HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn

January 6, 2021

Knight and Devlin Thriller, Book 6

From the publisher:

History, myth, music, and murder—and Michael Knight is in the middle

An authentic Stradivarius violin turns up in Romania. A Stradivarius is rare enough, but this one is even more special. It is thought to hold the code disclosing the location of a treasure hidden in the fifteenth century. The violin is steeped in haunting mystique: it is believed to have been hidden by Vlad Dracula, whose historic tyranny led to the fabrication of the myth of vampirism. Russian, Chinese, and Romanian gangs centered in Boston want the code and all of them are hot on the trail. Violence is their language—brutality, their technique.

And who is hired to see that the treasure lands in the rightful place? None other than Michael Knight with a little help from his senior law partner Lex Devlin and his crony, Billy Coyne, Boston’s deputy district attorney.

Michael uses the thin leverage of his knowledge about the violin to keep each of the three gang leaders at bay, while he follows the chain of historic clues from a violin shop in the Carpathian Mountains to a gangster-infested nightclub in Bucharest, to a university in Istanbul, and back to the gang headquarters of the three competing criminal organizations. Secrets from the past and present collide along the perilous shuttle between Boston and Romania. In the end, what is the righteous solution?

Perfect for fans of Daniel Silva and Steve Berry

While all of the novels in the Knight and Devlin Thriller Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Neon Dragon
Black Diamond
Deadly Diamonds
Fatal Odds
High Stakes

This is the 6th book featuring Michael Knight and Lex Devlin partners in a law firm practicing in Boston, Massachusetts. I haven’t read the previous five and based on this book that is something I’ve missed. That is due to the well-done scenario, the originality of the plot, and the care taken in fleshing out the characters in this novel. It is due to my finding that the author is undoubtedly at the top of his career and I missed what I have no doubt are mesmerizing novels and similar to “High Stakes” in being all-nighters.     

Michael Knight is offered a free trip to Romania by some friends. He can also take his wife of just a few months and treat the trip as another honeymoon. Just one favor asked by one of those offering the trip would be to pick up a Stradivarius violin held by a dealer that had been given it to sell. The violin is one of just a few hundred made by the master craftsman and his family in the late 17th century. The sound of the instrument has no equal and current rates to buy one can run well into a million or more dollars. Michael accepts the picking up of the violin as a small price to pay for a trip to a country that neither he nor his wife has ever visited.     

This particular violin was owned by King Vlad of Romania during the 15th century. Vlad was a cruel despot and had the horrible custom of impaling people that displeased him and/or were his enemies. Vlad was immortalized by the 19th-century writer Bram Stoker who created him as an undead vampire awakening at night to drink the blood of those around him.  He could only be killed by driving a stake through his heart.     

The violin owned by Vlad was thought to have a map hidden in it to get to his buried treasure. Legend had it that the treasure was immense since he took freely from his subjects as well as receiving tribute from foreign rulers as bribes not to invade them. Due to the legend of the map both the Russian mafia and Chinese tongs are out to get the violin at all costs.     

Michael’s travels and experiences in getting the violin and attempting to keep it out of the hands of the criminals are very well done. Dobbyn takes him easily from a night club in Bucharest, a visit to a noted historian teaching in Istanbul, and of course all around Boston. He is well described as a man of integrity, gifted with intuition and intelligence, and by no means a superman. In other words, a character fitting right into a plot such as outlined and finding his way through it like normal people who are not supermen would do.

1/2021 Paul Lane

HIGH STAKES by John F. Dobbyn. Oceanview Publishing; None edition (October 1, 2019). ISBN: 978-1608093557. 320 pages.







THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain

January 5, 2021

From the publisher:

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, supportive mother she never had to her new baby Violet.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe doesn’t find the connection with her daughter she expected. She’s convinced that something is wrong with Violet–the little girl is distant, rejects affection, and becomes increasingly disruptive at preschool.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she is imagining things. Fox doesn’t see what Blythe sees; he sees a wife who is struggling to cope with the day-to-day challenges of being a mother. And the more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity…

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the natural maternal connection she’d always dreamed of. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth about herself, her past, and her daughter.

The Push is a rare and extraordinary gift to readers: a novel about the expectations of motherhood we’re taught not to challenge and what really happens behind the closed doors of even the most perfect-looking families. It’s impossible to put down and impossible to forget.

Three generations of women have difficulties with motherhood and their stories intertwine in this very dark debut novel.

Blythe’s mother, Cecelia, left when she was eleven years old, and Blythe assumes she probably shouldn’t have children as her mother was not a very good role model. But their toxic relationship pales in comparison with Cecelia’s relationship with her mother, Etta.

There is an air of foreboding as Blythe’s story continues when Fox, Blythe’s gentle husband of three years, convinces her that it is time to have a baby. Blythe sees other mothers with their babies and hopes that she, too, will be like them. But Blythe never feels any kind of connection to her baby daughter, Violet, although Fox is immediately enamored.

As Blythe sinks into depression, Fox is convinced that she just doesn’t love the baby enough. There are some behavioral issues that Blythe sees in Violet that increase as she starts school, but Fox always turns a blind eye. Then Blythe has a son, Sam, and her maternal feelings for him are real and deep. Things still aren’t good with Violet, though, or with the marriage, and everything spirals out of control when tragedy strikes the family.

The marriage implodes and Blythe is having serious difficulties. This is not your typical tale of motherhood by any means, and the superlative writing makes this a gripping, unforgettable story indeed.

Verdict: For readers who enjoyed the darkness of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, or Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates.

©Library Journal, 2021

1/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain. Viking (January 5, 2021). ISBN 978-0735239890. 320p.




THE FLIP SIDE by James Bailey

January 4, 2021

THE FLIP SIDE by James Bailey. William Morrow Paperbacks (November 17, 2020). ISBN 978-0063019393. 384 pages.




CORONAVIRUS DIARY: January 1, 2021

January 1, 2021

Happy New Year!

The day I’ve been waiting for. A fresh start. 2020 in the rearview.

Just a short post today. 2020 has been the longest year I’ve ever lived through. I am done talking about 2020. Today I want to appreciate everything I have and look forward to the new year.

I have it good. I have my health (for the most part), a good marriage, healthy children, a roof over my head, plenty to eat. I have a job that I love. I have health insurance. I have a sweet, loving cat. I have a few good friends. I know I am privileged as fuck and I truly appreciate it. Trust me, it was a long, hard road to get here, and for sure, it hasn’t always been that way. But I have to say, even when we were dead broke, and there were many lean years, I’ve generally been pretty happy. I have a husband who loves me who I adore, beautiful, smart, loving children, and that has always been enough to keep me going.

I want to thank you all, my readers, for coming back, especially those of you who share with me. I love getting your comments and emails and yes, book recommendations! I wish you all a year of good health, joy, peace, and love. And of course, a year of good reading!

THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts

December 31, 2020

THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts. St. Martin’s Press (November 24, 2020). ISBN 978-1250272614. 448 pages.






December 29, 2020

HER WICKED MARQUESS by Stacy Reid. Entangled: Amara (December 29, 2020). ISBN 978-1682815199. 400 pages.






Best Books of 2020: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

December 28, 2020

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another year, another list of books. I tried very hard to narrow down my list to a reasonable number and realized I really suck at this. I did include a variety of genres, then threw in several contemporary and multi-cultural romances as they don’t usually get the love (pardon the pun!) on these best-of lists.
There are two authors, Michael Connelly and Christina Lauren (who is really two authors writing together) who had two books apiece this year, and all their books are on the list. I have two books, In a Holidaze and Love Lettering, that overlap with Caitlin Brisson’s list. There is one book that was published in 2019, The Nickel Boys, but I figure if it can win the Pulitzer in 2020, I can include it in my list, too.  My list, my rules.

THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead: Even though it is a very short book, I took my time reading it. Some of the passages in the story are just heartbreaking, and I wanted to give it the consideration I felt it deserved. It is an emotional read for sure, with a shocking twist at the end. How can I love a book that tells such an overwhelmingly disturbing story? Because Whitehead is a superb storyteller, and he’s written an unforgettable book. Don’t miss it. (LITERARY FICTION)

TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE by Matthew Dicks: a novel written in lists. Very clever, often funny, sometimes touching, just like life. I was completely immersed in Dan’s world, and didn’t pick up my head until I turned the last page. (EPISTOLARY NOVEL)

THE LAW OF INNOCENCE by Michael Connelly: A new Lincoln Lawyer book is always cause to celebrate! Lots of legal action here and with the twists and turns of the case, the pages fly by. Another terrific read from one of my favorite authors. (LEGAL THRILLER)

FAIR WARNING by Michael Connelly: an unputdownable book with intriguing characters, a familiar setting, and a fast-paced, twisty storyline with a shocker of an ending. If you’ve never read Connelly, this is as good a place to start as any. In my humble opinion, Connelly remains the premier crime writer of our time. (THRILLER)

ALL THE BROKEN PEOPLE by Leah Konen: The main protagonist is an unreliable narrator, but the twist here is that all the characters are unreliable, making this a fast-paced, unputdownable rollercoaster of a read sure to appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins. (PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE)

28 SUMMERS by Elin Hilderbrand: Based on the film, Same Time, Next Year, this story is a decades-long romance based on the same premise. Mallory and Jake meet, have a long weekend fling, then repeat every year on the same weekend. A completely engrossing, beautiful, unputdownable read. (WOMEN’S FICTION)

THE CACTUS by Sarah Haywood: This story is filled with dry wit and humor, making me laugh out loud many times. It is also emotional and at times, heart-wrenching, and we can’t help but be drawn to these characters even though I was not always sure who to root for. But it doesn’t matter, I was immersed in this world and sorry to have to leave it. (BRITISH CHICK LIT)

HELLO, SUMMER by Mary Kay Andrews: more of a mystery and a family story but still has the touch of romance that I’ve come to expect. A happy ending, intrigue, and humor galore, making this a terrific escape and a thoroughly entertaining read. (BEACH READ)

IN A HOLIDAZE by Christina Lauren: This Christmas version of one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day, is a terrific read. As in the movie, Mae understands that something has to change to get her back to real life, whatever that turns out to be. She keeps reliving the holiday until she finally gets it right – or so she thinks. Lots of angst mellowed by a lot of laughs make this a really fun holiday read. (CHRISTMAS ROMANCE)

Honorable Mention: JINGLE ALL THE WAY by Debbie Macomber

SAY YES TO THE DUKE by Eloisa James: Viola wants to marry the Vicar, and the Duke of  Wynter wants to marry Viola. Shenanigans ensue, along with some heat. James excels at the witty banter the genre is known for, and this book is no exception. Sweet and funny, this is another excellent addition to her latest series. I loved it. (HISTORICAL ROMANCE)

WAITING ON A COWBOY by Jennifer Ryan: First book of a new series with the childhood friends to lovers plotline, with an a twist – an abusive boyfriend makes an appearance and Ryan makes it clear that something like that could happen to anyone. (COWBOY ROMANCE)

Honorable Mention: TOUGH TALKING COWBOY by Jennifer Ryan

SNAPPED by Alexa Martin: This latest entry into this terrific series is one of the best. In addition to a hot romance, Martin dives into some real problems in the NFL; the hero is a Black quarterback and his romantic interest is a biracial publicist. If you don’t follow football, just know that while the league is majority Black players, not so with the quarterback position. Or the coaches. Or the owners. Martin brings these inequities to the forefront, in addition to CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,) and the problems the older, retired players have with minimal pensions and no health coverage. That changed for the newer players, and I love how Martin makes a point of discussing how these old guys are trotted out for honors at games, while left to rot on the sidelines for the rest of their lives. Sorry, this really upsets me so I was thrilled to see it addressed here. An excellent read even if you don’t care about that stuff. (SPORTS ROMANCE)

THE MARRIAGE GAME by Sara Desai: Enemies to lovers is always a popular trope in romance, and this one is done exceedingly well. Throwing in a big, extended, nosy Desi=American family plotting an arranged marriage with its parade of kooky suitors adds a lot of laughs to this heartwarming and sexy story. It is a sweet and sexy and funny and total escapist read. (DEBUT ROMANCE)

LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn: Released on the final day of 2019, Love Lettering quickly became one of my favorite books of the year. But was too late for 2019, so here it is! This is a love letter to New York City with interesting, well developed characters, and the romance seemed to bloom organically if you’ll pardon the pun. The art of hand lettering so intrigued me that I started down a rabbit hole, and first found this interview with the author, which led me to this article on Bullet Journaling, which I had never even heard of. (BOOK THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE FALLEN THROUGH THE CRACKS)

SHIT, ACTUALLY: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema by Lindy West: Every essay is a gem. You can pick up the book and read any of the essays, and just know you will be laughing. If I could gift you all with this book, I would. (HUMOROUS NONFICTION)

A PROMISED LAND by Barack Obama: What can I possibly add to the accolades this book has already received? Obama is a beautiful writer, and I took my time reading this, enjoying every word. It was brilliant and funny and sad. a very emotional read for me. I loved it. (MEMOIR)

More, more, more!

Alphabetical by author:

LOVE HER OR LOSE HER by Tessa Bailey: a romance centered around an already married couple works beautifully here. Bailey is a terrific storyteller and writer – it’s not easy to put passion on the page without making it feel banal or hackneyed. The sex is definitely steamy, it works in the story and even has some funny moments thrown in, just like real life.

THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan: Can a socialite and a porn star form a meaningful relationship? This book will not be for everyone, but if you like terrific characters, an interesting storyline, real conflict, a strong feminist agenda, and well-written sex scenes as much as I do, then you won’t want to miss it. Debut.

THE HAPPY EVER AFTER PLAYLIST by Abby Jimenez: this book sucked me in and I just about cried when I turned the last page. I wanted to stay with these characters – they are interesting and fun and damaged and thoroughly brought to life on the page. My original review revealed that this is a terrific story that is bound for my best books of the year list. And here it is.

THE HONEY-DON’T LIST by Christina Lauren: this is about an über-successful husband and wife who renovate homes and have a hugely popular TV show and home renovation empire (Chip and Joanna Gaines immediately sprung to mind.) But the romance is centered around their assistants! This is a super fun read.

LOATHE AT FIRST SIGHT by Suzanne Park: A terrific romance in an unusual and interesting setting, the video game industry. There are a lot of laughs and many a bump in the road until the happy ending is reached in this feminist love story. Debut.

MUSICAL CHAIRS by Amy Poeppel: the book revolves around a musician, her famous conductor/composer father, and her trio but is really a wonderful story of family dysfunction, sibling rivalries, professional jealousy, and one very independent woman. The setting is a wealthy Connecticut beach town and that pushes this book adjacent to the beach read genre.

THE BOYFRIEND PROJECT by Farrah Rochon: Samiah is a Black woman at the top of the tech pyramid, and trust me, she had no easy climb. But this brilliant woman is somehow fooled into dating a man who is dating other women and when he is confronted by three of them, it goes viral. This was one of the best romances I’ve read in a while; I loved how smart the characters were and how real they felt to me.

IF THE BOOT FITS by Rebekah Weatherspoon: Amanda and Sam are in love, but can their relationship survive the Hollywood assault? Happily ever after is guaranteed, but getting there was so much fun.

Happy reading!

SHIT, ACTUALLY by Lindy West

December 25, 2020

The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema

From the publisher:

One of the “Best Books of 2020” by NPR’s Book Concierge

**Your Favorite Movies, Re-Watched**
New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author Lindy West was once the in-house movie critic for Seattle’s alternative newsweekly The Stranger, where she covered film with brutal honesty and giddy irreverence. In Shit, Actually, Lindy returns to those roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa-WHO IS A LION-to look out for their best interests? Why did anyone bother making any more movies after The Fugitive achieved perfection? And, my god, why don’t any of the women in Love, Actually ever fucking talk?!?!

From Forrest Gump, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Bad Boys II, to Face/Off, Top Gun, and The Notebook, Lindy combines her razor-sharp wit and trademark humor with a genuine adoration for nostalgic trash to shed new critical light on some of our defining cultural touchstones-the stories we’ve long been telling ourselves about who we are. At once outrageously funny and piercingly incisive, Shit, Actually reminds us to pause and ask, “How does this movie hold up?”, all while teaching us how to laugh at the things we love without ever letting them or ourselves off the hook.

Shit, Actually is a love letter and a break-up note all in one: to the films that shaped us and the ones that ruined us. More often than not, Lindy finds, they’re one and the same.

Most people who know me never give me books.. Writers do. Publicists do. But most people know that I get tons of books and I am rarely in need of anything, and they figure I probably have what they want to give me anyway. My immediate family and a few of my closest friends give me books because they know I love books, and as they are coming from people who know me so well, they are usually fairly confident I’ll like the books they give me. My husband brought me back a beautiful book of photographs of Ireland and a book of Irish poetry when he was over there for work. I loved both of those books. Friends have given me cookbooks, and those I love. My son gave me a book called Haikus for Jews that was just adorable and I loved it.

I am telling you all this because my boss, who I have grown very close to through working with such an amazing woman, but especially during this pandemic, gave me a book. This book, by Lindy West. I was shocked. This just doesn’t happen to me! I took it home and immediately started reading. I was laughing out loud within the first couple of pages. This is some funny shit, actually.

West riffs on her perceptions of very popular movies. The title of the book comes from her essay on the film Love, Actually, which is one of my favorite Christmas films, but as much as I love it her interpretation had me in hysterics. It was amazing. She sets the standard with the first chapter entitled, “The Fugitive is the Only Good Movie.” She explains why and although I don’t agree with her analysis, she judges the rest of the films in the book by her unique rating system. For instance, Love, Actually rates 0/10 DVDs of The Fugitive. The essay on the film Twilight called “Never Boring, Always Horny” rated 5/10 DVDs of The Fugitive.

I absolutely loved her take on Harry Potter, entitled “Harry Plot Hole”. She proceeds to point out holes in the story that are so big you could drive a truck through them, as well as smaller foibles. Harry Potter was a big part of our lives for many years. The first book came out when my daughter, Ariel, was five years old. I was working for Borders and no one really knew anything about it, but we got a bunch of copies so I brought one home for her. We read it together, taking turns reading each night, and it took us most of the summer to read it. She went on to reread it several times, and read every book in the series as it came out. Borders did big book release parties at midnight on sale day and Ariel came to all of them, preferring to take her book and start reading over playing wizard games. So when I read this essay, I knew Ariel had to read it, and she just loved it. One of her favorite parts was when West pointed out that the wizards must be Christian because they celebrate Christmas!

Every essay is a gem. I love books like this, especially around the holidays, when not everyone has a lot of time to sit and read. You can pick up the book and read any of the essays, and just know you will be laughing. I had to stop reading while watching football because I knew I was disturbing my husband, not that he would ever say anything. But I felt guilty so only read during commercial breaks and halftime. I also hadn’t seen all of the movies she discusses, like Face/Off and Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but I’d heard enough about those films to understand where she was coming from. If you want a book to just escape into for brief periods of time, and need a little more joy in your life this holiday season, this is your book. I loved it. Apparently, I’m in good company:

NPR’s Book Concierge, “Best Books of 2020” (Staff Picks; Funny Stuff; No Biz Like Show Biz; Short Stories, Essays & Poetry)

Kobo, “Top Nonfiction Titles of 2020”, “Top 20 Ebooks of 2020”

The Buzz Magazine, “Best nonfiction books of 2020”

BookRiot, “Best Audiobooks for Nonfiction November” and Book Recommendations for October 2020″Fortune, “Five New Books to Read in October”

BookTribe, “Editors’ pick for October’s best audiobooks”

LitHub, “14 New Books to Treat Yourself To”

SeattleMet, “11 Localish Books to Read This Autumn”

Up News Info, “5 new books to read in October”

Writers’ Bone, “A book that should be on your radar”

TBR, ETC. “New Books for the Week!”

New York Times, Holiday Gift Guide

Bustle, Holiday Gift Guide

The Globe and Mail, Holiday Gift Guide

Finally, let me leave you with this snippet of a review: “Queen of keenly observed, hilariously rendered cultural criticism, West offers this delicious distraction from reality….a cathartic, joyful exploration of entertainment….in true West form she reads like your smartest, funniest, and warmest friend. A perfect blend of substance, escapism, and laughter – a gift from West to the rest of us.”―Booklist Review (starred)

12/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SHIT, ACTUALLY by Lindy West. Hachette Books (October 20, 2020). ISBN 978-0316449823. 272 pages.



CORONAVIRUS DIARY: December 24, 2020

December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

It finally feels like we may be turning that promised corner soon – not quite yet, but I can see the corner now. It’s called Vaccines Available Now. For some people. In Florida, I am pretty much at the back of the line. We have so many seniors living in nursing facilities and our idiot governor doesn’t seem to think we actually need to do anything about this pandemic and we are not getting anywhere near enough vaccines. And so far he’s just out and out lied about who is getting the vaccines; the vast majority have gone to people under the age of 55.

Despite that moron and the bigger moron in the White House, I am beginning to feel hopeful. The grownups will be back in power in less than a month and I can’t wait. No more conspiracy theories and/or pseudo science coming from the big baby in chief. No more Twitter tantrums. Well, there probably will be more but he won’t be president so I don’t have to hear about it. In my dreams, I don’t have to hear about it. He’ll be under regular person rules on Twitter, no more presidential pardons. In theory. We’ll see.

We don’t really celebrate Christmas at my house. I’m Jewish, my children were brought up Jewish, and my husband is an atheist. He was brought up with Christmas but not with religion, if that makes sense. The only time his family went to church was for his baptism. His family all celebrate Christmas but I don’t know if church is involved in any of their celebrations. My sister-in-law in California (Hi Anita! Merry Christmas!) sent us a beautiful card and a Christmas ornament. It is hanging on the menorah for lack of a better place for it. She said she felt like our Aunt Jean, who recently passed away, was telling her to get it for us. I can’t argue with that! It will always be special in my heart.

What we do at my house is eat like we celebrate Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we do the Italian version with seven fishes – although this year I think we are only doing four or five, but who’s counting. On Christmas day, I wanted to make a standing rib roast. We were in Costco, but all they have were really large ones. Whole Foods had them on sale for $10.99 a pound, so I ordered one along with some groceries. The way they had it to order was odd, though. Check this out.

Bone In Beef Standing Rib Roast

4.3 out of 5 stars 49 ratings 

You Save:$3.00/pound (21%)

The price of the item is based on weight.

About this item

  • The ultimate roast — cut to order and sure to impress with outstanding flavor. Animal Welfare Certified.
  • From cattle raised with no added growth hormones and no antibiotics, ever.
  • Each rib weighs between 1.5-2 lbs. Minimum order is 2 ribs. A whole roast consists of 7 ribs.
  • Reserve by the rib, sold by the lb.

That is what it says on the product page. But this is how you order:

There is no way to order by the rib, you can only order by the pound in two-pound increments. So it looks like I’m ordering two items. And guess what they delivered? I got two beautiful bone-in ribeye steaks. But that wasn’t what I wanted. Who makes steak for Christmas? Well, maybe some people do, what do I know. So I contacted customer support at Amazon/Whole Foods. I told them what happened, I copied and pasted the page just like I did above. I explained exactly what I wanted and they said, no problem, will you accept delivery between 9:00-11:00 pm. I said sure. At 10:50, they dropped off a bag at my front door with, you guessed it, two more two-pound ribeye steaks. Now I had four of these monsters and let me tell you with the upcoming holiday and my fear of food shopping more than twice a month, my refrigerators (I have two!) are packed full. And the freezers are even worse. Talk about first world problems. I know I shouldn’t complain, I am so lucky in a lot of ways, and believe me, I appreciate that. Yet…

I got back on the chat with customer care, and they told me they were sending my complaints up the chain to their fulfillment team or something and offered me a refund. So that was nice, but I still wanted the roast. I now have four enormous steaks that I guess we’ll eat eventually??? There are only three of us, I usually make a one-pound steak and have leftovers so I don’t know what I’m going to do with so much red meat. Not to mention it makes my husband’s blood sugar spike for some reason, so we don’t eat it that often. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way to get it into the freezer sooner rather than later.

My husband suggested I somehow sew them together but I thought about it and remembered my friend Nora (Hi Nora! Merry Christmas!) had posted something on Facebook about Publix having standing rib roasts on sale. I checked and they were only $5.99 a pound, so about half the price of Whole Foods. Of course, if I had InstaCart deliver it, it would probably end up costing more than Whole Foods. My husband was planning on going to the Publix pharmacy the next day to get his first shingles vaccine, so I went with him and they had beautiful standing rib roasts that they bone, and then tie the bones back on so you get all the flavor from the bones but it is easier to slice. Christmas dinner is on! I’m going to make Ina Garten’s popovers (tip: make the batter in the blender!) and probably some green beans. Maybe a tiramisu for dessert? I’ll see how ambitious I’m feeling, although I can make that a couple of days in advance, like maybe when I’m done writing this blog post.

A couple of nights ago my husband asked if we could have one of those beautiful ribeyes for dinner. We pulled out the sous vide and two hours later, plopped that monster on the grill. It was a fantastic steak, probably one of the best we’ve ever had at home. So maybe worth all the aggravation? Larry thinks so. That’s more red meat than we usually eat in six months though.

Another Christmas tradition we have is my daughter and I make Christmas cookies. Well, usually we make Hanukkah cookies but I couldn’t find the cookie cutters. So Christmas it was. I have to say I missed my daughter-in-law, she was here last December and helped us decorate the cookies so it was a little bit bittersweet. After I’d rolled out the dough twice, I took all the scraps and rolled them into a circle and just cut them into triangles to use up the rest of the dough. Ariel took one look and asked if those were pizza cookies, so yes, that’s what they ended up looking like!

When I say we made the cookies, I mean I make the cookie dough, roll it out and cut it, bake the cookies and make the icing. Ariel helps decorate, and she is an amazing artist. I had tried one giant snowflake but it broke apart as it landed on the cookie sheet. She took that broken snowflake and turned it into this creature!

Covid-19 is still raging here in Florida, and I know lots of people are planning big family Christmases, not to mention all the snowbirds are still flocking here for some reason. I know it’s cold up north and there was just a blizzard, but honestly, I’d rather suffer being stuck inside because of weather than having to go out around here. Restaurants are packed, the tourist areas are mobbed, and judging by the traffic, no one seems to care that there is a pandemic. Our local hospital’s ICU is at capacity, as are many of the hospitals. There is an unsubstantiated rumor (so far) that doctors in my area are somehow putting themselves at the front of the line for the vaccine. These are doctors in private practice, who do not work in the ER or in the ICU or in hospitals; they work in their beautiful offices away from the Covid nightmares. I can’t wait to see which doctors are going to be outed because I have faith in our intrepid local news reporter, Andrew Colton at Boca News Now.

While I don’t celebrate Christmas, the religious holiday, I do enjoy the holiday season. I love Christmas romance books. And Christmas rom-coms; actually, all Christmas movies. Every year I kick off the holiday season by watching Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving. I watch Elf, Home Alone, Love Actually, The Santa Claus (but not this year because of Tim Allen’s fondness for the mass murderer in the White House,) and whatever else I stumble upon. I watch some of the Hallmark/Lifetime movies, but I’ve been losing my patience for them. I even watched the actual Hannukah movie Hallmark did this year, Love, Lights, HanukkahI which was ok, but at least it wasn’t too offensive. I always finish up with It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Day. My husband loves A Christmas Carol, and one year I bought him a bunch of DVDs of the different versions, and we usually watch a few of those, too. My favorite is the Bill Murry version, Scrooged, and if you haven’t seen The Man Who Invented Christmas, I highly recommend it. If you guys have favorites or any recommendations, I hope you’ll put them in the comments!

I embrace the ideals of peace and joy. A friend was complaining that there are so many horrible people around, and my husband has been trying to tell me that for years, but I refused to believe it. I told my friend I always felt like Bonasera from The Godfather: “I believe in America.” But these past four years have really tested me. I have to concede there are more evil people in this country than I could ever have imagined. People who would wish me harm or worse because of my religion or my political beliefs or some sense of righteousness. I have experienced evil in my own family, and yet I always hold out hope. It’s just getting so difficult, and frankly exhausting, to keep doing that anymore.

This holiday season, I wish you all joy and good health. For those of you who are struggling, or know someone who is struggling, I wish things would turn around for you, and quickly. I wish you happiness and peace and love. And lots of good reading!

Merry Christmas!

VIOLENT PEACE by David Poyer

December 23, 2020

The War with China: Aftermath of Armageddon

Dan Lenson Novels, Book 20

From the publisher:

World War III is over… or is it? Superpowers race to fill the postwar power vacuum in this page-turning thriller, the next in the Dan Lenson series.

In the next installment of David Poyer’s critically-acclaimed series about war with China, mutual exhaustion after a massive nuclear exchange is giving way to a Violent Peace.

While Admiral Dan Lenson motorcycles across a post-Armageddon US in search of his missing daughter, his wife Blair Titus lands in a spookily deserted, riot-torn Beijing to negotiate the reunification of Taiwan with the rest of China, and try to create a democratic government.

But a CIA-sponsored Islamic insurgency in Xianjiang province is hurtling out of control. Andres Korzenowski, a young case officer, must decide whether ex-SEAL Master Chief Teddy Oberg―now the leader of a ruthless jihad―should be extracted, left in place, or terminated.

Meanwhile, Captain Cheryl Staurulakis and USS Savo Island are recalled to sea, to forestall a Russian fleet intent on grabbing a resource-rich Manchuria.

The violent and equivocal termination of the war between China and the Allies has brought not peace, but dangerous realignments in the endless game of great power chess. Will the end of one world war simply be the signal for the beginning of another?

The next book in David Poyer’s series about a war between the United States and China with the drawing in of many other nations making it World War III. Millions have been killed and many others maimed for life. The war concluded on an armistice between the belligerents which left the same problem as had occurred in 1918 ending World War I. The German army later indicated that they had never surrendered and were not obligated by the treaty made by their leaders which opened the door to the next phase – World War II.     

The action begins at a peace conference held by the former belligerents to fix terms and conditions and attempt to make sure that the combat does not begin again. Problems arise immediately when China attempts to fix the conditions for the armistice which could negate what the allies want to occur. In addition, the principal characters face the problems of peace bringing conditions of war-torn nations devastated by the fighting having to reconstruct their countries first.     

Dan Lenson has been promoted to Admiral but instead of immediately assuming his position spends many weeks in attempts to find his daughter who has disappeared in the aftermath of the fighting. His wife Blair is working with the members of the U.S. peace committee sent to Bejing in order to try and set the terms of Taiwan reuniting with China as well as attempting to form a democratic government for the Chinese. Meanwhile, Captain Cheryl Stauralakis onboard the USS Savo Island and in command of a small flotilla is ordered to sail against a Russian fleet attempting to grab a Manchuria rich in natural resources.     

On another front, Teddy Oberg, a US Seal, has made himself the leader of an Islamic group and leading a revolt causes the allies to consider terminating him as a means of controlling the area he presides over.       

Poyer continues to draw his readers in with books featuring continuous action and well-delineated characters taking part in the action. This novel ends with the possibility of new combat against a Russia that has kept itself largely out of the fighting but demands to be allowed to take part in war reparations. The playing out on a world stage is deftly handled and cause and effect made logical. Would the situations evolve in a similar manner if really taking place? Probably, if not exactly. Certainly, it does place the blame for the war on leadership consumed with pursuing their own ends rather than looking for the common good.

12/2020 Paul Lane

VIOLENT PEACE by David Poyer. Oceanview Publishing (December 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1608094004. 336 pages.