March 13, 2018

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A portrait of a woman at the very bottom of feeling self loathing about herself. Cassandra Bowden is a flight attendant with about 20 years working in the profession. She has reached the point that she can bid on and work flights to most exotic destinations in the world.
Unfortunately, she has found the life of always being in different cities completely unsatisfying and empty. She has become a binge drinker often arriving at her destination, getting drunk and picking up a strange man to have sex with little memory of what has happened.
The novel begins with Cassie awakening in Dubai in a hotel room that is not the room nor the hotel that the rest of her flight crew are staying at.  And as many times before, she gets up with a pounding headache and just attempts to find out if she can still make a shuttle at the crew’s hotel to take her to the airport for her assignment on the plane back to the states.
This time there is a vast difference from other times. The man laying next to her has a wide gash in his neck. His blood is all over the bed and he is quite dead, obviously a murder victim.  Cassie begins a series of lies to her fellow flight crew members, to her sister and her family back in the states, and to the FBI waiting for her at the gate in New York. Her thinking is that she will be accused of  murder and doesn’t know how to hide her being in the same room with a murdered man.
As with his other novels, Bohjalian has researched the variables of careers spent going from one exotic place to another at 35,000 feet and always being away from home. Cassie has visited most of the  world, has no family ties except for a younger sister, her husband and children who she rarely sees, and no friends outside of the acquaintances among her fellow crew members. Her life is spent drinking and moving from one one night stand to another with no permanent ties to speak of.
The book moves from the murder to one complication after another for Cassie. Her thoughts and feelings are well described as are those of other key individuals taking part in the story. It is a novel that brings the reader unerringly into its permutations and combinations. A fascinating adventure into what is an environment far beyond the normal one of people whose jobs are within commuting distances from their homes and families and spend evenings with their loved ones.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT by Chris Bohjalian. Doubleday (March 13, 2018).  ISBN 978-0385542418. 368p.


March 12, 2018

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The Survivors, Book 2

Lady Juliana is the daughter of an Earl but doesn’t quite fit into the usual society mold. Having lost her mother at a young age, and then her sister, her priorities have shifted. Her father is so wrapped up in hiding his grief in work that he barely pays her any attention, so when she decides to help out at an orphanage, he gives her some money and doesn’t think much of it. Until she actually moves into the orphanage.

At that point, the Earl sends his best friend’s son, a by-blow, Major Neil Wraxall, who heroically served in the army, to fetch his daughter home. But when he gets there, he realizes that while he may have faced down many an enemy, dealing with Lady Juliana is not going to be quite as easy.

Juliana refuses to leave and after a cursory inspection, Wraxall realizes the foundling home is in serious disrepair, not to mention the orphans, a dozen boys, are running roughshod over Lady Juliana. He quickly puts the boys to work, despite her objections, and within days everyone in the house is besotted with the Major, especially Juliana. Unfortunately, the leader of the local mob is trying to blackmail her into either paying him a huge fortune or moving into his bed. Wraxall to the rescue, of course, especially as things heat up with the Lady Juliana.

It was refreshing to just skim over the usual balls and social activities of the ton and focusing more on what happened to orphans in the early 1800’s and how soldiers of the time dealt with PTSD. This was a good read with likable characters, an interesting storyline and some pretty hot sex. A one night read for me.

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

NO EARLS ALLOWED by Shana Galen. Sourcebooks Casablanca (March 6, 2018). ISBN 978-1492639015.  384p.


THE CLOISTER by James Carroll

March 11, 2018

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Carroll’s new book is an extremely powerful adventure into human emotions experienced by two members of the Catholic clergy. They are separated by 1000 years but are subject to similar doubts about their vocations and their stories tied together.

The first to enter the narrative is Father Michael Kavanagh,the Priest presiding over a congregation in Inwood New York, part of the borough of Manhattan. The time frame for Father Kavanagh is shortly after World War II. During a Sunday service he sees an old classmate of his, “Runner” Malloy, come into the church. It has been years since they saw each other but strangely Malloy doesn’t stay and wanders away.

Perplexed by his old friend’s conduct, Father Kavanagh begins thinking and almost subconsciously wanders into the “Cloisters,” a museum which was a gift to New York by the Rockefellers. There he bumps into a beautiful guide and without much thought begins to talk to her. Rachel Vedette is a French Jew and cames to the United States after surviving the horrors of a concentration camp during the war.

Rachel is by education and interest a medieval scholar and is attempting to continue her late father’s academic study of Peter Abelard, a great teacher and thinker living in the 11th century. Abelard was also a Priest and famous for his logical approach to everything, never accepting something as given without subjecting it to logical scrutiny. There was an historical connection between him and Jewish scholars which ran against than current doctrine of the Church.

For some reason, Rachel feels instinctively that Father Kavanagh might share her interest in Abelard and freely starts to talk with him about the subject. One of the factors important in this novel is that Peter Abelard, contrary to the rules of celibacy enforced by the church, fell in love with a woman named Heloise, cohabiting with her through his life. Some historians indicate that he actually married her although the novel indicates that they only pledged their vows. What he did do was set her up as the Mother Superior in a convent close to where he was based.

Father Kavanagh is aware of Abelard and allows Rachel to lend him the manuscript she has been working on. Possibly due to reading the manuscript, conversations with her, and the subsequent finding of his old friend Malloy and learning why he left the church prompt Father Kavanagh to begin to question his place as a Priest, and if he would be better off leaving the Priesthood.

The research done to allow Peter Abelard to come to life in the book is incredible. The actions and supposed conversations could be the actual ones experienced by this important scholar. In addition, Heloise is threshed out as the intellectual equal of Peter and a helpmate and councilor to him even without living together as man and wife. What Father Kavanagh eventually decides is discussed and analyzed and a logical decision for the man.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE CLOISTER by James Carroll. Nan A. Talese (March 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-0385541275. 384p.

BY THE BOOK by Julia Sonneborn

March 10, 2018

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Anne Corey is a struggling English professor. She has a huge pile of student loans to pay off and finally has a job that she loves, teaching English literature at a small, private college in California.

Then her dream job becomes a bit of a nightmare.  Unfortunately, this school really lives by “publish or perish” and Anne’s time is running out. If she can’t get a book published, she’s out. There is a new college president, Adam Martinez, who happens to be the man who dumped her on their graduation day from college – shortly after proposing to her.

The only bright spot is visiting professor Rick Chasen, an award winning author who is also really hot. They hit it off and start a casual relationship, and he even offers to help Anne get her book published. Anne is also dealing with her father, who appears to be suffering from dementia.

Seeing Adam on a regular basis is proving to be more difficult than she thought it would be, especially because he and Rick seem to be at odds. Then things go from bad to worse, and Anne is moving up and down the highs and lows of her life – until she reaches her happy ending.

This is a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion. You don’t have to have read it to appreciate this book, and it is so well done that even if you are a fan of Austen, you will still enjoy this contemporary story.

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BY THE BOOK by Julia Sonneborn. Gallery Books (February 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501175183. 384p.



March 8, 2018

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Sins for All Seasons, Book 1

Lady Aslyn Hastings was orphaned fairly young, and her parents best friends raised her to be the lady she was born to be, with the understanding that she would marry their son when the time came. But then she meets Mick Trewlove.

Mick is the bastard son of a Duke who won’t acknowledge him. Handed off to a poor woman who raised such children, he grew up tough and determined, attributes that served him well. He worked hard and became very wealthy, and then started plotting his revenge against the Duke that abandoned him.

No matter his wealth, Lady Aslyn knows she could never be seen with him as he doesn’t hold a title, but nonetheless he finagles his way into running into her again and again. Eventually she feels like must choose between the man she was destined to marry and the man she loves.

There are a few nice twists in this story and a truly shocking ending, but no fears, everyone gets their happily ever after. Don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end, her research was remarkable, fascinating and heartbreaking.

I loved this fast, fun and unexpected read – what a great start to a new series!

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BEYOND SCANDAL AND DESIRE by Lorraine Heath. Avon (January 30, 2018). ISBN 978-0062676009.  384p.


SURRENDER by Joan Johnston

March 7, 2018

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A Bitter Creek Novel, Book 16

Taylor Grayhawk is a pilot who drops smoke jumpers off into the fires of a national park. But her last jumper, Brian Flynn, also happens to be her old high school flame (no pun intended!) Not to mention their families have been feuding for years. As she flies in closer, she realizes that there is no where to drop him, and then the worst happens, she loses control of the plane.

Flynn forces her to jump with him, and in doing so saves her life as the plane crashes and burns. Somehow they find a small patch of green to land in but a grizzly bear appears out of nowhere and mauls Flynn’s leg. He manages to scare off the bear and realizes it came out of a cave nearby.

They decide to take shelter in the cave, but before he can drag all his equipment inside with them, fire takes out a huge tree which falls over, completely blocking the entrance to the cave and their only way out. Luckily, there is clean water running down the rocks inside but they don’t have enough food to last very long.

Brian and Taylor have nothing much to do other than take care of his wounds and rekindle their relationship. But can it last? Will Flynn survive his wound? Will they starve to death before they are found? All good questions to be sure, but I’m not telling. Go read, it’s a fast, exciting story with a bit of sex thrown in for fun.

Johnston did her homework and learning about smoke jumpers, forest fires and firefighting in general was interesting for sure and added to the story.

I am a little confused about this series though – I read book 15 (the last book,  BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE) and it was historical. I’ve never read a series that jumped from historical to contemporary. Am I missing something?

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SURRENDER by Joan Johnston. Dell (February 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0399177767. 416p.



March 6, 2018

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Nola (named after the city) Brown is a truly damaged yet kick-ass woman; bright, tough beyond belief, and an amazingly talented artist. In fact, she is the youngest artist-in-residence the military has ever had. What that means is she decides where she wants to go and when she gets there she draws anything she wants. It turns out she sees a lot more than most people, and saved many lives because of her eye.

Zig is a mortician at Dover Air Force base who works on fallen soldiers. He considers himself to be an artist, and his work is his life. He got divorced after his young daughter died.

When Nola Brown’s body comes into Dover after a fatal small plane crash, Zig is shocked to discover the woman he’s working on is not Nola. He knew Nola as a child, she was in Girl Scouts with his daughter and saved her life after a can exploded near a campfire. Nola took the shrapnel instead, leaving her ear disfigured but the ears on the woman on Zig’s table are perfect.

Thus begins a twisty, at times violent, roller coaster ride of a thriller. There is a lot of really fascinating information on the death process of fallen soldiers, history about Houdini, his friends and family, and about magic in general. I love how I inevitably learn something from Meltzer’s novels, his research is always impeccable. The story moves back and forth between Nola’s childhood and present day, and that helps keep the pages turning.

The surprises keep coming, the pacing is relentless, and the body count high in this terrific political thriller. (And librarians, the President appointed Librarian of Congress plays a prominent part!) Readers who love strong women protagonists like Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larsson,) Caitlin Strong (Jon Land,) and even Katniss (Suzanne Collins) will love Nola Brown.

Another terrific read from one of my favorite authors (and one of my favorite people!) Don’t miss it.

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Brad Meltzer. Grand Central Publishing (March 6, 2018). ISBN: 978-1455559527. 434p.



March 6, 2018

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Brad Meltzer’ s latest novel ties together two of the most interesting people ever united by events in a book. The first one is a soldier named Nola Brown. Nola’s background includes a childhood marred by the worse treatment ever received by an adopted daughter from the man that became her father. She was bullied, browbeaten, and treated as garbage. Her only escape was to join the army.

While there she was chosen to be the Army’s Artist in Residence. She had the open-ended assignment of going wherever she wanted to and drawing what she saw to be included in the army’s record of the battle or the event in order to form a better picture of what occurred.

The other person is Jim “Zig” Zigarowski who works at Dover Air Force Base as a mortician in the section that receives fallen military personnel. Zig does not treat the position as something to just work at as his day job. His feelings towards the dead received causes him to labor long and hard at fixing up features of those that combat has disfigured in order to allow next of kin to be able to have open casket burials and find closure in that process.

Zig knew Nola years ago while she was in high school and saved the life of his daughter. Later in that period there was a terrible accident that did claim the life of Zig’s child and thereby ruined his life. His wife left him and Zig went deeper into the lonely business of dealing with the dead to ready them for burial.

The novel opens with the news of the crashing of a small plane coming from a secret military base in Alaska. Among other casualties, Zig learns that Nola is among the dead and solicits her  body in order to work on it preparing for the funeral. He quickly discovers that the corpse is not Nola but someone else and begins his own intensive investigation of what is happening.

The events depicted keep the reader glued to the book in order to find out what is going on. Who is the person killed and, of course, where is Nola? Both Zig and Nola are very well delineated and their feelings and reactions to events are those that would happen to anyone caught up in those situations. It is possible that Nola might enter into future novels written by Brad Meltzer but the current book is able to stand on its own and provides an excellent reading experience for those enjoying it.  Very well done.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Brad Meltzer. Grand Central Publishing (March 6, 2018). ISBN: 978-1455559527. 434p.



March 5, 2018

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A Novel in Clues

The subtitle is “A Novel in Clues” and that is precisely what it is. Isaac Severy, the patriarch of an intellectually gifted family, passes away. His farewell note indicates that he knew he would die, and when, and also indicates that two others would become deceased and predicts the times. Murder, suicide, natural death? And what enables him to make such spot on predictions? Is it the equation that he has just finished?

Isaac sends a letter to his adopted granddaughter Hazel while she is in Los Angeles for his funeral. The letter alludes to a secret organization that is after the equation and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Isaac charges Hazel with finding said equation and delivering it to a close friend of his.

While still in Los Angles, Hazel comes to the realization that the equation has implications that could have disastrous consequences for her entire extended family and begins an exhaustive hunt for it. Clues sent to Hazel by her grandfather indicate that the equation can be found by clues hidden in one of her favorite novels, and we follow her reasoning and search through them.

Complicating events are the appearances of Isaac’s favorite son, a theoretical physicist, and a long lost cousin, both coming to Los Angeles. Do they know about the equation and what it can do? And of course the obvious question of what is it capable of?

The debut novel certainly bodes well for an exciting career for this author. It is  definitely one that will not let the reader put it down until finished and exhibits a literary style that is certainly captivating.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE LAST EQUATION OF ISAAC SERVERY by Nova Jacobs. Touchstone (March 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501175121. 352p.


HARBOR OF SPIES by Robin Lloyd

March 3, 2018

A Novel of Historic Havana

An extremely well researched and compelling novel combining a story about sailors working  aboard ships still under sail and a little known stage of the American Civil War. In 1863, Everett Townsend, a young man recently dismissed from the U.S. Naval Academy for cause and subsequently in disgrace, is captain of a ship owned by his father and sailing to and selling that vessel in Havana. Cuba has become a center for Southern blockade runners to pick up  cargoes crucial for the Confederate war effort, run the blockade to Southern ports while evading the Northern navy, and return, bringing a cargo of cotton destined for European markets. It is a very dangerous but very lucrative venture when successful and Havana is therefore a good market to sell ships in.

On the way into Havana harbor, Everett rescues  a man escaping unknown danger and  swimming towards the ship while  pursued by sharks. This good Samaritan action results in jail for Everett with his release effected by a profiteering Spanish merchant who forces him into becoming  captain of the merchant’s blockade runner in order to pay the debt owed for obtaining his release from prison. Robin Lloyd’s descriptions of the Cuban world of that period:  huge plantations and very wealthy people,extremely poor people and slaves brought from both Africa and Jamaica to work the plantations are riveting and show the reader a world not normally depicted. For the blockade runners  there are the dangers of both conditions of the ocean these ships sail on and the equally dangerous possible meetings with Northern warships hunting the blockade runners.

The writing flows rapidly with the reader drawn into the reward of discovering a  world that is only 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. and at the time of the story  a base for Union warships hunting blockade runners. Two factors enrich the novel. One is the solving of a mystery that has haunted Everett since childhood with the answer found on Cuba, and the other meeting a girl of great interest for him. Both of these situations help enrich the attraction of Lloyd’s novel, keeping the reader glued to the pages.

The ending is well done and logically based on the story told, but fortunately leaving a good deal of factors that could go into another book about Everett Townsend and the world he finds himself in.I hope that this will be the case and I will be looking for those novels when published.

3/18 Paul Lane

HARBOR OF SPIES by Robin Lloyd. Lyons Press (March 1, 2018).  ISBN 978-1493032266. 320p.