THE STRANGER INSIDE by Lisa Unger

September 17, 2019

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE STRANGER INSIDE by Lisa Unger. Park Row; Original edition (September 17, 2019). ISBN 978-0778308720. 384p.

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About Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of seventeen novels, including THE STRANGER INSIDE. With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Lisa Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. In 2019, she received two Edgar Award nominations, an honor held by only a few writers including Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie. The Edgar-nominated UNDER MY SKIN is also a finalist for the prestigious Hammett Prize, and the Macavity Award for Best Novel. And the original short story THE SLEEP TIGHT MOTEL is a #1 bestselling single.

Unger’s critically acclaimed books have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today showGood Morning AmericaEntertainment WeeklyAmazonIndieBound and many others. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesWall Street JournalNPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family. Visit LisaUnger.com

Lisa & The BookBitch back in 2013!

 


AKIN by Emma Donoghue

September 16, 2019

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Noah Selvaggio is a widowed and now retired Chemistry professor living alone in New York City. We find him preparing to take a trip back to Nice, a city in the south of France, and the place of his birth. He is planning to take along a series of puzzling photographs that were taken by his mother living there during the Nazi occupation.

He is suddenly disturbed by a call from social service advising him that he is a great uncle to a child he has never seen. And he is the only available relative since the boy’s father has died and his mother is currently incarcerated. Noah reluctantly agrees to take the eleven year old boy with him to France while the agency finds another relative to take the lad in.

The story is about the trip and the relationship of Noah and the boy during the week that they spend together in France. Yes, it is a heartwarming portrait involving several factors. Noah investigates the photos taken by his mother and develops a picture of her past and her role in the French resistance movement. He also begins to look at Michael, the young boy as something other than an inconvenience.

Donoghue is a wordsmith, presenting her wonderful story in a manner that quickly draws in the reader by the creation of people that act and feel as many would if taking part in the happenings described. It’s a five star book, one that will cause a good feeling for the people that read it.

9/19 Paul Lane

AKIN by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown and Company (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-0316491990. 352p.

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29 SECONDS by T. M. Logan

September 12, 2019

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Sarah is a young instructor at Queen Ann’s University located near London. We meet her at the point of several crossroads in her life.

First, her beloved husband has just taken a break from the marriage and gone away to have a fling with another woman. Second, her appointment as a tenured instructor at the university is coming up for review. Without this status her place at the university becomes very tenuous as well as her ability to get another position if the current job is declared redundant causing her to lose that position.

The head of her department, and the one man holding the key to her promotion, is Alan Hawthorne. Professor Hawthorne is renowned at the university, hosts a television show, and has managed to marry a wealthy woman that insures his job via her gifts to the school. Unfortunately, Alan has a history of behaving inappropriately to women working at the university and insuring their sexual favors by holding their jobs over their heads. He has decided that Sarah is to become his next conquest and starts to demand that she satisfy his demands. Between her errant husband and Hawthorne, Sarah has arrived at the end of her rope and does not know where to turn.

Fate suddenly lends a hand. Sarah finds herself in a position to fend off kidnappers from taking a young girl prisoner by her prompt action against them. The girl’s father insists upon expressing his gratitude to Sarah, and due to the coincidental fact that he is a crime boss, is able to make her an offer that is strange, criminal, but arriving at a very appropriate time in her life. She is told that all she has to do is give him a name and that person will be made to disappear. Sarah now has a husband that has taken a vacation to be with another woman, and a supervisor that has make it clear that her continuance at her work depends upon how well Sarah fulfills his demands.

The situation is not as easy as it would appear, and the novel creates the wonderful need to continue to devour the pages until completely read. The reader will change his or her mind several times as Sarah’s thoughts go back and forth over what to do, and of course, who to do it to. A very engrossing novel and certainly one that assures that we will continue to seek out future books by Logan.

9/19 Paul Lane

29 SECONDS by T. M. Logan. St. Martin’s Press (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-1250182296. 368p.

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NOTHING VENTURED by Jeffrey Archer

September 7, 2019

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William Warwick Novels, Book 1

“Nothing Ventured” marks the start of a new series by the very versatile Jeffrey Archer. As in all his other works, the writing is crisp, characterizations well done, and the plot captures the reader’s immediate attention. It is a novel about a detective and it does definitely involve cases that are believable and solved only by hard police work.

William Warwick is the son of a very successful defense attorney, who would like nothing better than to have his son enter his practice when the time has come. But William, at the tender age of eight, wants nothing less than to work as a detective and aims for that goal. While both his father and his sister Grace are attorneys, William doesn’t lose sight of his goal.

After finishing university, he applies to and is accepted for London’s Metropolitan Police Force .After undergoing an apprenticeship under the watchful eye of an experienced patrolman, William manages an appointment to Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Squad.

The story follows William’s first case, does not gloss over his initial trials and possible errors, and becomes a very engrossing novel. In tracing a possible lead in a case involving a missing Rembrandt masterpiece, he visits an art gallery and meets Beth Rainsford. Beth is a beautiful woman and does become the person that William is interested in marrying. To add a bit of spice, Beth has a secret of her own which she is reluctant to share with William and one which will have a bearing on an action of his.

Archer points out his probable future plans for this series by placing the start of William’s police career in the mid 1980’s. This would mean that future novels will bring him into the 21st century, certainly books that will reflect his literary skills and attract the reader to seek them out.

9/19 Paul Lane

NOTHING VENTURED by Jeffrey Archer. St. Martin’s Press (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1250200761. 336p.

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THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Kruger

September 6, 2019

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From the publisher:

A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.


“If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love This Tender Land…This story is as big-hearted as they come.” —Parade 

Definitely.

While Kruger is best known for his Cork O’Connor mystery series, he probably received the most accolades (and gained a ton of new readers) with his extraordinary book, Ordinary Grace. This new book was pitched to me as another Ordinary Grace, so I wondered, can lightning strike twice? Apparently it can.

The writing is simply superb. The characters are unforgettable, and the setting is rich and evocative.  I have seen this book described as an updated Huckleberry Finn, and that is an apt comparison, as is its comparison to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Homer’s Odyssey. These are some heady correlations, and Kruger’s book easily stands up to them.

Four kids run away from the school where they have been, for lack of a better word, horribly mistreated.They jump into a canoe and head out on the Gilead River. The Gilead feeds into the great Mississippi, and that’s where these children are headed, hoping to reach St. Louis and the possibility of family, where two of them, the brothers, are from.

There are crimes committed along the way, starting with the “kidnapping” of Emmy, a young orphaned girl who has been adopted by the heinous owners of the school. But is it kidnapping is she wants to leave? It is her choice to run away, but this is right on the heels of the Lindburgh baby kidnapping and no one is asking those questions. These children, like many during the depression, grow up way too fast.

There are some major themes at play here, starting with the grand adventure on the river. This is an epic odyssey, often chaotic, and at times, spiritual. But other themes are also important, like the deplorable mistreatment of Native Americans in this country, and much of the history revealed here was completely new to me. Another major theme is that of family, how that is defined, and what it means. It is also a coming of age story for these runaways, and the book is narrated by the adult Odie so it is told with some perspective.

It is a story that immediately grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the last page is turned. There is resolution, and redemption. Book clubs will love it; there is a deep, rich reservoir worthy of discussion. It is an excellent read, sure to make my best books of the year list. Don’t miss it.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Kruger. Atria Books (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1476749297. 464p.

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ENTANGLEMENT – QUANTUM AND OTHERWISE by John K. Danenbarger

September 5, 2019

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Synopsis:

An explosive collision between a pickup truck and a Volvo erases two momentous scientific discoveries. Quantum probability results in complex emotional entanglements. Voices return from the dead. A blood-stained piano becomes an heirloom. Although a picture-perfect family, Beth Sturgess divulges an ignominious past to her loving husband–who has deadly secrets.

Mistakes are fatal.

With deeply flawed, relatable characters, Entanglement–Quantum and Otherwise is an intricate literary crime story that unravels the generational impact on reality after a loved one’s death.


A well done novel concerning the cause and effect of one generation’s actions on the people coming after them.

The book is populated by eight flawed characters living their lives in ensuing times with their thoughts, deeds and actions having direct effect on others. The story starts out with a collision between a Volvo and a Pickup truck. The action erases two important scientific discoveries. Events stemming from the accident creates a chain of events involving people somehow tied to those that took part in the crash.

The reader is led from person to person, event to event in a novel carefully planned to follow the sequence laid out by the author. The process is cumulative; what happens to whom and how does it effect the other principals in the book. Quite well done and an engrossing read highlighting the author’s work.

9/19 Paul Lane

ENTANGLEMENT – QUANTUM AND OTHERWISE by John K. Danenbarger. StormBlock Publishing (August 6, 2019). ISBN  978-0578450377. 380p.

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THE EXTINCTION AGENDA Michael Laurence

September 2, 2019

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Michael Laurence starts out with the beginnings of an extremely interesting novel set on the U.S. – Mexican border and involving the constant effort of the Border Patrol to keep out illegal aliens. He then moves forward and presents his readers with a much larger and more engrossing plot.

James Mason and his strike force are met as they launch a raid against what are perceived as smugglers, but encounter evidence of an adversary aiming to destroy humanity for their own evil intentions. During the raid, many of Mason’s strike force are killed as well as his partner who was his mentor during his early years with his bureau.

Returning to his division, James becomes possessed by what he is sure that he found, and in spite of his superior’s opposition to the idea, launches his own investigation into what he has seen and determined in the building raided on the border. He is positive that what is planned is far and away over and above a case of smuggling in material into the U.S. Proving that he is correct in his assumptions, his wife, who is an investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, is killed in an explosion while investigating a potential suspect in what is probably a warning to leave the investigation.

With the help of two of his friends, Mason finds that what he has uncovered is a conspiracy that has been hatched more than a hundred years earlier, about the period of the first World War. The investigation, what is uncovered, and the events involved in solving the mystery are handled in a fashion geared to keeping the reader glued to the book and wondering what is really involved.

The ending is a logical one stemming from the events depicted and also leaves enough room for more books about James Mason and the two friends that helped him in this one. Based on the way Laurence handles this novel, they should also be all-nighters and sought after by his readers.

9/19 Paul Lane

THE EXTINCTION AGENDA Michael Laurence. St. Martin’s Press (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1250158482. 400p.

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PERFECT STRANGER by Jake Cross

August 31, 2019

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Rose and Chris have been happily married for 20 years. They have a beautiful daughter, Julia, and both like the path they are on and whom they are on it with.

Suddenly their lives are shaken up when a beautiful young girl shows up on their doorstep and tells Chris that she is his daughter. Before Chris married Rose he had a short affair with another woman. They went their separate ways and Chris forgot about that episode in his life until Katie appeared shaking everything up. She knows all about the affair, requests that to remove all doubts about Chris being her father, he take a DNA test coupled with a similar test of Katie’s. And her mother has passed away prompting her action and need to find a way to live.

Katie indicates that she is staying in a temporary residence pending the outcome of the tests, but Rose extends an invitation to her stating that the family should get used to her in the meanwhile. Katie does so and suddenly strange things start to happen: someone crashes into a neighbor’s fence, an unexplained fire starts in the kitchen, and a family friend disappears on the way to visit them. Mysteriously, Chris refuses to explain where he was when the friend went missing.

The plot evolves from one to many instances. The police get involved and it is a certainty that the reader will experience some sleepless time when unable to put the book down. A well done mystery with an ending a capstone to a well done novel.

8/19 Paul Lane

PERFECT STRANGER by Jake Cross. Bookouture (August 20, 2019). ISBN 978-1786814432. 338p.

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TIN BADGES by Lorenzo Carcaterra

August 26, 2019

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Carcaterra has been absent from the literary scene for a while due to personal reasons, but fortunately for his readers, has returned with a good story, solid writing and unforgettable characters; in other words, as good as ever.

Tin Badges is the designation given to retired detectives that have been asked to return to temporary duty to work on a case that for one reason or another is out of the reach of the active police.

“Tank” Rizzo has been retired, along with his partner Pearl, after an arrest went wrong and both were severely injured, Pearl reduced to becoming a paralyzed man confined to a wheel chair.

As the novel opens, Tank and his ex-partner have been handed a case involving a gangster kingpin named Gonzo. Tank assembles a group of the people that he normally assembles to help on the case. These include an ex-gangster who is the father of the woman that Tank has been involved with and who manages the restaurant that Tank frequents.

As Tank’s group begins to operate to bring down Gonzo, he is hit with the horrible news that his brother and sister-in-law have been killed in an auto accident. Tank is the only relative that Chris, his brother’s son, has, and he is brought kicking and squirming to live with him. While his nephew is getting settled in, he manages to enter the world of Tank’s team and it is found that he is a computer genius whose talents prove useful in the move against Gonzo.

Similarly to Carcaterra’s previous novels, once the reader is grabbed very quickly this book is impossible to put down until finished. What their operation entails in their move against Gonzo is the main part of the book. Most important though, is the description of the team assembled, how they work together, and what their particular skills are. I trust that I am correct in making the judgement that this book is just the first of succeeding novels about Tank and his group and the unorthodox ways they handle cases. It is also a safe assumption that these novels, and other non related ones, will be well done and capture the author’s readers quickly and keep them glued to the book until the end.

8/19 Paul Lane

TIN BADGES by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Ballantine Books (August 27, 2019). ISBN 978-0345483928. 304p.

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OLD BONES by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

August 21, 2019

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Nora Kelly, Book 1

The very prolific writing team of Preston and Child introduce a new pair of lead protagonists. They each have appeared shortly in one of the authors’ books featuring their Sherlock Holmes lookalike Agent Pendergast. Starting with this novel, they appear to be headed for their own series of stories. Nora Kelly is a young curator for the Santa Fe Institute of Archaeology and Carrie Swanson a fledgling agent for the FBI.

The story begins when Clive Benton, a recognized historian, approaches Nora with information he has received pointing towards the finding of the lost camp of the Donner party. The Donner party refers to a group of pioneers heading towards California during the years 1845-46. In crossing the Sierras they were trapped by massive snow storms. With no food to be had due to the weather they ate the animals with them – cats, dogs, and the oxen pulling their wagons. The culmination of their plight resulted in a documented case of cannibalism.

Benton requests that Nora’s employer finance an archaeological expedition to reach the lost third Donner site, and to sweeten the pie indicates that one of the people with them was carrying a fortune in gold coins. The institution agrees that the find itself would be a major discovery with the possible discovery and recovery of the gold coins a great addition. The expedition is arranged and due to Benton’s information the third site is found and digging begins.

There is no problem enjoying another well written book by the two authors but it would not be like them if a bit of the macabre was not introduced. Could there be something supernatural mixed in with the bones and relics found? Probably yes and how, if there, does it affect the story? Very few of the novels that I have read by the authors is less than a five star book and “Old Bones” is no exception.

8/19 Paul Lane

OLD BONES by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Grand Central Publishing (August 20, 2019). ISBN 978-1538747223. 384p.

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