtful read. 11/12 Becky Lejeune

THE CHASE by Clive Cussler: Cussler goes back over a hundred years for this one. Set in 1906, it tells the tale of the Government’s efforts to track down the Butcher Bandit, so named because he has gunned down 38 adults and two children in a series of robberies, leaving behind no clues or witnesses. Van Dorn Detective Agency lead agent Isaac Bell heads up the manhunt and ultimately identifies the Butcher. Then the chase is really on, through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and onto a pair of steam locomotives and more high speed (for the times) thrills. A nice change of pace for Cussler. 07/08 Jack Quick

CHASING DARKNESS by Robert Crais: The latest in the Elvis Cole series lives up to the high standards set in its predecessors. Fires in the hills have become a staple of TV news, unfortunately, and Crais uses such a fire as an interesting way to introduce this story. As cops are going door to door, trying to evacuate a neighborhood that’s burning, they stumble across an old man who has apparently killed himself – several days before they got there. At his feet is a photo album filled with Polaroids of dead women. As if the fires weren’t hot enough, this story really blazes as Cole gets involved. Seems he helped exonerate the dead man, once accused of murdering one of the women in his photo album. Determined to prove that he didn’t err in that previous investigation, and uncertain about what really is in that photo album, Cole takes off doing what he does best – getting to the bottom of the mystery that the cops are all too happy to conclude is a done deal. An intricate story and a setting that comes alive as well as any character combine to make this a memorable novel for Robert Crais fans – including the new fans who haven’t discovered him until now. 7/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CHASING DARKNESS by Robert Crais: Wow, what a plot. Police and fire department personnel discover the corpse of one Lionel Byrd, an apparent suicide. In his lap is a photo album containing crime scene photos from seven brutally murdered women, one per year for seven years. All the evidence appears to point to Byrd’s guilt as a serial killer. Three years ago, however, when Byrd was charged with the fifth of these seven murders, Elvis Cole was hired by Byrd’s attorney and found an exculpatory videotape that allowed Lionel Byrd to walk free. At the time Elvis was a hero. But was he in fact collateral damage? Now he is being reviled and threatened while he himself is desperate to know the truth. Was he responsible indirectly for the deaths of two young women? Can he and Joe Pike find out the truth before someone takes out Elvis? Start this one on a Friday since you aren’t gonna put it down soon. 08/08 Jack Quick

CHASING HARRY WINSTON by Lauren Weisberger: Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana have been friends for over a decade. Emmy was recently dumped by “the guy”, the man she thought she would marry and have children with. Leigh is a young publicist. She has the perfect job, the perfect apartment, the perfect man. Then she signs on as editor for Jesse Chapman a brilliant, yet impossible, writer. She begins to realize that the life isn’t that perfect. And finally, Adriana is the stunning daughter of a renowned supermodel. She has no qualms with flaunting and using her Brazilian charm to get any man she wants. Emmy and Adriana make a pact to put an end to their dismal lives. Emmy decides that she should expand her “knowledge” of men by traveling around the world and bedding a man from each country. Adriana resolves to pick one of many potential suitors and settle down. A year later the girls must decide just how much in their lives has changed. While I can admit that this was an engaging beach read, it reminded me a bit too much of Sex in the City. I kept envisioning Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana as Charlotte, Carrie and Miranda. The similarities between the two sets of characters are uncanny. 07/08 Jennifer Lawrence

CHASING MIDNIGHT by Randy Wayne White: Tomlinson gets himself and Doc Ford into serious trouble when he gets them invited to a private island reception hosted by a notorious Russian black marketer heavily involved in the illegal sturgeon/caviar trade. Environmental extremists take control of the island, or are they thugs hired by the Russian’s competitors? Whatever the motive, they have herded everyone together and threatened to kill one hostage every hour unless their demands are met-at which point they will just blow everybody up. Electronic jammers make communications with the outside world impossible. The only hope of avoiding terrible consequences: The militants do not know Ford’s capabilities, or that he is still on the loose. Can you believe Doc Ford saves the day. Wow. 4/12 Jack Quick

CHASING SMOKE by Bill Cameron: Detective Skin Kadash is currently on medical leave from the Portland PD, trying to get through treatments for bladder cancer, and not doing so well. Then he gets a call from his former partner in regards to her current case. Four seemingly unrelated suicides have popped up recently – unrelated but for the list dead man number one’s daughter shows up with after the discovery of his body. On the list are five names; four of them are now dead. Although the deaths have been officially ruled suicides, Skin’s partner is concerned enough to ask him to do some digging on the side, off the record, and out of their Lieutenant’s line of site. Skin is more concerned by the fact that each of the five men on the list were also being treated by the same oncologist that he sees. Pure coincidence or is something more sinister at work in Portland? Cameron’s second mystery is a gritty noir-esque piece filled with dark sarcastic humor and not one, but multiple probable femmes fatale. Readers may remember Skin from a brief appearance in Cameron’s debut, Lost Dog. 11/08 Becky Lejeune

Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly: This stand-alone thriller is not in the same league as the Harry Bosch series, but is a good read nonetheless. Henry Pierce is a techno-millionaire who inherits the phone number of an Internet based escort named Lilly Quinlan. A few hours of incessant phone calls leads him to wonder why she hasn’t taken the phone number off her web page. Henry is worried about her, the residue of guilt over his prostitute sister’s death years earlier, so he ditches work and pursues the missing girl. Some of it really stretches the imagination, but there are some nice twists, interesting characters and good writing. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CHASING THE DRAGON by Domenic Stansberry: Dante Mancuso is an ex SFPD cop coming home to North Beach, San Francisco’s traditionally Italian district of 19th-century row houses, “drunks caterwauling in the midnight streets,” and “old Calabrese … all dressed in black, hunched over like crows on the wire.” The homecoming is a mixed blessing for the agent who has spend the past seven years working for a covert security operation that has him traveling to hotspots all over the world. Coming home means coming to grips with some of the reasons he left in the first place, but it also means the opportunity to make a major Chinatown drug bust that may or may not assuage some of his feelings about the murder of a custom inspector that ultimately led to his leaving the force and the city. This is the first in a new series, and Stansberry seems to have nailed San Francisco perfectly. You can hear the sea lions, smell the sourdough, and know it can’t be anywhere else but the city that famous San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen called Baghdad by the Bay. 06/07 Jack Quick

CHEAT THE GRAVE by Vicki Pettersson: The latest in Pettersson’s explosively original Zodiac series finds Joanna Archer mortal after sacrificing her powers to save a young girl. Abandoned by her troop, Joanna finds herself battling a new enemy alone. Or maybe not. Sleepy Mac, one of the rogues of MidHeaven has escaped and is out for vengeance. But Mac is not the only one who escapes the now locked world and Joanna finds herself amongst a group of rogues who have been hiding out just outside of Vegas town limits. Each of them is willing to follow and help protect Joanna, especially if it means finally upsetting the balance between the troops of Light and Shadow that have been waging war amongst themselves for decades. The rogues believe that if they can overthrow both troops, whose only concern has been defeating one another, then the rogues can offer protection to humans, something they believe the agents should have been doing all along. But joining them means that Joanna would become rogue herself, putting her on the wanted list for both troops and making enemies of her former allies. What happens next is anyone’s guess as Pettersson takes the series to completely unpredictable new levels. I love it, as usual. 05/10 Becky Lejeune

The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters by Chip Kidd: A more accurate subtitle might have been “A Novel of Graphic Design”. Chip Kidd designs book covers for a living; this is his first novel. Our protagonist is a newly enrolled freshman at a state university, majoring in art because he hates art and figures that “…if any school would treat the subject with the proper disdain, it would be one that was run by the government.” Besides having a charming, quirky way with words, the author has outdone himself: the book itself is a masterpiece of design. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH by Simon Beckett: Forensic anthropologist David Hunter left the city three years ago when after his wife and daughter are killed in a drunk driving accident. No longer able to distance himself from the bodies he once examined, he retreats to the small village of Manham where he can start anew. Now, practicing as a general practitioner, he wants nothing more than to forget his prior profession. When two boys discover a badly decomposed body in the woods, Hunter is asked to help identify the body and the cause of death. Before they know it, the small village is faced with a sadistic serial killer who may be one of their own and Hunter finds himself being dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation. Beckett combines forensic anthropology and entomology in this fantastic debut. This promises to be a great new series. Beckett is a fresh new voice to the genre. 10/06 Becky LeJeune

CHERRY BEACH EXPRESS by R.D. Cain: Toronto Police Sex Crimes Detective Steve Nastos is good at his job. Perhaps that is why he has been wrongfully accused of murdering his dentist – a man whom he believes committed an unspeakable crime against his daughter. Freed on bail, Nastos attempts to track down the actual killer in a town where laws are seen more as guidelines and law enforcement agents adhere to their own moral relativism. With a recovering alcoholic lawyer, a rogue cop, and a two-faced judge, Nastos has the cards stacked against him. When his estranged yet beloved wife becomes involved in the case, the stakes become higher, and Nastos is forced to protect her. Nicely done, but not for the faint of heart. 06/11 Jack Quick KINDLE

THE CHESS MACHINE by Robert Löhr, translated by Anthea Bell: In the late 1700’s, a spectacle was touring Europe and eventually even the U.S. This spectacle was a chess playing automaton called the Mechanical Turk. Conceived and created by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1770 Hungary as a way to curry favor with the Empress Maria Theresia, this novel is a fictionalized version of that incredibly imaginative device and its history. The secret behind the Mechanical Turk wasn’t the earliest version of the computer, but rather a carefully hidden chess phenom who also happened to be a dwarf who could be easily concealed within the “machine.” Tibot Scardenelli was a little person who had spent his life playing chess for money, and getting beaten and robbed in the process. When his circumstances turn even more dismal and dangerous, Scardenelli decides to take up the Baron’s offer to defraud the Empress and the world. Some at court are suspicious of the machine, and tension mounts when a baroness is found murdered and evidence points to the Mechanical Turk. The Chess Machine is a fascinating story and a completely engrossing read. 07/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CHICAGO BLUES edited by Libby Fischer Hellmann: My four favorite cities in the entire world are Atlanta, because I’ve lived there; San Francisco, because of its beauty; Boston, for its history; and Chicago, for its people. Only Chicago could have produced Elwood and Jake and nobody does blues like Chicago authors Sara Paretsky, Stuart Kaminsky, Barbara D’Amato, Max Allan Collins, Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, Michael Black, J A Konrath, and Libby Fischer Hellmann, among others. So ride the “El” to a $10 room in a no-name hotel above an all night bar, grab a six-pack of Rheingold “Not a common name. Not a common beer” and enjoy these stories. After all, it’s nearly a year until the Cubbies blow another pennant run. 11/07 Jack Quick

CHICAGO NOIR edited by Neal Pollock: This was the second in Akashic’s city-themed noir series, and is probably most noticeable for the names not included such as Max Allan Coolins, Sara Paretsky and Barbara D’Amato. Nevertheless, the eighteen stories are entertaining and reflect the diversity of Chicago, even if none of the authors are household names – at least they were all new to me – Jeff Allen, Jim Arndorfer, Daniel Buckman, Todd Dills, Andrew Ervin, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Luciano Guerrieero, Kevin Guilfoile, Adam Langer, Joe Meno, M. K. Meyers, Achy Obejas, Bajot Ojikuto, Peter Orner, Neal Pollock, Amy Sayre-Roberts, C. J. Sullivan, and Claire Zulkey. If the stories are light on Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and deep-dish pizza, it is where Chicagoans live, with nothing glossed over and nothing left uncovered. With titles like “Zero Zero Day”, “Goodnight Chicago and Amen” and “Marty’s Drink or Die Club,” you know you aren’t far from Wrigley Field. 12/07 Jack Quick

THE CHICAGO WAY by Michael Harvey: You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago Way – Sean Connery as Officer Jim Malone in The Untouchables. So that’s where Harvey got the title for this action packed debut and in depth portrait of the seamy underside of Chi Town. Michael Kelly is a former Chicago detective turned PI who is just trying to help an old partner when he lands right in the middle of a cover-up which involves a death row killer. From that point on, the subtitle should be the disco hit Stayin’ Alive, because that’s about all Kelly can do. Harvey, the co-creator and executive producer of A&E’s Cold Case Files, can also pen a darn good tale as well. 09/07 Jack Quick

THE CHICK AND THE DEAD by Casey Daniels: The spunky heroine from last year’s Don of the Dead is back. Pepper Martin’s story picks up literally where Don left off. To recap, Pepper Martin has been “gifted” with the ability to see the dead after hitting her head on a grave at the Garden View Cemetery where she works as a tour guide. It’s a gift she’d like to give back. After solving the murder of mob boss Gus Scarpetti, the word is out that Pepper is for hire and Gus has apparently recommended her services to one Didi Bowman, the dead and seemingly forgotten sister of the famous Merilee Bowman. Merilee is the author of the Civil War epic So Far the Dawn, a book that is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Didi does not want Pepper to solve a murder this time, though. Didi wants Pepper to prove that Merilee is not the real author. Didi wrote the book before she died and Merilee stole all the credit. Now, Merilee is back in Cleveland for the anniversary of the book’s release and the opening of the So Far the Dawn museum. Pepper’s investigation is not going to be easy considering the fact that Merilee stands to lose millions if the truth is revealed. When Merilee’s personal secretary dies after suffocating in her corset (for the reenactment ball of course) Didi and Ella (Pepper’s boss) are quick to suggest that Pepper take her place. The position will gain her access to the proof that she needs to solve Didi’s case but could it also get her killed? How hard can it really be to deal with a fraudulent septuagenarian after taking on the Mafia, right? This is a one-sitting read that’s perfect for a relaxing day off. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith: In Stalinist Russia, the government would have you believe that Communism is the only way to live, that their system is the best, that they’ve eliminated crime and jealousy. To attempt to speak out and disprove the government means years of hard labor and even death. Everyone lives on edge wondering if they will be the next ones on the militia’s hit list. Leo Demidov, a war hero and well-respected member of the elite militia, has never questioned authority until now. His wife is accused of being a spy and Leo must show where his loyalties lie – with his superiors, or with his family. The wrong decision results in his exile and demotion. Then, a body is discovered. The accused is a mentally challenged teen from a local asylum. Leo knows that the boy can’t be responsible. In fact, Leo knows that this is not the first murder of its kind. But how do you prove there is a serial killer on the loose in a country that disavows even the possibility of crime. On his own, Leo discovers a second body in the area and, believing that he has proven the boy’s innocence, turns it over to authorities. Instead, the boy is killed for the first murder and a witch-hunt begins for a second killer, the government’s way of eliminating undesirables amongst their perfect society. A search through local records reveals over forty bodies and Leo will literally risk everything to find the real killer. This is one of the most talked about books of the year, and I’ve got to tell you, it definitely lives up to the hype. It’s brilliant debut based on painstaking research. Smith’s attention, not only to the physical details of his setting, but to the emotional strain and motivations of his characters amidst this environment are impeccable. This will be one of the best books you read all year. 05/08 Becky Lejeune

THE CHILDREN OF BLACK VALLEY by Evan Kilgore: Sam Mackie is an orphan. He grew up not knowing much about his past except a strange memory of a black and foreboding tower. He grows up to become a pharmaceutical executive, married with two sons. Then his life starts coming apart. His oldest son disappears, his wife dives into the bottle and they end up divorced. Things aren’t going well at work, and to top it all off, his remaining son is hospitalized with radiation poisoning. All the available evidence points to some link with Sam’s past and what turns out to be an abandoned nuclear silo in the jungles of Africa. Definitely different, and pretty well done. 09/08 Jack Quick

CHILDREN OF PARANOIA by Trevor Shane: This is the first novel by Shane, and planned number one in a prospective trilogy. If his first book is indicative of what is to come I can’t wait for the next to come out. The author manages to pull the reader directly into a very different world than our normal one. Into a world where a long term clandestine war between two opposing sides is being fought and murder of the opposition is the norm. The war is fought under the surface of the every day events happening in the world around it. Neither side is aware of the original causes of the war; only that they are born into it, and forced to take part by their families and the fact that they become the legitimate enemies of the other side when they reach 18 years of age.
The book is written in a first person narrative, first by “Joe” who is the principal protagonist , and than by his wife “Maria”. The choice of utilizing first person narration becomes an excellent means of character development showing logical initial and later reactions by both to the situation that they are forced to take part in. Events depicted drive both people towards a very logical , although disturbing climax with the scene set for the next book. Shane is excellent in being able to set up a believable world where the normal is complete paranoia regarding everything around the two and allowing the reader to envision such situations as being possible. 09/11 Paul Lane

THE CHILD THIEF by Dan Smith: Luka is a soldier turned reluctant farmer, living a hand-to-mouth existence in a small Soviet village with his wife and children. While out hunting, he finds a strange, sick man pulling a sled holding the bodies of two young children. Everyone in this small village lives in fear of the communists taking their homes and putting them on work farms, so a stranger in their midst causes a panic. The townspeople turn on Luka and hang the unconscious man, scaring Luka’s young niece to take off into the woods. Luka determines that a man has taken her and he, his twin teenage sons and the girl’s father take off through the frozen wasteland to find the girl and the man who took her. The terrain is barely passable; the weather is brutal, but not as brutal as the man who took the girl. Luka soldiers on, killing when he has to but determined to bring the girl home. The tone is dark and disturbing in this tightly written story, tension mounting until the unexpected ending. Sure to appeal to fans of David Benioff and Tom Rob Smith 6/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

CHILI CON CORPSES by J. B. Stanley: What do you do when you’re in deep guacamole? Well, you could add black beans, Chihuahua cheese, homemade salsa, scallions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, seasoned beef, jalapenos, black olives and tortilla chips and then throw the “kitchen sink nachos” at your foe. Occasionally, you need a culinary mystery to cleanse the palate and this supper club series fills the bill nicely. With chapter titles like Apple Fritters, Virginia Ham, Peppermint Patty Hero Cake, and the like, you will be surprised to know that underneath all the goodies lurks a neat little mystery. The Mexican cooking class for supper club members was Lindy’s idea, so when people start turning up dead and the evidence points toward her, Lindy is hotter than a jalapeno. Our group finds far more spice in their life than they were seeking. So grab a handful of munchies and have at it. Oh, might also have some of those sticky things to mark the recipe pages as well. 03/08 Jack Quick

CHILL OF NIGHT by John Lutz: Ex-NYPD homicide detective has been “returned to duty” from medical retirement compounded by his don’t give a damn attitude toward the department brass. But they need him, and his skill, to capture the Justice Killer. Each of the Killer’s victims at one time served as foreman on a jury that acquitted an “obviously” guilty defendant. However, as the killer becomes more adept at his attempt to gain revenge for his own personal situation, he makes a startling discovery. He actually enjoys the killing, particularly of women. Now the stakes get higher as the list of potential victims expands exponentially. Although not ground breaking content, Lutz’ skill at keeping the suspense level high while maintaining credibility make this a first rate read. 10/08 Jack Quick

CHILLWATER COVE by Thomas Lakeman: FBI agent Peggy Weaver has just broken a huge child abduction case in Philadelphia. Evidence at the scene, however, will lead her back to the real case that started it all. One afternoon, young Peggy and her best friend, Samantha, were approached by a man in a black thunderbird. The man took Samantha, all the while telling Peggy he would trade her for her friend. The scared little girl ran home to her father, the chief of police. Samantha was finally returned and her family never spoke of the incident again – the driver of the black thunderbird was never found. Someone sent pictures of Samantha to Peggy’s crime scene. Samantha also received copies of the same pictures. Peggy returns home and spends one evening talking with Samantha, and it is agreed that the agent will use her resources to quietly solve the case. Then, Samantha goes missing again and what would have been a hushed investigation into a cold case becomes a life threatening and very public rush to save a woman’s life before it is too late. Peggy discovers that not all is as it seems and her father may even be involved in this strange conspiracy. This mystery has so many twists and turns that there is almost no way to predict the end. Lakeman pulls it off wonderfully. This second thriller can be read on its own or following the debut The Shadow Catchers. 11/07 Becky Lejeune

CHINA LAKE by Meg Gardiner: In the first Evan Delaney outing, Evan is dealing with an unstable sister-in-law who has become involved with a religious cult. The sister-in-law, Tabitha, thinks she wants her young son back, although her past performance as a mother has enabled the boy’s father to have total custody. One semi-accidental death followed by a murder puts Delaney i n the middle between police who aren’t really into deep thinking and a bunch of doomsday fanatics “chosen by the Lord.” Not bad for a first effort although a bit uneven. Will be interesting to see how she develops Delany in subsequent adventures. 12/08 Jack Quick

CHINATOWN BEAT by Henry Chang: Detective Jack Yu is transferred to his old neighborhood in Chinatown where he grew up. He is coping with the recent death of his father and the angst of memories of childhood friends now dead or on the other side of the law. In an area where 99 percent of the cops are white, Jack stands out in that not only does he speak the language, he understands the culture, as he is part of it. In this environment, he is confronted with a serial rapist preying on young Chinese girls, the assassination of Uncle Four, an elderly and respected Triad leader, and the disappearance of Four’s gorgeous young mistress whom he had imported from Hong Kong. Yu’s crime solving approach combines modern police techniques with the methods of an old friend who is an elderly fortune teller. Although I have never been there, the book seems to capture the sights, sounds and attitudes of Chinatown, beyond the facade seen by tourists. 10/06 Jack Quick

THE CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ CLUB by Carole Matthews: Lucy, Autumn, Chantal, and Nadia couldn’t be more different. Lucy is a single working girl who has just discovered her boyfriend is cheating on her, yet again. Autumn comes from a posh family but lives frugally and works with teen addicts. It just so happens that Autumn’s own brother has some addiction problems of his own and he has recently taken to crashing in her guest room and bringing his degenerate pals over at all hours. Chantal would seem to have it all, but her marriage is one without “perks.” Instead, she has a habit of meeting with random men at opportune moments to curb her urges. Nadia and her husband are also having troubles, but theirs are of a financial nature. Nadia’s husband has an online gambling addiction and has run up thousands of dollars in debt. The one thing that brings these women together is their undying love of all things chocolate and their regular “therapy” sessions at a shop called Chocolate Heaven. Here the ladies can hash out their problems and gorge on every kind of chocolate confection imaginable. Of course these women’s problems make for pretty amusing and sometimes raunchy reading, especially since those problems are sometimes similar to what all of us women have to deal with. Matthews has been one of the staples in chick-lit from the very beginning and her books have that certain charm and humor that seems to come naturally to all British writers. So, be prepared to laugh out loud as you commiserate along with this quartet of chocoholics, and keep some chocolate of your own on hand while you read. 02/08 Becky Lejeune

CHOKE POINT by James Mitchell: Its deja vu all over again as my previous read was CHOKE POINT by Jay MacLarty. In this CHOKE POINT, April Lennox, an L.A. reporter, is in Tucson to interview an undocumented Mexican who has agreed to tell her his story. Before she can meet with him, he is killed in the rioting surrounding the NCAA basketball finals. P.I. Roscoe Brinker gets involved and agrees to accompany the reporter into Mexico, but then another case intervenes. Lennox decides to make the trip alone – not a good idea, and well, best save the rest for you to read. Interesting with a likable main character in Brinker. 10/07 Jack Quick

CHOKEPOINT by Jay MacLarty: Big Jake Rynerson (think Howard Hughes played by John Wayne) is having problems with the construction of his new Macau mega resort, The Pacific Pearl, when he is shot in a street ambush. International courier and old friend Simon Leonidovich, the man who can deliver anything, anywhere, on time, every time, is called upon to help out. Simon must deliver a priceless artifact — the Crest of Ch’in — to the People’s Republic of China, in support of tri-lateral negotiations among the United States, China and Taiwan to frame a new international trade agreement. The action is non-stop in this high stakes world of great risk and great reward. Another satisfying outing for the “James Bond” of couriers. 10/07 Jack Quick

CHRISTINE FALLS by Benjamin Black: As a child Quirke was adopted by famed Judge Garrett Griffin. He and his adopted brother Malachy were sent to Boston to take part in a residency at a local hospital. There, they met and married two sister, Delia and Sarah Crawford. Unfortunately Delia died while giving birth to Quirke’s stillborn child. Since then, he has spent most of his nights, and days, drowning himself in whiskey. The night of Brenda Ruttledge’s going away party is no different. When Quirke stumbles drunkenly into his pathology lab, he discovers Mal bent over a file. It’s not until the following morning that Quirke recalls the name on the file, Christine Falls. The girl’s body has already left the morgue without undergoing examination, and Mal, an obstetrician, signed off on the file with the cause of death listed as pulmonary embolism. As Quirke investigates this curious incident, he finds that Christine Falls actually died in childbirth. What is Mal’s concern with this woman? What happened to the child? Quirke’s investigation leads him to some startling discoveries. Benjamin Black’s (John Banville’s) mystery debut is a dark and dramatic look at just how far some people are willing to go to cover up shameful family secrets. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

CHRISTMAS BLISS by Mary Kay Andrews: Welcome back Weezie and BeBe, besties from Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze & Blue Christmas. BeBe is pregnant and in her last trimester when she finds out that her previous marriage was never officially ended, and she’s afraid to tell her live-in baby daddy. Weezie is a week away from her wedding to Daniel when he gets an amazing opportunity to headline at a New York City pop up restaurant. He heads off to New York and Weezie and BeBe try to track down the ex who hasn’t signed the divorce papers. This being a Mary Kay Andrews novel, lots of laughter, love and somehow believable craziness ensues. I have missed these characters so this little gem was truly a holiday gift. If you are looking for an evening’s escape, look no further. 10/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CHRISTMAS IS MURDER by C.S. Challinor: Lets see. His name is Rex Graves, he’s driving a mini-Cooper, he is planning to spend Christmas in Swanmere Manor, an historic hotel in East Sussex. By Jove, I deduce we have a classic English mystery here including death by almond tart, masks the smell of cyanide, don’t you know. Was it the cook, Sandy Bellows, the gay twit of an antique dealer, or maybe the sherry-swilling handy-man. Its almost not worth the breakfast porridge made with Scots Quaker Oats and dollops of cream and brown sugar, but that’s far better than the cold kippers or going somewhere else in the blizzard. Shades of Agatha Christie and all that. You may not even want to save this one for the holidays. 09/08 Jack Quick

THE CHRYSALIS by Heather Terrell: A lawyer is ethically bound to represent their client to the best of their ability, regardless of their own personal opinions. What can a lawyer do when his or her own moral beliefs conflict with this ethical responsibility? This is the question that comes to play in Heather Terrell’s riveting debut. In an auction devoted to the Dutch masters, Beazley’s, a prominent auction house in New York, plans to sell off a painting called The Chrysalis. Hilda Baum claims that Nazi soldiers stole the painting from her family during WWII. Young attorney Mara Coyne has been assigned to represent Beazley’s in a case that could earn her a long-awaited partnership. The case seems to be a slam-dunk until Mara’s own investigation reveals a secret that Beazley’s has been hiding for decades. Although the villains tend to fall a bit flat, Terrell’s talent as a storyteller is evident. By alternating chapters between Mara, Johannes Miereveld – the fictional painter of The Chrysalis and Hilda Baum’s father Erich, Terrell provides very intricate stories for these characters. Overall, I thought this was a compelling and enjoyable read. 05/07 Becky Lejeune

CINDER by Marissa Meyer: As a cyborg, Cinder has less rights than a full-fledged human. Raised as a ward by a woman who never wanted her, Cinder is forced to work to support the family and is basically their possession. A virus has wiped through the human population—no one is immune, not even the ruler of the Eastern Commonwealth. As people become more and more desperate, cyborgs are being selected as test subjects in the search for a cure. When Cinder’s guardian volunteers her for testing, a startling discovery is made, one that could change Cinder’s life forever. A futuristic, cyborg Cinderella set in a post-outbreak Asia… what a wild ride and a fantastic testament to the boundless possibilities of imagination. Cinder is book one of the Lunar Chronicles, which means more to come from Marissa Meyer. 3/12 Becky Lejeune 

CINNAMON KISS by Walter Mosley: It’s the Summer of Love and Easy Rawlins is contemplating robbing an armored car to raise money for his daughter’s critical medical treatment. There may be others as good as Mosley, but no one really better in capturing the setting and the reality of life on the edge. You may not always agree with the actions of his characters, but it’s difficult to not understand them as presented by Mosley. If you have ever been in Los Angeles on a hot August night, you will relate immediately. If you haven’t had the experience, this is as close as you will get. The story? Easy decides not to go for the robbery but then gets more than he bargained for in searching for a missing eccentric attorney and his beautiful assistant – Cinnamon. Mouse, the stone cold killer, helps Easy survive and Easy gains additional insight into his relationship with girlfriend Bonnie. Another home run. 09/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

CIRCLE OF ASSASSINS by Steve Rigolosi: The circle of assassins has an interesting premise. Since most murders are committed by people who know their victims, what would happen if a group of people each murdered a person who was a total stranger to them, in exchange for having someone in their own life being killed on their behalf. The circle is initiated by criminal mastermind “A” with an ad placed in a Manhattan community newspaper. Who will respond? Will they remain committed? Will they succeed? .Kind of a Fatal Attraction on speed. Very interesting. 05/07 Jack Quick

CIRCLES OF TIME by Phillip Rock: WWI has come to an end and that means peace for England once again. It’s 1921 when Circles of Time, the second in the Abingdon Pryory trilogy, begins and the Grevilles and others like them are finally able to begin putting their lives back together. Though England is undergoing many changes, Anthony Greville, Lord Stanmore, is anxious to return to his country estate. Abingdon Pryory has definitely seen better days — having served briefly as a hospital for convalescing soldiers has left the grand manse a bit worse for wear – but it will soon be restored to its former glory. Alexandra has returned recently from Canada, newly widowed and with a young son. The unconventional circumstances of her marriage have left a rift between her and her father, which has made everyone at the Pryory a bit on edge. Fortunately, all of that begins to change when Martin (Greville’s nephew) and friends are able to convince Lord Stanmore to bring Charles home. The eldest Greville had been suffering quite severely from shell shock, but his return to Abingdon brings about great improvement. Martin has taken on a position with a large international news agency, a job that allows him to travel first to the Middle East where family friend Fenton Wood-Lacy has been stationed, and then to Germany where he witnesses first hand the results of the war. This second in the series picks up almost immediately where The Passing Bells left off, offering readers a continuing look at this particular period of British (and world) history. Like Downton Abbey it also provides a great look at the continuing social changes of the time. 2/13 Becky Lejeune

CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter: Vince Camden never misses a morning making pastries at the Spokane, Washington donut shop where he works, but his real income is from his various sidelines, selling stolen credit card numbers, dealing a little pot, but hey, a guy in the witness protection program in 1980 has to make a living, right. But now Vince has two major issues he must address. Should he vote for Reagan or Carter, now that he is a registered voter for the first time in his life, and two, how to deal with the hit man, local cop, and minor league Mafioso who have him in their sights. From the opening line, “One day you know more dead people than live ones” to the surprise ending, Citizen Vince is a first rate read, and no, I’m not gonna tell you who he decides to vote for. I’m also not going to tell you why he only reads the first part of books, either, but I will share with you that “an Olympic gold medal is worth its weight in gold.” 09/07 Jack Quick

CITY OF ASH by Megan Chance: Seattle’s early days provide a backdrop for Megan Chance’s latest, a tale of love, scandal, betrayal, and vengeance. Geneva Langley, one of society’s upper crust, has been involved in one too many scandals of late. Now, she and her husband have been sent to Seattle to head up the family’s new business venture and wait for the gossip to die down. Beatrice Wilkes is an actress who’s made her way to the top—almost. When Geneva becomes involved with a new playwright, at the supposed encouragement of her husband, she gains the leading role in a play that was written for Bea. Of course Bea isn’t going to take this slight sitting down. Very soon, however, both women find that they have more in common than either of them ever suspected. Bea and Geneva drive the story, but the extras—the behind-the-scenes look at stage life in the nineteenth century and the historical context—make this a rich and wonderful novel. 08/11 Becky Lejeune KINDLE

City of Bones by Michael Connelly: The decades old, partial skeleton of an abused and murdered child is found in a shallow grave. Harry Bosch is determined to find the killer, and in doing so has to deal with his own troubled childhood. He also has to deal with seeing a woman the police department says he shouldn’t be seeing. Michael Connelly skillfully weaves together a story that will hold you hostage until you turn the last page. This series is going on ten years old; this is the eighth installment (the last one was A Darkness More than Night) and somehow Connelly just keeps getting better and better. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CITY OF DRAGONS by Kelli Stanley: PI Miranda Corbie, a former escort who made the papers thanks to her first big case, is not known for backing down or playing it safe. When she happens upon a young Japanese man who’s been beaten to death in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Miranda is not satisfied to simply give her statement and move on: she knows that the cops have little interest in the case and decides to have at it herself. Her digging attracts some unwanted attention, however, and Miranda finds herself under the scrutinizing eye of the authorities and some unsavory characters as well (and in some cases, they are one and the same). Meanwhile, Miranda has been hired to track down a missing teen whose own stepmother claims the girl is responsible for her father’s death—a multi-layered plot with plenty of twists to keep you guessing. Stanley’s gritty noir style is a wonderful complement to her well-researched and impressive 1940s setting. City of Dragons is rich in detail and unforgettable characters; a grand start to what I am sure is going to be a fabulous new series. 02/10 Becky Lejeune

CITY OF DRAGONS by Kelli Stanley: February, 1940, San Francisco’s Chinatown – Tensions are running high between the Japanese-American and Chinese-American communities because of the atrocities at Nanking when a 33-year-old female private investigator stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops agree. Only hard-nosed detective Mirana Corbie wants is justice–whatever it costs. Tough as nails but easy on the eyes, think Velma without Mike Hammer. This gal is destined to go places. 12/11 Jack Quick

CITY OF FIRE by Robert Ellis: It is the first “lead” homicide for newly promoted homicide detective Lena Gamble. A Hollywood housewife is sexually assaulted and brutally killed. Initial evidence points toward the husband, but when this turns out to be only the first of a series of grisly crimes, it become obvious there is a serial killer, dubbed Romeo by the press, on the loose. Gamble knows she has to solve this case and also deal with the aftermath of her brother being gunned down on a dark Hollywood street five years ago. As time passes, Lena suspects that the LAPD colleagues she has come to trust and admire are conspiring against her in the interest of closing a troubling case. Evocative of early Wambaugh, its real life COPS on the gritty streets of Los Angeles. 02/09 Jack Quick

CITY OF FIRE by Thomas Fitzsimmons: Somewhat disappointing debut about two cops in the Bronx being set up to take the fall for a series of deadly arson fires. Vinnie D’Amato is all cop while Michael Beckett has been changed by his small role on the TV drama Law & Order. It opens Beckett’s eyes to a world beyond that of criminals and cops, but at the cost of the bond of trust between the two partners. A number of other authors have done it better, particularly Wambaugh, T. Jefferson Parker, and even J.A. Jance and John Sandford. Maybe the next one will be better. 02/11 Jack Quick

CITY OF HOPE by Kate Kerrigan: This follow up to Kate Kerrigan’s City of Hope picks up about ten years later. Ellie has long since returned to Ireland and her husband, John. They’ve tried for a family but unfortunately Ellie has never been able to carry a child to term. Instead, she’s thrown herself into her work. Ellie has built a small business empire in their tiny town, including a country store, a typing school for young women, and a salon. Then John dies. Ellie, confused and distraught, seeks solace in the one place she thinks she can be happy: New York City. But the New York of 1934 is a very different New York than the one she left all those years ago. The city that once offered so much hope and possibility has fallen to the crippling after effects of the Great Depression. Ellie’s success in Ireland has left her a wealthy woman, though, and she finds herself in a position to help those around her. With new purpose, she barrels through her grief focusing all her efforts in helping the city and its people get back on their feet. Well other than the fact that Kerrigan ripped my heart out by killing off John, City of Hope was equally as wonderful as its predecessor. It should be noted that while this is the second part of a three part series, City of Hope can certainly be read on its own. I highly suggest starting with Ellis Island simply because I’ve enjoyed both parts of Ellie’s tale so much. 7/13 Becky Lejeune

CITY OF SOULS by Vicki Pettersson: This fourth in the Zodiac series proves that Pettersson just keeps getting better and better. The balance in this world has been upset after the events of The Touch of Twilight and it’s Joanna Archer’s fault. Zodiac Troop 175 is losing strength and support after Joanna borrows energy from one of the changelings. In the end, Joanna’s own soul splintered, leaving the child with growing powers and the girl set to take her place now living a slow death. Joanna knows of only one other agent to have made this same mistake, but has no way of finding him without access to the manuals that tell the tales of Light and Shadow. Then Warren, leader of their division, reveals a secret that has long been kept hidden from agents of both sides. There is a world other than our own. A world where women rule and rogue agents hide. It is here that Joanna might track down the missing agent and learn the secret to setting things right. But entering this world comes with a very heavy price and Warren has been keeping many more secrets that could affect not only the war between Light and Shadow, but could put Joanna herself at risk. Though there is some catch-up material in this book, the series is quite intricate and I wouldn’t recommend reading them out of order. This is one of the most original urban fantasy series out there and it’s one of my absolute favorites in the genre. Highly recommended. 06/09 Becky Lejeune

CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien: Jamie Gabriel lives in a community where boys still have paper routes; that is, until he and his bike vanish while delivering papers early one morning. His parents, Paul and Carol, report his disappearance to the police, but after a brief search leads nowhere, the authorities move on to other cases. More than a year later, on the advice of one of the deputies, the parents hire private investigator and former cop Frank Behr. Behr brings some baggage to the table; he’s divorced, and his son is dead. While he empathizes with the tragedy of not knowing what happened to Jamie, he is hesitant to take the case, warning that closure will undoubtedly be ugly. Tormented by the strain of having a missing child, Paul and Carol each try to cope in their own way, and their marriage suffers for it. Eventually, Paul starts working with Behr, and despite the cold trail, their quest leads them to some very troubling answers and a somewhat predictable ending. Nevertheless, in his fiction debut screenwriter Levien (who cowrote Ocean’s Thirteen, Runaway Jury, and Rounders) captures the hopelessness of the situation well, the pacing is relentless, and the story gripping and altogether disturbing. Highly recommended. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien: United States statistics show that 2,300 people are reported missing every day. The first 24-72 hours of these cases are critical. Often, if the person is not recovered in that time period, they never will be. Jamie Gabriel is one of these people. He left this morning, just like every morning – picking up the papers for his route and riding off on his bike. Unlike every other morning, though, something happened to Jamie. A year later, his parents are ready to give up the search for their missing son. The police have no leads and have never made any progress on the case. In a last ditch effort, the couple hires PI Frank Behr. Behr initially refuses the case, but his guilt over the death of his own son compels him to try. Amazingly, he makes progress, but his investigation has stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble. While both shocking and disturbing in subject matter, this thriller is wholly rewarding. I can imagine a grizzled Bruce Willis playing Behr in the movie. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien: Twelve-year old Jamie Gabriel disappears while delivering newspapers in a suburb of Indianapolis. After over a year with no results from the police, his parents Paul and Carol hire PI Frank Behr, an imposing ex-cop with a checkered past. Behr has a special empathy for their situation as he also has lost a son, which led to his marriage dissolving and his departure from the Indianapolis police force. Behr soon discovers enough to begin to trace Jamie and the trail isn’t a pretty one. Child abuse is an ugly subject and this is a gritty but well written portrayal of how it affects not only to the children but also to their families. If you are a Harry Bosch fan, then make sure you grab this one. Bosch and Behr share some common DNA. 04/09 Jack Quick

CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff: Benioff follows up The 25th Hour with this novel supposedly based on his grandfather’s surviving WWII in Russia. Seventeen year old Lev Beniov has elected to stay in Leningrad with his friends during the German siege, rather than leaving with his mother and sister. Everything changes when Lev is caught looting the corpse of a dead Luftwaffe pilot who unsuccessfully parachuted from his plane at altitude and froze to death before reaching the ground. Normally, the penalty for Lev’s conduct would be execution, but instead, he and newly made friend and Russian Army deserter Koyla, are spared at least temporarily, by Colonel Grechko, on the condition they come up with a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. They quickly learn this is no small task in the terrible conditions of the siege. But then they take on an even more daunting mission – to kill the commander of the local occupying German forces. While Benioff’s first book would have made a neat color film, this one would be starkly portrayed in black and white only, but still quite good. 06/10 Jack Quick

CITY OF TINY LIGHTS by Patrick Neate: Tommy Akhtar claims to be the best Ugandan Indian private eye in London and he probably is. After all, he was also a mujahideen in Afghanistan. He likes Wild Turkey and Benson & Hedges and cricket. His current case involves finding a missing hooker but quickly escalates with MI5 and CIA involvement. Speaking of hookers, Tommy imparts this knowledge to us: black hookers are always Melody, Harmony, Bianca, Ebony, Naomi or Tyra. Blonde ones are inevitably Marilyn, Caprice, Helene or Elle. Hispanics are Sandra or Salma or else named for cars – Fiesta, Sierra or Cleo. Petite girls? Kylie, always Kylie. Akhtar is truly one-of-a-kind, and the terrorist threat plot is right out of today’s newspapers. Although Neate calls this “Another Tommy Akhtar Investigation” it is apparently the first in a series. Let us hope so anyway. 08/06 Jack Quick

CITY OF VEILS by Zoë Ferraris: When the brutally disfigured body of a young woman is discovered on the beach in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the local police know that they’re in for a challenge. In a country where religion dictates law and women’s rights are questionable, the murder of an unidentified woman could be the product of any number of motivations. Katya, one of the few female employees in law enforcement, a lab worker at the coroner’s office, becomes involved in the case and is able to make the surprising discovery of the woman’s identity. This clue would seem to narrow the list of suspects, but sadly this is not true. The woman, a filmmaker who shot B-roll for a local station, stepped on more than a few toes with her controversial side projects. What’s worse, evidence starts to point to the involvement of an American living in Jeddah. With the help of her friend Nayir, Katya will play a pivotal role in the solving of the case. But Katya and Nayir’s friendship has often been at odds with the beliefs of their country and their partnership in the case pushes those boundaries even further. This sequel to Finding Nouf is a well-plotted mystery and a fascinating glimpse inside Saudi culture. Readers would perhaps be better prepared by reading Nouf first, however. 08/10 Becky Lejeune

CITY OF WHISPERS by Marcia Muller: Family always come first so when private eye Sharon McCone receives an e-mail asking for help from her emotionally disturbed half brother Darcy Blackhawk, she replies but gets no response. Thus begins the search which leads her to an Internet café in San Francisco, a city he’s never been to before. From there the investigation leads her to the body of a woman at the Palace of Fine Arts, where a witness had told her that Darcy was headed. Then, as she digs deeper, Sharon uncovers a connection to the unsolved murder of a young heiress to a multimillion-dollar banking fortune. Now Sharon must race to solve both murders and ensure her brother’s safety, despite the imminent danger that lurks within her own family. 1/13 Jack Quick

CITY OF WOMEN by David Gillham: This story is set in 1943 Berlin at the height of World War II, and focuses on Sigrid Schroeder, a good German woman whose husband is off fighting on the eastern front while she works at the patent office and lives with her overbearing mother-in-law. There are many such women left behind in Berlin, hence the title his book, and this is a fascinating look at their lives; the living with bombings, with neighbors turning in neighbors, food shortages, propaganda, Gestapo and more. Sigrid goes to work and escapes at the cinema, and it is there that she meets a Jewish man and has an affair. The story is told with flashbacks to the affair interwoven with Sigrid’s . befriending a young girl who works as a nanny to a neighbor and is a member of the underground. Sigrid becomes what is known as a “Righteous Gentile,” saving Jews and others trying to escape the Nazis. When her husband returns from the front, injured, her life becomes even more complicated. This beautifully written debut is a thoughtful exploration of relationships and honor, love and hate and horror. Another superb read from Putnam’s Amy Einhorn imprint. 9/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

Claire Marvel by John Burnham Schwartz: If you aren’t in love with our heroine Claire Marvel within the 40 pages or so of Schwartz’s new novel you are heartless. I also haven’t loved Cambridge, MA and Harvard this much since LOVE STORY and some of Kaysen’s work. However, I wouldn’t mind taking a swing at the nose of our hero (?) Julian Rose. Julian is . . . well exasperating to begin with, also a democrat who quickly puts aside his convictions to take a job in the republican world (during the Reagan Years to boot), and a boy who isn’t nice to his mother (alright, he has good reason for that). There is terrific writing here! Great characters too! So here is what I would do – – – wait to buy this when it comes in paperback. Then get all your friends buy it and read it. Then duke it out over WHEN Julian became a wimp. Then let me know why they needed to go all the way to France. PS: Schwartz wrote BICYCLE DAYS and RESERVATION ROAD (just too sad a premise for me to read). Both received great reviews. His publisher seems to look to this as his commerical breakout book. ~This review contributed by Ann Nappa

A CLASH OF KINGS by George R. R. Martin: War has come to the Seven Kingdoms. In the wake of Robert Baratheon’s death, Rob Stark has been named King of the North. The two younger Baratheon brothers have both claimed rights to the Iron Throne, and the Lannisters hold King’s Landing. As battles rage on throughout the land, Arya Stark travels with a group bound for the Night’s Watch in hopes of escaping Lannister scouts and Jon Snow travels with the Watch north of the wall where dead things have begun to rise. The return to Westeros is a welcome one for this reader, even with season two of Game of Thrones currently airing. Martin’s story is fairly simple—greed, honor, and revenge are motivation for everyone’s actions in the series. It’s the number of characters, the landscape, and the history that become complex. As such, the story is rich and the pacing is quick, making even these tomes easy and entertaining reads. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

CLEA’S MOON by Ed Wright: After being blacklisted, sent to jail on an assault rap, and abandoned by his wife, Ray Horn is a long, long way from his early success as a hero in B-movie westerns. Now he works as a debt collector for his former faithful Indian sidekick turned casino owner. It’s a short jump to sleuthing, and when an old friend approaches him with a problem, Horn is ready to go. The friend’s father, a real estate mogul, has died, leaving behind boxes of disturbing photos of young girls, one of whom is Horn’s stepdaughter. The friend gets pushed out a window, Horn’s stepdaughter goes missing, and Horn is forced into finding the link between the pictures, the girl, and the friend. A first rate first outing. 04/06 Jack Quick

A CLEAN KILL by Leslie Glass: Lieutenant April Woo of the NYPD is planning a delayed honeymoon with new husband Captain Mike Sanchez in this latest installment. Their plans face a major disruption 5 days before they intend to leave when two socialites are killed on consecutive days. While the cause of death is different, the victims are best friends and in both cases the bodies and their surroundings have been meticulously cleaned. April and Mike soon find other common denominators – the same personal trainer, nannies from the same upscale service, the same drug habits. April gets pulled into the investigation although the crimes are outside her precinct. Balancing duties, trying to have a private life, worrying about subordinates and the political ramifications of the “not by the book” investigation keep April on edge. Add in Skinny Dragon mother’s openly stated desire for her daughter to immediately become pregnant and get out of police work and you can see why April and Mike really could use the honeymoon. Will they get it? Who will be the next victim? And why? 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE CLEANER by Brett Battles: Jonathan Quinn is a professional “cleaner.” No, he doesn’t work with Merry Maids. He is a specialist working in the world of independent intelligence, cleaning up scenes and policing loose ends. Yes, its dangerous but for $60,000 per call and a call about once each month, he is doing quite well. That is, until his world comes apart. It started with a suspicious case of arson and quickly propelled him into an attempt to wipe out the entire “Office”, the organization for which Quinn works. Nicely done thriller, definitely a different perspective, but it has all the essentials – violence, betrayal, and revenge. 11/11 Jack Quick

THE CLEANER by Paul Cleave: Joe, the “cleaner,” works days cleaning a police station in Christchurch, New Zealand while his nights are spent as the Christchurch Carver, a serial killer who has raped and killed six women. The police have linked a seventh victim that Joe didn’t kill, and he’s determined to find out who did and frame them for all the murders, and having access to police files make that a real possibility. Joe tells his story in the first person, creating a unique insight into such a twisted mentality. The police think he is simple, as does Sally, the maintenance woman who lost her brother and thinks Joe can fill that void in her life, but Joe knows that he is smarter than all of them. He is also dealing with his domineering mother and that relationship lends additional insight into the character, as does Melissa, a woman after his own heart. Violence and torture are prevalent so this book is not for the faint of heart, but fans of Chelsea Cain and Thomas Harris will appreciate reading from Joe’s point of view. 12/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

THE CLEANUP by Sean Doolittle: Matthew Worth has been relegated to security detail at a local grocery store after punching another cop – a cop that just happens to be sleeping with his wife. Worth spends his days helping bag groceries at the checkout, waiting for his probation period to end. When Gwen Mullen comes into work one day covered in bruises, Worth is reminded of a case from early in his career. The murder of Tiffany Pine has haunted Worth for years. As a result, Worth is determined to help Gwen at any cost. Gwen won’t have to worry about suffering any further abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, though. She’s taken care of that problem herself. Against his better judgment, Worth decides to protect Gwen from the inevitable fallout she would suffer as a result of killing her abusive boyfriend. Doolittle’s dark tale of crime and cover-ups is an engrossing and satisfying read. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

CLEMENTINE by Cherie Priest: This quick adventure marks the return to Priest’s Clockwork Century world, introduced in last year’s award winning Boneshaker. Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey’s airship Free Crow has been stolen. Not one to go down without a fight, Hainey is willing to chase the thief to the ends of the Earth to get his ship back, even if that means trekking through enemy territory to do so. What he doesn’t know is that the thieves have a very specific mission in mind for the newly dubbed Clementine, and they’ve hired the Pinkertons to make sure the mission is completed. Belle Boyd, the detective agency’s newest employee, is put on the case. But Belle, a former spy for the Confederacy, is stubborn and smart and the more she learns about the case, the more it stinks. At just under 200 pages, Clementine offers up an action-packed easy read to get fans ready for Priest’s latest full-length Clockwork Century release, Dreadnought. Here’s hoping we’ll see more of Belle Boyd in the future as Priest has created in her a strong and fascinating heroine (but Priest is kind of known for that). 10/10 Becky Lejeune

THE CLEVELAND CREEP by Les Roberts: The 15th outing for Cleveland’s favorite PI Milan Jacovich (it’s pronounced MY-lan YOCK-ovich) is ugly, very ugly. It starts when the mother of 28-year-old Earl Dacey (an overweight under-socialized live-at-home photographer with acne) hires Jacovich to find Earl who has gone missing. In short order Jacovich discovers Earl was shadowing Catholic schoolgirls in Northeast Ohio shopping malls with his hidden camera taking “upskirt” videos without their knowledge. The porn connection leads him to the mob and then, when Dacey’s body is found, the Cleveland police – in particular Lieutenant McHargue, his nemesis from the past who suddenly is asking for his help. Then there is FBI Agent Kitzberger who feels his badge puts him above the law and threatens to “burn” Jacovich if he doesn’t use his “mob connections” to help Kitzberger make a big splash so he can move up from Cleveland. Also there is Kevin O’Bannion, an Army veteran with combat experience, a volatile temper, and a juvenile-crime record, but young and eager to learn the P.I. Business, who is hired at the request of a friend to assist Jacovich. About the only good thing going for Milan is he meets an interesting young Catholic school English teacher, with whom he has his first date since “Bush the First was President.” Will Milan survive it all and end up with the fair maiden? Stay tuned. 06/11 Jack Quick

CLEVER FOX by Jeanine Pirro: This sequel to Sly Fox finds prosecutor Dani Fox getting a page on New Year’s Eve, 1979 (remember beepers?) She is the only woman in the District Attorney’s office, heading up the newly formed Domestic Violence unit and fighting the old boy’s network on a daily basis. A New Jersey Mafia don’s daughter is found tortured and murdered, and Fox and her journalist boyfriend Will rush to the crime scene in Yonkers, New York, the working class area of upscale Westchester County. As Fox and her investigating officer start digging, they find that the dead woman had been having an affair with her father’s most hated enemy, head of another crime family. The FBI has an eyewitness agent that can place the don at the scene of the crime, and political pressure becomes unbearable as Fox’s boss demands immediate justice. She isn’t comfortable with charging a man based on circumstantial evidence, and as witnesses start disappearing, the pressure really heats up. Pirro joins the ranks of fellow prosecutors Linda Fairstein and Marcia Clark in turning out tautly written legal thrillers, and Pirro’s expertise shines on every page. 7/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

CLICK TO PLAY by David Handler: Tim Ferris is dying and the former child TV star claims to know the truth behind an infamous Hollywood murder spree. He contacts the world’s oldest living Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with a plea to come talk to him. Ernest Ludington Thayer is much too old to chase fire engines anymore so he sends his protégé, Hunt Liebling, not knowing that he would never see Liebling again. Ferris’ secret has the power to destroy a beloved US Senator who is on the path to the Presidency. With such high stakes everyone is at risk, including Leibling who is falsely accused of an all-new Hollywood massacre, and becomes the prime suspect himself. This has some interesting insights into current day Internet journalism and overall is a decent read. 10/09 Jack Quick

CLOSE CASE by Alafair Burke: District Attorney Samantha Kincaid is back in her third outing (Judgment Calls, Missing Justice) in this twisty tale of law and order. A white police officer, Geoffrey Hamilton, shoots an African American woman to death during a routine traffic stop, bringing some stepped up racial tension to Portland politics. Then local hero, Oregonian newspaper reporter Percy Crenshaw, is bludgeoned to death in his own driveway, the same night the race riots heat up. Caught on TV are two young men doing some damage with a baseball bat, and Samantha’s new live-in boyfriend, Detective Chuck Forbes, watches his partner, Detective Mike Calabrese, wrangle a confession to the Crenshaw murder out of one of the boys, using questionable methods at best. Samantha has to deal with the suspicious shooting and the quasi-confession, causing Chuck to wonder where her loyalties lie. Junior reporter Heidi Hatmaker has Crenshaw’s notes and is trying to put together a story for herself but is unwittingly endangering everyone involved. The first person narration works beautifully but alternating with occasional third person narration for the Hatmaker storyline feels awkward in this otherwise superb legal thriller. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission. 07/05

CLOSE CASE by Alafair Burke: With each new outing, Burke grows stronger. Although her main character Samantha Kincaid still seems a bit naive to be thirty-two years old, she is acquiring some of the toughness she will need to succeed as a prosecutor. She can stand up to those within her office but still has problems relating to outsiders. In this episode seemingly unrelated cases come together at a terrible cost, in bodies and destroyed friendships. A murdered reporter, a “forced” confession, and an officer-involved shooting all swirl around Kincaid. Confessed murder suspects have airtight alibis and possibly corrupt police are difficult to identify. At each step more and more of her associates are alienated, some permanently. Yet in the end, the outcome is not only believable, but also seemingly inevitable. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH by Victoria Dahl: Hollywood make up artist Grace Barrett is on the run, having accidentally stolen money from an old boyfriend and then having it stolen from her before she can return it. She lands in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where her great aunt has an apartment house known as the “Stud Farm.” She gives Grace an apartment rent free to help her get back on her feet. Grace meets neighbor Cole Rawlins, a hot cowboy recovering from a devastating accident, where a stallion fell on him, fracturing his pelvis, femur and other assorted bones and requiring multiple surgeries and months of rehab. He is recovered enough to have lots of hot fights and hot sex with Grace, before they go riding off into the sunset together. 50 Shades fans may like this one. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE CLOSERS by Michael Connelly: This is the 11th entry in the Harry Bosch series and it’s still working. Harry has his badge back and is working with his old partner, Kiz Rider, for the Open-Unsolved Unit, working on cold cases. First up is a 17 year old murder that was never solved, but DNA evidence has moved the case to the top of the pile. But nothing is as easy as it first seems, and this case is no different. I guess I hold Connelly to a higher standard than most because I know how tremendously talented he is, but while this is a very good book and an enjoyable read, it’s just not his best. The book plods along in places, and the writing is clunky at times. I expect more. 05/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CLOSERS by Michael Connelly: LAPD detective Harry Bosch is back on the force assigned with former partner Kiz Rider to the Cold Case unit. Their first case back involves the killing of a bi-racial high school girl 17 years before, reopened because of a DNA match to blood found on the murder gun. The blood on the gun belongs to Roland Mackey, a local lowlife white supremacist. Connelly meticulously leads the reader along with Bosch and Rider as they explore the links to Mackey and along the way connect the initial investigation of the crime to a police conspiracy. In the process Bosch and Rider gain a better understanding of their own purposes in life. One of Connelly’s best and Bosch is back on the job, thank goodness. As he says, without the weight of his gun, he limps. 05/06 Jack Quick

The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett: Adorable fable about dealing with the loss of possessions. Zen with a twist!

CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell: The current edition of this novel was recently released as a tie in with the movie starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon. I did not have an opportunity to read it when it was first released but was now caught up in Mitchell’s command of the language, his ability to capture completely different moods and delineate a wide variety of characters. The novel involves six different vignettes loosely allied at the beginning of the book and than returning to them in reverse order at the last half of the book. It becomes apparent that there are tie ins from one to the other in spite of taking place in different times and places. There is an opening in 1850, another in a setting where clones are created to handle the grunt work of civilization and are trying to take their place as equals to normally born human beings. Settings in most cases involve the south Pacific and Hawai, also touching on England and the United States.
I was made completely aware of Mitchell’s ability to change choice of wording and reactions in each story making that section unique in the overall novel. He is also a wordsmith with a unique command of the English language and an ability to make the reader totally aware of the nuances involved in the story. A fascinating read and one that will leave the reader very satisfied with what he or she has just read. 11/12 Paul Lane

CLOUDLAND by Joseph Olshan: A series of murders has tainted the peace of Cloudland. As one of the few residents of the area, Catherine Winslow is particularly unsettled after discovering the body of a woman who went missing just months before. A former journalist, Catherine is no stranger to the dangers of society. In fact, she volunteers regularly at the local prison. When the county’s forensic psychiatrist is taken off the murders, Catherine’s own neighbor takes on the case and asks for her help as a consultant. Certain pieces of the crime scene begin to fall into place and Catherine becomes convinced that the killer could be copying a rare work by Wilkie Collins, a work so hard to find that her own copy is the only one in the area. Could the killer be someone Catherine knows? Cloudland never quite came together for me. An abundance of unnecessary information, a handful of red herrings that never really came off as convincing, and ultimately a leading character who could have been interesting but wasn’t bogged down the story. Unfortunately the pacing was slow and the development was clunky. Altogether Cloudland was a tough mystery to get through and one that did not pay off in the end. 5/12 Becky Lejeune

THE CLOVIS INCIDENT by Pari Noskin Taichert: At page 20 I didn’t care for this book — aliens, UFO’s and hallucinations. At page 40, as the plot began to thicken, I began to change my mind. At page 64 I hit the paragraph that convinced me this was a good book worth reading to the end. “If aliens were so advanced, with technology that far exceeded our own, why did they make a habit of snatching dowdy girls and pasty boys for their experiments? Why didn’t they go for nuclear physicists or Nobel Prize winners! And why was it always small town hicks?” Sasha Solomon, PR consultant and amateur sleuth, goes to Clovis looking for a job, only to learn her friend Mae not only has discovered a dead body on her dairy farm but has also been “abducted” by aliens. As Sasha gets drawn deeper and deeper into the case it seems every government agency and half the town’s leading citizens are already involved, all with different agendas. The ending is satisfying and startling, you might even say unreal. A must read. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

CLUBBED TO DEATH by Elaine Viets: In this latest addition to the Dead-End Job series, Helen Hawthorne is working at the Superior Country Club in the customer service, AKA the complaint department. At one time this was a club that catered to old money, but hard times has fallen on the club and now they let anyone who can afford their dues in – drug money is welcome. Helen is still in hiding from her ex-husband, so she’s shocked when she runs into him in the parking lot of the country club. His new wife, known as the Black Widow due to her string of dead husbands, has docked her yacht at the club. Helen and her ex get into it, she socks him in the nose in front of her ambitious boss, and takes off. When he turns up missing, Helen is the prime suspect. Anyone who has ever worked in customer service will appreciate the lament of the clientele at the club: “Do you know who I am?” Lots of laughs in this twisty mystery, along with a dose of reality. Another winner from Viets. 05/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COAL RUN by Tawni O’Dell: O’Dell returns to the dreary world of a tiny Pennsylvania coal-mining town in her second novel (after BACK ROADS). The book opens with a bang in a flashback that recalls the tragic underground explosion that took the life of the father of Ivan Zoschenko and 96 other men from Coal Run. Some 15 years later, just after college football hero Zoschenko is drafted by the Chicago Bears, his knee is crushed in an accident in the same mines. Zoschenko can’t deal with the result and he ends up in Florida, an alcoholic pest exterminator. When he learns that a former schoolmate, Reese Raynor, serving time for beating his wife into a coma, is being released, he returns to Pennsylvania. In spite of his drinking problem, Zoschenko is hired as a deputy by the local sheriff, leading to the inevitable brutal collision with Raynor. Hard folks surviving hard times in this gritty portrayal of life without much hope. Miss O’Dell has improved as a writer from her introductory work, but still too grim for many. I liked the book, but wouldn’t want a steady diet of this type. 12/06 Jack Quick

THE COAST ROAD by Peter Corris: Ace private detective Cliff Hardy is working on two cases in this outing. The daughter of a wealthy retired real estate maven is convinced her father’s death in a cottage fire was not accidental and hires Hardy to prove her stepmother was responsible. Hardy finds the police strangely uncooperative as he tries to find the truth. At the same time, he is searching for the precocious daughter of Marisha Karatsky, who has gotten into drugs and who knows what else. Its typical Hardy – corrupt coppers, compromised insurance agents, bikers as well as a few good guys. People get disturbed and people get killed as Hardy plods along seeking justice and resolution. Reading Corris is like reading Ed. McBain, you really know what to expect, but it manages to be refreshing and maintains your attention throughout. 11/07 Jack Quick

CODEBREAKER by Katherine Myers: Meg Parrish is the subject of the book’s title. She is working undercover at Portland, Oregon’s Signet Corporation software firm. She penetrates computer security and copies a database so valuable that the company’s CEO sends his security chief to kill her and recover the information. Co-worker Ross Eckland saves her from rape and murder and the two take flight from Signet, from federal intelligence agents, and from threatening strangers who seem to have their own agenda. The two survive multiple car chases, pursuit by helicopter and various other dangers. In the process they also fall in love. It’s definitely a suspense thriller even with the romance angle and a first rate read. Before its over you will find out more than perhaps you really want to know about electronic surveillance and tracking, encryption, DNA and genetics research, the federal intelligence community and the ethics of cloning. Lets hope its all fiction. 11/06 Jack Quick

CODEX by Lev Grossman: Edward Wozny, a 25 year-old “golden boy” investment banker is on a two-week vacation before he heads for a new post in London when he gets called into a strange task. The Wents, the duchess and duke of Bowmry, two of the firm’s biggest clients, wish him to catalogue a collection of ancient books in the attic of their New York apartment. As he gets deeper into this strange assignment he learns there is the possibility of finding a mythical codex by 14th-century monk Gervase of Langford. Most scholars believe that the text—which predicts the coming of the apocalypse and may conceal Went family secrets—never existed. At the same time Wozny becomes equally preoccupied with MOMUS, an intricate, frighteningly vivid computer game. Edward eventually comes to realize that cyberworld and real world are more connected than not. A twisty tale that starts slowly and gathers speed along the way. 02/09 Jack Quick

CODEX 632 by Jose Rodrigues dos Santos: Historian Martinho Toscano has been hired by a certain organization to research the original discovery of Brazil. In his studies, he comes across some surprising information in regards to Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the Americas. Unfortunately, Toscano passes away due to natural causes before he can reveal his discovery. It seems the historian was an extremely careful and paranoid man since he kept all of his notes in code. So, the organization approaches scholar and professor Thomas Noronha, a specialist in cryptography, to decode the notes and finish Toscano’s research. Noronha discovers that there is some question as to Columbus’s true identity and he is soon thoroughly enmeshed in the same mystery that so consumed Toscano. Codex 632 is touted as the “book that outsold Harry Potter in Portugal.” Unfortunately, I can’t really see why. At best the book reads like an interesting history lesson. At worst, it is a meandering and repetitive story with flat characters. The last few chapters seem like an attempt to finally flesh out Noronha and his family, but it is both awkward and too little too late. 04/08 Becky Lejeune

COFFIN COUNTY by Gary A. Braunbeck: Cedar Hill, specifically the area of town nicknamed Coffin County, has seen more than its fair share of human tragedy and misery. This is thanks to the fact that an ancient harbinger of death has taken a particular liking to the area. This entity has caused so many disastrous events, and yet no one has ever been able to make a connection – course, after centuries of mass killings, who would possibly suspect the same “person” would be behind them? Officer Ben Littlejohn is about to become one of the privileged few who learns the truth. It begins with a mass murder at a local diner; fingerprint analysis and video footage of the killing yield some pretty strange results. Before the local cops know it, they’ve got a multitude of crimes on their hands and Ben may be the only one who can put a stop to it. Braunbeck delivers an intensely creepy and truly original tale that’s guaranteed to give you chills late at night. Coffin County also comes with two additional Cedar Hill tales, I’ll Play the Blues for You and Union Dues. 06/08 Becky Lejeune

COGAN’S TRADE by George V. Higgins: Jackie Cogan is an enforcer for the New England mob. When a high-stakes card game is heisted by unknown hoodlums, Cogan is called in to “handle” the problem. With five consecutive shots from a Smith & Wesson thirty-eight Police Special, Cogan restores order to his corner of the Boston underworld. Sounds simple but the dialogue and authenticity of Higgins writing lifts this above the ordinary “pulp” tale. 5/12 Jack Quick KINDLE

THE COIL by Gayle Lynds: Although the name Gayle Lynds may not be top of mind, its hard to have missed her work. She has ghosted and co-authored many adventures including three Robert Ludlum’s and has four other thrillers out in her own name. In this, possibly her best work ever, Professor Liz Sansborough is trying to let bygones be bygones. She is no longer associated with the CIA and her father, a notorious Cold War assassin nicknamed Carnivore, is long dead. So why is everyone trying to kill her? It starts with the kidnapping of her cousin, Sarah. The ransom soon becomes apparent. Someone is looking for the files of the Carnivore. Just what is The Coil? Who are its members? How can Liz save her cousin and her own life? A high-speed version of The Davinci Code as Liz and her undercover companion, agent Simon Childs, try to escape death and The Coil. The ending will leave you breathless. Recommended. 07/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

COLD CITY by F. Paul Wilson: For Jack, moving to New York means a fresh start. In the big city, he can be whoever he wants to be. He’s able to live anonymously and under the radar. When his gig as a landscaper ends after a scrape with a fellow worker, Jack finds himself in need of a job and quick. A great opportunity presents itself when an acquaintance of a friend offers Jack a position as a delivery driver. The job may not be entirely legal but the pay is great and Jack is assured the risk is minimal. Unfortunately, a slight change in plans does land Jack in a heap of trouble when he—along with a couple of masked vigilantes—upsets a human trafficking ring. Some pretty nasty folks now have it in for Jack, but that’s becoming part of his regular routine these days. Cold City marks the first in a new prequel trilogy to Wilson’s popular Repairman Jack series—this is how Jack becomes the Repairman. There are a number of storylines in this first installment, none of which are tied up in the end. Regardless, I loved the way Wilson brought the story together and will look forward to seeing how things will turn out in the next piece of the trilogy. 12/12 Becky Lejeune

THE COLD, COLD GROUND by Adrian McKinty: Adrian McKinty has set out to imagine what it would have been like for the police in Northern Ireland to solve crimes during the “Troubles” in 1981. Imagine checking under your car every day for a bomb before driving to work. That’s what young Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary does, as he attempts to investigate what may be the beginning of a serial killer rampage against homosexuals, or may be something completely different. The setting is fascinating, as the opposing Protestant and Catholic sides fight bitterly against each other, but secretly cooperate in establishing their territories for drug trading and protection rackets. No one is pure in this environment which gets increasingly complicated as MI-5, the British Army and other agencies work their schemes and protect their turf. The Cold, Cold Ground is the first of a projected trilogy and I can’t wait for volumes 2 and 3. 2/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin

COLD DAWN by Carla Neggers: If you ever get into trouble, who you gonna call? Maybe search-and-rescue expert Rose Cameron and smoke jumper Nick Martini. Together Nick and Rose are trying to track down a serial killer who uses fire as a weapon. The two have kindled some flames of their own in the past but now the town of Black Falls, Vermont is depending on them to save the town before others lose their lives. Nick’s partner Sean says he will trust Nick with his life, but with his sister? He is not so sure about that. More romance than suspense, but all-in-all a decent beach read. After all, what is cooler than Vermont skiing in the middle of the summer. 10/10 Jack Quick

COLD DAY IN HELL by Richard Hawke: This second outing, following Speak of the Devil, from the pseudonymous Richard Hawke (Tim Cockey), brings back New York City private investigator Fritz Malone in a slower paced, darker venue. Marshall Fox is the star of a New York City based late night TV show, but his star has fallen since his arrest for the murders of two women he was having affairs with. While he’s jailed, two more murders occur, causing speculation as to Fox’s guilt and the possibility of a copycat killer. The newest victim was a neighbor of Fritz’s girlfriend Margo, and Fritz had been investigating some hate mail she had received prior to her murder. NYPD detective Megan Lamb isn’t quite up to par since both her police and life partners were killed, so the police department is happy to have Fritz investigating the murders along side her as long as he shares what he finds. Despite an attempt on his life, Fritz keeps on digging through Quaker meetings, Fox’s clandestine affairs, kinky sex and the backstage maneuverings of the late night TV show. Recommended. 03/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch. Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

A COLD DAY IN HELL by Richard Hawke: Marshall Fox is the new darling of late night television until he is arrested and jailed for the murder of two women with whom he was having affairs. The case looks pretty solid until two more bodies show up, both connected to Fox and the earlier murders. But how could Fox have committed the last two while he was behind bars? It is up to New York City PI Fritz Malone to sort out the details. The cops claim they need to no help but have no problem is using the leads Malone turns up. Somewhat darker than Malone’s debut in Speak of the Devil, which hopefully, is a sign of character growth and a portent of future outings. All in all, a very nicely done sophomore outing. 07/09 Jack Quick

COLD GLORY by B. Kent Anderson: Cold Glory is a very well done conspiracy novel – if the reader can look at the basic premise and read the book thinking that it is a possibility. In real life Generals Grant and Lee were alone together for several minutes at Appomattox court house prior to signing the surrender documents ending the civil war. There is no record of what they talked about, but Anderson has put together a very entertaining story about a secret document they both signed delineating a scenario for take over of the post war government in the event that it was not able to govern. The plot then sketches a clandestine group maintaining itself on the basis of that document from 1865 until present day and than deciding that the document now gives them the authority to overthrow the government.
A professor of history teaching in the state of Oklahoma , Nick Journey becomes aware of the group and their aims. He communicates his discoveries to Meg Tolman, an analyst in a secret US government group that looks at various matters for it’s parent partners such as Homeland Security and the FBI. Journey understands that the group, styling themselves as the Glory Warriors, are desperately seeking the original document signed by Grant and Lee in order to legitimize their planned overthrow of the government. Journey and Tolman begin working together in order to bring the Glory Warriors and their leadership to justice.
Anderson does an excellent job of fleshing out Journey and Tolman and they come alive as individuals in the novel. Journey is a middle aged out of shape father of an autistic child for whom he does a great job of taking care of in the face of the disability, and Tolman, although not a great pianist is more interested in piano recitals instead of the day to day work she does for her agency. Both have had marital problems prior to the opening of the story. In short they appear as real people in key situations when the events of the ongoing plot against the government catch up to them. Anderson is apparently making Cold Glory the first novel in a series featuring the people involved in the book. If this is so I would expect him to create the same very realistic scenarios as he did here and quickly bring in the reader to become engrossed in the novel. 1/12 Paul Lane

COLD GRANITE by Stuart MacBride: Another Ian Rankin? Scottish Detective Sergeant Logan McRae has returned to his Aberdeen beat after a year’s medical convalescence to tackle a case that makes even his most callous colleagues cringe: the strangling and mutilation of a four-year-old boy. More children turn up missing and, then, dead and it is obvious the press has a pipeline into the police investigation. Complicating the case is the fact that the forensic pathologist assigned to work with the investigators in McRae’s ex-girlfriend. All in all, an impressive first outing. 02/06 Jack Quick

COLD GRANITE by Stuart MacBride: DS Logan McRae is back on the job after a stabbing incident that left him laid up on extended leave. He’d hoped that his first days back would be easy, but unfortunately he was wrong. A body is discovered and is determined to be that of a boy gone missing three months back. Then another boy disappears and another body, this time a girl, is found. How—and if—the cases are connected causes real problems and McRae recognizes that a solid arrest is the only thing that will calm the citizens and ensure the safety of the children once again, but a string of false leads isn’t helping morale. As the folks in Aberdeen become more and more afraid for their children and enraged at the lack of progress, they begin to take matters into their own hands, actions that are fueled by a local reporter who seems to have an inside source. Cold Granite is a good start to what promises to be a dark and gritty series. The false starts and frustration on the part of McRae and his team make the read that much more intense and also makes the connection to McRae as the lead an interesting one for the reader. 03/11 Becky Lejeune

COLD MAGIC by Kate Elliott: In this first installment of the Spiritwalker trilogy, Kate Elliott introduces readers to an alternate world similar to our own. The land is covered in ice throughout much of the year and there are mages who wield the power of this element—power that controls and terrifies some while protecting others, at a cost. Cat has been raised alongside her cousin and is the eldest daughter of the Hassi Barahal line. Everything changes for Cat when a cold mage turns up claiming her hand in marriage as part of a long-held contract with her family. The mage, a member of the Four Moons House, is to seal the marriage contract immediately and return to the House with Cat in tow. Why she’s so important to them and what prompted the contract in the first place is a closely kept secret. How the deal will affect Cat and those around her will play out through the trilogy. Elliott has begun an intricate tale with Cold Magic, a high-concept fantasy with a carefully molded setting and cast of characters—a great set up for things to come. 10/11 Becky Lejeune

THE COLD MOON by Jeffery Deaver: The latest in the Sachs/Rhyme series finds the teams a bit at odds these days. Amelia is lead of her first investigation, the assumed suicide of a New York businessman. Based on the evidence, Amelia becomes convinced that this was no suicide, but rather a murder. Her investigation leads her to some very unexpected suspects when a request from on high forces her case to the back burner. A killer called the Watchmaker has left his mark on not one, but two crime scenes on the same night; a pier with a trail of blood leading to the water and an alleyway with a victim that has been strangely tortured. A strange moon faced clock, the Watchmaker’s calling card, is found at each scene. Rhyme and his team are joined by the amicable Kathryn Dance, a California cop whose specialty is reading body language. Deaver has always been a master of page turning suspense; do not read this book if you plan on getting any sleep. 09/06 Becky LeJeune

Cold Pursuit by T. Jefferson Parker: Terrific new thriller from the author of the Edgar Award winning Silent Joe. San Diego homicide detective Tom McMichael is on rotation when Pete Braga is murdered. The Portuguese Braga’s and the Irish McMichael’s have much in common with the Hatfield’s & McCoy’s, and the Montague’s & Capulet’s. Despite all the bad blood, McMichael chooses to remain on the case and an intriguing case it is. Braga is found bludgeoned to death by his nurse, who becomes the chief suspect and in an interesting twist, McMichael’s love interest. Conflict for sure, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg as the clues start contradicting each other until the surprise ending. But as always with Parker, it’s the writing that grabs hold and won’t let go. For instance, after watching the autopsy of the murder victim, we get this fabulous line: “McMichael left the building feeling like his soul had been cut out, weighed and thrown away.” This is visual, powerful writing. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COLD PURSUIT by T. Jefferson Parker: The Portuguese Braga family and the Irish McMichael family have a rivalry going back two generations. Now old Pete Braga, a one time tuna fisherman who now moves in the city’s top financial circles, is murdered. Homicide detective Tom McMichael is “next man up” and draws the case. The history of the two families is a rich tapestry upon which the current story actually pales. Still a good read but not one of Parker’s best. 03/06 Jack Quick

THE COLD ROOM by J.T. Ellison: In the wake of the events that took place in Judas Kiss, Taylor Jackson finds herself demoted from Lieutenant to detective, with the killer known as the Pretender still out there taunting her. Her latest case begins with the discovery of a young woman, starved to death and posed as a grotesque copy of a famous Picasso piece. The scene is reminiscent of a string of murders the FBI has been investigating in Italy and England. Taylor has never had a case so disturbing in all her career. What’s worse, the killer reporters are now calling The Conductor is already looking for his next victim. Ellison keeps pushing the limits, successfully, with each new installment of the series. Taylor and Baldwin are taken to the edge and beyond with each new case, facing challenges that threaten their relationship, their careers, and their lives. Ellison is tough on her characters and her plots are intense. The theories she explores are always fascinating, this time around in particular. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

A COLD SEASON by Alison Littlewood: It’s been years since Cass left Darnshaw but now that she and her son are all but alone in the world, she thinks it could be just what they need. The pamphlet advertising the new converted mill condos arrives at a convenient time cementing Cass’s decision. She and Ben arrive to find the mill deserted and construction at a complete halt. While their new home is fully furnished and perfect for their needs, the half finished state of the rest of the apartments and the fact that they are the only tenants is some cause for concern. But Cass is determined to barrel through for Ben’s sake. After all, he’s still suffering from the loss of his father and Cass knows the move has been added stress for the boy. Cass truly believes that things can only get better for her little family. And boy is she wrong. A snowstorm leaves Darnshaw completely separated from the outside world: no phones, no internet, and no way out. Cass’s work is suffering, Ben’s behavior is increasingly erratic, and it soon becomes clear that Darnshaw isn’t at all the haven she’d hoped it would be. Alison Littlewood’s debut is excellent. The tension and atmosphere of the tale are almost painfully intense, with the story building perfectly bit by bit right up to the grand finale. 10/13 Becky Lejeune

COLD SHOT TO THE HEART by Wallace Stroby: The essence of any good tale is conflict. Crissa Stone carefully weighs risks and rewards and her criminal associates’ skills before undertaking a caper. Ex-con Eddie Santiago (aka Eddie the Saint) will kill on principle or for a buck. After one of Stone’s men kills Lou Letteri, whom they intended only to rob in a high-stakes Fort Lauderdale, Fla., card game, things go sour in a hurry. Lou was the son-in-law of a Jersey mobster, who hires Santiago to avenge the dead man. For more details you gotta read the book. Another excellent outing for Stroby. 03/11 Jack Quick

THE COLD WAR SWAP by Ross Thomas: I have been enjoying Ross Thomas for over four decades , but alas, I have finally read, to the best of my knowledge, everything this ex-reporter, editor and public relations director ever wrote. Ironically THE COLD WAR SWAP was his first novel (released in 1966) and has aged well. In a John Le Carre type tale, two Americans are running a bar in the West German capital of Bonn, called Mac’s place, during the height of the Cold War. One of the pair, Michael Padillo, isn’t around a lot; he keeps disappearing on “business trips.” McCorkle, his partner, (and the protagonist) wisely doesn’t ask questions; he knows Padillo has a second job — he’s a (reluctant) US agent. McCorkle is, however, ready to answer a call for help from Padillo, and he joins his friend in a blind journey with no inkling of what they will encounter at the turn of each dark and dangerous corner. 06/11 Jack Quick

COLD WAR HEROES by Tom Johnson: The merry misfits of the 202nd Military Police Company in France have their priorities straight – drinking French cognac and chasing French women. In between they have to deal with spies, the black market, and an on Post boxing tournament that may be too much for their hero. Think M*A*S*H – a decade later, different country, different unit, but as Radar would say over the public address system, “Follow the adventures of those good old boys from home as they fight to keep the world safe one bottle and broad at a time.” 8/12 Jack Quick

THE COLDEST BLOOD by Jim Kelly: Today is the seventh consecutive day with temperatures above 100 degrees and the forecast is for at least four more days of the same. What better time than now to tackle this tale of an English cold snap, which causes a series of seemingly, weather related deaths. Former Fleet Street Journalist Philip Dryden picks up on the fact that a pair of the victims is connected by more than just the cold. Both recently filed abuse charges against an orphanage where they lived as children. Dryden, now working at a lesser paper in the city of Ely, explores whether these two plaintiffs may have been murdered. Kelly’s descriptions of the city and its inhabitants is bleak and reminiscent of works from a much earlier era. This one caused a welcome shiver or two and kept me intrigued to the end. 08/07 Jack Quick

COLLATERAL DAMAGE by H. Terrell Griffin: A young room is shot to death on the beach of Longboat Key, the day after his wedding. Three seemingly unrelated murders occurred on board a dinner cruise on Sarasota Bay the same day. It turns out that the groom’s father served in Vietnam with Matt Royal, and actually saved Matt’s life. The father approaches Matt with a unique concept -Try to get enough evidence to file a civil lawsuit, and then turn that evidence over to the authorities who can then maybe convict his son’s killer. Matt quickly discovers evidence that may link all four murders and calls in the cavalry in the form of old buddies, Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, Longboat Key detective, Jennifer Diane (J.B.) Duncan joins the investigation, but it still takes all each of them can do to solve the crime and survive. 8/12 Jack Quick

COLLISION by Jeff Abbott: Two unlikely figures collide violently and then work together to save their lives. Ben Forsberg, a widower whose wife was assassinated by a sniper while on their honeymoon. Pilgrim, a shadow warrior with an invisible covert-ops group called the Cellar. They are brought together by another assassination in Forsberg’s native Austin, Texas, where Pilgrim was supposed to be one of the victims, and Forsberg is suspected of being involved. Throw in Sam Hector, head of a vast private security firm à la Blackwater; Jackie, a sadistic Irish assassin crazed with grief at the loss of his older brother; and Khaled, zealous associate of a group called Blood of Fire, and you have a pot which takes little stirring to bring to a boil. Who is on which side for what reason for how long? Afterwards you may want to read a Lee Child or Tom Clancy to cool down. 06/09 Jack Quick

THE COLOR OF LAW by Mark Gimenez: When I first moved to Dallas in the early 1980’s, we passed a huge football stadium on the way to our new home. We assumed it was where the Cowboys played and wondered why it was stuck in the middle of the suburbs. We very quickly learned that it was, in fact, the high school football stadium, and thus we were introduced to Texas football, and Texas culture. I was quickly brought back to that memory as I read The Color of Law. Our hero, Scott Fenney, is a high-priced lawyer with a high-powered Dallas law firm. Fenney has a poster sized enlargement of the record-breaking moment of his school football career plastered on his office wall; the record that has made him a Texas legend. Those boys take their football seriously! Fenney is not the easiest guy to like; he’s all about the money, epitomizing all the bad lawyer jokes. In his run for president of the Texas bar, Fenney makes a campaign speech espousing the lofty legal ideals of Atticus Finch, none of which he means, but a judge in the audience decides that this is the man he will appoint as counsel to a black indigent hooker who is accused of murder. The victim is the good-for-nothing son of a Texas state senator who has a hankering to be President, and with $200 million of his own money to put into a campaign, he’s got a good shot at it. That is, unless his son’s lifestyle comes out in the murder trial. Fenney has to deal with a client he has no interest in defending until he starts getting pressured from every direction, forcing him to re-evaluate his morals, his priorities, and his life. This is a top notch legal thriller from a Texas lawyer who knows his stuff about law, and writing. 12/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE COLORADO KID by Stephen King: I’ve got to share this line from Bookmarks Magazine because they said it best: “There’s nothing like a good noir crime novel, and The Colorado Kid is nothing like a good noir crime novel”. It’s a fast read, it’s almost a sweet story, it’s a prime example of the ease with which Stephen King can spin a yarn. But it was published under the Hard Case Crime series, as noir, as pulp fiction, with a cover depicting pulp fiction, and it is not. As King himself points out in the afterward, not all mysteries are solved and so it is with this one. Two old newspapermen from a small seaside town in Maine tell their protégé the story of a man who was found dead on the beach. Told primarily in dialogue, we learn that a good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end and this story really only has a middle. Despite all that, I liked it, which I guess just comes down to I like the way Stephen King writes. 01/06 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COLORADO KID by Stephen King: Number thirteen in the Hard Case Crime series, this is not so much a mystery as a reasonably well-told tale. Intern Stephanie McCann gets the owner and the managing editor of her weekly newspaper in an obscure corner off the coast of Maine to share with her the story of two high school sweethearts who find a dead body on the beach. There was no identification, and only a few items found with the body gave any hope of telling where he was from. Eventually we learn the dead man was from Colorado, hence the name of the book. The good news is that the Hard Case Crime imprint can attract authors with King’s reputation. The bad news is this is a really weak outing for him, and for the series. 11/06 Jack Quick

THE COLUMBUS AFFAIR by Steve Berry: Berry has written books involving retired U. S. government agent Cotton Malone who has opened a bookstore in Copenhagen, Denmark. These, and several short stories have served to solidify his literary reputation as an author of exciting and carefully planned works. The Columbus Affair is a stand alone novel concerning a subject that has baffled historians for the five centuries since Columbus lived. In actuality very little is really known about Christopher Columbus’ life and this book uses both known fact and intelligent conjecture to come up with a fascinating story about a modern day connection to him. Tom Sagan is a journalist that has been disgraced by a series of lies told about a story of his eight years prior to the opening of the book. The book opens as he is ready to kill himself since he cannot continue to live at the level that he has been forced to fall to. He is interrupted by a call advising that his estranged daughter, who has detested him for several years, is being held captive. Tom can free her only if he orders his father’s grave opened and the body exhumed. It would appear that his father was privy to secrets of Columbus about a treasure being brought to the new world in one of his voyages and took those secrets to his grave with him. In rescuing his daughter, and in the events succeeding that event evidence is brought out that Columbus was a converso. That is a Jew that seemingly converted to Catholicism in order to escape the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition but secretly practicing Judaism. He supposedly did not obtain financing for his voyage of 1492 from Isabella and Ferdinand but secretly from a wealthy Jew in order for Columbus to take Temple treasures kept hidden for thousands of years after the destruction of the first temple to safety in Asia. As is described in history Columbus was thought to be looking for a short route to Asia and landed at San Salvador Island opening up exploration of the Americas. The reason for the transport to Asia was due to the idea that Jews lived in peace there and the treasure could be guarded. Berry’s research into the events surrounding Columbus’ life and his voyages to the New World is, no doubt, a prodigious task by itself, and makes the book a fascinating trip both into history and modern day events based on that history. The book leaves the reader really wondering how much of Steve Berry’s conjecture is true, and how much is just an intelligent stretch of the imagination. The technique of rapid back and forth action between characters in the book serves as a tool to capture and hold the reader’s interest. This is definitely one to have to stay awake to finish. 5/12 Paul Lane

Columbus Slaughters Braves by Mark Friedman: Very satisfying novel about two brothers, one of whom is a superstar athlete, and the other, the narrator, just a regular guy. Their relationship, their lives, are described in almost embarrassingly, painfully honest, beautifully written prose. This one is staying with me.

COME AND FIND ME by Hallie Ephron: Diana Banks used to be happy. She, her husband Daniel, and their friend—all hackers of immense talent—decided to go legit and start what has become a successful computer security company. But when Daniel died, the tragedy proved to be too much for Diana. Plagued by panic attacks, she created a sanctuary for herself in her own home. A place where she can control everything in her midst and never has to leave to face the outside world. Unfortunately, she’s also made herself a virtual prisoner to her paranoia. Until her sister goes missing. Now Diana must force herself out in the open in order to save her sister. Ephron’s latest was a little bit of a letdown after the intensity of Never Tell a Lie. Her debut set the bar high and Come and Find Me didn’t quite reach the same level of believability, just missing the mark on the expectations set forth by that first book. 03/11 Becky Lejeune

COME HOME by Lisa Scottoline: Jill Farrow is a divorced pediatrician living with Sam, her fiancé, and her teenage daughter. One night Jill’s stepdaughter Abby, who she hasn’t seen since the divorce, shows up drunk at her door, claiming her father has been murdered. Jill has missed her stepdaughters but her ex kept them from her, so she’s eager to form a relationship once again, but Sam isn’t interested in bringing an ex’s kids into the picture. Not to mention he can’t figure out why Jill would even care if her ex-husband was murdered or not. Unfortunately, I agreed with Sam and I couldn’t understand why Jill decided to investigate on her own, after the police have ruled it an accidental death and even Abby takes off, apparently also uninterested. Lots of suspense and some nice plot twists, but I just didn’t like this main character. Scottoline continues moving in a new direction with this Picoult-like drama, but I am one fan who wishes she’d go back to her all girls law firm. 4/12 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COMING BACK by Marcia Muller: In her last outing, Locked In, San Francisco private eye Sharon McCone was shot in the head and suffered from locked-in syndrome: almost total paralysis but with an alert, conscious mind. Now, Sharon, never known for an abundance of patience is struggling to regain control over her body, and her life. She realizes things will never by the same no matter how badly she wants to undo change. Her marital and professional relationships are showing the strain and, when Sharon’s friend from physical therapy goes missing, she must call upon her husband and colleagues to find out the truth behind the disappearance. By doing so, she enters into some national security issues and a situation dangerous to all involved. A true challenge for a healthy P.I., can the injured Cone handle this one, or will it be McCone’s last stand? 04/11 Jack Quick

COMING UP FOR AIR by Patti Callahan Henry: Lilly Eddington always did things the right way. Appearances meant everything and her advice to her daughter always ensured that Ellie would follow in her mother’s footsteps. But when Lilly passes away, Ellie discovers a journal chronicling her mother’s life. Lilly Eddington had a past she’d kept hidden from almost everyone who knew her. As Ellie learns more about the dreams and hopes and passions of her mother’s youth, she wonders why Lilly never shared these stories. Traveling through Lilly’s past unlocks desires Ellie has long suppressed, causing her to take a second look at the life she’s chosen. Coming Up for Air is a heartfelt story about the choices we make in life. Some of the secondary plot involving the beach house felt under developed and unnecessary. As a setting alone, it could have been more prominent, but I found the legend of the house distracting from the rest of the plot. 08/11 Becky Lejeune KINDLE

THE COMMONER by John Burnham Schwartz: This book is being favorably compared to Arthur Golden’s brilliant Memoirs of a Geisha, but I’m going to have to go with Memoirs of a Geisha-lite. The Commoner is quite interesting. Set in Japan, it opens in the 1950s during the search to find a wife for the future Emperor of Japan. He meets Haruko, a lovely young woman from an upper class family, when she beats him in a game of tennis. He is enchanted, but her bloodline is scandalously low for a future Empress. Nonetheless, the story follows their lives and the next generation as well, making for fascinating reading. Schwartz knows how to tell a story, hooking the reader a few pages in and not letting go until the last page is turned. History, love, and royalty generally make for a good story and The Commoner is no exception – I couldn’t put it down. Think Diana, Charles & the royals with a Japanese twist and there you have this thoroughly enjoyable book. 03/08 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COMMUNITY by Graham Masterton: A fascinating adventure into the surreal: nothing is as it seems and what the reader wants to believe based on the events is not what is is real. The novel is one that will keep you gripped in it’s twists and turns and wondering what is going on. Michael is on a winter vacation with his girlfriend and soon to be wife into the mountains of northern California and is involved in a horrific accident near mount Shasta. His girlfriend is killed and he is badly injured and placed into a coma. He wakes up in a clinic where his treatment seemingly brings out an identity which is not his own. Due to losing all memories he accepts the facts that the attending medical personnel bring out and after some time at the clinic is moved to a house in the nearby community where a beautiful woman will live with him and take care of him. He quickly becomes sexually involved with her; an idea that both are happy about, but begins to notice strange things going on around him. People congregate around the house at night and in spite of frigid temperatures wear little clothing. They do not seem to leave any footprints in snow that might have fallen, and do not talk to him while appearing and disappearing instantly. He makes frequent trips into the clinic, and on one of these thinks that he sees his deceased girlfriend. Masterton keeps the reader glued to the book in spite of the fact that clues to what is going on are few and far between. The ending is a happy one yet it keeps with the surrealism of the rest of the book and is logical considering what has happened. The author’s reputation for a tight captivating read is upheld and leads to looking forward to his next book. 9/13 Paul Lane

COMPANY MAN by Joseph Finder: Finder is back with a new thriller that is almost as good as Paranoia, one of my favorite books last year. This time out we meet Nick Conover, CEO of a low tech company – an office furniture manufacturer that has been bought out by a behemoth corporation. Conover is forced into laying off several thousand of his employees, which pretty much affects everyone in this small town and makes him their least favorite resident. He becomes the victim of harassment – someone is breaking into his house and leaving the cryptic message “No Hiding Place”. Meanwhile his wife has recently passed away, his house is a mess due to the renovation of his kitchen that she had started, his kids are having adjustment issues and there is something unsavory going on at the corporate level above him. When someone is found trespassing on the property, Nick feels his family is threatened and reacts. He calls in the head of security, an old friend, to help him and things just start spiraling out of control from there. The good guy/killer dichotomy is a fascinating study in an intense story about the good and evil in all of us, and Finder twists a couple of storylines and keeps those pages turning. Great read. 04/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE COMPLAINTS by Ian Rankin: Thank goodness I had my iron infusion to correct shortness of breath before I started the first in Rankin’s new series featuring Malcom Fox who works for the Scottish equivalent of Internal Affairs, “Complaints and Conduct” (aka “the Complaints”), which investigates corrupt cops. Fox has just put away Glen Heaton and has been asked to look into the case of Detective Sergeant Jamie Breck, who worked with Heaton, and may be trading in child pornography over the Internet. Meanwhile, when Vince Faulkner, Fox’s sister’s lover and abuser, turns up dead, Fox becomes a murder suspect. Breck is assigned to the investigation reporting to Detective Chief Inspector William Giles who was Heaton’s superior bulldozed by Fox in the Heaton investigation. The plot is tortuous and Fox has yet to develop the appeal of John Rebus but I think we are off to a solid start here. 04/11 Jack Quick

CONCRETE MAZE by Steven Torres: This is dark, terrific story about a Puerto Rican family in crisis in New York City. Often called the “concrete jungle,” the maze is more than just the concrete streets of NY, but rather the circuitous route that needs to be followed when a 13 year old girl goes missing. Her father and cousin drop everything and will do anything to find her and get her back unharmed, while the police aren’t too concerned about another teenage runaway. Their search takes them into the world of runaways, drug addicts, sexual slavery, dirty cops and murder, making this a riveting ride through a complex, haunting tale. 08/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CONFESSION by John Grisham: I did swear off Grisham a few books back, but the buzz on this one was good so I thought I’d give it a try. This is a Texas death penalty case with lots of angst, racial tension and dirty politics. The story moves along, somewhat predictably, with characters that are mostly caricatures but there are a few surprises too. Much like fellow attorney turned novelist Richard North Patterson, Grisham has neatly laid out his argument against the death penalty. If your politics don’t mesh, you probably won’t enjoy this. I did, despite the heavy handedness of the plot and the irritating way every loose end was neatly tied up with a bow. 12/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CONFESSION by Domenic Stansberry: Industrial strength is a good way to describe Hardcase Crime #6 by Edgar-nominee Domenic Stansberry. Forensic psychologist and compulsive womanizer Jake Danser alternates between his day job — interviewing murder suspects and testifying about their mindset — and his other passion, seducing as many women as possible without letting his beautiful wife catch on. Then she finds out, one of his mistresses is murdered, and the entire focus is turned on Danser. Written in pulp style with modern trappings, this basically psychological thriller is not lacking blood and guts. In fact, as another reviewer remarked, upon finishing this one, a long shower is necessary to erase the impact of the book’s thoroughly steamy atmosphere. Definitely recommended for neo-noir fans. 06/07 Jack Quick

CONFESSIONS OF A CONTRACTOR by Richard Murphy: “Do not, under any circumstance, sleep with your contractor.” This is one of Henry Sullivan’s rules that he has constructed for his clients. Unfortunately, it’s not a rule he follows. Henry has spent the last fifteen years renovating houses for lonely married women in Los Angeles. He has learned over the years that people renovate their houses not because their houses need fixing, but because they need fixing. Henry takes on the renovation of the houses of two women who used to be friends. He instantly falls for both of them, and begins to examine their personal lives to find out what caused their friendship to end. Throughout Confessions the reader gets an honest inside look in the home renovation trade. While reading about Henry’s juicy relationships with former clients, the reader also picks up on valuable home renovating tips. I found this book to be extremely humorous and light-hearted, and it surpassed any expectations I had when I read the synopsis. 08/08 Jennifer Lawrence

CONFESSIONS OF A TEEN SLEUTH: A Parody by Chelsea Cain: The word that kept coming to my mind as I read this book was ‘silly’; but it’s also nostalgic and clever and laugh out loud funny at times, and is definitely geared towards the adults who grew up with the original Nancy Drew books. The book is written as if Nancy Drew was a real person and that Carolyn Keene was an old college roommate who stole her “stories” and wrote the books. This book is Nancy’s way of setting the record straight. All the series characters from that era make an appearance: the Hardy Boys (turns out Nancy really had the hots for Frank Hardy, although she ended up with Ned Nickerson), Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton, Tom Swift, Trixie Belden, etc. to more current ones like Encyclopedia Brown. There are several little mysteries scattered throughout the book as it moves from the 1920’s to the 1990’s, with these different characters showing up and helping solve each mystery by chapter’s end. It’s just a fun read. 07/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE by Jan Brogan: Hallie Ahearn is a down-on-her-luck reporter who has left Boston for Rhode Island. There she lands right in the middle of a fatal convenience store robbery. Barry Mazursky gets a bullet in his forehead, and Ahearn becomes involved as friend, eavesdropper, reporter and investigator. It seems there are problems everywhere including Mazursky’s family, corrupt Providence mayor Bill Lopresti, talk-radio show host Leonard Marianni and state-lottery honcho Gregory Ayers. Someday I will learn not to even begin any book which feature reporters or broadcasters as amateur sleuths. This on isn’t bad but contains just enough inaccuracies to set my teeth on edge. No more Ms. Ahearn for me. 03/09 Jack Quick

A CONFLICT OF INTEREST by Adam Mitzner: This debut ushers in a new voice in legal fiction. Alex Miller is the youngest partner at a high powered New York City law firm. He picks up a new client at, of all places, his father’s funeral. Michael Ohlig is an old friend of Alex’s father, although Alex doesn’t really know him other than through the stories he’s heard over the years. Ohlig is a super successful financial advisor, and his firm has come under investigation for securities fraud, putting Ohlig on trial. Alex represents him, even believing in his innocence – for a while. Lots of plot twists send this story spiraling in an entirely different direction, and a much more personal one for Alex. Add in some well developed characters and this is one impressive debut. 05/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman: Jonathan Kellerman has put Dr. Alex Delaware aside in his new book, along with the good doctor’s Cadillac and the West Coast life style, but has not abandoned the role of psychology in his story. In Conspiracy Club, his hero is a young Dr. Jeremy Carrier, a staff psychologist at Central City Hospital in an unnamed Midwestern city. Dr. Carrier’s girl friend was brutally slain not so long ago and he has thrown himself into his work as an outlet. Strangely, the clinic detachment afforded by the grieving process seem to make him even more effective than ever. This detachment is first dented and then crushed by the advent of two people into his life, Dr. Arthur Chess, a senior pathologist colleague, and a young resident, Angela Rios. Dr. Chess lures Carrier into revisiting his girl friend’s death with pointed comments about the nature of evil and the possibility of it being passed from generation to generation. At the appropriate point, he introduces Carrier to the members of his club, who also feed his curiosity. At the same time, Angela is teaching Carrier that love and happiness are real possibilities for him. That is, if he can solve the mystery of the unknown killer and persuade the police that he is not the culprit. Another solid effort from Dr. Kellerman. Just remember, people with WASP names like Jeremy and Arthur are good. All others are suspect. 12/03 ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

Conspiracy.com by R.J. Pineiro: Thriller much like Grisham’s THE FIRM, updated from the ubiquitous law firm to a software company. A too-good-to-be-true job offer from a small, privately held company that keeps churning out millionaires thrusts our protagonist into the middle of a vast conspiracy involving, of all agencies, the IRS. Fast paced and fun. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE by Martha Powers: Clare Prentice had everything going for her. With her wedding just five months away, a routine check-up leads to a disturbing discovery about her family. It turns out that Clare was adopted. Her mother having died just a few years ago, Clare is left to find out from her family physician who assumed she already knew. The wedding is called off and Clare begins a search to find out who she is, who her birth parents were, and why there was so much secrecy behind the adoption. With only a high school class ring to go on, Clare ends up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. It doesn’t take long to find out the identities of her birth parents, or to figure out why her past was kept hidden from her for so long. When Clare was only four years old, her father shot and killed her mother. Her aunt, Rose, raised her as her own from that day forward. Clare is determined to learn all that she can about her family, but someone in Grand Rapids doesn’t want her stirring up old trouble. The question is if the case of her mother’s murder is so open and shut, what could anyone possibly want to keep hidden? Martha Powers, aka Martha Jean Powers and Jean Paxton, creates a great light mystery that’s still packed with plenty of suspense. 10/08 Becky Lejeune

CONSPIRATOR’S ODYSSEY: THE EVOLUTION OF THE PATRON SAINT by A.K. Kuykendall: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex…” President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address to the Nation, January 17, 1961. It all started July 3, 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico with a bright saucer, shaped object with glowing lights moving across the sky. From that day forward a vast government conspiracy has been responsible for the Vietnam War, the Kennedy Assassination, the attack on the World Trade Center, etc, so on and so forth. Super soldier Captain Kalista Flaker is the product of this conspiracy, a hard-nose Army Ranger of the 4th Battalion, 76th Ranger Regiment, who through genetics and DNA manipulation is now of another race – one appearing to be human but with much greater physical and mental capacities. It is now 2015, and Captain Flaker relates her story. I assume this is the first of a proposed series and it may work. The problem I had with this outing was related to timing jumps. The author has a tendency to cover an event then jump back to show the preceding action that caused the event. Unless you check the date/time at the start of each segment you will end up totally confused. Hopefully the next outing can be presented in sequential form. 10/08 Jack Quick

CONTACT ZERO by David Wolstencroft: Newly minted spy Ben Sinclair survives an attempt on his life and learns that other classmates from Britain’s Spy School haven’t been as fortunate. Framed for a crime of which he is innocent and abandoned by his handlers, Ben teams up with a couple of his surviving classmates trying to reach the safety of Contact Zero, a legendary (and possibly mythical) sanctuary for people in their plight. Well written, twisty and probably down right scary if you are a Brit. You hope it really is a work of fiction. 02/06 Jack Quick

CONTAGIOUS by Scott Sigler: In the follow-up to his explosive Infected, Sigler continues his tale of alien invasion on Earth. “Scary” Perry Dawsey has survived his horrific ordeal (see Infected) and now works with the government to help identify new infected and to locate more gates. No one is quite sure yet what the gates’ purposes are, but it can’t be good, so destroying them is of the utmost importance. Perry has his own agenda as far as the infected are concerned thanks to having been one himself. While the government would love to get their greedy hands on one for themselves, Perry has been systematically eliminating them, something his superiors are not pleased with. Their problems with Perry become the least of their worries, however, when the infection mutates and becomes airborn. Plus, there seems to be a new boss in town, one who is beginning to block the signal that has been leading Perry to the infected. Could it be the end for human kind as we know it or will Perry and his team pull through and come out on top once again? Sigler’s cringeworthy attention to detail and his unique combination of horror, sci-fi, and medical thriller make for some great reading. With one book left to the trilogy, readers will be waiting anxiously to see what happens next. 01/09 Becky Lejeune

CONVICTION by Richard North Patterson: No one would ever accuse Richard North Patterson of avoiding hot topics: previous novels considered gun control (Balance of Power) and late term abortion (Protect and Defend), while Conviction takes a look at both sides of the death penalty issue. Fifteen years ago, brothers Rennell and Payton Price were sentenced to death for the brutal murder of nine-year-old Thuy Sen. Now as Rennell’s scheduled execution approaches, Theresa Peralta Paget (Eyes of a Child) takes up his final appeal, along with her attorney-husband and attorney-stepson, digging up fifteen year old information on her client, his family, the victim, and the lawyer that originally represented the brothers. Paget pursues the appeals process all the way to the Supreme Court while also dealing with her troubled teenaged daughter and her own guilt, until the final, stunning conclusion. While it is apparent that the author opposes the death penalty, Patterson nevertheless provides compelling evidence for both sides of the argument. In his sure hands, this fascinating and often agonizing in-depth look at the death-penalty process becomes a very personal journey as well; for the lawyers, the convicted, and the reader. 02/05 Copyright © 2005 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR by Allegra Goodman: I tend to think of Goodman as a writer of Jewish family stories, mostly because of Kaaterskill Falls, and while this book certainly touches on that subject, it is not its main focus. Instead, we meet two sisters; Emily, the founder of Veritech, a data storage high tech start up on the eve of going public, and Jess, her younger, flightier sister, a vegan philosophy student who works part time in an antiquarian bookshop and fights to save trees. Emily’s boyfriend Jonathan is the founder of another high tech startup on the opposite coast; theirs is a bi-coastal relationship. Jess’s boss, George, is a retired Microsoft millionaire who is familiar with the process of going public and getting rich. The cookbooks of the title are really just a small part of the story; instead this is a story about relationships, money, values and secrets. An interesting read but not especially compelling or memorable. 09/10 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

A COOL BREEZE ON THE UNDERGROUND by Don Winslow: Young Neal Carey starts as a New York City pickpocket to support himself since his mother is a junkie and prostitute. He comes to the attention of Joe Graham when he tries to steal Graham’s wallet. Graham takes Carey under his wing, grooms and trains him to become an operative for Friends of the Family, a discreet, private investigation agency owned by the Kitteredge Bank. Neal is directed by, to find Allie Chase, the teenage, drug-addicted daughter of a U.S. senator and presidential hopeful. Allie is somewhere in England and must be returned to the States before the 1976 Democratic Convention nine weeks away. Neal finds Allie but is forced to use his cunning to bring her home; at the same time he suspects someone from the agency is trying to kill him. Outstanding first in a series. 03/10 Jack Quick

COP HATER by Ed McBain: In the first book of the much beloved 87th Precinct series, McBain broke new ground and is generally credited with inventing the police procedural. Originally published as a paperback, it was later reissued as a hardcover with an introduction by Ed McBain. He discussed the concept of a “conglomerate hero”, a police force as hero, not just one cop. He invented a city called Isola, based on New York City without the complications of getting every geographical detail right. And in this first book, he wrote a mystery featuring Detective Steve Carella, his deaf-mute girlfriend Teddy, and a few other members of the force who would later go on to become the center of other books. By rotating his protagonists, he kept the series fresh and interesting. In Cop Hater, we meet these cops during a brutally hot summer in the city. A detective is gunned down on his way to work. A few days later, another cop is killed. An obnoxious reporter decides to do a little investigating on his own that results in another cop being injured. The lieutenant tells his men to do their job and find this cop hater. And they do. Cop Hater was published in 1956 and it was followed by 54 more terrific books of the 87th Precinct. 10/05 BookBitch

COP TO CORPSE by Peter Lovesey: In a country where firearms are strictly controlled the shooting deaths of three policemen in twelve weeks is a major story. The detectives assigned to the case are making little headway when Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond is assigned to the case. After talking to the widows of the slain officers, Diamond is beginning to make some connections, but a direct encounter with the sniper seems to negate all of Diamond’s work. Although most unpopular, the evidence is beginning to suggest the sniper may, in fact, be a serving officer in the Bath area. Although this is book 11 in the Peter Diamond series, it is my first encounter with the Superintendent, but definitely not my last. Add Lovesay to the list of British procedurals authors who get it right. 10/12 Jack Quick

THE CORAL THIEF by Rebecca Stott: Daniel Connor is just one of many young students arriving in Paris with aspirations of greatness. His work back home in Scotland earned him a recommendation for an apprenticeship with the famous Georges Cuvier at the Jardin des Plantes. Daniel is sent to Cuvier with his hard-won letters of introduction, his own notes and research, and some rare and valuable fossils to be delivered to Cuvier himself. But Daniel makes a terrible mistake when he lets his guard down and falls asleep during the ride. When he awakens, his precious materials and fossils have been stolen. Daniel is sure that all is lost: how can he show his face at the Jardin after having lost such irreplaceable material? His only option is to recover his possessions, but he doesn’t even know the name of the mysterious woman who stole them in the first place, and he is a stranger with no connections in this post-Revolution city. Stott’s latest is a combination historical fiction and mystery with a touch of romance. Characters are based in actual fact—Cuvier, Napoleon, and even the infamous Vidocq in the form of Jagot the inspector. 09/09 Becky Lejeune

THE CORPSE READER by Antonio Garrido: Ci Song longs for nothing more than to return to the city of Lin’An and continue his studies. Until that time, he and his family are living with his brother, Lu, and helping with his land. When Ci discovers the body of a murdered man on Lu’s property – a man Lu is later convicted of killing – he feels ultimately responsible. His attempts to have his brother’s sentence commuted are just the beginning of the obstacles that will stand in Ci’s way to obtaining his dreams. He finds himself on the run, pursued by the village sheriff, but finally makes his way to Lin’An only to discover that his own father had been accused of embezzling. The Song name has been tarnished and Ci loses all hope. But a series of events lands Ci exactly where he needs to be and he soon catches the attention of the emperor himself. Set in charge of investigating a gruesome series of murders, Ci understands that failure could mean execution, but solving the crime could also mean the beginning of a new life for the Corpse Reader. The Corpse Reader is Antonio Garrido’s first book to be translated to English and released in the States. While the story is based loosely on the real Ci Song, the father of forensic science, much of Garrido’s tale is in fact fiction. It does make for a fascinating and entertaining read, though, and Garrido employs at least one of the actual cases Song outlined in his treatise in the story itself. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen: This tale of a dysfunctional family has been called a masterpiece which probably explains the difficulty I had getting through it. The first 30 pages are torturous, the few hundred that followed somewhat easier and the final couple of hundred make it all worthwhile. These characters will be staying with me for some time to come. This was postmodernist writing brought to the masses with wicked humor. Very well done. Oprah selection, October 2001, but don’t let that or the ensuing brouhaha discourage you. Winner of the 2001 National Book Award. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CORRUPT PRACTICES by Robert Rotstein: Parker Stern was once a brilliant trial lawyer, but he hasn’t set foot in a courtroom since the death of his boss and mentor. Stern suffers from glossophobia – stage fright. Rich Baxter, an old colleague, stands accused of embezzling millions from a well-known and controversial religious organization called the Church of the Sanctified Assembly and he wants Stern as his defense attorney. Stern reluctantly agrees, in part thanks to his own desire to see the Assembly brought down, but his client is found dead of an apparent suicide the day his trial is set to begin. Dead in his cell. Under police watch. Now the Assembly has set its eyes on Baxter’s father, a man who insists his son would never have killed himself, and again, Stern is approached as council. Strangely, the elder Baxter’s words match those of Stern’s old mentor’s wife. And oddly enough, Stern’s old mentor and Rich Baxter, both apparent suicides, had been working for the Assembly at the time of their deaths. This first in a new series is pretty dark in terms of content. Not for the faint hearted. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty great debut from Rotstein, an entertainment lawyer who no doubt draws on his many years of experience in creating a wholly believable scenario and cast of characters. 6/13 Becky Lejeune

COUNTDOWN by Michelle Maddox: The last thing Kira Jordan remembers is stealing a new pair of shoes. Now here she is, chained to a wall in a darkened room. When the lights go on they reveal a man sitting across the room, also chained to the wall. His name is Rogan Ellis, a convicted rapist and murderer. Kira and Rogan have become a part of the Countdown, a reality show like no other. The two must work together through six levels of challenges in order to escape with their lives. Losing is not an option; losing means death. Kira soon finds that there is much more to Rogan Ellis than the show announcer would have her believe. In fact, could it be that everything she’s been told about this man is just another ploy for increased ratings. Could it be that her reaction to being paired with a violent criminal is what the viewers really want to see? Could it be that Rogan Ellis may indeed be the only person left who she can trust? It’s Running Man with a romantic twist. Maddox’s futuristic romantic action novel is a fun, fast, and intense read – it’s everything I’ve come to expect from Dorchester’s Shomi imprint. Another hit that’s sure to appeal to today’s generation of savvy romance fans. 08/08 Becky Lejeune

THE COUNTESS by Rebecca Johns: Erzsebet Bathory was born to a life of privilege. Her marriage to Ferenc Nadasdy earned her a title, and the death of her mother-in-law put her in charge of her new household. Convinced that discipline would lead to order, and obsessed with the idea that her servants were betraying her, Bathory’s punishments for lying, thievery, and promiscuity were humiliating and dangerous. When women in her employ began to die and then disappear, Bathory was imprisoned, forced to live out her days trapped behind walls. In Rebecca Johns’s fictional account of Bathory’s life—based on remaining court records of the day—the tale is told as Bathory’s writings to her orphaned son. This Bathory believes, to her dying day, that her actions were her right. The Countess is a fascinating look at a woman whose story has become a gruesome legend throughout time. Though Johns makes no effort to prove Bathory’s innocence, which I don’t believe has ever been a question, she does successfully attempt to humanize the monster that has been dramatized throughout the centuries. 10/10 Becky Lejeune

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN by Don Lee: Lisa Countryman is a half-Japanese, half black Berkeley graduate student who is working as a hostess girl at a men’s club when she disappears in 1980 Tokyo. Tom Hurley is a half-Korean, half-white junior diplomat at the US Embassy who first looks into the case. Kenzo Ota, a divorced Japanese police inspector who grew up in Missouri is assigned to the case. Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know – to quote Abbott and Costello, but the story does tell a lot about race, identity, the Japanese sex trade, social conventions and law. Whether it needed to be so convoluted is another question. 08/06 Jack Quick

COUNTY LINE by Bill Cameron: Ex-cop Skin Kadash is that rarest of breeds in Portland – a native Oregonian. His lady friend Ruby Jane Whittaker has been there long enough that she claims native status. After all she is the founder and owner of the Ucommon Cup chain of coffee shops. So when Skin returns from a “retreat” and finds Ruby Jane gone he is somewhat concerned. His concern grows even more after having his wallet lifted by a pickpocket and then finding a dead man in the bathtub in Ruby Jane’s apartment followed by an attack from a mysterious stalker. Skin goes first to California, then across the country on a desperate journey deep into Ruby Jane’s haunted past. You get the feeling no matter what the ending, it won’t be good. Nicely done “ex-cop procedural.” 08/11 Jack Quick

THE COURIER by Jay MacLarty: The Courier’s Motto: the package always arrives unopened, undamaged, and in one piece. In this e-book, Simon Leonidovich is the owner of an international courier service that he operates with his sister, Lara. Par Olin is a Swedish scientist who discovers that millions of people who are taking a new weight loss drug are actually “killing themselves” by taking the drug. When Olin tries to report his research to the owners, the owners kill him to prevent his findings from becoming public. Before his murder Olin gets a copy of the disks containing his research to Simon. Simon tries to survive the ensuing efforts to retrieve the disks from him and get them to the authorities. He doesn’t know what the disks contain and, in fact, Simon himself is one of those taking the drug. Fast paced international adventure made even timelier by the current lawsuits regarding VIOXX, Fen-Phen, etc. Also available in paperback. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE CONSUMMATA by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins: Started by Mickey Spillane and finished after his death by pal Max Alan Collins, The Consummata features the second outing of Morgan the Raider, a tough guy who used to be straight but now works outside the law. Of course the law is looking for him, something about a missing $40 million. Compared to this, the $75,000 he is trying to recover from struggling Cuban exiles of Miami is chickenfeed, but he owes them for keeping him away form the law. As the bodies pile up — dead men and beautiful women– the Raider wonders what kind of Latin hell he’s gotten himself into, and just who or what is the mysterious Consummata? Interestingly, Morgan’s first outing as chronicled by Spillane was pretty much a non-starter. Don’t know how much Max Alan Collins contributed to this one but I found it to be quite good, better than the last Mike Hammer that Collins completed. 12/11 Jack Quick

A CORPSE IN THE KORYO by James Church: The blurbs say – Impressive – Superb – Outstanding. I would add “Interesting”. Inspector O works for one of the myriad North Korean Police agencies in the capital of Pyongyang until he is drawn into a maelstrom of betrayal and death. North Korea’s leaders are desperate to hunt down and eliminate anyone who knows too much about a series of decade’s-old kidnappings and murders—and Inspector O discovers too late he has been sent into the chaos. This is a world where nothing works as it should, where the crimes of the past haunt the present, and where even the shadows are real. The focal point is a corpse in the city’s main hotel – the Koryo. O is assigned the task of finding the killer even when he can’t be told the identity of the victim or have access to critical information. As a police procedural it works, but even more interesting is the glimpse into a world gone mad, which unfortunately, exists, and is in possession of nuclear weapons. 8/12 Jack Quick

COUP D’ETAT by Ben Coes: This is the second book featuring the character of Dewey Andreas who was an army ranger and a member of Delta force. In Coes’ first book Dewey is found working as the crew chief of an off shore oil platform when a band of terrorists attack the rig and take it over. Dewey takes back the platform and kills the leader of the terrorist group. In the latest book, “Coup d’etat” the dead terrorist’s family is hunting Dewey who has fled to Australia and a ranch in order to get away from the killers. They manage to locate him and begin hunting him, but bigger events take precedent over the terrorist hunt. A minor incident on the Pakistan-Indian border explodes into a war between the two nuclear nations and Pakistan under the leadership of a blind ,but power crazed president explodes a nuclear weapon against a small Indian city. India intends to retaliate and mobilizes its weaponry to destroy Pakistan, but China which is allied with Pakistan mobilizes an army on the Indian border. The United States which would be obligated to ally itself with India sends a delegation to talk with India’s president to prevent a total nuclear Armageddon. The solution finally projected is to kill the Pakistani president and put a more moderate candidate into office. Dewey is picked by the Americans to lead the Coup d’etat. Coes is excellent at getting the reader into the excitement of both the terrorist group hunting Dewey, and the American attack on the Pakistani president. While there is some need for reading the first book “Power Down” it is not completely essential and short descriptions of the previous action suffice to keep the reader up to date. The ending of the book provides the setting for the scenario of the next Dewey Andreas novel, and I am anxiously awaiting that one. 12/11 Paul Lane

COVENANT by Dean Crawford: Covenant is the first book for Crawford, a writer living in Surrey, England. Every indication shows that he is a comer with an engrossing novel loosely based on current scientific knowledge (a la Michael Crichton) and moving into areas of plausible speculation. Lucy Morgan, an archeologist, working in Israel’s Negev unearths the 7000 year old skeletal remains of a humanoid figure that almost immediately is identified as something not of this earth. Just after announcing her find, Lucy is abducted by person or persons unknown. Ethan Warner an ex soldier and war correspondent has had experience looking for individuals snapped away in the area of Israel around Gaza. Three years prior to the opening of the story his fiancée was abducted in that area and never found. He is asked to help Lucy’s mother look for her daughter in the Negev and Gaza strip. A parallel situation is also set up with two police officers in Washington DC that are tasked with investigating a multiple murder with the bodies in condition not normal in a homicide. Both Ethan and the officers begin investigating their respective situations apart from each other. Results very logically put together by Crawford bring the two scenarios together for a climax that is one of the most intriguing I’ve seen in a long time. The reader is left wanting more, and two possible second or second and third novels are left open for future work. 12/11 Paul Lane

COVENANT by John Everson: Reporter Joe Kieran has been dying for a great story ever since he left behind his career in Chicago to start over in the small town of Terrell. Church bake sales and fund raising events seem to be the most exciting things that ever happen in the little coastal village, until Joe receives a report of a local teen suicide. Joe’s boss is cagey about the event and orders him to do nothing more than print a simple death notice. Joe’s reporters’ instincts are buzzing, though, and he soon uncovers a rash of suicide reports that date back over fifty years. Joe’s digging is making Terrell’s citizens none too pleased, something that only encourages him more. Could it be that these “accidents” are linked to the town’s own urban legends regarding evil spirits that are said to dwell in the local caves and roam the cliffside? Joe’s not too keen on the supernatural, but he’s determined to expose the truth behind Terrell’s terrible secret. Everson’s twisted and original tale earned him the coveted Horror Writers’ Association’s 2004 Bram Stoker award for Best First Novel. Although Covenant and it’s sequel, Sacrifice, were previously available as collector’s edition hardcovers, this is the first time that they have appeared as paperbacks. Sacrifice is set for publication in May of 2009. 08/08 Becky Lejeune

COVER OF SNOW by Jenny Milchman: This superlative dark, wintry debut is set in a small town in upstate New York. Nora Hamilton oversleeps one morning to find that her husband, Brendan, has hung himself. Nora is bereft, and she struggles to reconcile Brendan’s suicide with their seemingly happy life together and with his job as a cop in his hometown. Her mother-in-law, a cold, forbidding woman, blames Nora, who tries talking to his partner, a cop who was also Brendan’s best friend, but he advises her to move on with her life. Nora can’t move on, not without some answers, and as she starts digging, she uncovers secrets about her husband and the town, the kind of secrets that people will do anything, including murder, to cover up. The ravages of winter impede her progress, but she plows on, determined to learn why Brendan never confided in her, but the answers prove more shocking than anything she might have imagined. These well-defined characters take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the darkest night, with blinding twists and occasionally fatal turns. This is a richly woven story that not only looks at the devastating effects of suicide but also examines life in a small town and explores the complexity of marriage. Fans of Gillian Flynn, Nancy Pickard, and C.J. Box will be delighted to find this new author. 1/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2012 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.

COVER THE BUTTER by Carrie Kabak: Kate Cadogan walks into her home in Wales to find the remnants of a teenage party gone wild. Her husband’s and son’s complete indifference push her over the edge and she tumbles back and relives her life, starting with her childhood with her domineering, control freak of a mother and her proportionately weak father. We follow Kate as she makes friends, loses her first boyfriend, gets pregnant, and eventually marries Rodney, a man her mother is wild about. “Rodders” comes from a good (read: wealthy) family, and while Kate feels more or less ambivalent about him, she marries him anyway. After a twenty year loveless, almost sexless marriage in which she learns to despise her husband and his indifference to her while he’s totally preoccupied with playing squash and golf and so forth, she learns to stand up on her own two feet. And that’s despite her mother, her husband and her child – you just can’t help rooting for this woman who is trying so hard to please everyone else and still find herself. More than just a warm and funny coming of age story, this well written debut novel is charming, sensitive and thought provoking. It also has one of my favorite titles this year, and a beautiful cover – and sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover. 06/05 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COVER-UP by Michelle Martinez: Melanie Vargas, federal prosecutor in NYC, returns in this latest thriller from the oh-so-talented Martinez. While dining out with her boyfriend, hunky FBI agent Dan O’Reilly, she is dragged along to the scene of a murder when he is paged to respond. Vargas had been laying low, taking low profile cases in order to recover from some rough cases and spend more time with her daughter. But being that she is in the right place at the right time – the murder scene of a celebrity, tabloid TV reporter Suzanne Shephard, Vargas realizes that this is an assignment she can’t walk away from. Shephard had plenty of enemies, and law enforcement has their work cut out for them to try and find the murderer. Terrific pacing in this legal thriller along with some hot romance makes this another fast, fun read from this author, who has turned into one of my favorites. 04/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

COVER-UP by Michele Martinez: Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas is back in this third installment to the series. Melanie and FBI agent Dan O’Reilly were enjoying a quiet evening together when the call came that TV personality Suzanne Shepard had been found brutally murdered, in Central Park. As luck would have it, Melanie is picked not only to lead the investigation for the U.S. Attorney’s office, but also to hold an emergency press conference at the scene. Unfortunately, the killer just happens to have watched the conference and has chosen Melanie to be his next victim. As an investigative reporter for a popular series, Suzanne Shepard uncovered dirt on some of the city’s most prominent figures, the latest of which is mayoral candidate Clyde Williams whose own son is a close friend and coworker of Melanie’s. With the killer threatening her and the press claiming that she may be giving Williams special treatment, Melanie’s own life, and possibly her career, now depend on cracking this case. This is a great follow up to Most Wanted and Finishing School. I highly recommend Michele Martinez. Her stories are fresh and interesting and her characters are wonderfully engaging. Anyone who enjoys Lisa Scottoline will love the Melanie Vargas series. 03/07 Becky Lejeune

COVERT WARRIORS by W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV: I don’t smoke, gamble, drink to excess of chase strange women. I do, however, enjoy the unique talents of WEB Griffin and his improbable heroes. Colonel Charlie Castillo, forcibly retired is continuing to do good works for his country, including saving the lives of some of its citizens falsely put into jeopardy. This time there is an even bigger prize at stake – control of the government of the United States. It is up to Charlie and his band of dinosaurs “who still believe the only good communist is a dead communist,” to get the job done. Another outstanding outing. 2/12 Jack Quick KINDLE

COWARD’S KISS by Lawrence Block: The tale starts with New York City private investigator Ed London removing the body of his brother-in-law’s mistress from an apartment that he pays for. When the body is later found and identified London’s problems increase exponentially. It seems there is a missing briefcase that at least two different people want, both think London has it, and he doesn’t. He must find the killer before the killer and/or the police find him. Excellent Block stand-alone. 11/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE CRACKED EARTH by John Shannon: Actress Lori Bright has lost something very important to her – her fifteen year old daughter Lee, who has synthesia, a condition where she “sees” sounds in color. Interestingly, the main character in T. Jefferson Parker’s new book The Fallen, has the same condition. The case will take former aerospace worker, now PI, Jack Liffey, hunter of lost children, into the collision of the Old City of Angels and the new. Both are dangerous to your health, and to his, along with Jamaicans and periodic earth tremors. My first Liffey, but certainly not the last. 03/06 Jack Quick

CRASHED by Tim Hallinan: New York has its Bernie Rhodenbarr, a burglar and bookseller, courtesy of Lawrence Block. Now the West Coast has Junior Bender, a top-of-the-line burglar who also works as a private eye – for crooks, courtesy of Tim Hallinan. Other than their profession, the two are quite different. Junior is edgier and farther out of the mainstream which result in him getting into bigger messes, like this one. In Crashed, Junior finds himself on the wrong side of his own already paper-thin moral code, being forced to prevent sabotage against a multi-million dollar porn film starring exactly the kind of person he’d normally want to protect. At the age of 23, Thistle Downing is broke, strung-out, semi-suicidal, on the verge of obscurity, and has only Junior to keep her alive against a determined stalker. And you think you are having a bad day. Simeon Grist, Poke Rafferty, and now Junior Bender. You gotta like this Hallinan guy and his work. 1/11 Jack Quick NOTE: Only available for the Kindle

CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE by Gwen Freeman: No longer unemployed, bi-racial twenty-something Fifi Cutter and her half-brother Bosco Dorff (who is partial to women with big bazongas) are back. Cutter is now the Girl Friday to Reginald Wong, a legendary Chinatown trial attorney, of the firm Wong, Wu & Chu. He is handling a $60 million wrongful death suit against SkyBlu Charter Jet Service after a deranged ex-employee, well let Fifi tell it: “That crazy fool iced five people and offed himself. Now he’s gonna show up at the pearly gates at the exact same time as all those dudes he just killed. What’s gonna happen? I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen, (she) said, crossing her arms. He ain’t getting in “ Well, that may take care of heaven but there is still much to do here on earth as Fifi uncovers extortion, kidnapping, and murder along with double crossing attorneys, a drunken judge and insurance companies gone bad. It’s all in a days work for our heroine and her “giant food and beer-sucking swamp creature” of a brother who has never met someone he didn’t try to con. 06/08 Jack Quick

CREEPERS by David Morrell: Journalist Frank Balenger, former Army Ranger and Iraqi war vet, hooks up with a group of “Creepers,” urban explorers who infiltrate old, abandoned buildings, to see what they do and how they do it. Or so he says. The group is led by college Professor Robert Conklin, a high school teacher, Vincent Vanelli, and grad students Cora and Rick Magill. They decide to explore the old Paragon Hotel, which is scheduled to be demolished. The Paragon has some interesting history, built at the turn of the century by an eccentric millionaire who happened to be a hemophiliac and never left the building – until he killed himself outside the hotel on the beach. They approach the hotel at dusk, planning on exploring during the night and taking off at daybreak. But things start going awry almost from the beginning; not all the Creepers are who they appear to be, and worse yet, they are not alone. This is a genre-defining thriller written by a master wordsmith, alternately scary, creepy, violent, and emotional – and always excellent. I loved it and stayed up half the night to finish it.

CREOLE BELLE by James Lee Burke: It all starts with a visit by Tee Jolie Melton to Dave Robiccheaux while he is lying in a recovery unit on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. His senses dulled by morphine, Dave can’t be sure whether his latest visitor is flesh and blood or a ghostly remnant of his Louisiana youth. He also doesn’t know that Tee Jolie disappeared weeks ago. When he learns that her sister has turned up dead inside a block of ice floating in the Gulf, he believes that putting the evils of the past to rest is more urgent than ever before. Meanwhile, an oil spill in the Gulf brings back intense feelings for Dave of losing his father to a rig explosion years ago. And ex-partner Clete has his own troubles, he’s discovered an illegitimate daughter who may be working as a contract killer—and may have set her sights on someone he loves. Although it sounds unnecessarily complicated you can count on Burke to tell the tale with his customary fluidity and attention to detail. When you can taste the Dr. Pepper on your tongue and feel the wet heat of the bayous competing with the gnats at the back of your neck, you know you have once again been captured by one of the best. Thank you, sir. 9/12 Jack Quick

CRIME AND SUSPENSE ANTHOLOGY NUMBER 1, 2005-2006: This nicely done paperback from Wolfmont Publishing features fifteen short stories from the first fifteen months of Crime and Suspense e-zine. Edited by Tony Burton, the stories range from 3 pages to 30 pages and cover a wide range of styles, but all in the genre. Burton selected these from over 113 stories published on site and they are good. Check out their website at http://www.crimeandsuspense.com. While you are there you may want to order your own copy of this neat little sampler. 06/07 Jack Quick

CRIME OF PRIVILEGE by Walter Walker: A practicing lawyer writing a book that brings out the twists and turns in the justice system; putting together a rape, a murder and the ability of a powerful family to completely subvert justice by paying off witnesses and corrupting officials. George Becket, a young lawyer working in the D.A’s office of the Cape and Islands government in Massachusetts, was witness to a rape during a visit to Florida in his college days. No one was ever punished for the crime and the girl in question committed suicide three years after the attack. Later another young girl is found bludgeoned to death at an exclusive golf club in Cape Cod with no one ever charged with the murder. The murdered girl’s father corners George in a bar and tells him that since his daughter’s death several years earlier, he has looked into the matter himself and supplied the police with data that should have resulted in further investigation but never did. George begins looking into the case and in the course of the investigation travels to Idaho, Hawaii, Costa Rica and New York as well as looking into clues that point to members of a Cape high society family as the perpetrators of both crimes. There is also the possibility that his ex-wife was possibly influenced in her marriage to him by the same family. Ascertaining the real facts of the crime finds a conspiracy of silence from all possible witnesses George manages to find. Walter Walker brings out the very real influence that money and power have on the course of justice, and it is very likely that the reader will not feel comfortable with the facts as outlined. But as in any situation corrupt behavior could be influenced by considerations of personal gain rather than any sense of right or wrong. A finely wrought novel making for compelling reading and a desire to see more from Walker in the near future. 6/13 Paul Lane

A CRIME TO BE RICH by David Snowdon: Shane Turnbull never intended to kill his wife of six years, even though he has just found out earlier that day that she was cheating on him with her boss. He lost his temper during their argument and struck her, not anticipating she would fall and fracture her “egg shell “ skull. Since he didn’t intend to kill her the successful London investment banker, didn’t feel he should be imprisoned for his error, and proceeds to dispose of the body. This starts a domino effect with Turnbull having to deal with the blackmailer who had called him to tell him about his wife’s dalliance in the first place, as well as the attention of Detective Inspector Ray Eubanks. One of London’s finest and most most persistent pursuers of wrong doing. What follows is predictable and inevitable as Turnbull spirals down to his ultimate fate, but not before taking others with him. Aside from the author’s predilection for describing in excruciating detail the clothes being worn by each character as they enter a scene, its a pretty good read, with a touch of woo-woo, and a protagonist that evokes little sympathy. 08/11 Jack Quick

THE CRIME WRITER by Gregg Hurwitz: Andrew Danner is a mystery writer whose life takes an ironic twist when he is found with a bloody knife in his hand, and accused of murdering his fiancée. The problem is, he doesn’t really remember what happened because, as the prosecution points out, he had a convenient brain tumor that required emergency surgery just as he was arrested for murder. Danner is found guilty by a jury of his peers, but the legal system works here and he is acquitted on the grounds of temporary insanity due to the tumor. He goes home in a daze, determined to find out what really happened. Luckily, his best friend, a former pro baseball player, doesn’t believe he did it, and one of the cops is also troubled by the case, so they both lend a hand to try and help Danner figure it out. Just to complicate things a bit more, it appears that Danner is being set up in another, similar murder case. It’s an interesting premise, but the first part of the book seemed slow and repetitious, although the rest of the book did move a lot more quickly. The Los Angeles setting lends some humor that lightens the tension now and then, and it ended up being a very enjoyable read. 10/07 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE by Bill Pronzini: In a departure from the Nameless series Pronizini tells the story of Jordan Wise, a mild-mannered thirty four year old accountant with a large San Francisco engineering firm. Wise meets and falls in love with Annalise Bonner, an ambitious young woman who craves excitement, money and the good life. To win her affections, Wise steals more than half a million dollars from his firm. They escape to the Virgin Islands, but their plans to live a life of quiet luxury are beset by unexpected pitfalls and Wise is forced to carry out two more ingenious schemes as a result. All three of his crimes are perfect or are they? A man, a woman, and the wages of sin. Pronzini covers all the bases. 07/06 Jack Quick

CRIMES OF REDEMPTION by Linda McDonald: It took killing her captor for Gayla Early to escape from the cellar where Albert Raeder had been holding her prisoner for two years. Albert Raeder may be dead, but he wields power from the grave thanks to the good old boys he left behind. His buddies want someone to pay for his death and Gayla looks good for taking the fall. It takes a crotchety recluse and a Viet Nam vet-turned-sheriff to team up on her behalf. The unlikely alliance changes all their lives forever. 1/13 Jack Quick

CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter: Will Trent is a brilliant agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, in spite of having been an orphan and suffering from dyslexia. When a local college student goes missing Will is kept off the case by his supervisor and mentor, deputy director Amanda Wagner. Will cannot understand Amanda’s motivation until the two of them literally collide in an abandoned orphanage they have both been drawn to for different reasons. Decades before—when Will’s father was imprisoned for murder—this was his home. Flash back nearly forty years. In the summer Will Trent was born, Amanda Wagner is going to college, making Sunday dinners for her father, taking her first steps in the boys’ club that is the Atlanta Police Department. One of her first cases is to investigate a brutal crime in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. Amanda and her partner, Evelyn, are the only ones who seem to care if an arrest is ever made. Now the case that launched Amanda’s career has suddenly come back to life, intertwined with the long-held mystery of Will’s birth and parentage. Whether either Will or Amanda can survive is doubtful. Sometimes the garbage is just piled too high. Gripping. 10/12 Jack Quick

Criminal Intent by Sheldon Siegel: The third outing in this marvelous legal series just proves that Siegel keeps getting better and better. Ex-priest Mike, & his ex-wife Rosie, boutique lawyers sharing a practice while no longer sharing a marriage, have a new client, Angel Chavez, a movie star accused of killing her much older, very wealthy husband, producer Richard “Big Dick” MacArthur. Unfortunately, her only alibi is a lot of “I don’t know”, which makes Aunt Rosie’s job ever so much harder. Yes, this movie star is Rosie’s niece, and that’s not all the familial trouble heading their way. The different threads are skillfully woven throughout this story, building suspense along the way until the very last page. Another winner.

CRIMINAL INSTINCT by Kelly Lynn Parra: Over the top tale about a group of five prisoners given the choice of five years in prison or five years working as undercover agents Ana Moreno, who has a history of B and E convictions and a problem with authority, decides that she has nothing to lose, but quickly learns that her Narcotics handlers consider her and her fellow “volunteers” as dispensable, disposable, and now worth even the most basic decency. Ana’s team is sent to stop a deadly shipment of Ecstasy headed for San Francisco. Ana’s task is to get close to the handsome and dangerous Jonas Saven, right-hand man of a suspected drug dealer with a deadly agenda.. The deeper Ana goes the worse it gets, as she begins to fall under the spell of Saven. Which will it be – her mission or her man? 07/10 Jack Quick

CRIMINAL PARADISE by Steven M. Thomas: Interesting first effort that reads like a classic noir. Robert Rivers and his partner Switch rob the Cowtown, a restaurant owned by Orange County California entrepreneur Lewis McFadden. As part of the loot they find a photograph of a naked Vietnamese girl who looks like an underage teenager, which suggests McFadden is into the flesh trade. Rivers and his biker friend Reggie England break into McFadden’s house, where they find the Vietnamese girl, Song, tied to a bed. At this point you are generally sympathetic towards Rivers but the story goes downhill from here as overblown sex and violence hijack the plot Hopefully, Thomas’ next effort will be able to stay on track as he writes very well, as in this description of Rivers landlady “…carrying her 130 pounds lightly on a five-and-one-half foot frame. She gardened and did housework competitively, outcleaning her friends and tending a large vegetable patch…. “ Another interesting note. The typeface selected for this book actually looks like manual typewriting, which further enhances the book. Still you may want to wait for Thomas’ next one. 01/09 Jack Quick

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber: I spent the summer reading Victorian literature, including Charles Dickens and Wilke Collins, and I enjoyed the references to the writers of the day sprinkled throughout this book. This is a big honker of a Victorian novel that is a page turner due to all the explicit sex and the terrific characters that move this story forward. There was nothing erotic here, however, despite all the sex, and problems abound, the most insurmountable being that there is no ending; we are led down the primrose path and abandoned there.
The story is rich with description of the time and place; we are taken to England of the late 1800’s, and we can smell the streets. But it’s the characters that draw us in, chief of which are Sugar, a prostitute, and William Rackham, heir to a perfumery. William’s wife Agnes is mad, yet he refuses to put her away, instead keeping her home and drugged. Agnes refuses to acknowledge the existence of their daughter, Sophie, and William helps her keep up that pretense. William has a brother, Henry, who dreams of becoming a Parson, but secretly lusts after the widow Emmeline Fox, a woman determined to help prostitutes rise up from their lowly lives to positions of servitude in upper class homes. But the story revolves around William’s obsession with Sugar, although as in most Victorian novels, class distinctions and struggles are paramount to the plot.
At over 800 pages, this book needed some serious editing; there were huge chunks that could have been eliminated without any loss to the story, yet there are questions I still have about what I read. Maybe I’m just being cranky or obtuse, but I don’t understand the title, nor what William Rackham’s perversities were. Although to be perfectly honest, I think the major problem I had here was that I am resentful of reading a book I didn’t love for eight days in lieu of the four or five others I could have read in that same time. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CRITICAL CONDITION by CJ Lyons: This fourth and final installation in the Angels of Mercy series finds the hospital literally under siege. With a blizzard raging outside, Angels is completely cut off when a group of mercenaries takes over the hospital. Gina, Amanda, and Nora are trapped inside as the killers search for Lydia. With virtually no hope of outside help, the three women must defend themselves and their friends and patients as they try to defeat the armed forces that are holding them hostage. All is finally revealed as the series comes to an end and each of the characters’ stories are nicely tied up and resolved. Lyons is said to be working on a new series co-written with Erin Brockovich due out next spring. 12/10 Becky Lejeune

CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin: I started reading this last year and it got lost in my house for a while. I finally found it and didn’t put it down until I finished it. I loved this book about two men, Silas, who is black, and Larry, who is white, who were childhood friends in a small Mississippi town. Their paths diverged and when a popular high school girl goes missing, Larry is blamed. He never confesses and he is never convicted, but in the eyes of this small town he is guilty, and he becomes a pariah. Many years later, Silas comes back to town as the constable, and Larry becomes suspect when another woman goes missing. This book seems to entwine both a plot driven story as well as a character study; it is elegantly written and simply engrossing. I loved it. 02/11 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CROSS by Ken Bruen: Amazingly Jack Taylor made it all the way through THE PRIEST with neither a smoke nor a drink. Whether he will be able to continue in this fifth entry in the series is questionable. A Galway boy is crucified and Taylor’s Garda friend Ridge, seeks his help in the search for this killer. Meanwhile, the surrogate son Jack found in THE PRIEST lies in a coma in hospital. Its enough to make him throw it all in and leave Galway for good, but then the sister of the murdered boy is burned to death and Jack knows he will find no peace until these crimes are solved and those responsible are brought to justice, Jack Taylor’s justice. Bruen just gets better and better. 01/08 Jack Quick

CROSS by Ken Bruen: The sixth Jack Taylor book begins with Cody, Jack’s surrogate son, lying comatose in the hospital after the events of Priest. Jack is trying to kick the drinking and the smoking, but his daily struggle with depression is making it difficult. To make matters worse, his friend Ridge, a member of the Guards, has asked for his help with her latest case. Someone crucified a boy from Claddagh. Days later, the boy’s sister is discovered dead as well. Dripping with sarcasm and wit, this book goes down just as smooth as the Jameson whiskey Jack has a taste for. But talk about diving into the deep end with your eyes closed. This is my first Jack Taylor book and while I was not totally lost, I can see where the books should be read in order. 03/08 Becky Lejeune

CROSS COUNTRY by James Patterson: I had quit reading Patterson, Inc. output but thought since this was an Alex Cross, it would be worth a try. Wrong again. This has all the makings of a contract requirement to be met with minimal effort to meet a page count. There is blood on most pages as Cross goes after a new type of killer – Tiger, a merciless hit man with ties to Africa. Tiger, and a group of teenage thugs kill Ellie Cox, a former girlfriend of Cross, and entire family. This is the first of a series of killings in the Washington, DC area and in Africa which causes Cross to pursue Tiger in Nigeria. It’s Bond, bad Bond, and pretty much a waste of time. 02/09 Jack Quick

Cross Current by Christine Kling: I’ve been waiting for this sequel since I read Surface Tension last year. It once again features tugboat captain Seychelle Sullivan and the Fort Lauderdale waterways. Seychelle is on her way to rescue a boat with a dead battery when she sees a little girl clinging to a damaged boat. She finds a dead woman who she assumes is the little girl’s mother, and is hesitant about what to do. The child is Haitian, and will undoubtedly be put on a plane back to Haiti. Seychelle decides to try and do better for her, which takes her through South Florida’s Haitian community; Voodoo, violence and child slavery. Much more than just a mystery, Kling had something to say about the Haitian refugee problems and did it beautifully. A fascinating glimpse into something the tourists and locals alike don’t hear much about.

CROSS CURRENT by Christine Kling: Salvage boat captain and sometime sleuth Seychelle Sullivan (think Tug Boat Annie as Travis McGee) is plying the South Florida waters on her tugboat, the Gorda, with her mechanic/lover, B.J. when she discovers Solange on a swamped boat and makes saving her, both from danger and from immigration officials, a personal crusade. The recent murder of some Haitian refugees and a creepy visitor to Solange’s hospital room convince Seychelle that the frightened girl is in peril. More challenges come from tough guys with various agendas including Detective Victor Collazo and Border Patrol Agent Russ Elliott. Although there are a lot of people, Kling presents them in a colorful fashion so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the mob. 04/06 Jack Quick

CROSSED by Ally Condie: This follow up to Matched picks up right where that one left off. Cassia and Ky have been separated as Society steps in to put them in their rightfully deemed places. As an Aberration, Ky has been sent to the Outer Provinces. Here he and other Aberrations serve as bait for the Enemy. Cassia plans to find Ky no matter what and knows that her time is running out. Her work detail will soon send her back to Central for her next assignment, meaning her window for escaping is quickly closing. As fate would have it, Cassia does not get sent to Central as planned. Instead, she’s placed on a plane headed to the Outer Provinces. When she learns that Ky has escaped, she and another girl quickly make their way to the nearby canyons to find him. Having always lived inside the boundaries of the Society, the journey for Cassia will be very dangerous. Not only must she face the elements, but both the Enemy and Society could come after them at any time. Condie alternates narration in Crossed between Cassia and Ky’s perspectives. Since each character has a very different background—Cassia grew up in and always trusted Society before now while Ky lived in the Outer Provinces with his parents, who always fought the rules and teachings of Society—it gives the reader the chance to see the story from two very different viewpoints. Condie touches on further detail of the history of the Society as well as the Rising, presenting some provocative ideas about whether it’s better to go along with Society or to think and fend for yourself. While Society is clearly not to be trusted, the alternatives aren’t necessarily what the characters hope for. 12/12 Becky Lejeune

CROSSING THE CENTER LINE by Allan E. Ansorge: The first attempt to kill Carl Fletcher cost him the life of his fiancée, the full use of his right leg, and his career in law enforcement. The second attempt endangers Michael McCaffery, Carl’s ex-partner in the Sheriff’s Department of Lake County, Wisconsin, who survives only because the would-be killer was dumb enough to wear leather-soled shoes on a slippery boat deck. Now it’s up to Carl and Michael assisted by Carl’s gun-toting Internet addicted mother and a cast of other volunteer amateur sleuths to find out what is going on before more bodies turn up. There are shoot-outs, legal shenanigans, and even a few moments of romance, in this somewhat off beat police procedural. Not bad, not bad. 06/09 Jack Quick

THE CROWN by Nancy Bilyeau: In the midst of the English Reformation, news that another religious protestor has been convicted of heresy is nothing new. But when Joanna Stafford, a novice at Dartford Priory, learns that her own cousin is to be burned at the stake, she feels she has no other choice but to abandon her position to be at her family member’s side. Joanna and her father are both taken into custody, accused of interfering, and held in the Tower of London. Joanna fears the worst for both her father and herself, but she is offered a reprieve – one that comes with strings. Legend has it that Dartford Priory is home to a very rare and special relic. The Bishop if Winchester has ordered Joanna to return to her position as novice and seek out the item in question. If she is successful, he will pardon her father. There’s a potential problem, though, in that the King’s men have places like Dartford in their sights. Should they arrive before Joanna can finish the Bishop’s task it could mean the end of the Priory itself. For Joanna, the potential loss of both her father and the Priory is the worst possible outcome, but being the Bishop’s pawn also means betraying her sisters and her faith. Nancy Bilyeau’s debut is quite brilliant. In fact, it’s hard to believe this is a debut at all. The Crown is incredibly well plotted and obviously carefully researched. This is the first in a projected trilogy. 8/13 Becky Lejeune

CRUEL CUTS by J. R. Lindermuth: CRUEL CUTS is the second in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. Hetrick, the retired police chief of the rural community of Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania, has been called back to duty as a consultant by the new, less experienced chief. A vicious poison pen campaign directed against an ambitious young lawyer appears to link the lawyer to a rash of animal mutilations plaguing the area. Perhaps if you had read SOMETHING IN COMMON, the first in this series, this one would be more enjoyable. Without having read the first one this seems to ramble and there is too much “back-story” from book one. If the book had been edited more tightly without so many intertwining story threads it would have been a much better read. Better editing would also have eliminated lines like “Fortunately, overindulgence in beer had made him flaccid before he found the crevice he sought and Vic had passed out with the first thrust of moist flesh against her thigh. She didn’t know what he had told his friends the next day but Flora remained a virgin…” 11/07 Jack Quick

A Cruel Season for Dying by Harker Moore: Cruel Season is more a thriller than a mystery, but that is what seems to be selling these days. It opens with a graphic murder and then alternates between gore and lengthy bouts of tortured sensitivity.
The gore is provided by a murderer deranged by a near death experience. He now believes, with the regular fortification of LSD, that he is a fallen angel. Armed with this knowledge and his military training, his new purpose is to create an army of similarly fallen angels who, after their deaths, will assist him in reclaiming a rightful place in heaven. He selects his recruits by their “aura,” which seems to be especially strong in homosexual men. After filling his victims with LSD so that they can appreciate their “release,” he kills them and then inserts wings into their backs. This makes for an eerie crime scene, which he further enhances with other apocryphal touches and a smidgen of incense. The sensitivity is provided by the hero, police Lt. James Sakura, raised in both America and Japan, who is assigned track down this delusional killer. Assisting him are his profiling instructor from the FBI Academy and his even more sensitive former partner. Along with the blind, pregnant, (and need I say, sensitive) Japanese sculptress wife of Lt. Sakura, all are placed in jeopardy as the plot unfolds. While I wish that Lt. Sakura would massage his brow a little less often, this book works hard at being different and meets the requirements to be a best-selling thriller. It will be especially enjoyed by Peter Strauss/Richard Chamberlain fans and those readers who like TV movies on the Lifetime Channel. ~This review contributed by Geoffrey R. Hamlin.

A CRUEL SEASON FOR DYING by Harker Moore: Japanese-American detective James Sakura of NYPD has a challenge – someone is creating angels, literally. The killer is attaching the white wings of swans to the shoulders of each victim after he kills them and positioning them in a peaceful pose. At first, it’s gay adults, but then a child is killed the same way. Moody and melancholy, reflecting the streets of the city he serves, Sakura must not only match wits with the killer, he must get ahead of him. The chase consumes him to the exclusion of everything else. Very well written, albeit a little slow at first. The tension and pace pick up as first one, then another suspect is identified and eliminated. The ending is a shocker. Recommended. 06/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

THE CRUSADER’S CROSS by James Lee Burke: I don’t know why people think Harry Potter is so special when you’ve got Dave Robicheaux. He can work all kinds of miracles. In this new adventure, Dave gets involved chasing after an incident that occurred when he and his brother were teens. Dave’s brother falls for a prostitute named Ida, who they thought was killed. Now they learn she may be alive. Dave’s involvement leads to a vicious attack on him, his restoration to the New Iberia Police Force, followed by an unsuccessful attempt on the lives of Dave and former police partner Clete Purcell. Along the way he finds a new woman – a nun named Molly – and he and Purcell skirt the edges of society once again. Oh, did I mention Robicheaux gets arrested for murder. Burke has become my favorite author and his Robicheaux series represent Burke at his best. Lets all hoist a Dr. Pepper and read on. 08/05 ~This review contributed by Jack Quick.

CSI: BINDING TIES by Max Allan Collins: Ten years ago, Las Vegas was terrorized by CAST, a vicious serial killer responsible for nearly half a dozen brutal murders. Now Gil Grissom and his CSI team are called in to investigate a homicide that perfectly fits the notorious criminal’s modus operandi, but all hell breaks loose when a reporter made famous by the original cases receives a letter from someone claiming to be CAST, and who says he has nothing to do with the latest slaying. 07/06 Jack Quick

CSI: DOUBLE DEALER by Max Allan Collins: Even in Las Vegas, Wednesday, 5:30 AM, in an out of the way hotel should be fairly quiet. This one is until a room service waiter discovers a corpse and a killer. This brings homicide detective Jim Brass, CSI team leader Gil Grissom and his team – Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown, Nick Stokes, and Sara Sidle. Their efforts toward solving this murder lead them to re-look at a case that occurred some fifteen years ago that bears the same double-tap signature. This draws the attention of FBI agent Rick Culpepper. With this much horsepower combined with cutting edge scientific technology, you know it won’t take long to solve the crime, or will it? 07/06 Jack Quick

CSI: MIAMI CULT FOLLOWING by Donn Cortez:: Miami Dade Crime Lab Lieutenant Horatio Caine has a truly mysterious death at an organic eatery. The victim, waiter Phillip Mulrooney, is bent over a stainless steel toilet, his clothing shredded, burn marks on his face, cell phone fragments scattered around, and his shoes blown off his feet. Incredible as it seems, the initial evidence points to death by lightning strike. The staff at The Earthly Garden believe Mulrooney’s death is an act of God — punishment for straying from the Vitality Method, their own spiritual philosophy. Or could it be a cellphone bomb? Or even something else? A bit far fetched but a good escape read. 05/06 Jack Quick

CSI: MIAMI FLORIDA GETAWAY by Max Allan Collins: Thomas Lessor left Las Vegas for Miami to get away from it all, including a charge of murder. Gil Grissom calls his counterpart in Miami, Lieutenant Horatio Caine, to assist in the return of Lessor to Las Vegas. Before Caine can make the connection, someone else connects with Lessor who disappears. Hot on his trail, the Miami CSIs are called to the scene of an abandoned limousine with a body in the truck. Its not Lessor, but his corpse soon shows up. From there on its sorting out the bad guys from the worse guys, and surprise, surprise, CSI prevails. 07/06 Jack Quick

CSI: MIAMI HEAT WAVE by Max Allan Collins: Miami crime boss Kurt Wallace won many battles before losing to a couple of well placed bullets. Since nature and the mob abhor a vacuum, a host of interested businessmen begin to move in, trying to take over Wallace’s former empire. CSI Lieutenant Horatio Caine and his crack team of forensic scientists must use all their skills to discover who committed the crime that all of Miami had a motive to commit. Not bad, if you are a CSI fan, otherwise, there are better Miami (and Florida) offerings. 08/06 Jack Quick

CSI: NEW YORK DEAD OF WINTER by Stuart Kaminsky: Detective Mac Taylor and his partner, Detective Stella Bonasera, lead a team of experts through the gritty streets of New York City piecing together clues and eliminating doubts along the way to solving cases. This time they have the body of a middle-aged man in the elevator of a ritzy doorman building on the Upper East Side with no motive, no bullets and no DNA. A few blocks away a witness being held in protective custody is murdered although the law enforcement officers on duty swear that the victim spent the night in a locked hotel room — only to be found dead in the morning. Just two more stories of the thousands from the city that never sleeps. 05/06 Jack Quick

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: This stunning debut novel is the best book I’ve read this year. You know you are in for something different when you open the book to the first chapter, but it is numbered “2.” And the next chapter is 3, then 5, then 7, and so on until it is explained that Christopher, our 15-year-old protagonist, is autistic. As some differently-abled children are, he is a savant, in his particular case with prime numbers and the ability to name every country and its capital, and he has an extremely logical mind, but he also has other issues like he can’t stand to be touched, won’t eat brown or yellow food, and finds comfort in curling up in a corner and groaning. When he finds his neighbor’s dog has been killed, he decides to solve the mystery à la his favorite sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and that is ostensibly what the book is about. But the reality is a beautifully written book with amazing characters and a great storyline – everything a book is supposed to have but seldom does. A truly remarkable book. Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

CSI BODY OF EVIDENCE by Max Allan Collins: I am not a fan of the television show, but Collins has used the show formula to produce a good read. Las Vegas executive assistant Janice Denard discovers evidence of horrific crimes, shocking photographs left abandoned in a computer printer. Now, with the help of the LVPD’s computer forensics experts, the CSI team must track through hardware and software, deception and deceit to find the perpetrators. At the same time they uncover new and disturbing evidence in a high-profile media case – the brutal murder of the Mayor’s long-missing secretary. I’ll be back for more. 01/06 Jack Quick

CUBAN DEATH LIFT by Randy Wayne White: Before there was a Randy Wayne White and a Doc Ford and a Tomlinson, there was Randy Striker who wrote about the adventures of ex-Navy SEAL Dusky MacMorgan. Fortunately, Signet Books has seen fit to republish this series from the early 1980’s that gave Randy Wayne White the opportunity to become the great author he is today. In this latest reprint, Fidel Castro has allowed thousands of Cubans to depart for America in the Mariel Boatlift, including Cuba’s worst criminals and undesirables. The CIA isn’t up to the challenge so Dusty MacMorgan is called on to handle the situation. A one evening read but a darn good one. 09/07 Jack Quick

CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith: It is now known that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K Rowling creator and writer of the Harry Potter series. If the reader is expecting just an adult version of Harry he or she will be pleasantly surprised. Rowling, or rather Galbraith changes focus completely and delivers an interesting and well plotted mystery novel. No magic involved other than the magic of a good writer changing emphasis to capture the attention of her readers. Cormoran Strike is a British private detective not doing very well in his attempts to attract a clientele. He is a veteran of combat in Afghanistan where he lost a leg and reduced by economic circumstances to sleep in his office. Out of the blue the brother of a famous model appears in his office with a job. The model ,Lula Landry known as the Cuckoo had fallen to her death from her apartment. The police rule it a suicide and close the case, but Lula’s brother is sure that she was murdered and hires Strike to investigate the situation. Galbraith proves a master at slowly, but surely developing Strike as a person with all the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the human condition. Logically, and as part of the action in the book we learn about him and understand why he goes about working the case as he does. His investigation is well delineated and takes us step by step to the conclusion and solution of the case. There are no sudden revelations and bolts from the blue providing answers but rather the logical plodding that surely accompanies any solution to a mystery. Along the way, Strike hires a temporary secretary, Robin, that is doing the job while she looks for full time work. She becomes fascinated by the detective work and proves that she is a great asset to her boss. She is engaged, and there is no love interest in the book between Strike and her but it is no surprise that she is hired on a permanent basis at the end. There is no doubt that this is book one of a series planned by Galbraith and if they follow suite will prove very popular. 8/13 Paul Lane

A CURE FOR NIGHT by Justin Peacock: Joel Deveraux is not the high-minded, do-gooder type usually found in the Public Defender’s office. He landed there only after being caught in a drug scandal at his first job with a prestigious law firm, and he’s lucky he was only asked to resign and wasn’t disbarred in the process. He spends his days pleading out drug dealers until he is asked to second chair one of the office stars, Myra Goldstein, who isn’t told why this Ivy-league lawyer is now working for her. Goldstein is handling a hot potato, a murder case