THE COUNTRY GUESTHOUSE by Robyn Carr

January 17, 2020

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Sullivan’s Crossing, Book 5

From the publisher:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr delivers an emotional and triumphant novel about the fierce power of a mother’s love.

A summer rental, a new beginning…

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need.


Robyn Carr is one of my favorite authors. I love all of her series, and I was really excited when I saw there was a new addition to the Sullivan’s Crossing series. The setting is one of my favorites. But I must admit, I had a little trouble with this book.

I liked Hannah a lot, and I loved Noah. These characters were well developed and believable. On the other hand, Owen was a bit of an enigma to me. I didn’t feel like he was as well developed, even though his background was explored and was very dramatic. Something just felt off to me. Maybe it was the lack of chemistry between Hannah and Owen. They went from platonic to romantic without any real buildup. This book had a lot of telling, rather than showing, and I never like that as much.

Not my favorite, but I’m still glad I read it.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE COUNTRY GUESTHOUSE by Robyn Carr. MIRA; Original edition (January 7, 2020).  ISBN 978-0778309055. 336 p.

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A RUSH OF BLOOD by David Mark

January 16, 2020

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From the publisher:

Ten-year-old Hilda’s search for her missing friend has terrible consequences in this gripping psychological thriller.

When her friend Meda fails to turn up for dance class one evening, 10-year-old Hilda is convinced that something bad has happened to her, despite Meda’s family’s reassurances. Unable to shake off her concerns, Hilda turns to her mother, Molly, for help. Molly runs the Jolly Bonnet, a pub with links to the Whitechapel murders of a century before and a meeting place for an assortment of eccentrics drawn to its warm embrace. Among them is Lottie. Pathologist by day, vlogger by night, Lottie enlists the help of her army of online fans – and uncovers evidence that Meda isn’t the first young girl to go missing.

But Molly and Lottie’s investigations attract unwelcome attention. Two worlds are about to collide in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on the rain-lashed streets of London’s East End, a historic neighbourhood that has run red with the blood of innocents for centuries.


David Mark gives us a stand-alone novel with his current book. It is a horror story and if you like the genre a good one. The book takes place in England in modern times but with a haunting attachment to the murders by Jack the Ripper in the 1860s. The novel begins with 10-year-old Hilda beginning to worry about her friend Meda who hasn’t shown up for their dance class. Hilda tells her mother about her worries but with the result that Meda’s family doesn’t appear to be overly concerned about their daughter’s whereabouts.

Hilda’s mother, Molly, runs the Jolly Bonnet, a pub with links to the Whitechapel murders of a hundred years before. The scene is populated by characters reminiscent of a bloody past and an overriding interest by leading personnel in blood, its transfusion, discoveries of its nature down through the centuries, and its twisted use by the villain of the piece.

The individual committing crimes including the kidnapping of Meda is introduced at the beginning of the novel. This is done undoubtedly to paint a complete picture of the person, what has twisted him and made a homicidal maniac out of him. For those not averse to reading a novel steeped in horror, “A Rush of Blood” will be a rewarding experience with definite plans to read additional books by this author.

1/2020 Paul Lane

A RUSH OF BLOOD by David Mark. Severn House Publishers; Main edition (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-0727889058. 224p.

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FROM THE GRAVE by Jay Brandon

January 15, 2020

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Edward Hall Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

Disbarred defence attorney Edward Hall discovers that in order to win his case he has to lose in this tense and twisting legal thriller.

“You want me to represent the most hated man in Houston?”

Disbarred Texas lawyer Edward Hall returns to the courtroom after accepting an offer from the District Attorney to represent the most obviously guilty defendant in town. It’s a poisoned chalice. Not only is his client charged with kidnapping the DA’s sister, he is already well-known for the previous kidnapping of a celebrity’s son.

But if Edward handles this well, he has a chance to regain his law licence. And Edward understand that by ‘handling the case well’, the DA means he needs to lose. Labouring under this impossible conflict of interest, Edward prepares for the trial with the help of his resourceful girlfriend Linda. But as the trial approaches, Edward finds himself having to solve and prove a completely different case: one of cold-blooded murder.


Edward (not Ed) Hall is a disbarred attorney due to having spent time in jail and becoming a convicted felon has gone back to his home town of Houston, Texas where he works at any job he can get. He has also been successful in moving in with Linda, a girl he has fallen in love with. His world looks brighter but he certainly misses practicing law.

Out of the blue, an opportunity presents itself to him in the form of an offer from the District Attorney. A man that was in jail at the same time as Edward stands accused of kidnapping a lady and extorting a ransom from her husband. The D.A. tells him that if he takes the case and goes to court with it his legal license will be returned. It is insinuated that he must handle the case the “right” way – losing and allowing the defendant to be put back in jail.

Edward takes the case and realizes that the lady kidnapped is the District Attorney’s sister and the man he is representing had helped him out several times while they were both incarcerated. He gets help from Linda who proves herself very resourceful. The trial, the preparations of both parties: the D.A. and Edward as the defense attorney is told very well with all the bumps and maneuvers that probably would occur in any real trial.

The story lays the groundwork for continuing Edward and Linda’s appearances in court, and it doesn’t hurt the storyline that Linda receives her court reporter’s license as the events proceed. Brandon has written previous books featuring Edward Hall and the present novel probably represents a new beginning for him with the added help his girlfriend.

1/2020 Paul Lane

FROM THE GRAVE by Jay Brandon. Severn House Publishers; Main edition (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-0727889003. 240p.

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TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE by Matthew Dicks

January 14, 2020

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From the publisher:

From the beloved author of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend comes a wonderful new novel about a struggling man, written entirely in lists.

Daniel Mayrock’s life is at a crossroads. He knows the following to be true:

1. He loves his wife Jill… more than anything.
2. He only regrets quitting his job and opening a bookshop a little (maybe more than a little)
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. The bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. Dan doesn’t know how to fix it.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances:

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker; his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.


I am a fan of the epistolary novel and this is a very good one. The entire novel is written in lists, which makes for a very fast and fun read. Told entirely from Dan’s point of view, (these are his lists, after all,) and we learn about his work, his family, his life. At times very funny, at times serious, just like life.

Anyone who has ever owned or worked in a bookstore, or even a library for that matter, will appreciate the bookstore lists for sure. Like these:

Number of books sold today that I love
4

Number of books sold today that I despise
19

Number of books sold today that I despise that include vampires
6

And this little tidbit, the dark secret of the bookselling industry, #6 on a list entitled, “Things no one warned me about when I bought the bookstore:”

Most stolen book is The Bible

Dan is a very insecure man. Marrying a widow is not always easy, and Dan thinks he cannot live up to the husband that came before him but he struggles along anyway. He quit his job as a teacher to pursue the bookstore business, while Jill still teaches. As the old adage (which apparently no one told him about) goes, if you want to make a little money in a bookstore, start out with a lot of money. Dan’s business is tanking fast, and he is lying to Jill about it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but his letters to billionaires go unanswered, for the most part, leading him down a different path. Let’s just say hijinks ensue, and how fun it is that I get to say that.

There are some serious issues brewing as well, and Dan handles those as best as he can. Those lists alternate between being laugh out loud funny and completely heart wrenching. I was completely immersed in Dan’s world, and didn’t pick up my head until I turned the last page.  If you haven’t read an epistolary novel, or you are not sure, take a look at this one, it’s very good. And I cannot help but recommend my favorite epistolary novel, Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger.

If anyone listens to this book, I’d love to know what you think. I wish I could hear just a snippet, I’m curious how a book like this works in audio form. Audible, why don’t you have samples to listen to before you buy a book?

Finally, there is a brief mention of why Dan makes his lists. It appears fairly early in the book on a list that follows “Why I’m always writing shit down” with another list, “Real reasons for lists:”

Compromise at first with therapist because journaling sucks

Finished with therapist but lists became a habit

Thinking on the page

Makes sense of things

Putting things in lists puts them out of my head and lets me sleep.

Which reminded me of my recent dive into Bullet Journaling (see review of Love Lettering.) I love when my books move me in a circle.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE by Matthew Dicks. St. Martin’s Press (November 19, 2019). ISBN 978-1250103482. 352p.

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THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey

January 13, 2020

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From the publisher:

“Smart, propulsive and gripping, THE GOD GAME is an ambitious thriller and a terrifying examination of what could–and probably already is–happening in the world of artificial intelligence.”―Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Run Away

A technological thriller with an all-too-believable premise, award-winning author Danny Tobey’s The God Game follows five teenagers obsessed with an online video game that connects them to their worst impulses and most dangerous desires.

They call themselves the Vindicators. Targeted by bullies and pressured by parents, these geeks and gamers rule the computer lab at Turner High School. Wealthy bad boy Peter makes and breaks rules. Vanhi is a punk bassist at odds with her heritage. Kenny’s creativity is stifled by a religious home life. Insecure and temperamental, Alex is an outcast among the outcasts. And Charlie, the leader they all depend on, is reeling from the death of his mother, consumed with reckless fury.

They each receive an invitation to play The God Game. Created by dark-web coders and maintained by underground hackers, the video game is controlled by a mysterious artificial intelligence that believes it is God. Obey the almighty A.I. and be rewarded. Defiance is punished. Through their phone screens and high-tech glasses, Charlie and his friends see and interact with a fantasy world superimposed over reality. The quests they undertake on behalf of “God” seem harmless at first, but soon the tasks have them questioning and sacrificing their own morality.

High school tormentors get their comeuppance. Parents and teachers are exposed a hypocrites. And the Vindicators’ behavior becomes more selfish and self-destructive as they compete against one another for prizes each believes will rescue them from their adolescent existence. But everything they do is being recorded. Hooded and masked thugs are stalking and attacking them. “God” threatens to expose their secrets if they attempt to quit the game. And losing the game means losing their lives.

You don’t play the Game. The Game plays you….


The God Game is an imaginative novel about a video game being ordered by high school students from a group of underground hackers. The group consists of what is thought of at their school as “nerds,” and are all interested in normal relationships with the so-called “normals.” The motto of the game is “Win and all your dreams come true – lose and you die.” And therein is the basis for an interesting novel by Daniel Tobey.
Tobey is a recognized authority on AI (artificial intelligence) and the idea that this is what is being dealt with is in the background of his book.  However, as soon as the students begin playing the game all sorts of what is normally impossible things begin appearing in a virtual world playing out via their phones and computers. The game begins texting them orders like worship me, obey me and complete a mission. They find that if they obey and successfully fulfill an order they will receive rewards in real life; if not, there is a punishment.
The God Game is an updated and fascinating book based on the science fiction literature about intelligent machines taking over from their creators and subjugating them as servants rather than the masters as originally conceived when the robots were built. The book is a draw for the reader, but not an all-nighter as much of the technical descriptions can be a bit over the heads of non-computer literate people. There is no problem, however, with understanding the events taking place and finishing the novel with an interest in reading more by Tobey.

1/2020 Paul Lane

THE GOD GAME by Danny Tobey. St. Martin’s Press (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-1250306142. 464p.

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THE AMISH WEDDING PROMISE by Laura V. Hilton

January 12, 2020

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE AMISH WEDDING PROMISE by Laura V. Hilton. Forever (December 17, 2019). ISBN 978-1538700648. 352p.

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A SMALL TOWN by Thomas Perry

January 11, 2020

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From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author Thomas Perry, “who can be depended upon to deliver high-voltage shocks” (Stephen King), comes a new thriller about an ingenuous jailbreak and the manhunt it unleashes.

In A Small Town, twelve conspirators meticulously plan to throw open all the gates to the prison that contains them, so that more than a thousand convicts may escape and pour into the nearby small town. The newly freed prisoners rape, murder, and destroy the town―burning down homes and businesses. An immense search ensues, but the twelve who plotted it all get away.

After two years, all efforts by the local and federal police agencies have been in vain. The mayor and city attorney meet, and Leah Hawkins, a six-foot, two-inch former star basketball player and resident good cop, is placed on sabbatical so that she can tour the country learning advanced police procedures. The sabbatical is merely a ruse, however, as her real job is to track the infamous twelve. And kill them.

Leah’s mission takes her across the country, from Florida to New York, from California to an anti-government settlement deep in the Ozarks. Soon, the surviving fugitives realize what she is up to, and a race to kill or be killed ensues. Full of exhilarating twists and surprisingly resonant, A Small Town will sweep readers along on Leah’s quest for vengeance.


This is a well-done novel about good and evil with a feel-good plot to capture the reader’s interest. The town of Weldenville had voted some years prior to the beginning of the story to allow a minimum-security prison to be built in their area. They had done this in the interest of creating jobs and demand for goods and services in their town which was going through an economically down period. Much to their chagrin, the Federal Government caused the prison to evolve into an institution that housed the most dangerous of felons. The danger to the town bears bitter fruit when 12 of the worse criminals plan a breakout which will involve the entire prison population. The plot succeeds and causes a number of murders, rapes and beatings by the criminals escaping. Many were caught and returned to their cells, but the 12 masterminds got away and concealed their whereabouts for two years. The FBI and local police all over the country looked for them until about 2 years after the escape the searches receded into the background and was essentially dead.

Leah Hawkins is a Lieutenant on the Weldenville police force and at the two year anniversary of the prison breakout requests a leave of absence in order to travel to other police jurisdictions in order to study new methods being brought in to fight crime. She was given a travel allowance and a budget to purchase any material she thought would be useful. Beth was a tall 6’2″ lady that had been a star athlete while in school and managed to keep herself in excellent condition. With the permission and blessing of the town council, she sets out on her trip. The trip, of course, was not to look at new equipment and technology but to hunt down the 12 masterminds of the prison break and kill them. The real object of her trip was known only to her and two members of the town council.

How she made out and what the results were of the revenge trip do enter the realm of stretching the imagination but do enhance a very well done story. The result of her trip does leave a feeling of good ultimately triumphing over evil and the novel enhances a definite interest in picking up future novels by Thomas Perry.

1/2020 Paul Lane

A SMALL TOWN by Thomas Perry. Mysterious Press (December 17, 2019). ISBN 978-0802148063. 320p.

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25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander

January 10, 2020

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From the publisher:

In this heartwarming, feel-good holiday novel, one woman needs to find a little inspiration in the 25 days leading up to Christmas to help her remember the magic of the season and the magic of falling in love—perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Josie Silver.

Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.


For some reason, I missed this book. I had probably a dozen Christmas books to read this year, and unfortunately, I started and put down the vast majority of them. There were a couple I finished that were okay, and one that I liked a lot. So when I finally read this one, I was sorry I missed it earlier. It was really good. If (unlike me) you want to read your Christmas books before the holiday, grab this one and set it aside until you’re ready. I promise, it is worth it. I like how the book is set up like an Advent calendar. Each chapter is titled by the number of days until Christmas, counting down to the big day. It would be fun to read it that way if you are saving it for next Christmas.

This is a British import so right away I liked the quirky little town and its characters. Kate is a struggling young widow with a little boy who is having some difficulties in school. She is fierce in her love for her boy, and determined to do her best by him, one way or another. Ever since she lost her husband, she hasn’t felt much like celebrating Christmas but she decides this year it is important to celebrate for Jack. Kate is working as a Christmas elf selling trees outside a department store. She hardly makes any money and her boss is a pig. She has regular customers and one she remembers well is Daniel. He is very good looking, but she remembers him more for bringing his sister to get a tree the past couple of years. She has seen the young woman go downhill over that time, and the prior Christmas she was in a wheelchair. Daniel always thought of Kate as “Christmas Tree Girl” and appreciated how kind she was to his sister. When he comes alone this year, she realizes something must have happened.

Daniel and Kate are like two ships passing in the night until an event brings them together. They are both very lonely, and Kate especially isn’t sure she is ready for a relationship. But ultimately this is a romance so you know they will have their happy ending. At times their stories are quite sad, but essentially this is an uplifting and lovely holiday read.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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TOO CLOSE TO HOME by Andrew Grant

January 9, 2020

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Paul McGrath Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

His cover: courthouse janitor. His cause: justice. But when Paul McGrath uncovers a shocking connection to a file of missing evidence, he finds the truth sometimes hits a little too close to home.

An intelligence agent-turned-courthouse janitor, Paul McGrath notices everything and everyone—but no one notices him. It’s the perfect cover for the justice he seeks for both his father and the people who’ve been wronged by a corrupt system. Now he’s discovered a missing file on Alex Pardew—the man who defrauded and likely murdered McGrath’s father but avoided conviction, thanks in large part to the loss of this very file. And what lies behind its disappearance is even worse than McGrath had feared.

Meanwhile, at the courthouse, he stumbles on the case of Len Hendrie, a small businessman who’s been accused of torching a venture capitalist’s mansion. Though Hendrie admits starting the fire, McGrath learns how the VC has preyed on average Joes to benefit himself—and his extensive wine collection. McGrath can’t resist looking deeper into this financial predator and soon finds himself in a gray area between his avenging moral compass and the limits of the law.

Then, just as the Hendrie case is heating up, McGrath receives word of the death of his father’s former housekeeper, sending him back to his family home to confront unfinished business from his past. And he’s about to find some unwelcome truths about the mother he lost as a child—and the father who hid even more secrets than he realized.


Paul McGrath was an Intelligence agent for the U.S. Army when he received word that his father had been murdered. Hurrying home, he is in time to witness the trial of the suspected murderer and to see him go free when a file detailing the alleged crime goes missing. Paul then takes a job as a janitor in the courthouse in which the trial took place in order to look for the file and what happened to it. This action takes place in the first book detailing McGrath’s taking the job. The current novel is the second book and takes up Paul McGrath’s continuing search.

A second situation comes up in which a man is going to trial for setting fire to another’s house. He tells McGrath that he did it because the man that owned the house preys upon the people that he handles investments for in order to defraud them of some of the funds. The situation runs concurrently with the search for the missing file. Should be interesting with the disguise as janitor quite a novel idea. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of action with a lot of conversation making up most of the story. That factor does detract from events depicted. There is a section of the book dedicated to the events bringing the characters to the present day and is interesting taken on its own. But if Grant intends to continue with the character it might be more advantageous returning him to his job as an intelligence officer rather than keeping him confined to cleaning floors in the courthouse.

1/2020 Paul Lane

TOO CLOSE TO HOME by Andrew Grant. Ballantine Books (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-0525619628. 336p.

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BLITZED by Alexa Martin

January 8, 2020

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BLITZED by Alexa Martin. Berkley (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0451491992. 336p.

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