CORONAVIRUS DIARY: April 1, 2021

April 1, 2021

No April Fool’s Day here…

Meet Jonah Arlo Alesi, my first grandchild! Today was Jonah’s due date, but as my daughter-in-law put it, “Our April Fools baby played the ultimate prank and arrived a month early!” Yes, Jonah arrived 4 weeks early, all 5 pounds, 5 oz. of him. He hung around the hospital for a bit, but came home in time for his grandparents to visit. He is the first grandchild on both sides, and we are all beyond thrilled!

Needless to say my time and attention has been focused elsewhere these days, but I will be back here posting soon enough. I just looked at my list and I have over 20 books to review! I have definitely been slacking. So for a sneak preview, here are some thoughts on the historical romances I’ve read lately.

I’ll start with Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase, the second entry in the Difficult Dukes series, which I loved – Chase is always a sure thing for me, as is Lorraine Heath. Heath’s latest, Scoundrel of My Heart, is the first book of a new series, Once Upon a Dukedom, and was a fast, sexy read. I am looking forward to the next book.

The Worst Duke in the World by Lisa Berne, is book 5 of the Penhallow Dynasty and it was a really fun read. How can you not like a book that features a loveable pig named Duchess? I didn’t love the only other book I’d read by this author, but this one will lead me to read more Berne for sure.

Never Kiss a Duke is the first book of a new series, Hazards of Dukes, by Megan Frampton, another must read author for me. She always tells a good story, and I love her sense of humor. Eva Leigh has the third book in her Union of the Rakes series, Waiting for a Scot Like You, and it was terrific! She’s another author that I never miss.

One of my long time favorites, Eloisa James, has a new addition to her Wildes of Lindow Castle series, Wilde Child, that was a total delight, especially if you are a fan of Shakespeare. When she isn’t writing bestselling historical romances (over 7,000,000 in print!), James is a Shakespeare professor at Fordam University, and that knowledge comes into play here, with fascinating results. I am trusting that her explanation of why actors call Macbeth the “Scottish play” and never say the name in the theater is true and not what I’d heard before. Worth the read for that tidbit alone!

A new-to-me author, Amalie Howard, wrote The Rakehell of Roth, the second book of the Regency Rogues series, but I hadn’t read the first book. No matter, this was an enjoyable read – enough that I am going to find the first book to read. Plus I loved the oh-so-purple cover! Another new author for me was Eva Devon, and I loved The Spinster and the Rake, the first book of her Never a Wallflower series, which the publisher describes as “blend of My Fair Lady meets Pride and Prejudice with a twist!” That worked for me!

I am also extremely grateful that my husband and I got our first Covid Vaccines. We are due for the second one next week. It hasn’t been easy in Florida with a governor who is most concerned with his big donors and not at all concerned with keeping everyone or anyone else alive or safe. He gave exclusive vaccine rights to Publix after a quarter of a million donation from Publix. Communities where large donations were made got pushed to the head of the line for vaccines. Fun times in Florida.

Florida officials call for FBI to investigate governor Ron DeSantis ‘for linking vaccines to donations’

The announcement that the state is partnering with Publix on vaccination sites comes a month after the supermarket chain made four $25K donations to governor’s political committee.

Back to my sweet grandson – I miss him and my son and daughter-in-law terribly. Jonah is changing so much day to day! Here are a few of my favorite pictures.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


WIN by Harlan Coben

March 31, 2021

In this #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from Harlan Coben, a dead man’s secrets fall into the hands of a vigilante antihero—drawing him down a dangerous road.

Over twenty years ago, the heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family’s estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors — and the items stolen from her family were never recovered. 

Until now. On the Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead — not only on Patricia’s kidnapping, but also on another FBI cold case — with the suitcase and painting both pointing them toward one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III — or Win, as his few friends call him — doesn’t know how his suitcase and his family’s stolen painting ended up with a dead man. But his interest is piqued, especially when the FBI tells him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism — and that the conspirators may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades, but Win has three things the FBI doesn’t: a personal connection to the case; an ungodly fortune; and his own unique brand of justice. 


The very versatile Harlan Coben presents a new character in his latest book. He uses his Myron Bolitar series of novels as a point of departure to give life to Windsor Home Lockwood III. or Win as he is called. Win had the good fortune to be born a member of the old money super rich crowd. He has no need to work but has kept himself busy and one of his skills is knowledge of most of the unarmed offensive techniques that exist including karate, Jiu Jitsu and others. A veritable walking weapon but not a bully. He counts Myron as one of his good friends and there are enough references to  Bolitar and his sayings and opinions to solidify the relationship. Myron is an ex-basketball player who has become a sports agent and continually finds himself involved in solving murders for his clients. The initial novel with Win puts him into a similar position having to investigate not only murder but decades old disappearances of people.     

Twenty years ago Win’s cousin Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a home robbery of her house and kept in a remote cabin for several months subject to constant rape. She managed to escape but neither the attackers nor the items they stole during the robbery were ever found. Fast forward to the present when a rich recluse was found murdered in his upscale westside Manhattan apartment. When the police arrive, they find a painting by Vermeer and a leather suitcase both traced to Win Lockwood. He decides to look into the situation and finds himself involved with the disappearance of six people and his cousin’s kidnapping all occurring at the same time about twenty years ago.     

The novel utilizes Win as the sole narrator and he is given a wisecracking personality as well as a showcase for the wisdom of Myron Bolitar, who does not appear but is referenced several times. I’m in the position of being a fan of the author reading everything he writes. I therefore look forward to Win joining Harlan Coben’s list of go to characters and getting his share of adventure either with or without Myron.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WIN by Harlan Coben. Grand Central Publishing (March 16, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538748213. 384 pages.

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Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

March 30, 2021

ETERNAL by Lisa Scottoline. G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 1st edition (March 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-0525539766 . 480 pages.

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From Paul Lane

This novel is a five star book of course, but I found it so much more. It is also an emotional adventure that cannot be left in mid read. Must be finished in one captivating gulp. The theme is the coming of age of three people in a period of turmoil in Italy. The country had been taken over by Benito Mussolini in 1922 when as head of the newly formed fascist party set up a coup d’état becoming dictator of the country. Italians knew that any form of dissent would be met with repression, up to and including death.

Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro are the three principal characters utilized to tell the story. They were friends from childhood loving each other at first platonically, then later moving into romantic love. Elisabetta wondered which of the others she would eventually marry and both Marco and Sandro grew into dreams of being with her. Sandro was Jewish and faced his parent’s desire for him to marry within the religion. Growing up and looking for their future is interrupted by World War II and Mussolini bringing Italy into the war on Germany’s side. In order to please Hitler Mussolini promulgated a set of laws and rules modeled after the infamous Nurenberg laws that in effect removed Jews and certain other minorities from Italian citizenship. Also taking away their ability to work, own businesses and practice their religion. Eventually the Nazis took over Italy to prevent the country from moving towards alliances with the allies who were at war with Germany.

Elisabetta, Marco and Sandro come of age in this strained climate existing in Italy. The situation goes from bad to worse as Nazi troops stationed in Rome where the three live become a law unto themselves demanding and getting without possibility of review anything they desire. The author tells of a situation in which the Nazis demand a huge amount of gold from the Jewish community to benefit the German army. If they don’t come up with the gold the threat is that 200 Jews will be transferred out of the area. The community with help from others, including the Vatican manage to raise the gold. Not a surprise when the Nazis do send 200 Jews out ending up in the death camp at Auschwitz.

My recommendation for any reader is to read this novel and possibly make the same determination as I did which is that it is a classic. I am not in a position to indicate if it is Scottoline’s best book. She does have many excellent works to her credit and there is no problem in reading others and enjoying them.


WE COULD BE HEROES by Mike Chen

March 18, 2021

Jack Swyteck Novel, Book 17

From the publisher:

An extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.

Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.

Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself.


Our story opens as a young man is holding up a bank. Not with a gun mind you, but by controlling the minds of the bank personnel and the people currently at the bank intending to do the normal business one does while there. A woman he has just mind controlled falls down and our hero Jamie begins to fret about what happened to her to cause her collapse. Just then, Zoe, a part-time deliverer of meals and a woman possessed of super strength and the ability to fly jumping off tall buildings with a single bound, appears on the scene with the obvious intent of capturing Jamie and delivering him to the police. In the melee occurring with the robbery and the fainting of the woman, Jamie escapes and Zoe goes back to delivering the meal she is carrying.     

Shortly after, the dynamic duo quite unexpectedly meets in a memory loss support group that both have been attending. You see superman and wonder woman each have the same experience. Their memories only go back two years when they awoke in an apartment and began trying to resurrect a past that is beyond them while coming to grips with the superpowers they have. The bright idea of teaming up to work on recuperating their memories hits them both and so they begin. Hard to tell if Chen is writing a comedy or attempting to begin stories of super heroes but both our leading characters turn out to be more than a little neurotic. 

Their search for their roots and subsequent falling in love is entertaining and charming. What happens to them and the results of their search is documented in a plot grounded in science fiction and the description of two flawed characters seeking out their roots while handling a really diverse world not too friendly to them. An attractive book and one conducive to cause readers to look for more of the same in future novels.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WE COULD BE HEROES by Mike Chen. MIRA; Original edition (January 26, 2021). ISBN: 978-0778331391. 336 pages.

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ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West

March 16, 2021

3/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West. Berkley (March 16, 2021). ISBN Berkley (March 16, 2021). 352 pages.

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WEDDING STATION by David Downing

March 14, 2021

A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller, Book 7

From the publisher:

The prequel to David Downing’s bestselling Station series introduces John Russell, an Englishman with a political past who must keep his head down as the Nazis solidify their power.

February 27, 1933. In this stunning prequel to the John Russell espionage novels, the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin is set ablaze. It’s just a month after Hitler’s inauguration as Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazis use the torching to justify a campaign of terror against their political opponents. John Russell’s recent separation from his wife threatens his right to reside in Germany and any meaningful relationship with his six-year-old son, Paul. He has just secured work as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper, and the crimes which he has to report—the gruesome murder of a rent boy, the hit-and-run death of a professional genealogist, the suspicious disappearance of a Nazi-supporting celebrity fortune-teller—are increasingly entangled in the wider nightmare engulfing Germany.

Each new investigation carries the risk of Russell’s falling foul of the authorities, at a time when the rule of law has completely vanished, and the Nazis are running scores of pop-up detention centers, complete with torture chambers, in every corner of Berlin.


The current novel is the 7th featuring John Russell, an Englishman by birth, but living and working in Berlin in the years prior to World War II. The book is indicated as a prequel to the other novels and I must say at the onset that it is, in my opinion, the most mesmerizing. I also rank it as one of the best books I yet have read by David Downing and he has certainly more than made his mark as a top author in his many areas.     

The period covered by the novel includes the years during the late 1930s and describes a period when a lunatic fringe took power and turned Germany into a madman’s domain with the very worse becoming the leaders of the country. Downing has done, as normal for him, a great deal of research into the period and can describe the emerging of the new Germany in great detail. Hitler has grabbed power taking over as Chancellor of the country and early on staged a fire in the Reichstag Parliament building. Using the fire as an excuse to crack down on groups such as the Communist party, gays, Jews, and any other sectors where the torment on these people can be utilized to coalesce changing the truth for Nazi fiction. Loudspeakers are set up all over the cities so that Hitler’s speeches can reach everyone.  It becomes a suspicious act if people are not listening and praising. It also becomes a necessary part of life for all to read Mein Kampf, Hitler’s manifest and plan for the future of Germany.   

John Russell is picked up when he is working as a crime reporter for a major Berlin newspaper. He is divorced from his wife but has no problem visiting and having a relationship with his five-year-old son the couple had when married. In the events described in this book, he becomes involved in three occurrences and is attempting to cover them for his paper. The first is the murder of a young male prostitute, another the running over of a professional genealogist, and the third the disappearance of a Nazi supporting fortune teller. The three events become somewhat related with the actual facts of the cases becoming skewed by different factions of the Nazi party. Care must be taken to not rub the Nazi party the wrong way. Punishment can be firing from a job, taking over a business, and even death. 

The steady increase in Nazi oversight with brutality and forced obedience to an ever-changing set of rules is brought out by the author. It is the loss of personal freedom engendered by a population that will not or cannot oppose their oppressors.       

The novel ends with John meeting the girl that becomes his new love interest in the books already written. It also indicates that he will stay in Berlin and become more and more involved with the different directions of Germany and its moving into war. Finishing the book will also leave the reader drained and, if not read yet, anxious to get into the next book in the series.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WEDDING STATION by David Downing. Soho Crime (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1641291071. 336 pages.

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INFINITE by Brian Freeman

March 12, 2021

From the publisher:

From bestselling author Brian Freeman comes an explosive new psychological thriller that pushes the limits of reality as we know it.

One rainy night, the unthinkable happens: Dylan Moran’s car plunges off the road into a raging river, his beautiful wife drowning as he struggles to shore.

In the aftermath, through his grief, Dylan experiences sudden, strange visions: wherever he goes, he’s haunted by glimpses of himself. Dylan initially chalks it up to trauma, but that changes when he runs into a psychiatrist who claims he’s her patient. She says he has been undergoing a unique hypnotherapy treatment built on the idea that with every choice, he creates an infinite number of parallel universes.

Now those parallel universes are unlocked―and Dylan’s doppelgänger has staked a claim to his world. Can Dylan use these alternate realities to get a second chance at the life that was stolen from him? Or will he lose himself…to himself?


Brian Freeman has proven himself a very versatile author with novels to his credit covering a wide variety of themes. He is a writer who is at the very top of his game and with Infinite continues to retain his place with his many readers. 

The book moves into two distinct areas. One is that of a fascinating psychological story and the other into a theme that is science fiction at its best. The science fiction part is that of the existence of parallel worlds running concurrently with all others. That is the lives of the inhabitants constantly touch on all possibilities that may present themselves. If a person is struck by a car in one existence in another the accident does not occur and events proceed in both worlds dependent upon what has happened. The number of parallel worlds that exist are infinite and always expanding to cover event changes.     

Dylan Moran experiences the horrible situation of his wife dying in an auto accident occurring in a major storm. Very much in love with her Dylan allows himself to be drawn into the theory of alternate worlds when he meets a woman on the street who claims that she is his psychiatrist and has introduced him to her work on the existence of multi universes. He does not know the woman and has no recollection of ever meeting her but latches onto the prospect of finding a world where his wife has survived the accident.     

The reader is quickly drawn into Dylan’s transfer into different worlds searching for his wife. The wide-ranging action is handled very well by the author with his readers glued to a novel that is the very essence of an all-nighter that keeps them reading until a very logical ending is reached. Five stars of course and leaving his readers ready and willing to get his next book as soon as published.

3/2021 Paul Lane

INFINITE by Brian Freeman. Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1542023863. 336 pages.

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THE VINEYARD AT PAINTED MOON by Susan Mallery

March 4, 2021

THE VINEYARD AT PAINTED MOON by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (February 9, 2021). ISBN: 978-1335912794. 400 pages.

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WHERE MADNESS LIES by Sylvia True

March 3, 2021

From the publisher:

Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby. Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations. With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.


The author couples a story about generational mental Illness and the focused evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazi party during the years prior to WWII and afterward. It begins in 1934 with Rigmor a young Jewish girl being cared for at a leading German psychiatric institution.  The Nazi party just taking power has introduced the concept of eugenics as a means of cleansing the population of persons deemed tainted by mental illness and other features indicated as not being pure enough to exist in Germany. Inga, Rigmor’s sister takes a hand in helping her avoid being exterminated.     

In 1984 Massachusetts in the U.S. Inga again rises to help another member of her family; her granddaughter Sabine.  Sabine has committed herself to a mental institution suffering through crippling panic attacks and horrific states of depression.  She is pregnant and the law indicates that in order to leave the hospital she must give up her baby. She finds that medicines developed are allowing her to cope with her maladies and is ready to leave the hospital when stopped by the probability of giving up her baby.     Sylvia True pulls no punches in her writings.

The Nazis executing people they deem unfit to live in Germany and an unreasoning law in Massachusetts allowing a doctor to take away a woman’s baby without further recourse are linked together in terms of harm done by the authority to those that are suffering from mental illness.  Descriptions of the politics prevalent in 1934 Germany and in 1984 Massachusetts are discussed as causes of what is described, but the novel is first and foremost about the devastation of mental illness in a family and the possibility that it will not stop at affecting only one generation. True does indicate that the story has a basis in the history of her own family which may have allowed her to present the cases so eloquently.  A novel very different from most that I have read due to showcasing scenarios that are not that commonly written about in novels.  One that does indicate an author that is well worthwhile looking for in the near future.

3/2021 Paul Lane

WHERE MADNESS LIES by Sylvia True. Top Hat Books (February 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1789044607. 344 pages.

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CORONAVIRUS DIARY: March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

First Anniversary: Quarantined 3/19/2020

It’s just about a year ago that I woke up with a scratchy throat and thought, I know it’s allergies but what if it’s Covid? I decided to protect my co-workers and stay home. Little did I know I wouldn’t leave my house again for months. And when I did leave, it was very, very scary.

I have been frightened of leaving my house since then, but life goes on and I had no choice. I went back to work for the fall semester. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I like to eat so money is a necessity, not to mention health insurance. Fortunately, I have the most incredible manager. She understood everyone’s situation and fears and worked with all of us to keep us safe and keep the library open. I was asked to go in two mornings a week, and that felt very doable to me.

Another great perk of my job is that there is a Covid testing site on campus. I can make an appointment and get tested as often as I like. At first, I was going every couple of weeks, but that soon trickled down to once a month and now I haven’t gone since 2020. I keep the hell away from people, double mask, wear gloves when it makes me feel safer, and wash my hands or use hand sanitizer several times a day. And moisturize my poor hands every single time I wash.

I’ve been using Kiehl’s Delux Hand and Body Lotion in Coriander scent for over twenty years. It doesn’t smell like coriander (which is cilantro!) but it has a faint, delicious scent that I love. I started using it when I worked for Borders Books because working with books is very drying to your hands. A co-worker recommended it to me (thanks, Oriana!) and I haven’t stopped using it since. It is remarkable in that I can put it on my hands and I don’t have to wait before going back to work. It doesn’t leave any residual greasiness. Best of all, despite all the handwashing and sanitizing, my hands are soft. I keep a bottle in my desk at work, and by the kitchen and bathroom sinks at home. It is not cheap, but as another brand likes to say, I’m worth it! The first time I bought it I paid $13 for it. It has almost doubled in price since then. I don’t think I’ve seen a sale on it (maybe Macy’s might honor their sales or coupons on it, or it might be one of the brands in the fine print that don’t ever get discounted.) On the bright side, I generally only buy one bottle every 8 months or so, it lasts a long time.

I am reading all sorts of things now. I still love my happily ever afters, but with all the changes in this country since the beginning of 2021, I can handle the darker stuff again. I will be posting more reviews shortly. Hope you caught my review of Kristen Hannah’s latest blockbuster, The Four Winds. If you need a book for your book group, look no further. It was one of the saddest books I’ve read in a while, yet I loved it. I just finished The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery, more women’s fiction than romance and an excellent read. She even offers some wine pairing tips and a recipe at the end of the book. I promise to post a review this week. I also read a sort of natural disaster thriller from Bridget Foley, Just Get Home. It’s not due out until April 13th, but you can preorder if you’re so inclined. Or reserve it at your library. It’s based on the experiences of two women who get caught out when “the big one”, a massive earthquake, hits Los Angeles. It’s one of those books that you just can’t put down.

My husband and I have finally caught up on the Great British Baking Show. We finished the 2020 season last night, and it was a bittersweet moment. That show has been my happy place for an hour or two each night for the past few weeks. I know it’s called the British Bakeoff in the UK, and I understand why (Pillsbury!), but it still amazes me that the openings always have the correct title. Occasionally a participant says something about the Bakeoff, but I guess Pillsbury can’t do anything about that! We also watched the new remake of All Creatures Great and Small, and it was excellent. If you have access to PBS, I highly recommend it. I loved the books when I was a kid and enjoyed the first go round of the BBC television show, but this, I think, is better (at least in my mind it is.) I loved it so much got the audiobook read by the star, Nicholas Ralph. It is his first TV role! He was terrific.

I haven’t had a haircut in over a year, or a manicure or pedicure, which makes me sad. My nails are an abomination. I’ve gained way more weight than I should have, and it is a daily struggle to attempt any sort of diet. My best efforts are to try and skip the junk food and just eat smaller portions. Some days are easier than others. I still love to cook and bake but I have cut back on the baking at least.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!