April 6, 2021

4/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE NINE LIVES OF ROSE NAPOLITANO by Donna Freitas. Pamela Dorman Books (April 6, 2021). ISBN 978-1984880598. 384 pages.




April 3, 2021

ACCIDENTALLY ENGAGED by Farah Heron. Forever (March 2, 2021). ISBN 978-1538734988. 368 pages.



A MAN AT ARMS by Steven Pressfield

April 2, 2021

From the publisher:

From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith.

Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The content of this letter could bring down the empire.

The Romans hire a former legionary, the solitary man-at-arms, Telamon of Arcadia, to intercept the letter and capture its courier. Telamon operates by a dark code all his own, with no room for noble causes or lofty beliefs. But once he overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted.

In his first novel of the ancient world in thirteen years, the best-selling author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War returns with a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith.

Steven Pressfield very aptly brings us back into the tumultuous world of the Roman Empire at a time when Christianity was spreading throughout the known world. The period was the second century A.D. with Rome actively attempting to crush the spread of the religion due to the feeling that belief would negate loyalty to the empire. The protagonist used by Pressfield as the principal character is Telamon of Arcadia. Telamon is a veteran of army service with one of the Roman legions in which he spent almost 20 years as a mercenary. He fought wherever he was sent and against anyone selected as an enemy of the Roman empire. It is important to note that the Roman legionnaire undoubtedly was the best trained in the world at that time. Telamon is currently in Judea which was conquered by Rome and found almost impossible to administer.     

The story begins with a young boy named David spots Telamon being arrested. The warrior drops his kit while being taken away and David picks it up following him. During his arrest Telamon is approached by the commander of the legion he served in and offered money to do a certain job for Rome. A man and his young daughter who was deaf and dumb had been arrested at the same time as Telamon but had seized a horse and escaped. The commander of the Roman troop broached that Telamon would be well paid if he went after the escapees and brought back a letter held by the father and which had a great value due it’s attachment to the new religion.     

David took the opportunity to bring Telamon’s kit to him and succeeded in attaching himself to the man. Later, when the warrior came upon the girl and her father, the girl also became part of the small group when it was learned that it was her not the father who had the valuable letter. Along with a lady named as “witch” and not totally in sync with the others the four travel throughout the world around Judea. Their adventures and findings are certainly within the range of very probable based on the research evidenced on the part of the author for this book. He has written other well received books in the past and is famous for the quality of the research going into his novels. It has been too long a period since his last book and I would hope that we will see his next work in due course.

4/2021 Paul Lane

A MAN AT ARMS by Steven Pressfield. W. W. Norton & Company (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-0393540970. 336 pages.







WIN by Harlan Coben

March 31, 2021

In this #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from Harlan Coben, a dead man’s secrets fall into the hands of a vigilante antihero—drawing him down a dangerous road.

Over twenty years ago, the heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family’s estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors — and the items stolen from her family were never recovered. 

Until now. On the Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead — not only on Patricia’s kidnapping, but also on another FBI cold case — with the suitcase and painting both pointing them toward one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III — or Win, as his few friends call him — doesn’t know how his suitcase and his family’s stolen painting ended up with a dead man. But his interest is piqued, especially when the FBI tells him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism — and that the conspirators may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades, but Win has three things the FBI doesn’t: a personal connection to the case; an ungodly fortune; and his own unique brand of justice. 

The very versatile Harlan Coben presents a new character in his latest book. He uses his Myron Bolitar series of novels as a point of departure to give life to Windsor Home Lockwood III. or Win as he is called. Win had the good fortune to be born a member of the old money super rich crowd. He has no need to work but has kept himself busy and one of his skills is knowledge of most of the unarmed offensive techniques that exist including karate, Jiu Jitsu and others. A veritable walking weapon but not a bully. He counts Myron as one of his good friends and there are enough references to  Bolitar and his sayings and opinions to solidify the relationship. Myron is an ex-basketball player who has become a sports agent and continually finds himself involved in solving murders for his clients. The initial novel with Win puts him into a similar position having to investigate not only murder but decades old disappearances of people.     

Twenty years ago Win’s cousin Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a home robbery of her house and kept in a remote cabin for several months subject to constant rape. She managed to escape but neither the attackers nor the items they stole during the robbery were ever found. Fast forward to the present when a rich recluse was found murdered in his upscale westside Manhattan apartment. When the police arrive, they find a painting by Vermeer and a leather suitcase both traced to Win Lockwood. He decides to look into the situation and finds himself involved with the disappearance of six people and his cousin’s kidnapping all occurring at the same time about twenty years ago.     

The novel utilizes Win as the sole narrator and he is given a wisecracking personality as well as a showcase for the wisdom of Myron Bolitar, who does not appear but is referenced several times. I’m in the position of being a fan of the author reading everything he writes. I therefore look forward to Win joining Harlan Coben’s list of go to characters and getting his share of adventure either with or without Myron.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WIN by Harlan Coben. Grand Central Publishing (March 16, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538748213. 384 pages.







Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

March 30, 2021

ETERNAL by Lisa Scottoline. G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 1st edition (March 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-0525539766 . 480 pages.



From Paul Lane

This novel is a five star book of course, but I found it so much more. It is also an emotional adventure that cannot be left in mid read. Must be finished in one captivating gulp. The theme is the coming of age of three people in a period of turmoil in Italy. The country had been taken over by Benito Mussolini in 1922 when as head of the newly formed fascist party set up a coup d’état becoming dictator of the country. Italians knew that any form of dissent would be met with repression, up to and including death.

Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro are the three principal characters utilized to tell the story. They were friends from childhood loving each other at first platonically, then later moving into romantic love. Elisabetta wondered which of the others she would eventually marry and both Marco and Sandro grew into dreams of being with her. Sandro was Jewish and faced his parent’s desire for him to marry within the religion. Growing up and looking for their future is interrupted by World War II and Mussolini bringing Italy into the war on Germany’s side. In order to please Hitler Mussolini promulgated a set of laws and rules modeled after the infamous Nurenberg laws that in effect removed Jews and certain other minorities from Italian citizenship. Also taking away their ability to work, own businesses and practice their religion. Eventually the Nazis took over Italy to prevent the country from moving towards alliances with the allies who were at war with Germany.

Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro come of age in this strained climate existing in Italy. The situation goes from bad to worse as Nazi troops stationed in Rome where the three live become a law unto themselves demanding and getting without possibility of review anything they desire. The author tells of a situation in which the Nazis demand a huge amount of gold from the Jewish community to benefit the German army. If they don’t come up with the gold the threat is that 200 Jews will be transferred out of the area. The community with help from others, including the Vatican manage to raise the gold. Not a surprise when the Nazis do send 200 Jews out ending up in the death camp at Auschwitz.

My recommendation for any reader is to read this novel and possibly make the same determination as I did which is that it is a classic. I am not in a position to indicate if it is Scottoline’s best book. She does have many excellent works to her credit and there is no problem in reading others and enjoying them.


March 18, 2021

Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 17

From the publisher:

An extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.

Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.

Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself.

Our story opens as a young man is holding up a bank. Not with a gun mind you, but by controlling the minds of the bank personnel and the people currently at the bank intending to do the normal business one does while there. A woman he has just mind controlled falls down and our hero Jamie begins to fret about what happened to her to cause her collapse. Just then, Zoe, a part-time deliverer of meals and a woman possessed of super strength and the ability to fly jumping off tall buildings with a single bound, appears on the scene with the obvious intent of capturing Jamie and delivering him to the police. In the melee occurring with the robbery and the fainting of the woman, Jamie escapes and Zoe goes back to delivering the meal she is carrying.     

Shortly after, the dynamic duo quite unexpectedly meets in a memory loss support group that both have been attending. You see superman and wonder woman each have the same experience. Their memories only go back two years when they awoke in an apartment and began trying to resurrect a past that is beyond them while coming to grips with the superpowers they have. The bright idea of teaming up to work on recuperating their memories hits them both and so they begin. Hard to tell if Chen is writing a comedy or attempting to begin stories of super heroes but both our leading characters turn out to be more than a little neurotic. 

Their search for their roots and subsequent falling in love is entertaining and charming. What happens to them and the results of their search is documented in a plot grounded in science fiction and the description of two flawed characters seeking out their roots while handling a really diverse world not too friendly to them. An attractive book and one conducive to cause readers to look for more of the same in future novels.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WE COULD BE HEROES by Mike Chen. MIRA; Original edition (January 26, 2021). ISBN: 978-0778331391. 336 pages.







ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West

March 16, 2021

3/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West. Berkley (March 16, 2021). ISBN Berkley (March 16, 2021). 352 pages.


WEDDING STATION by David Downing

March 14, 2021

A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller, Book 7

From the publisher:

The prequel to David Downing’s bestselling Station series introduces John Russell, an Englishman with a political past who must keep his head down as the Nazis solidify their power.

February 27, 1933. In this stunning prequel to the John Russell espionage novels, the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin is set ablaze. It’s just a month after Hitler’s inauguration as Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazis use the torching to justify a campaign of terror against their political opponents. John Russell’s recent separation from his wife threatens his right to reside in Germany and any meaningful relationship with his six-year-old son, Paul. He has just secured work as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper, and the crimes which he has to report—the gruesome murder of a rent boy, the hit-and-run death of a professional genealogist, the suspicious disappearance of a Nazi-supporting celebrity fortune-teller—are increasingly entangled in the wider nightmare engulfing Germany.

Each new investigation carries the risk of Russell’s falling foul of the authorities, at a time when the rule of law has completely vanished, and the Nazis are running scores of pop-up detention centers, complete with torture chambers, in every corner of Berlin.

The current novel is the 7th featuring John Russell, an Englishman by birth, but living and working in Berlin in the years prior to World War II. The book is indicated as a prequel to the other novels and I must say at the onset that it is, in my opinion, the most mesmerizing. I also rank it as one of the best books I yet have read by David Downing and he has certainly more than made his mark as a top author in his many areas.     

The period covered by the novel includes the years during the late 1930s and describes a period when a lunatic fringe took power and turned Germany into a madman’s domain with the very worse becoming the leaders of the country. Downing has done, as normal for him, a great deal of research into the period and can describe the emerging of the new Germany in great detail. Hitler has grabbed power taking over as Chancellor of the country and early on staged a fire in the Reichstag Parliament building. Using the fire as an excuse to crack down on groups such as the Communist party, gays, Jews, and any other sectors where the torment on these people can be utilized to coalesce changing the truth for Nazi fiction. Loudspeakers are set up all over the cities so that Hitler’s speeches can reach everyone.  It becomes a suspicious act if people are not listening and praising. It also becomes a necessary part of life for all to read Mein Kampf, Hitler’s manifest and plan for the future of Germany.   

John Russell is picked up when he is working as a crime reporter for a major Berlin newspaper. He is divorced from his wife but has no problem visiting and having a relationship with his five-year-old son the couple had when married. In the events described in this book, he becomes involved in three occurrences and is attempting to cover them for his paper. The first is the murder of a young male prostitute, another the running over of a professional genealogist, and the third the disappearance of a Nazi supporting fortune teller. The three events become somewhat related with the actual facts of the cases becoming skewed by different factions of the Nazi party. Care must be taken to not rub the Nazi party the wrong way. Punishment can be firing from a job, taking over a business, and even death. 

The steady increase in Nazi oversight with brutality and forced obedience to an ever-changing set of rules is brought out by the author. It is the loss of personal freedom engendered by a population that will not or cannot oppose their oppressors.       

The novel ends with John meeting the girl that becomes his new love interest in the books already written. It also indicates that he will stay in Berlin and become more and more involved with the different directions of Germany and its moving into war. Finishing the book will also leave the reader drained and, if not read yet, anxious to get into the next book in the series.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WEDDING STATION by David Downing. Soho Crime (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1641291071. 336 pages.







INFINITE by Brian Freeman

March 12, 2021

From the publisher:

From bestselling author Brian Freeman comes an explosive new psychological thriller that pushes the limits of reality as we know it.

One rainy night, the unthinkable happens: Dylan Moran’s car plunges off the road into a raging river, his beautiful wife drowning as he struggles to shore.

In the aftermath, through his grief, Dylan experiences sudden, strange visions: wherever he goes, he’s haunted by glimpses of himself. Dylan initially chalks it up to trauma, but that changes when he runs into a psychiatrist who claims he’s her patient. She says he has been undergoing a unique hypnotherapy treatment built on the idea that with every choice, he creates an infinite number of parallel universes.

Now those parallel universes are unlocked―and Dylan’s doppelgänger has staked a claim to his world. Can Dylan use these alternate realities to get a second chance at the life that was stolen from him? Or will he lose himself…to himself?

Brian Freeman has proven himself a very versatile author with novels to his credit covering a wide variety of themes. He is a writer who is at the very top of his game and with Infinite continues to retain his place with his many readers. 

The book moves into two distinct areas. One is that of a fascinating psychological story and the other into a theme that is science fiction at its best. The science fiction part is that of the existence of parallel worlds running concurrently with all others. That is the lives of the inhabitants constantly touch on all possibilities that may present themselves. If a person is struck by a car in one existence in another the accident does not occur and events proceed in both worlds dependent upon what has happened. The number of parallel worlds that exist are infinite and always expanding to cover event changes.     

Dylan Moran experiences the horrible situation of his wife dying in an auto accident occurring in a major storm. Very much in love with her Dylan allows himself to be drawn into the theory of alternate worlds when he meets a woman on the street who claims that she is his psychiatrist and has introduced him to her work on the existence of multi universes. He does not know the woman and has no recollection of ever meeting her but latches onto the prospect of finding a world where his wife has survived the accident.     

The reader is quickly drawn into Dylan’s transfer into different worlds searching for his wife. The wide-ranging action is handled very well by the author with his readers glued to a novel that is the very essence of an all-nighter that keeps them reading until a very logical ending is reached. Five stars of course and leaving his readers ready and willing to get his next book as soon as published.

3/2021 Paul Lane

INFINITE by Brian Freeman. Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1542023863. 336 pages.








March 4, 2021

THE VINEYARD AT PAINTED MOON by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (February 9, 2021). ISBN: 978-1335912794. 400 pages.