March 16, 2020

THIS TIME AROUND by Stacey Lynn. Stacey Lynn Books (April 10, 2018). ISBN 978-1942561095. 162p.



March 15, 2020


From the publisher:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­I enjoyed Josie Silver’s debut novel, One Day in December, so I was excited when I saw that she had a new book out.  Yet, after reading the plot description I wasn’t entirely sure if it was a premise I was going to enjoy.  I should not have worried because Silver does a good job handling a unique, and heartbreaking, premise. Whether you chose to believe that Lydia’s sleeping medication actually provides her with a gateway to an alternate universe where her fiancé is still alive, or that it is all an elaborate coping mechanism created by her subconscious, Silver thoughtfully conveys Lydia’s grief and her journey through the process.

A therapist’s advice to Lydia at the beginning of the book that the grieving process is something that she should “pass through sentiently”, is first met with a fair amount of mocking.  Yet, as it becomes more and more taxing on Lydia to move between her two lives, she begins to realize there may be some truth to the statement.  Helping Lydia through her grief are her mom and her sister Elle.  While the two men in her life are certainly important (her fiancé Freddie in the world she enters when she sleeps, and Freddie’s best friend Jonah in her real life), I appreciated that Silver puts much of the focus on Lydia’s relationship with her mom and sister.  They are the two who ground and support her and the relationship between the three women ends up being the most important one in the book.  A moving title where Silver thoughtfully handles Lydia’s journey and her struggle to move forward with her life.

3/2020 Caitlin Brisson

THE TWO LIVES OF LYDIA BIRD by Josie Silver. Ballantine Books (March 3, 2020). ISBN 9780593135235. 432 p.





March 14, 2020

FROM ALASKA WITH LOVE by Ally James. Berkley (March 3, 2020). ISBN 978-1984806956. 304p.



THE LAND BEYOND THE SEA by Sharon Kay Penman

March 13, 2020


From the publisher:

From the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Sharon Kay Penman comes the story of the reign of King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s defense against Saladin’s famous army.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as Outremer, is the land far beyond the sea. Baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in the early twelfth century, the kingdom defined an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and a medley of cultures, a place where enemies were neighbors and neighbors became enemies.

At the helm of this growing kingdom sits young Baldwin IV, an intelligent and courageous boy committed to the welfare and protection of his people. But despite Baldwin’s dedication to his land, he is afflicted with leprosy at an early age and the threats against his power and his health nearly outweigh the risk of battle. As political deception scours the halls of the royal court, the Muslim army–led by the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin–is never far from the kingdom’s doorstep, and there are only a handful Baldwin can trust, including the archbishop William of Tyre and Lord Balian d’Ibelin, a charismatic leader who has been one of the few able to maintain the peace.

Filled with drama and battle, tragedy and romance, Sharon Kay Penman’s latest novel brings a definitive period of history vividly alive with a tale of power and glory that will resonate with readers today.

Penman presents a truly monumental portrait of the Kingdom of Jerusalem during a period beginning about the time the first crusade succeeded in opening up the land to Christianity until the city was retaken by the Saracens under the sultan Saladin. The research done by the author is briefly outlined by her in an afterward of the book. And, while it was written as a novel, Penman makes the case for it’s being based on the facts as researched by her and various historians writing about the period.

In order to tell the story as a novel, the author has put words, conversations, and personal feelings into the actions of the novel’s persona and first and foremost that action allows them to become real for the reader. During the period dealt with a young man named Baldwin became king of the area and is depicted as wise beyond his years. He developed leprosy early in his life with the disease affecting him until his untimely death in his 20’s. He is credited with consolidating the territories involved in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and at the same time militarily holding off the constant attacks by the Saracens attempting to recover the lands held by them prior to the first crusade.

There are only a few people that Baldwin can trust, and two of these play leading roles in the book. The first is the archbishop; William of Tyre and the other​ Lord Balian d’Ibelin. Balian rides in support of Baldwin during the battles staged against the invading Saracens and has his personal life including marriage to a member of the royal family become a centerpiece in the novel.
The sultan Saladin plays an important part in the story, as he did during real life as he leads his people into war against those that usurped the lands belonging to them. He was a military genius and while shown as handling the people his armies conquered; killing or selling many into slavery his wisdom at many instances is noteworthy and described by the author.

The novel culminates at the time that Jerusalem is recaptured by Saladin and describes briefly what happens to many people affected by the conquest and who must leave their homes for other places. A brief summary of the presence of King Richard of England, including his capture by Saladin and later ransom by his brother John, ties this book into the legend of Robin Hood which involves the efforts of this picaresque outlaw to free King Richard.

The study of history is subject to interpretation and is really never the result of hard facts. It is, therefore, to Penman’s credit that she has written a history of the period in the packaging of a completely engrossing novel. In either case, it is beyond doubt a five-star work.

3/2020 Paul Lane

THE LAND BEYOND THE SEA by Sharon Kay Penman. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-0399165283. 688p.



STOP AT NOTHING by Michael Ledwidge

March 12, 2020


From the publisher:

The explosive new thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of James Patterson’s Michael Bennett series

When a Gulfstream jet goes down in the Bahamas carrying a fortune in cash and ill-gotten diamonds, expat diving instructor Michael Gannon is the only person on the scene. Assuming himself the beneficiary of a drug deal gone bad, Gannon thinks he’s home free with the sudden windfall until he realizes he forgot to ask one simple question.

Who were the six dead men on the plane?

Gannon soon learns the answer to that fateful question as he is thrust into an increasingly complex and deadly game of cat and mouse with a group of the world’s most powerful and dangerous men who will stop at nothing to catch him.

But as the walls close in, Gannon reveals a few secrets of his own. Before he retired to the islands, Gannon had another life, one with a lethal set of skills that he must now call back to the surface if he wants to make it out alive.

As a decade-long James Patterson writing partner, Michael Ledwidge is a pro at writing fast-paced, in-the-moment prose, tightly choreographed action set pieces and plot twists that drop at exactly the right moment. With this novel, he kicks off an unstoppable, gripping new thriller series.

Michael Gannon is an American ex-pat living in the Bahamas where he is a part-time diving instructor, sport fisherman and has his own boat. He is enjoying a relaxed life in the sun with no cares to weigh him down. The novel opens when Michael spots a corporate jet flying low over the ocean near where he is fishing. The plane splashes down and he heads over to see if he can render any assistance to passengers on board. Getting there he finds six dead men on the plane. Diving down to see if any passengers are still alive Michael finds a fortune in both cash and diamonds and thinking that he has come upon a drug deal gone bad takes the fortune and heads home.

A combined U.S. Navy and FBI investigation of the crash brings out what is a plot by certain leaders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to squelch damning evidence on themselves which is scheduled to be broadcast by a man hiding in an embassy in London. These people find that Michael Gannon has taken the cash and diamonds and a search and kill hunt for him begins. But we quickly find that Gannon has a past which is very helpful in fending off his would-be killers.

Ledwidge is an experienced author with a background that includes collaboration with James Patterson and appears to be launching a series of his own featuring Michael Gannon. These future books may include action in the Caribbean working out of the Bahamas and should prove well worth the read.

3/2020 Paul Lane

STOP AT NOTHING by Michael Ledwidge. Hanover Square Press; Original edition (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1335044952. 416p.



THE DEEP by Alma Katsu

March 10, 2020


From the publisher:

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger comes an eerie, psychological twist on one of the world’s most renowned tragedies, the sinking of the Titanic and the ill-fated sail of its sister ship, the Britannic.

Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. Between mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths, the guests of the Titanic have found themselves suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone from the moment they set sail. Several of them, including maid Annie Hebley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, are convinced there’s something sinister–almost otherwordly–afoot. But before they can locate the source of the danger, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together. Working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic‘s sister ship, the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship, she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier fighting in World War I. At first, Annie is thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the sinking, but soon, Mark’s presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past–as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.

Brilliantly combining the supernatural with the height of historical disaster, The Deep is an exploration of love and destiny, desire and innocence, and, above all, a quest to understand how our choices can lead us inexorably toward our doom.

Alma Katsu has written a truly unique novel incorporating an eerie twist to the very well known story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. In 1916 at the height of World War one the ocean liner Britannic was sunk according to accounts by two German submarines. The Britannic coincidentally was a sister ship to the Titanic and had been turned into a hospital ship for the duration of the war. The novel moves from one point to the other effortlessly as the story unfolds.

The action swings back and forth between 1912 and 1916 and uses two protagonists to tell the story. Annie Hebbley is a young girl that has left her home in Ireland due to the horrific conditions she was suffering there. She manages to luckily get a job on the Titanic as a room steward serving twelve of the first-class cabins on the ship. Among the passengers she serves are John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, well known multimillionaires of the day.

The second individual playing an important role in the book is Mark Fletcher, an American returning home with his new British wife and their baby. From the sailing date, both passengers and crew shrug off odd happenings including the sudden death of a young boy sailing as caretaker to one of the millionaire’s dogs. The chairman of the White Star Line owners of the Titanic is aboard and hastens to assure everyone that the ship is unsinkable. People should not worry and just enjoy the luxury of the cruise bound for New York.

The story finds Annie in a mental institution four years after the Titanic tragedy unable to cope with the horror she has undergone. She is released by her doctor and reluctantly manages to obtain a job as a nurse on the Britannic finding an aptitude she doesn’t know she has to do the work. In inspecting the wounded men under her care, she comes upon Mark Fletcher. While on the Titanic she had met Mark, who was a passenger in one of the cabins she attended. She had developed a crush on him and in a wild moment has a one night stand. Her feelings come out and her imaginings lead her into thinking that Mark was in love with her and this feeling just has to be rekindled.

Katsu changes the actual destruction of the Britannic from sinking by submarines to something else based on the love Annie thinks she can rekindle with Mark. The novel is absolutely compelling, grabbing the reader and bringing him or her into another era and a possible link into the macabre. I certainly hope that Alma Katsu comes out with her next book soon and indicate my recommendation to pick it up as soon as published to enjoy.

3/2020 Paul Lane

THE DEEP by Alma Katsu. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 10, 2020). ISBN: 978-0525537908. 432p.




March 9, 2020


A Matt Drake Thriller, Book 1

From the publisher:

After surviving a clandestine operation that went tragically wrong, Matt Drake escaped Syria with his life, but little else. Now, to save the life of another, he must return to Syria and confront his biggest failure in a debut thriller Lee Child calls “sensationally good.”

Defense Intelligence Agency operative Matt Drake broke a promise. A promise that cost three people their lives and crippled his best friend. Three months later, he’s paralyzed by survivor’s guilt and haunted by the memories of the fallen. Matt may have left Syria, but Syria hasn’t left him.

In the midst of his self-imposed exile, Matt is dragged back into the world of espionage and assets that he tried to forget. A Pakistani scientist working for an ISIS splinter cell has created a terrifying weapon of mass destruction. The scientist offers to defect with the weapon, but he trusts just one man to bring him out of Syria alive—Matt Drake.

This is the first book in a new series featuring Matt Drake, a flawed hero, but one with the brains, patriotism and the will to get things resolved. In a mission taking place before the beginning of this novel, three men were killed and his best friend, also with them, was permanently crippled. Matt blames himself for the failure of the botched action.

After three months of feeling sorry for himself and drowning his sorrows, he is unexpectedly called back by his supervisor to undertake a mission into Syria. The task will be to extract a Pakistani scientist working for ISIS who has perfected a new and terrible chemical aimed at killing Americans. He has offered to bring the formula to the United States in payment of being taken out and granted asylum there. The condition put is that he wants Matt to handle the operation.

Matt undertakes the job after learning that an American agent, the only survivor of a raid into the area has been captured and will be beheaded by his captors with the execution filmed to be used as propaganda. There is also a background scenario that takes place in the White House. The president is facing reelection for a second term and there are two high-level officers of the government that are looking to control his actions to control events for their own benefit. The background action is a great piece of writing to underline the actual scheming, plotting and double-dealing that occurs in government circles. And of course, plans are laid, discarded and done again by the people working behind the scenes.

Unfortunately for Matt, the president and those on his high-level staff are playing off the rescue of the captured American in different ways in order to seek their own gain. Bentley does indeed have a low opinion of politicians and their maneuvering to bring themselves the greater good by just discarding the needs of those caught in their schemes.

Don Bentley has done a great job in building Matt’s character. He has his faults, his missteps, but in the final analysis, will do the right thing to protect lives and punish his enemies. An excellent beginning to what I trust will be an anticipated series based on well-described counter-terrorism operations.

3/2020 Paul Lane

WITHOUT SANCTION by Don Bentley. Berkley (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1984805119. 384p.




March 8, 2020


From the publisher:

The first novel in an explosive new series inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne universe, The Treadstone Resurrection introduces an unforgettable hero and the shadowy world that forged him…

Treadstone made Jason Bourne an unstoppable force, but he’s not the only one.

Operation Treadstone has nearly ruined Adam Hayes. The top-secret CIA Black Ops program trained him to be an all but invincible assassin, but it also cost him his family and any chance at a normal life. Which is why he was determined to get out. Working as a carpenter in rural Washington state, Adam thinks he has left Treadstone in the past, until he receives a mysterious email from a former colleague, and soon after is attacked by an unknown hit team at his job site.

Adam must regain the skills that Treadstone taught him–lightning reflexes and a cold conscience–in order to discover who the would-be killers are and why they have come after him now. Are his pursuers enemies from a long-ago mission? Rival intelligence agents? Or, perhaps, forces inside Treadstone? His search will unearth secrets in the highest levels of government and pull him back into the shadowy world he worked so hard to forget.

Joshua Hood is the author of several previous novels involving men and women at war. His books were action-packed with a great knowledge of weaponry and methods used in armed combat. He takes up a theme developed by the late Robert Ludlum and creates a scenario revolving around the actions of a group working for the CIA. They purportedly developed a method of creating a super warrior, naming that project Treadstone.

The soldiers created by the Treadstone group have superior reflexes, superb analytical skills and a personality that incorporates a no prisoners taken attitude towards any enemy they face. The character used by Hood is Adam Hayes and the Jason Bourne of Ludlum’s novels does not appear in the story.

Hayes has resigned from the CIA and is working as a carpenter in the state of Washington. He is married and has one son and while not satisfied with the tedium of everyday life has no plans to return to the active lifestyle of a CIA assassin. With no warning, Hayes is attacked by a hit squad at his job site but finds that he still has the skills to kill the would-be killers and escape with his life. His plan then becomes finding the people that attacked him, and in so doing, is pulled into a Venezuela that is completely destitute due to their government robbing the country blind with one man in particular singled out and destined for elimination. From Venezuela Hayes then travels into Colombia attempting to find and kill the members of the group that is after him.

Ludlum’s characters were always cast as regular people that could get hurt or even killed in the action they were subjected to in his novels. Adam Hayes, on the other hand, is presented as a superman moving at the speed of light from one dangerous situation to another. He gets beat up, almost killed and just keeps on trucking. The ending of the book has Hayes already looking for the next assignment and ready to jump into whatever awaits him. For those that like their novels action-packed and moving like an express train, Joshua Hood’s creation of Adam Hayes will be very satisfying.

3/2020 Paul Lane

ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE TREADSTONE RESURRECTION by Joshua Hood. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (February 25, 2020). ISBN: 978-0525542551. 384p.



YOU ARE NOT ALONE by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

March 7, 2020


From the publisher:

One of Newsweek‘s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of SheReads Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of PopSugar’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of HelloGiggles’ Most Anticipated Books of 2020
One of Marie Claire’s Best Fiction by Women in 2020
One of Woman’s Day’s Best Fiction Books Coming Out in 2020

The electrifying #1 New York Times bestselling authors of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL return with a brand new novel of psychological suspense.

Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.

Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better.

Shay would die for them to like her.
She may have to.

This is the third novel the two authors are publishing together and they get better and better. Will they reach a plateau and top out? Hope not because what they are doing is causing a lot of sleepless nights among an ever-increasing group of grateful readers.

This book tells a tale of a group of women caught up in a delusion of omnipotence and acting on a psychopathic fixation of righting wrongs that they alone decide are wrongs, and that their remedies are the best for those caught up in the schemes.

Shay Miller has come to New York City with a dream of finding love and a fulfilling career path. By a quirk of fate, she is getting ready to ride the New York subway system and while awaiting the arrival of the next train is witness to a suicide, with a woman throwing herself in the path of the train. Traumatized by the experience, Shay begins looking into the life of the woman that killed herself. In so doing, she meets the woman’s group of friends, is befriended by them, and helped in many ways to better her circumstances. The gist of the novel concerns the reasons behind the group going overboard to help her. This includes a remake of Shay and changing her look for their own reasons.

Why two brilliant and very successful sisters who are the guiding persons behind that group go to extremes to help Shay forms the basis of the story. That the reader will not be able to put the book down until finished is an absolute fact. That the end results in reading the novel will be to begin to look forward to the authors’ next book is a given. Without any doubt a five-star novel by the writing team.

3/2020 Paul Lane

YOU ARE NOT ALONE by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen. St. Martin’s Press (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1250202031. 352p.




March 6, 2020

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS By Jill Shalvis. William Morrow Paperbacks (January 21, 2020). ISBN 978-0062897800. 384p.