THE LINE BETWEEN by Tosca Lee

February 7, 2019

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The very versatile Tosca Lee presents her latest novel which continues to delight her many readers and adds a bit more luster to an already brilliant career. She ties together two themes and blends them together quite well.

Wynter Roth is a young very bright woman that has been an inhabitant of what is clearly a cult termed New Earth for most of her life. She has been indoctrinated with the gospel according to Magnus Theisen, the founder and leader of New Earth. Believing in the facts as outlined by the cult she is thrust out of her sinecure by a decision made by Magnus to take her as his second wife. She suddenly awakens and realizes that all is not as it should be in her protected world. Basically she gets the wake up call due to the fact that her sister is Magnus’ wife already and the very concept of being a second wife is alien to her. In making her views vehemently known and refusing to comply with the marriage, she gets herself thrown out of New Earth and goes to live with relatives.

At the time Wynter leaves the cult a virulent disease begins to attack people all over the United States. The symptoms are early onset dementia with death following in short order. There is no cure available and the nation and it’s economy starts to shut down in the face of the widespread sickness.

Tying in Wynter’s leaving the cult is the fact that her sister comes to her with medical grade samples which were taken from Magnus. He is obviously attempting to have these samples, which have been exposed to the disease, tested, a vaccine developed, and then sold to rich buyers making himself rich and powerful. Where this takes the novel is a very well researched description of Wynter’s attempts to bring the samples to people that can best work towards developing a vaccine and disseminating it to the entire population.

A very well done story with Lee’s carefully investigated details adding even more towards the reader’s enjoyment.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE LINE BETWEEN by Tosca Lee. Howard Books (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-1476798622. 384p.

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GOVERNESS GONE ROGUE by Laura Lee Guhrke

February 6, 2019

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Dear Lady Truelove, Book 3

From the publisher:

Dear Lady Truelove . . .

My twin brother and I need a new mother, though Papa insists he’ll never marry again. Must be nice, brainy, and fond of cats . . .

Lady Truelove may be London’s most famous advice columnist, but James St. Clair, the Earl of Kenyon, knows his wild young sons need a tutor, not a new mother. They need a man tough enough to make his hellions tow the line, and James is determined to find one.

Miss Amanda Leighton, former schoolteacher and governess, knows she has all the qualifications to be a tutor. And while female tutors are unheard of, Amanda isn’t about to lose the chance at her dream job because of pesky details like that. If Lord Kenyon insists on hiring a man, then she has only one option . . .

Jamie isn’t sure what to make of his new employee, until he realizes the shocking truth—beneath the ill-fitting suits, his boys’ tutor is a woman. An unconventional, outspoken, thoroughly intriguing woman. Despite Amanda’s deception, he can’t dismiss her when his boys are learning so much. Yet Jamie, too, is learning surprising lessons—about desire, seduction, and passionate second chances . . .


Somehow I missed the first book in this series, but I read the last one and liked it a lot. This new one has same charm and humor.

This was a fun read, provided you can suspend your disbelief enough to buy into the story. Guhrke does a convincing job and it worked for me. I liked the character of Amanda, she was smart and feisty and a wonderful teacher. Jamie was a damaged protagonist, a widow who was convinced that his only true love had died and he has sworn off women forever. But his twin boys, tired of running off one nanny after another, decide they want a new mother.

The relationships between Jamie and his boys, and Amanda and Jamie are interesting and fraught, making this an enjoyable read. And a quick one, it’s a very short book.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

GOVERNESS GONE ROGUE by Laura Lee Guhrke.  Avon (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062890689. 272p.

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THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides

February 5, 2019

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The front piece of this novel indicates that it is the author’s first book. It certainly indicates a promising future for Michaelides as the theme chosen is quite an interesting one.

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter married and quite well to Gabriel, who has made a name for himself as a world class fashion photographer. The couple live in a fancy house, have plenty of money and seem to be quite happy.

Suddenly, and seemingly out of the blue, Gabriel returns home from a fashion shoot and is shot in the face five times by Alicia. When questioned by the police she does not say a word. And silent she remains even when she is shut away in “The Grove,” a secure forensic unit in the northern part of London. There she stays, completely silent, until Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, obtains a position at The Grove with the avowed purpose of treating Alicia.

The idea of the book is a good one and should be a terrific read except for Michaelides’ propensity to drag things out. His idea for an ending is not telegraphed but also seemingly one out of the blue that makes the end a complete surprise for the reader. It also does not make good sense for the reader looking for the one and one make two type of ending. Based on the idea upon which the novel is based and the author’s ability to frame situations quite well, it occurs to me that his books should be looked for. The fumble that I see in this book is, of course, my own opinion, but does not detract from the promise Michaelides shows with his cogent approach and should be evidenced in future novels.

2/19 Paul Lane

THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides. Celadon Books (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-1250301697. 336p.

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THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander

February 3, 2019

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From the publisher:

For fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist

A tour-de-force about two women and the piano that inexorably ties their lives together through time and across continents, for better and for worse.

In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, built at the turn of the century in Germany, on which she discovers everything that she herself can do with music and what music, in turn, does for her. Yet after marrying, she emigrates with her young family from Russia to America, at her husband’s frantic insistence, and her piano is lost in the shuffle.

In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy loses another boyfriend and again has to find a new apartment, which is complicated by the gift her father had given her for her twelfth birthday, shortly before he and her mother died in a fire that burned their house down: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Orphaned, she was raised by her aunt and uncle, who in his car-repair shop trained her to become a first-rate mechanic, much to the surprise of her subsequent customers. But this work, her true mainstay in a scattered life, is put on hold when her hand gets broken while the piano’s being moved–and in sudden frustration she chooses to sell it. And what becomes crucial is who the most interested party turns out to be. . .


I had read a review of this book that intrigued me, so I started reading it. A few hours later, I read the last page. Cander is a terrific storyteller, she drew me in and kept me turning the pages. There were plenty of surprises throughout the story; although some readers may figure them out, I did not.

The book opens with the construction of a Blüthner piano, a fascinating tale about a brand of piano I had not heard of, that is supposedly in the same class as a Steinway. I quickly realized that the piano would be a character in this book. Cander makes it possible to grow attached to an inanimate object, for her characters and the reader.

The story then moves back and forth in time, following the piano through two storylines. The way the book is laid out they are easy to follow. The main characters are mostly well developed, the secondary characters not as much, but had they been, the book may have gotten too unwieldy. Rather like moving a piano, a task that is difficult and quite the metaphor in this book. I loved the way the stories unfurl and wind around one another, carefully building towards an intertwined resolution.

This is an excellent read sure to be beloved by book groups as there is much to discuss here, from the immigration of Russian Jews to the relationships that are so well depicted. Highly recommended.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander. Knopf (January 22, 2019).  ISBN 978-0525654674.  336p.

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LONGEVITY by Rolf Margenau

February 2, 2019

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Should we prolong human life by 30 years?

Wouldn’t it be a welcome gift to all mankind if a means was found that allowed people to normally live 30 or 40 years longer than they do now? You would think that there would be no obstacles to such an improvement being discovered. “Longevity” is a well thought out novel posing just such a situation, and it is obvious that Margenau has given the question a great deal of thought before he began writing it.

Lucy Mendoza is head of a group of scientists at a major corporation testing and looking to commercially market an enzyme that could prolong life about 30 years. If successful it appears that the treatment would also ensure that the cognitive senses of the individuals being treated would keep up with the extra years.

Lucy, hard at work, begins hiring extra staff to help with the processes involved with the development of the product. And just as luck would have it, her staff hires a molecular biologist named Grant Duran who was an old boyfriend of Lucy’s. They were very close to marriage but Grant, who was a Marine at that time, disappeared on her. It is, of course, a safe bet that the plot involves them getting back together again. While doing so Grant safeguards Lucy and has a need to do so. There are several agencies that don’t want the enzyme to be commercialized.

If people add 30 years to their lives social services would not be prepared to handle it. Social Security would be bankrupted and government paid medical care would follow suit and this is not palatable for many government managers. Besides the government a major pharmaceutical corporation is not happy with Lucy’s company not allowing them time to come out with the product in commercial packaging and would not stop at murder to prevent that from happening. And of course there are the normal greedy investors who want to keep the product for use, at steep prices, for only the people that can afford to pay for it.

There are no lengthy explanations of the process nor of the material going into it. The author successfully grabs his readers and grants them an evening’s relaxation while finishing the book. His style makes for an easy read and the novel is well worth the time spent in doing so.

eBook only.

2/19 Paul Lane

LONGEVITY by Rolf Margenau.  Frogworks Publishing (January 5, 2019). ASIN: B07MKHNB1M. 326p.


99 PERCENT MINE by Sally Thorne

January 31, 2019

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From the publisher:

Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game, which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush—if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

This next hilarious romance includes a special PS section with two Happily Ever Afters—one for this novel featuring Darcy and Tom and the other, an epilogue featuring fan favorites Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman from The Hating Game!

 


I was one of the readers/critics who loved The Hating Game, but I did not love this new book.

Darcy was a difficult character for me to care about. I didn’t like her much so I couldn’t get invested in her relationship efforts – or lack thereof. She was so busy being tough, in the worst possibly way, that I just didn’t care whether or not she got the man. On the other hand, I loved her love interest. Tom was a great character that I really liked and cared about, so much so that I sort of felt sorry for him that he was so in love with this woman. I really thought he deserved someone better. Darcy has a brother, Tom’s best friend, and I found him to be a very one dimensional character. I didn’t feel like I knew him at all. So not great characters and a pretty pedestrian storyline.

I had really been looking forward to this book and unfortunately, it was a major disappointment. Other reviews have been much kinder, so I’d love to hear from anyone else who reads it.

01/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

99 PERCENT MINE by Sally Thorne. William Morrow Paperbacks (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062439611.  368p.

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THE BREAK LINE by James Brabazon

January 30, 2019

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Max McLean, Book 1

James Brabazon introduces Max McLean in this action packed novel. Max is a trained assassin working for British Intelligence. His job is to go anywhere he is sent by his employers, find the person or persons he is told to and end their lives as quickly as possible. No second thoughts about the murders, nor even first thoughts. The killing is part of his being, and he is very good at it.

This book has Max assigned to go to Sierra Leone in Africa, quickly find his target, take said individual out and get himself out ASAP. Max goes there and with the help of someone hired by his employers and begins the search for the target. He quickly finds out that he has become the target himself for his own group, and the circumstances are very far from his normal assignments.

Rebel forces are all around him and would definitely kill him and his guide if they catch them. Many villagers living in the area his target is to be found have been killed with no apparent reason for doing so and are a secondary puzzle for Max.

Max finds something very far from what he expected and must contend with those circumstances while seeking his target. The discovery is something beyond the ordinary and when presented makes an interesting novel, more engrossing than first blush might entail. The depiction of Max certainly provides the reader with the interest to see more books about him and that is, of course, the author’s intention.

A side light is the description of the Sierra Leone countryside and the jungle that comprises it. This surely means that Brabazon intends to fully research the areas that Max is sent into on his future assignments, making the novels revolve around the actual locales they are set in.

The series starts out with a fascinating background and well described protagonists which makes future Max McLean novels very appealing to those readers that will follow him.

1/19 Paul Lane

THE BREAK LINE by James Brabazon. Berkley (January 29, 2019). ISBN 978-0440001478. 368p.

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JUDGMENT by Joseph Finder

January 29, 2019

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From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder returns with an explosive new thriller about a female judge and the one personal misstep that could lead to her–and her family’s–downfall.

It was nothing more than a one-night stand. Juliana Brody, a judge in the Superior Court of Massachusetts, is rumored to be in consideration for the federal circuit, maybe someday the highest court in the land. At a conference in a Chicago hotel, she meets a gentle, vulnerable man and has an unforgettable night with him—something she’d never done before. They part with an explicit understanding that this must never happen again.

But back home in Boston, Juliana realizes that this was no random encounter. The man from Chicago proves to have an integral role in a case she’s presiding over–a sex-discrimination case that’s received national attention. Juliana discovers that she’s been entrapped, her night of infidelity captured on video. Strings are being pulled in high places, a terrifying unfolding conspiracy that will turn her life upside down.  But soon it becomes clear that personal humiliation, even the possible destruction of her career, are the least of her concerns, as her own life and the lives of her family are put in mortal jeopardy.

In the end, turning the tables on her adversaries will require her to be as ruthless as they are.


Wow! This is Finder’s best book so far, and that is saying a lot. I loved this character, Juliana is a working mom with all that goes along with that, has what seems like a pretty good marriage, at least from the outside, and a job that she loves. But there are definitely cracks in the marriage and her little infidelity brings such enormous consequences that the marriage is the least of it. Being a judge has its perks for sure, but the downside is explored here, leaving her ripe for blackmail is an awfully big downside. Juliana is a very strong woman but when her family is threatened, all bets are off.

I read this a few months ago, and it is as fresh in my memory as if I had read it last week. The story is compelling, the characters seem like people I could know. This was a nonstop read for me, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. If you’re a fan of Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, suburban and/or legal thrillers in general, you will love this book. Don’t miss it!

1/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

Don’t believe me? Here’s another voice:

Juliana Brody, a judge with the Superior court of Massachusetts, is at a convention in Chicago. She is rumored to be in contention for the Federal court and perhaps in the future the Supreme court. She is a woman that is good at her job and very serious about her reputation, taking great care with decisions rendered and treatment of both defense and prosecution in each case. While at the bar in the hotel she is staying at, she meets a man that attracts her. He is sincere, seemingly honest and in a moment of temporary weakness Juliana enters into a night of pleasure. After the fact both she and the man agree that this can never happen again.

Back home in Boston Juliana is presiding over a case involving a lawsuit by a woman against the company she was working for and one that is receiving national attention. Shortly after the trial begins and like a bolt out of the blue, the man she was with in Chicago appears and seats himself with the defense for the company involved with the litigation. At a later meeting with the man she is shown a video exposing her Chicago indiscretion and is told that it will be made public unless she finds for the company against the woman suing them for wrongful sexual behavior.

Events swiftly become enlarged and Juliana feels trapped by the circumstances not knowing what to do. She is threatened with much more than the damning film and finds that her family is also in the bulls-eye of those that are attempting to influence the verdict. Her desperation brings in possible help from influential friends, a private detective and a blow out fight with her husband. Finally Juliana comes to the realization that in order to fight fire one must use fire. This realization sets up a perfect ending for the book.

Finder is a master craftsman within the literary world and “Judgement” is certainly a prime example of his talent. No, you can’t put the book down before the ending and the only problem with reading Joseph Finder’s books is that after they are read one has to wait for the next one.

JUDGMENT by Joseph Finder. Dutton (January 29, 2019). ISBN: 978-1101985816. 400p.

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MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez

January 28, 2019

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Molly Grogan, Translator

Fernandez has written one of the most damning exposes of a horror possibly perpetrated by the regime of Francisco Franco during his rule of Spain. Franco became the dictator of the Spanish Republic due to the victory of his side in the Spanish Civil war and ruled until his death in 1975. The novel is a fictionalized account of the murder of five individuals by one person and tied together as punishment for their role in the stealing infants from their mothers at birth.

The novel opens in present day Spain during a time of economic downturn. It centers on Diego Martin, a radio commentator, who is trying to build up interest in his radio show in order to keep his spot on the air. He decides to investigate the first murder and continues to look at the next four. The results of his investigations tie in these murders with the stealing of infants and selling them to highest bidders, a plot begun during the Franco years and continuing beyond.

A group of protesters has grown into a national organization attempting to push the Spanish government into a complete investigation of the infant stealing. Diego finds his murder investigation is related to the work of the protesters and uses his radio show to give them much needed publicity.

Fernandez spares no punches in describing the devastation brought to families upon realizing that their baby has been stolen from them at birth. These women and their families live a lifetime knowing what happened and not having the means to try and find their children. It is a novel that should resound throughout the world and cause outcries far beyond Spanish boundaries. A short portion included in the book indicates that the very same horror has also taken place in Argentina during the Peron era.

The novel is a short one, finished in one sitting, but undoubtedly leading to a feeling of outrage on the part of the reader that activities such as described are taking place in today’s world. The author has no plan to offer, but easily accomplishes the task of bringing to light a horror that should shock the civilized world.

1/19 Paul Lane

MALA VIDA by Marc Fernandez. Arcade (January 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1628727432. 240p.

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HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER by Paula Quinn

January 27, 2019

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Highland Heirs, Book 9

From the publisher:

From New York Times bestselling author Paula Quinn comes a sweeping Scottish historical romance between a dashing MacGregor highlander and his English bride.
 
They tried to resist a marriage of convenience . . .
As the clan chief’s son, Adam MacGregor is duty-bound to marry a royal heir. Yet when he meets his bride—a beautiful but haughty young lass who thinks he is nothing more than a common savage—he realizes she’s more than he bargained for. But the more Adam gets to know his new wife, the more intent he is on proving her wrong about him.But can they resist each other?
Sina de Arenberg wants nothing to do with the unsavory MacGregors, especially the fierce Highlander she now calls husband. But the more time she spends with the man she married, the more she sees his honor and courage. Just when she thinks there might be a future for her and Adam, Sina is called back to court. England isn’t the place she remembers, though, and soon she’ll be forced to choose between the life she once knew, and the Highlander who has captured her heart.


I really enjoyed this historical romance, especially the time period. I love seeing how people lived and the culture, so different in the Highlands from London. All I know about the Isle of Skye is what I’ve learned reading the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, so this was a treat – an up close and personal look at a small village set there.

I did have some issues with Sina, I found her very whiny, but eventually she grew on me. The constant battles between her and Adam really ratcheted up the tension, and I loved how she finally felt like she had a place there. Her innocence was sweet, and watching the passion grow between them was fun. Adam was a great character and everyone got the ending they deserved. A fun read that I couldn’t put down.

1/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER by Paula Quinn. Forever (December 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1455535385. 400p.

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