HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING by Denise Williams

January 17, 2021

HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING by Denise Williams. Berkley (December 1, 2020). ISBN 978-0593101902. 352 pages.



MIRAFLORES by Keith Yokum

January 16, 2021

Memoir of a Young Spy

From the publisher:

Saving the Panama Canal, one body at a time.

At the height of the Cold War, young Nick Halliday joins the CIA to distance himself from a family tragedy and to do his part in the patriotic fight against the communist menace. Rushed into his first undercover assignment in Panama in 1958, Nick finds himself mired in the humid, dripping world of deceit and lies.

Pretending to be a leftist-leaning visiting professor at the University of Panama, Nick infiltrates an earnest, naïve group of leftist students bent on Panama regaining ownership of the canal. But Nick’s budding romance with Maria, a beautiful student activist, throws his mission sideways.

The international clash of ideologies harshly intrudes on a young man’s love for a woman. Both are expendable pawns in a vast worldwide death match. Can they survive in a game that only values winning, whatever the cost? And what does winning mean, anyway?

Miraflores is a novel with many parts. It is a love story, it is a complex conspiracy story, it is an adventure in an exotic setting that is not too far from our own present-day world. But most important it is a well-done story with some very well-delineated characters caught in a period of great stress.     

Nick Haliday is a young man looking to start his career with the problem of a father holding a high-level position in the U.S. State Department and looking for Nick to join him there. Nick is reluctant to do so due to his suspicion that his father was somehow complicit in the suicide death of his mother. He somehow literally blunders into getting a job with the then-fledgling CIA and stumbles into a position that sends him to Panama. 

The time of the novel is the period prior to the United States ceding the Panama Canal back to the people of Panama. The Canal Zone was an enclave existing side by side with Panama city.  It was literally a slice of the American midwest built to house the staff and their families of the workers running the Canal. It was the target of a great deal of resentment by the Panamanians working at the Canal for one-third of the salaries that Americans earned for the same job.     

Nick is picked for a post in Panama just as he is finishing his training. He is to assume the position of a professor of English at the University of Panama. His mandate is to search out dissidents among his students who are Panamanians that might be involved in plots against the U.S. and report them to his superiors at the agency. He assumes his position and two things happen; first, he meets a young lady that he falls in love with, and second, he arrives at the realization that the people of Panama do have a legitimate gripe against the attitude of the U.S.   

Yokum tells his story in a concise manner painting a perfect picture of the mixture of various complex ideas during a tumultuous period in U.S. Latin American relations.  An all-night draw and a description of what is a relatively near term, but alien world.

1/2021 Paul Lane

MIRAFLORES by Keith Yokum. Self published. (November 11, 2020). ISBN: 978-0997870879. 282 pages.





THE ORCHARD by David Hopen

January 15, 2021

THE ORCHARD by David Hopen. Ecco (November 17, 2020). ISBN 978-0062974747. 480 pages.





January 14, 2021

David Slaton, Book 6

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Ward Larsen’s globe-trotting, hard-hitting assassin, David Slaton, returns for another breathless adventure in Assassin’s Strike!

In a Syrian palace, the presidents of Russia and Iran undertake a clandestine meeting. No staff or advisors are permitted in the room. No records are kept. By necessity, however, there are two witnesses: the interpreters. The Russian, Ludmilla Kravchuk, returns to her hotel room burdened by what she has heard. When her Iranian counterpart is murdered before her eyes, Kravchuk fears she is next and goes into hiding in Syria.

The CIA gets word of the defection. Desperate to uncover the purpose of the meeting, they task their newest off-the-books operator―legendary assassin David Slaton―to undertake a daring rescue. Deep inside Syria’s war-torn borders, what Slaton finds is a plot that will tear the Middle East apart. And one that only he can stop.

Ward Larson has created one of the more interesting protagonists in fiction in the person of David Slaton. Slaton is an assassin, a very proficient one doing the bidding of his employers who were at first the Mosad, Israeli secret service, and currently the CIA. He was granted political asylum in the U.S. with the help of one of the top managers of the Central Intelligence Agency who suggested when doing so that they might ask certain professional favors from Slaton which he would be free to either accept or reject.

During a secret meeting between the presidents of Russia and Iran held in Syria certain information is exchanged between these men which only they and the two translators working the meeting are aware of. Ludmilla Kravchuk, the translator for Russia witnesses her Iranian counterpart killed after the meeting between the two presidents finishes. She realizes that the two translators have heard an exchange that must remain secret and makes the obvious decision that she must flee and via local contacts she had when in Syria previously gets the United States interested in getting her into the U.S. and hearing her story. Slaton’s supervisor thinks of him as the ideal individual to send into Syria to bring Ludmilla out. No problem in his accepting the job as the action is what he craves and goes after.

The story of David Slaton’s work in trying to effect Ludmilla’s escape brings to bear Ward Larson’s talent in creating bated breath action and another book by him that keeps the reader glued to the pages. In addition to bringing Ludmilla out of Syria Slaton must become involved in the situation described in the talks between the two presidents and attempt to rectify the problem. Events in the book move rapidly between Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. We can certainly look forward to more action-packed novels featuring David Slaton and the probability of all night glued to the books when they are published.

1/14/2021 Paul Lane

ASSASSIN’S STRIKE by Ward Larson.  Forge Books (August 18, 2020). ISBN: 978-0765391568. 336 pages.



GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers

January 12, 2021

A Novel of Nazi Berlin

From the publisher:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.

As part of the Hitler-ordered official vendetta against Jews, Gypsies, and other selected groups as part of his campaign to create scapegoats to blame for Germany’s economic woes, a council working in the city of Neurenberg passed legislation taking away German citizenship from these peoples. The laws prohibited marriage between Germans and members of the selected groups.  They could not serve in the military and were forced to leave jobs and businesses. The code passed was termed the Neurenberg laws and was the law of the land between 1935 and 1945 with Nazi expansion by war taking place to rectify the damage theoretically done by these groups.     

Harald Gilbers adroitly takes us back into the height of the effects of these laws in a very compelling novel set in the period cited. The appearance of a serial killer in Berlin in 1944 brings up a conundrum for the police working in Berlin at this point. Certain factors point to the killer being a member of the Nazi party elite. Since no disparaging information could be issued about high level party members to avoid “misleading” the people the police were stymied in their pursuit of the killer.     

A unique solution was forced on the police. They had to reactivate Richard Oppenheimer who had been a member of the Berlin detective squad. He had been forced to resign his post with the police due to the fact that he was Jewish. He still lived-in Berlin due to his marriage to a woman who was ethically acceptable since she was a purebred German. It also developed that Richard had been one of the leading detectives while active and could look for and possibly even neutralize the serial killer without having to bring up the individual’s place in the Nazi party.   

Gilbers is very adept at breathing life into the characters involved in his book. He is also extremely adept with a description of the method used by the killer in disposing of the women (all victims were females.) It is not an easy task to read about the horrors visited upon the victims by the killer. I did understand the reason for this would probably be to allow the reader a better understanding of the degenerate behavior of an individual that is mentally not human.

Germania is a unique novel in using a policy of discrimination against several groups by a leader who was undoubtedly insane running the show. It is also well written with a good plot. The book is certainly a good reason to start looking for Gilbers next book.

1/2021 Paul Lane

GERMANIA by Harald Gilbers. Thomas Dunne Books (December 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250246936. 352 pages.








January 11, 2021

HOW TO CATCH A QUEEN by Alyssa Cole. Avon (December 1, 2020). ISBN 978-0062933966. 384 pages.




January 10, 2021

From the publisher:

A journey into the sinister heart of Stalin’s regime of terror, where paranoia reigns and no one is safe

Stalin’s Russia, 1950. Brilliant young artist Pasha Kalmenov is arrested and sent without trial to a forced-labor camp in the Arctic gulag. This is a camp like no other. Although conditions are harsh and degrading, the prisoners are not to be worked to death in a coal mine or on a construction project. Their task is to forge the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. There is a high price to be paid for failing to reach the required standard of perfection; particularly as the camp commandant has his own secret agenda. When the executions begin, Pasha realizes that only his artistic talent can protect him. But for how long? Worse horrors are to come—if he survives them, will life still be worth living?

The Leonardo Gulag journeys to the sinister heart of Stalin’s regime of terror, where paranoia reigns and no one is safe, and in which the whims of one man determine the fate of millions. Ultimately, the novel presents a moving portrait of the indomitability of the human spirit.

Perfect for fans who love the artistry of Daniel Silva and the passion of Greg Iles

The Russian revolution in 1917 rid the Soviet Union of an oppressive monarchy but plunged it into a succession of despots with no regard for human life or human dignity. Doherty’s novel is set during the later period of Josef Stalin’s life and into the reign of Nikita Khrushchev.   

Pasha Kalmenov is a young man coming of age during this period. Due to his extreme poverty, he lives with his mother in a small apartment and attempts to eke out a living as best as he can. He has one talent which sets him apart from others of his age. His artistic ability is above and beyond that of most of his generation. Apparently, Stalin knew of this talent and had Pasha arrested on no specific charges. With no charges read nor a trial in a court of law, he is sent to the frozen tundra of the Gulag. Expecting to be sentenced to the slave labor of working in a mine he instead becomes part of a group of talented artists that are assigned to copying the drawings of Leonardo DaVinci. While the life styles of the group engaged in this work are quite a bit above the normal existence of the main body of prisoners there are harsh penalties for not meeting the standards set by those supervising his group.     

Pasha meets and befriends several people working in his group comprising both men and women. They are close and in some cases develop romances amidst the horrors they undergo on a daily basis. The death of Stalin finally generates changes in the prisoners’ lives and it is the events stemming from the shift in the regime that leads to an ending that is very well plotted and written.       

Doherty employs a writing style that is a matter of fact and a bit blasé which makes the horrors described even more horrific. The reader’s reaction will be a wonderment as to how human beings can go through the events that they undoubtedly did and still carry on. A fascinating novel and one that will certainly cause the author’s next books to be eagerly expected and bought as soon as available.

1/2021 Paul Lane

The Leonardo Gulag by Kevin Doherty. Oceanview Publishing (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1608093816. 320 pages.








January 9, 2021

CRAZY STUPID BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams. Berkley (October 27, 2020). ISBN 978-1984806130. 352 pages.



WAR LORD by Bernard Cornwell

January 8, 2021

The Last Kingdom Series, Book 13

From the publisher:


“I gulped it right down. Excellent, as always. . . . Cornwell brings battles to life like no one else.” –George R.R. Martin, Author of Game of Thrones

The final installment in Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling Saxon Tales series, chronicling the epic story of the making of England—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit Netflix series.


The epic conclusion to the globally bestselling historical series.

England is under attack. Chaos reigns. Northumbria, the last kingdom, is threatened by armies from all sides, by land and sea – and only one man stands in their way. Torn between loyalty and sworn oaths, the warrior king Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg faces his greatest ever battle – and prepares for his ultimate fate…

“Perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today” (Washington Post), Bernard Cornwell has dazzled and entertained readers and critics with his prolific string of page-turning bestsellers. Of all his protagonists, however, none is as beloved as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, and this thrilling historical novel continues the saga of his adventures and the turbulent early years of England.

Bernard Cornwell’s 13th book in his Saxon Tales series and the finale of the group which is a detailing of the making of England. Cornwell is a prodigious chronicler of historical detail with hallmarks of deep research and painstaking plotting. As in any great writer’s interpretation of history written in the form of a novel his books impart a picture of the period being discussed with literary license to interject supposed conversations between the characters as well as descriptions of major events taking place at the time. 

This novel can be read as a stand-alone although preceding events may not be alluded to. The lack of preexisting data does not detract from the enjoyment of a well-written book. Also, if critical a bit of research should turn up the missing facts.     

Lord Uhtred, King of Bebbanburg, a city in the province of Northumbria is caught between the quarrels of two men looking to annex the province and seeking him as an ally. Uhtred is getting on in years after a lifetime of war and would like nothing less than to spend his remaining life in the company of his lady and let his son take on the ruling of Bebbanburg as well as its wars. 

Unfortunately, he realizes that if he does not pick the correct side in the intercene battles between the two prospective rulers he could very well lose everything including his life.     

The reader is taken through the machinations of the opposing sides, including the reactions and plans of Uhtred. The era under review is rife with the growth of the Christian religion and taking the place of the Pagan beliefs of the peoples living then. Uhtred was a pagan but his lady, a former slave was a Christian. The book culminates in the battle of Brunanburh in 973 A.D. a little-known fight but claimed by Cornwell as the key event in the creation of England.  It took place almost a century before the battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. which allowed the Norman French to conquer and become a part of Anglo Saxon England.     

Based on the long list of historical novels Bernard Cornwell has to his credit, it is certain that he will shortly present his next project and allow his readers to continue to enjoy his books.

1/2021 Paul Lane

WAR LORD by Bernard Cornwell. Harper (November 24, 2020). ISBN: 978-0062563293. 352 pages.







THE COOKBOOK CLUB by Beth Harbison

January 7, 2021

THE COOKBOOK CLUB by Beth Harbison. William Morrow Paperbacks (October 20, 2020). ISBN 978-0062958624. 384 pages.

Kindle (As of this writing, the Kindle version is on sale for $2.99!)