HUNTER KILLER by Brad Taylor

January 7, 2020


From the publisher:

Pike Logan tracks highly-trained Russian assassins to Brazil in this blistering, action-packed thriller from New York Times bestselling author and former Special Forces Officer Brad Taylor.

Pike Logan and the Taskforce were once the apex predators, an unrivaled hunting machine that decimated those out to harm the United States, but they may have met their match. While Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill prepare to join their team on a counter-terrorist mission in the triple frontier—the lawless tri-border region where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet—they are targeted in Charleston, South Carolina. A vicious explosion kills a friend, and the perpetrators have set it up to look like an accident. While the authorities believe this was not foul play, Pike knows the attack was meant for him.

When he loses contact with the team in South America, Pike is convinced he and the Taskforce are under assault. His men are the closest thing to family that Pike has, which means he will do anything, even ignore direct orders to stand down, to find them. Pike and Jennifer head to Brazil to investigate their disappearance and run headlong into a crew of Russian assassins. Within days they are entangled in a byzantine scheme involving Brazilian politics and a cut-throat battle for control of offshore oil fields.

Forged in combat, the Russians are the equal of anything the Taskforce has encountered before, but they make a mistake in attacking Pike’s team, because Pike has a couple of elite Israeli assassins of his own. And Pike will stop at nothing to protect his family.

Those who already addicted to ex-army Delta Force operative Brad Taylor’s novels involving Pike Logan and his Task Force team will find that the newest book in the series follows suit. The Task Force is a group of military operatives that was set up by the United States president to hunt down and neutralize enemies of the country in any way they see fit. Pike Logan is a leader of one of the teams and has spearheaded many successful ventures with them. And they report directly to the president with no affiliation to other clandestine organizations.

The novel opens as two of Pike’s men are in Brazil on assignment acting as the lead in a planned counter-terrorism operation when the Task Force is suddenly ordered to stand down from all activity pending investigation of whether or not they are acting legally. Pike’s immediate supervisor brings him the news directly but in an accident obviously aimed at killing Pike is murdered in Pike’s car when it blows up when the motor is turned on. Findings seem to indicate that it was a freak accident but Pike is of the opinion that it was a planned hit against him.

At the same time, word is received that the Task Force men in Brazil are aboard a ferry stopped by terrorists that then wired it with explosives. With no direct contact with the men in Brazil, Pike makes the logical assumption that he and his squad are under attack. Against orders he and his girlfriend and fellow Task Force member Jennifer Cahill along with several other men anxious to help those in Brazil fly down to South America. The area is actually the triple frontier between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay and is basically a lawless zone.

Once arrived the group finds that they are right in the middle of the activities of a team of highly skilled Russian agents whose goal is to gain control of a lucrative Brazilian offshore oil field. Without backing and against orders Pike and his team begin the action they deem suitable to save their men on the Ferry and rectify the entire situation. The action is constant, the planning and execution of their plans well done and we have another mesmerizing novel by Brad Taylor to keep us awake until finished.

1/2020 Paul Lane

HUNTER KILLER by Brad Taylor. William Morrow (January 7, 2020). ISBN 978-0062886026. 432p.




January 6, 2020


Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman, editors

From the publisher:

“[STARRED REVIEW] A must-read for anyone interested in the latest and most exciting sf writing out there.” ―Booklist

Your future is bright! After all, your mother is a robot, your father has joined the alien hive-mind, and your dinner will be counterfeit 3D-printed steak. Even though your worker bots have staged a mutiny, and your tour guide speaks only in memes, you can always sell your native language if you need some extra cash.

The avant-garde of science fiction have arrived in this space-age sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, The New Voices of Fantasy. Here you’ll find the rising stars of the last five years: Rebecca Roanhorse, Amal El-Mohtar, Alice Sola Kim, Sam J. Miller, E. Lily Yu, Rich Larson, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Sarah Pinsker, Darcie Little Badger, Nino Cipri, S. Qiouyi Lu, Kelly Robson, and more. Their extraordinary stories have been hand-selected by cutting-edge author Hannu Rajaniemi (The Quantum Thief) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (Invaders).

So go ahead, join the interstellar revolution. The new kids have already hacked the AI.

I entered the world of science fiction back in the days of short stories about BEMs (Bug Eyed Monsters) published in pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories. I was fortunate to experience the entrance of authors such as Murray Leinster, Asimov, Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and classics such as “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451”. They took up a literary torch and turned the world of Science Fiction into a serious branch of literature. For some reason, I stopped reading the genre for many years. Upon seeing the title of this collection, I decided to see how the field has evolved over the time I’ve been away from it.

This review is my opinion and in that vein, I must state that I am disappointed in what the genre has apparently become. I found the stories very difficult to follow apparently due to a desire to use language based on the perception of descriptions that are thought to be proper for the genre. I recall being grabbed by the writers cited above and treated to adventures of other times and other places all presented with logical explanations of what allowed these events to occur. Not so with the stories in this anthology most of which left me wondering what the aim was.

1/2020 Paul Lane

THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman. Tachyon Publications (November 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1616962913. 432p.


LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn

January 3, 2020


From the publisher:

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .

Is it too late to add a title to my favorite books of 2019?  Released on the final day of 2019, Love Lettering quickly became one of my favorite books of the year.  The first thing that struck me about this book was the writing.  The prose has a lyrical quality to it that I don’t often see in contemporary romance. I would describe the writing as artistic if that makes sense.  The language that Clayborn uses to describe Meg, Reid, and New York almost seems to embody Meg’s profession as an artist and calligrapher.

Clayborn expertly builds Meg and Reid’s relationship as Meg tries to convince Reid to stay in New York through a series of walks around the city looking for inspiration for her next project.  The reader gets to see the city through Reid’s eyes, for the first time really getting to know and love the city he has lived in for six years, and through Meg’s eyes, the eyes of an artist who looks for signs everywhere she goes.  I had never given much thought to hand lettering as an art form and I would have a hard time listing fonts beyond Times New Roman, but after reading about Meg’s passion for her art I find myself paying more attention to fonts and stopping to notice the style and design of signs.  I absolutely loved Meg and Reid as a couple.  Meg is creative, persistent and witty which serves as a perfect foil for Reid who prefers numbers and can have a hard time connecting with people. Since it was published at an awkward time (the last day of the year) I haven’t seen Love Lettering make many recommendation lists and get the attention it deserves.  I highly recommend Love Lettering, even to those who do not usually read romance.  It is exceptionally well written, features complex characters and an insightful look into the city of New York and the art of hand lettering.

1/20 Caitlin Brisson

A note from the BookBitch

I have to add my two cents here. Caitlin had texted me that she thought I would enjoy this book. I was off for a few weeks over the holidays and did quite a bit of reading. But this last week I had encountered several stinkers in a row. Books I did not finish. Books I didn’t get past the first chapter. Books I wasn’t in the mood for (but went back to and loved) and well, you get the idea. So I eagerly started this book on New Year’s Eve day and finished it before dinner. I loved it, for a lot of the reasons Caitlin mentioned. I would add that it is also a love letter to New York City.  The characters were interesting and well developed, the setting was really another character, and the romance seemed to bloom organically, if you’ll pardon the pun. The art of hand lettering so intrigued me that I started down a rabbit hole, and first found this interview with the author, which led me to this article on Bullet Journaling, which I had never even heard of.

Caitlin had emailed me that her entire review could have been, “This book is amazing. Read it.” Yep, that sums it up and I concur.

LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn. Kensington Publishing Corp. (December 31, 2019).  ISBN 9781496725172. 320 p.



10 BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston

December 24, 2019


From the publisher:

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

A live nativity, bowling tournament, and an ugly sweater party.  Those activities wouldn’t exactly scream first date to most people, but to Sophie’s large, and well-meaning family they do.  After being dumped by her boyfriend the first night of winter break, Sophie’s extended family embarks on a plan to ensure that she has a date for every night of the break.  This plan results in a series of ten blind dates, some outrageous, some cringeworthy, and some actually fun.  It has been a while since I’ve read a teen romance that so well balances both humor and heart.  There are plenty of funny moments, a goat at the aforementioned live nativity and a drive-in movie that goes very wrong among them, but I also really enjoyed how Sophie’s family was at center stage in the story.  They are large, loud and meddle, but they genuinely love her and despite her recent heartbreak they always come first to Sophie.  Even though the book is about ten dates, it was refreshing to see a teen romance where the main character put her family and herself before a love interest.  With Netflix’s successful adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I could see 10 Blind Dates being their next teen rom-com.  If you are looking for a heartwarming, but not sappy, holiday story I recommend 10 Blind Dates.

10 BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston. Disney-Hperion (October 1, 2019).  ISBN 9781368027496. 336p.

12/19 Caitlin Brisson





December 23, 2019


From the publisher:

All Suzanne St. Michelle wants is an over-the-top, eggnog-induced holiday with her best friend in Credence, Colorado. But when her hoity-toity parents insist she come home for Christmas in New York, she blurts out that her sexy landlord is actually her boyfriend and she can’t leave him—Joshy loves Christmas. The more twinkle lights the better.

Rancher Joshua Grady does not love Christmas. Or company, or chatty women. Unfortunately for him, the chattiest woman ever has rented the cottage on his ranch, invited her rich, art-scene parents, and now insists he play “fake rancher boyfriend” in a production of the Hokiest Christmas Ever. And somehow…she gets him to agree.

Apparently, he’ll do anything to get his quiet life back. At least there’s mistletoe every two feet—and kissing Suzy is surprisingly easy. But in the midst of acres of tinsel, far too many tacky Christmas sweaters, and a tree that can be seen from space, he’s starting to want what he lost when he was a kid—a family. Too bad it’s with a woman heading back to New York before the ball drops…


Every December I embark upon a binge of holiday themed book reading. A friend who also shares a love of all things Christmas recently commented that she had only enjoyed one Christmas book so far this year. I’ve been having similar poor luck this year, but then I read The Trouble with Christmas. I hadn’t read the first book in this series (and it doesn’t matter, this book can be read as a stand-alone) but when I took Book Riot’s “What Holiday Romance Should You Read?” quiz this is the book they suggested. I figured a hot rancher and Colorado scenery should be fun. And The Trouble with Christmas is a fun book. Since taking a trip to Montana and Wyoming last year I have been eager to return to the West and Colorado is on the list. The small of town of Credence, Colorado sounds like it would be a great destination and the descriptions of snow-covered ranches and cozy cabins were perfect for a holiday romance. Suzy and Grady’s efforts to keep up the facade of their fake relationship with increasingly tacky and outlandish Christmas decor was fun to read. Suzy and Grady were a great couple with her sense of humor and tendency to talk too much balancing out Grady’s role of a stoic rancher. And of course, fake relationships in romance novels never lead to real feelings… If you enjoy Hallmark style holiday romances you’ll enjoy The Trouble with Christmas.

12/19 Caitlin Brisson

THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS by Amy Andrews. Entangled: Amara (September 24, 2019). ISBN 9781640638198. 418p.




TO BED THE BRIDE by Karen Ranney

December 13, 2019


All for Love Trilogy, Book 3

From the publisher:

New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Ranney’s captivating series concludes with a tale of opposites whose attraction scorches a trail from the Highlands to the glittering halls of London—and courts scandal at every turn . . .

Politics has introduced MP Logan McKnight to many fascinating people, but the lady he encounters on the lands bordering his ancestral Scottish home outshines them all. Eleanor Craig of Hearthmere seats a Thoroughbred like a queen, knows as much about world events as any of his colleagues—and is engaged to one of the worst men Logan knows. She also seems lonely, so Logan brings her a friend. Thus should their acquaintance end, yet it’s only just begun.

The puppy Logan delivers is every bit as irresistible as the man himself. How could this stranger sense the isolation Eleanor suffers among her scheming, snobbish extended family and fiancé who control her life? It’s even worse in London—until she begins meeting Logan secretly in a secluded park. Their passionate connection frees Eleanor, body and soul. But discovery threatens disgrace—or worse.

Eleanor lost her mother as an infant, and her father as a young child. He leaves her their estate in Scotland with the proviso that her Uncle move there to take care of her. He brings his wife and children, and they remain there until her uncle dies when she is 17 years old. Her aunt immediately moves them all to London, marries a wealthy man, and convinces the solicitor to just allow Eleanor to visit for a month every year.

Eleanor is engaged to Michael, the Earl of Westcott and she really has no idea why he chose her. Her father always stressed how important family is, and she knows her family wants her to marry the Earl. He is a good catch, so she agrees to marry him. But her fiance shortens her visit home to two weeks.

Eleanor returns home, knowing in her heart that she may not be allowed back to visit again. Eleanor and Logan have a rocky start. They meet while she is out riding and finds herself surrounded by sheep. Thinking he is the shepherd, she is condescending to him until she manages to get through. Eleanor doesn’t think much of the shepherd, but Logan can’t get her out of his mind. He gives her a puppy that she really doesn’t want but disappears before she can return the dog. She names him Bruce and I have to say, the best part of the first half of the book was the dog.

There seems to be too much time spent on Eleanor’s thoughts and way too much telling, not showing as the relationship between Eleanor and Logan grows. It seems like she decided to like him after she finds out that he is not a shepherd, but is an MP in the House of Commons, representing his part of Scotland. He is shocked to find out that she is engaged to the Earl of Westcott, an arrogant, selfish man that Logan can’t stand.

This book moved slowly for at least the first half, but the last few chapters made up for it. When Eleanor realizes she can’t marry the Earl and tells him, he refuses to allow her to break their engagement. Her aunt tells her she has no choice, she must marry the Earl, and what happens after that is just shocking. I don’t want to give anything away! Just know that Eleanor and Logan get their happily ever after, despite the enormous obstacles in their way.

While I’m glad they got together, the ending felt a bit abrupt. I would have liked an epilogue or something. All in all, this was just an okay read for me.

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TO BED THE BRIDE by Karen Ranney. Avon (November 26, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062841087. 384p.



THE GERMAN HOUSE by Annette Hess

December 12, 2019

Click to purchase

Announced as her first published book, aside from many screenplays, Annette Hess gives us a memorable, riveting emotional roller coaster of a read. Pick this up and become mesmerized from page one and when finished it will be evident that a major literary force has entered the field with a decided bang.

The action is centered around the 1963 trials in Frankfurt, Germany of war criminals that ran the Auschwitz death camp during WWII. Eva Bruhns is a young woman with only faint memories of the war now two generations behind the world. She is working for a temporary employment agency as a translator when asked if she will fill in for a professional translator that cannot get a German visa in time for the trial’s opening. The trials are scheduled to start shortly and cannot be delayed awaiting the regular translator. Eva takes the job and becomes immersed in a life-changing position lasting several months. The main thrust of the action is her literally coming-of-age due to her work and thoughts as the court action goes on.

On the personal side, Eva is awaiting and expecting her suitor Jurgen Schoormann to ask her father for permission to marry her. Jurgen is the son and heir of a wealthy family who works in the family business and has ideas that a wife should be subservient to her husband. Doubts about the wisdom of marrying Jurgen enter her mind. In addition, due to facts coming out at the trial, Eva begins to question her mother’s and father’s silence about what they did during the war. Where were they and what did they do? And why is it never discussed?

Hess does not excuse the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis but does bring up via her characterizations the possibility that orders were followed since death or imprisonment could be the price of disobeying commands. The complexity of the mental anguish involved is not possible to understand without the experiences of people caught in an insurmountable conundrum with no way out of the situation without suffering something horrible. Does she make her case? Read the book and decide. If nothing else take part in a superb literary experience.

12/19 Paul Lane

THE GERMAN HOUSE by Annette Hess. HarperVia (December 12, 2019). ISBN 978-0008359867. 336p.



THE ALMANACK by Martine Bailey

December 11, 2019


Bailey has given her readers a veritable cornucopia of ideas and well-researched facts set in the England of the mid 1750s. The author has painted a picture of another era with all the problems, ideas, dirt and filth present in that day and age.

Tabitha Hart has left her home in the town of Netherlea to seek her fortune in London. There she made a passable living as a lady of the street until her mother sends her a message to return home because she is dying. When Tabitha reaches her mother’s house she finds that the lady has already passed away and under mysterious circumstances. She finds and opens her mother’s almanack, which at that point in time is a book that many people rich and poor buy each year to help them with their year-round planning.

As an aid to finding out what happened, the author has prefaced every chapter with a riddle taken from almanacks of the time as well as a daily message advising what is expected to happen each of the days. This practice opens up additional customs of the era under discussion as well as providing an idea of how people thought and behaved.

The novel is indeed a vibrant picture of another time and makes it possible for today’s readers to allow themselves to slip into that era and enjoy an interesting read.

12/19 Paul Lane

THE ALMANACK by Martine Bailey. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (May 1, 2019). ISBN 978-0727888631. 304p.



THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret

December 10, 2019

Misadventures in Matchmaking, Book 3

From the publisher:

The Bourne Matrimonial Agency has one rule:

Never fall in love with the client.

Which shouldn’t be a problem when one’s faking an engagement to the rogue across the street . . .

Ainsley Bourne needs the family business to succeed. But one obstacle stands in her way—Reed Sterling, the huge, handsome, former prize fighter and owner of the gaming hall across the street. His scandalous customers scare off all her marriage-minded patrons, and since the devilish brute has no intention of relocating, she sets out to ruin his unsavory establishment. Yet when a vile suitor from her past reappears, Ainsley hastily claims an attachment to the first man who comes to mind . . . Mr. Sterling, to be exact.

Reed doesn’t know who is more surprised by Miss Bourne’s declaration. She clearly hates him, and he’d never admit their arguments simmer with unrequited attraction. Something about the pleading look in her eyes calls to Reed, and against his better judgment, he quickly plays the part of the besotted fiancé.

Pretending to be in love requires a convincing charade. But with each tantalizing touch and every scandalous kiss, Ainsley starts to wonder if Reed was ever really the enemy at all.

This author was new to me. The book started out slowly; in fact, I started it and kept putting it down until I got about a quarter of the way through. Then I read it the rest all the way through and ultimately enjoyed it. The plot was fairly predictable, the ever-popular trope of enemies to lovers, and it worked. There was also a bit of suspense. Ainsley had been betrothed to another man, and she ended it because he was abusive. He remarried, but when his wife died, he came looking for Ainsley again. And was not very pleasant, to say the least.

Reed was a great character. He is a commoner who made a fortune by fighting, boxing of sorts I suppose. But while he has retired from the ring, there are opponents who still wish to fight him. He is also thoughtful and smart, and very intuitive about people in general, but especially about Ainsley.

There are some obstacles along the way to happily ever after. Even marriage doesn’t resolve everything. I liked those twists and that is what kept me turning the pages for sure. I will look for the earlier books in the series. Ainsley has two sisters who are married, so they probably had their stories told in the earlier books. Since I haven’t read the earlier books, I don’t know if they should be read in order or if it doesn’t matter. These characters are fairly closely aligned, so it might have been the little knowledge I was lacking that made the beginning of this book so slow. I will find out!

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret. Avon (July 30, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062685520. 400p.



THE BELLS OF HELL by Michael Kurland

December 9, 2019

Click to purchase

A Welker & Saboy Thriller, Book 1

“The Bells of Hell” is a novel set in New York City in 1938. It loosely is a story involving the IOS, which is a probable precursor of the OSS, in its own right the organization that became the CIA. War clouds were appearing all over Europe with Hitler turning Germany into a militarized police state. The emphasis by the fuhrer was to set up many groups – Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, Negros and others deemed non-Aryan as scapegoats to be ostracized by Germany as unworthy to be members of that society. In addition, Germany arranged a plebiscite in Austria to determine if that country would be willing to join in whatever aggressive activities were dictated to them by Hitler.

The situation in New York was that Nazi groups were openly working to push the United States into joining Germany in the war against their perceived enemies. They were also working to cast dispersions on any prominent members of the Jewish faith. Kurland is quite vocal in his writing critiquing J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for his stance at the time of the novel on seeing only communists as enemies of the U.S. German bund activities were not important to him.

As the story opens, Otto Lehman is arriving by ship from Germany and is kidnapped as he debarks and is killed. Andrew Blake, a homeless man, sees the murder and in being questioned indicates that the killers were speaking German. Consequently, Jacob Welker who was then president Franklin Roosevelt’s own counter-intelligence agent is brought to New York to question Blake. As a result of the talks, Welker recruits Andrew Blake as well as Lord Geoffrey Saboy, who is the cultural attache for Great Britain and his wife, Lady Patricia, to help him with investigating whatever the Nazis are planning, beginning with the murder of Otto Lehman.

The author’s style is light, a bit tongue-in-cheek, making the novel an interesting read. It is written well enough to recommend it’s reading although not nearly an all night draw. The characters drawn up with the beginnings of an organization such as the CIA in the background are interesting enough to certainly warrant looking for future novels by Michael Kurland.

12/19 Paul Lane

THE BELLS OF HELL by Michael Kurland. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0727889690. 256p.