FIREFLY by Henry Porter

October 10, 2018

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One the most horrific problems affecting the world today is the migration of literally millions of people which provides the backdrop for this novel. This is the attempt by large segments of populations in the middle east and Africa to flee repressive regimes, starvation and mass murder in order to begin new lives in countries that are considered safe. Porter presents a no holds barred portrait of peoples caught up in the need to escape from the lands of their birth due to changing conditions that do not allow them to live there.

Naji is a thirteen year old boy born in Syria who is thrust into manhood when his father dies. It becomes necessary for his family to flee their home as situations arise that cause their lives to become untenable. It becomes Naji’s job to travel through the middle east, into Europe and eventually into Germany to arrange for his family to be accepted there by relatives. This is a journey that must be done by foot as Naji’s family does not have the funds to send him by plane or even train.

Naji has obtained pictorial evidence held on his cellphone of plans by a vicious ISIS cell who discover what he has and mount an organized attempt to catch and kill him and retrieve the evidence. When Britain’s MI6 gets wind of what Naji has they mount a search for him by contracting Luc Samson currently a private detective but previously an agent for MI6 to spearhead the operation.

Porter employs a back and forth system between Maji and Luc to tell the story. We see a young boy that is forced to grow up very fast while attempting to comply with his family’s needs and a professional that develops an attachment for this brave young man while chasing him. Luc finds a possible romance and Naji lifetime friends in the course of the action. The novel is, of course, a definite all nighter and keeps the reader glued to the book and aghast at the realities of what is happening in our time and affecting decisions made by all governments. There are no solutions offered by the author for the simple reason that none are probably possible in the face of the titanic stage the action is played out on. But, the book does provide some insight into what is happening to real people through no fault of their own and affecting so much of the world.

10/18 Paul Lane

FIREFLY by Henry Porter. Mysterious Press (October 2, 2018).  ISBN 978-0802128959. 480p.



A NOTORIOUS VOW by Joanna Shupe

October 9, 2018

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The Four Hundred Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.

This is a terrific serie – I love the time period, 1890’s, and the setting, New York City. Shupe writes wonderfully damaged characters and Oliver Hawkes is no exception. Hawkes went deaf as a teenager, and has put up with derision, taunting and worse for most of his life. It has driven him to the point of becoming a recluse, and luckily, he is wealthy enough to be able to afford it. To see how deaf people were treated at that time was appalling, and I appreciated the historically accurate references.

Lady Christina is another messy character, the daughter of abusive parents. Her mother has been demeaning her for all of her life, leaving Christina with virtually no self esteem and the desire to make everyone around her happy. It would never occur to her that she deserves to be happy, too.

This is a marriage of inconvenience, if you will. Of course it leads to a very happy ending but there are dreadful trials along the way. It was a one night read for me, I couldn’t put it down. A wonderful escape that made me (almost) happy to be living in 21st century America.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A NOTORIOUS VOW by Joanna Shupe. Avon (September 25, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062678942. 384p.




WHY NOT TONIGHT by Susan Mallery

October 8, 2018

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Happily Inc, Book 3

From the publisher:

Susan Mallery welcomes you to Happily Inc, where true love isn’t just for fairy tales…

Natalie Kaleta will do anything for the artists at her gallery, including risk life, limb and the effect of humidity on her naturally curly hair. Braving a downpour to check on reclusive Ronan Mitchell, Natalie gets stranded by a mudslide at his mountain home, where the brooding glass artist reveals his playful side, sending her inconvenient crush from under-the-radar to over-the-top.

After a secret tore apart his family and made him question his sense of self, Ronan fled his hometown for Happily Inc, but the sunny small town can’t fix his damaged heart. He won’t give in to his attraction for beautiful, perpetually cheerful Natalie. She’s untouched by darkness—or so he thinks.

Natalie knows that when a heart goes through the flame, it comes out stronger. Life may not be a fairy tale, but sometimes dreams do come true. Why not this one? Why not tonight?

This has become one of my favorite series and this book is one of the reasons. All the books have been wonderful and real escapist fiction, which frankly, I need right now.

The series centers around the Mitchell brothers, all famous artists. They had a difficult childhood, their father was unfaithful to their mother and that was the least of their problems. He is also a famous artist, and was very abusive towards his children. They have all responded to those problems differently, but Ronan is the most sensitive and brooding of the bunch.

Natalie is a ray of sunshine, and Ronan doesn’t know quite why he is finding that appealing. Being trapped together always moves a romance along nicely, and it does here but it’s the follow through that matters. Malley has it down, and the story just works. There are laughs and love and some sex, and all in all, another excellent read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHY NOT TONIGHT by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (September 18, 2018). ISBN 978-1335474605. 384p.




October 7, 2018

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From the publisher:

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.”—Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

I find Holocaust books difficult to read so I try and limit them to only one or two a year. I’m sorry I wasted a read on this book.

The story is interesting for sure, as it is based on a true story. In fact the actual subject of the book, the protagonist, writes an afterward. But it is the writing that is most off-putting to me. I believe this is a first novel and it definitely reads like one. There is a lot of telling, not showing, and the dialogue is often stilted. This was surprising, as Morris is a screenwriter so I would think the dialogue would be in her wheelhouse, and the descriptions aren’t great either. At first I thought maybe it was translated, as that can have an impact on language for sure, but I don’t think so.

That said, it has over 20,000 five star reviews on Goodreads, which is one of the reasons I picked it up. While the writing style was not for me, obviously I am in the minority here. Most of the reviews recommend it for book discussion and I can understand that and may, in fact, use it for my book group at the library. I find the best discussions happen when there is disagreement about a book, so maybe.

If you’ve already read it, or plan on reading it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris. Harper (September 4, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062870674. 288p.



SEASON OF WONDER by RaeAnne Thayne

October 6, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 4. 

Haven Point Series, Book 9

From the publisher:

It’s a long way from New York to Idaho…but could they have found a home at last?

Dani Capelli has never truly belonged anywhere. And from her earliest days as a foster child in Queens, she would have been lost if it weren’t for her love of animals. Until high school, when she fell hard for the wrong boy, and found herself pregnant—and married—by graduation. Two daughters later, Dani realized her mistake and filed for divorce, and with the help of scholarships and loans—and a lot of macaroni and cheese dinners—she enrolled in vet school. Things were finally looking up…until her ex-husband became her late husband, in the most notorious way possible.

Now Dani and her daughters need an out-of-town pass more than ever. So when the retiring Haven Point veterinarian offers her a chance to settle in the small Idaho town and take over his practice, she jumps at it. But adjusting to the charming mountain community isn’t easy; thirteen-year-old Silver begins acting out while six-year-old Mia is growing too attached to Haven Point and everything in it, especially their next-door-neighbor, Deputy Sheriff Ruben Morales. And Dani can’t blame her. Ruben is everything she’s secretly wanted—and everything she can’t bear to risk loving…and losing.

As the holidays draw near, their shared concern for Dani’s daughters brings them closer together, giving Ruben the chance to show this big-city woman just how magical Christmas in Haven Point can be…and that the promise of a home at last is very real in the most wondrous season of the year…

Stores start putting out their Christmas stuff now (or even earlier) and the Christmas books start coming now, too. Wish someone would write a new Hanukkah romance. Hanukkah celebrates a miracle, too, so why not?

I started this series with book 8 and I’m moving right along. Guess they come fast when Christmas is right around the corner.

This is another warm, wonderful story with interesting characters who you can’t help but care about. I love the small town setting, too. Not sure why, if I had to live in a small town I’d probably lose my mind but I do love reading about them. Same with the winter – I’ve lived in Florida for over 40 years and don’t think I could handle cold weather and all that snow and ice. But I love watching it on TV!

Thayne is a good storyteller with the ability to draw the reader in right from the get go. I got so involved that I hated to put the book down until I got to the happy ending. Love those happy endings.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable holiday read with a sweet romance, look no further.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SEASON OF WONDER by RaeAnne Thayne. HQN; Original edition (September 25, 2018). ISBN 978-1335947932.  320p..




October 5, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 3. 

From the publisher:


One of America’s most critically acclaimed storytellers, David Baldacci has enthralled millions with his popular novels. Showcasing his remarkable versatility, Baldacci gift-wraps a beloved holiday classic…

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington, D.C., to L.A. in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures, and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people’s essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.

David Baldacci’s THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief…and shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles.

So I was cleaning out a closet and found this book. (Yes, my closets have books in them, at least they did. I think I’ve gathered them all by now.) It is written by the thriller master, David Baldacci, and is so far out of his wheelhouse that he seems like he is channeling Debbie Macomber. But he’s not. I don’t think.

Anyway, I decided to read it and I’m very happy I finally did. This is a wonderful Christmas story and right after I read it, I found the Hallmark movie version. They did a good job, they’ve had lots of practice turning romance novels into romantic comedy movies. It is set on a train, and in a coincidence, some friends recently took a train trip across Canada, which sounded really nice. I was definitely in train mode for this book.

There is a bit of a mystery going on (I guess Baldacci just couldn’t help himself) in that several of the guests have lost something. Nothing too major, things like a favorite pen and a pair of sunglasses. But who is taking these things, and why?

If you think of this as a kinder, gentler Murder on the Orient Express, without the murder of course, you get the idea. Two of the passengers had a relationship several years earlier that ended badly, but being stuck together for days on a train leads to some soul searching and reconciliation.

If you, too, have this book laying around, I recommend picking it up and reading it. You could also buy it or borrow it from your library.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN by David Baldacci. Sourcebooks Casablanca (September 4, 2018)). ISBN 978-1492641599.  320p..




October 4, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 2. 

Sweetwater Springs, Book 1

From the publisher:

This USA Today bestselling author invites you to the delightful small town of Sweetwater Springs where the magic of Christmas brings to strangers together in this “story you won’t forget” (RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author).

Christmas is coming to the North Carolina mountains, and the air is fresh and crisp and filled with promise. After the devastating loss of her job in the big city, the small town of Sweetwater Springs feels like heaven to Kaitlyn Russo. She’s inherited her grandparents’ charming (if a little rundown) bed and breakfast, and it’s just the new lease on life she needs. Only “heaven” comes with a catch-and a handsome and completely infuriating one at that.

After what he hopes will be a quick trip, Mitch Hargrove wants nothing more than to put his hometown in the rearview mirror. But his plans get derailed when he learns he’s now half-owner of the Sweetwater B&B. The fact that he’s given only two months to make the inn a success is a huge problem, but it’s his pretty-and incredibly headstrong-partner who’s the real challenge. With the holiday fast approaching and a grand re-opening looming, will Mitch keep running from the ghosts of Christmas past . . . or will he realize the true gift he’s been given?

I’m on a roll – this is another new series that I’ve started with the first book. Maybe it will become a trend!

This was a sweet romance that just happened to be set around the end of the year. It’s not a Christmas story, per se, other than the decorations. But it has lots of small town charm, likeable characters and an unlikely romance, put together by a deceased grandparent. What can I say, it works!

Kaitlyn was fired from her dream job under a cloud of suspicion, and she is thrilled to have somewhere to run. Her family situation isn’t the best, but she loved the grandparents who left her the B&B, even though she didn’t get to spend much time with them. On the other hand, they practically raised Mitch since his mother worked two jobs.

Mitch is dealing with the aftermath of a horrible car accident when he was a teenager. Guilt is a terrible thing, especially when fueled by the animosity of the victim’s family. But he is a good person and a good, caring man who truly needs to be forgiven.

They have their problems for sure, but they work them out to find their happily ever after. This was a very enjoyable read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CHRISTMAS ON MISTLETOE LANE by Annie Rains. Forever (September 25, 2018). ISBN 978-1538713952.  432p..


ALASKAN HOLIDAY by Debbie Macomber

October 3, 2018

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From a nice Jewish girl, Christmas book reviews, day 1. 

From the publisher:

“[Debbie] Macomber brings her signature charm to this appealing tale of an aspiring chef. . . . This charmer will please Macomber fans and newcomers alike.”—Publishers Weekly

Debbie Macomber brings us to the Alaskan wilderness for a magical Christmas tale about finding love where it’s least expected.

Before beginning her dream job as sous chef in one of Seattle’s hottest new restaurants, Josie Avery takes a summer position cooking at a lakeside lodge in the remote Alaskan town of Ponder. Josie falls for the rustic charms of the local community—including Jack Corcoran, the crotchety keeper of Ponder’s famed sourdough starter, and, in particular, the quiet and intense Palmer Saxon, a famed master swordsmith.

Josie and Palmer become close during the long Alaskan summer days, but Josie knows that, come fall, she’ll be returning to reality and the career she’s worked so hard for. Palmer, on the other hand, would like nothing better than to make Josie his wife and to keep her in Ponder. But Josie can’t imagine abandoning her mother back in the Emerald City and sacrificing her career to stay in this isolated town—not even for a man she’s quickly coming to love.

Fate has other plans. Josie misses the last boat out of town before winter sets in, stranding her in Ponder and putting her dream job at risk. As the holidays approach, Josie and Palmer must grapple with the complications that arise when dreams confront reality, and the Christmas magic that can happen when they put their faith in love.

Debbie Macomber is at her best in this beautiful holiday story about the far journeys we travel to find a place to call home.

I was really excited about this book. I love Christmas books, and have really enjoyed most of Macomber’s. I also love any book set in Alaska; living in Florida, it is like another world to me. And I’m a foodie, so any book with a chef as the main character automatically grabs my interest.

While I enjoyed this, it did not live up to my expectations. I actually put it down a couple of times to read other books, then came back and eventually finished it. I know that when that happens, it means the book is not holding my attention as well as it should. I didn’t get lost in the story, and I was kinda bored through much of it.

The plot was a geographic love problem; Palmer lives in such a small town that when winter comes, it can take weeks to get out and there’s no mail service. Josie is from Seattle, and loves living in that city. They fall in love but never tell each other and of course, this being a Debbie Macomber book, their physical relationship is limited to kissing. I can live with that, I know what to expect. But every obstacle was easily anticipated and worse, there were no real surprises and dammit, I want to be surprised sometimes.

I did like these characters and that helped me keep reading because I wanted them to get their happy ending. The secondary characters were not developed at all, they were just used as a way to move the plot on occasion.

Maybe the Hallmark movie will be better. I’m assuming there will be one, I think they have made movies from her last several Christmas books. I’ll wait and see.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ALASKAN HOLIDAY by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0399181283.  256p.



A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult

October 2, 2018

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From the publisher:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things returns with a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis.

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult – one of the most fearless writers of our time – tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation…and, hopefully, understanding.

So the good: it is no exaggeration to say that Picoult is fearless in taking on abortion. She does a very good job of exploring and explaining all sides of this controversial issue. It is well written, well researched, and the characters – and there are many – are well developed, even memorable.

What I didn’t love about it was the timeline. The story moves backwards in time, albeit for a good reason; the ending, which I loved, was a shocker. And it did force me to read very carefully and think about what I was reading and where I was in the story, so maybe that was the point?

The subject matter alone makes this a worthwhile read, but I didn’t like it as much as her last book, Small Great Things. Then again, I think that was her best book so maybe I should just cut her some slack. After all, Picoult has consistently written excellent books, year after year, and this one certainly is as well, plus it is sure to loved by book groups.

All that said, people who support the “right to life” may not be happy. Just FYI.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult. Ballantine Books (October 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0345544988. 384p.



Win the October ’18 bookshelf of signed thrillers!

October 1, 2018

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Welcome to the October bookshelf of signed thrillers! Lots of terrific books to win this month from bestsellers to debuts. More books may be added throughout the month, so check back often.

To enter, go to the Win Books page.

Best of luck!

THE 7 ½ DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton: Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden Bishop must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle in order to escape the curse, in a world filled with enemies where nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

UNDER MY SKIN by Lisa Unger: After the murder of her husband, Poppy spirals into grief and loses her memory of what happened immediately after his death, but just when Poppy begins to move on from the unsolved murder she senses someone is following her.

THE REAL LOLITA by Sarah Weinman: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World: A true-crime investigation of the 1948 abduction of Sally Horner details the crime itself and how it inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel, “Lolita.”

AN EASY DEATH by Charlaine HarrisGuiding two wizards through the magic-wary country of Texoma, a gunslinger navigating the Great Depression in the wake of FDR’s assassination searches for a low-level magician who may be able to save the tsar in this alternate history.

HOLY GHOST by John Sandford: When the mayor of Pinion, Minnesota tries to turn his small town into a religious shrine, his plan is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body.

TRUST BUT VERIFY by Karna Small Bodman: A shadowy group of Russian oligarchs all want the Director of the White House Office of Homeland Security dead.

THE BLUE KINGFISHER by Erica Wright: Kat Stone Series, Book 3: What happens when a master of disguise tries to be herself for once? If you’re private investigator Kat Stone, trouble seems to find you with or without your favorite wig.

MARDI GRAS MURDER by Ellen Byron: A Cajun Country Mystery, Book 4: When the body of a stranger shows up behind the Crozat Plantation B&B, putting a damper the Mardi Gras festivities, owner Maggie Crozat soon discovers that someone will kill to become Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen after another murder occurs.

TRIMMED TO DEATH by Nancy J Cohen: The Bad Hair Day Mysteries, Book 15: Hairstylist Marla Vail enters a bake-off competition that’s a real killer when a contestant ends up dead.

NAKED TRUTH by Rick Pullen: Reporter Beck Rikki again confronts the deceptions and lies of the rich and powerful in America when he is invited to meet with the chief justice of the United States, only to have the jurist show up dead.

You can win autographed copies of these books! If you are new to the site, each month I run a contest in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. We put together a list of books from debut authors to bestsellers, so you can win some of your favorites and find some new favorites.

What makes this contest really special is that all of the books (except eBooks) are signed by the author! Books with multiple authors will be signed by at least one of the authors.

Penguin Random House books for giveaway were provided by the publisher. #PRHpartner

Don’t forget, if you subscribe to the newsletter or follow this blog, you get an extra entry into every contest you enter. Check out the Win Books page for more information on all these books and how to enter this month’s contest.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!