THE CACTUS by Sarah Haywood

June 6, 2020

5/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CACTUS by Sarah Haywood. Park Row; First Time Trade edition (May 7, 2019). ISBN 978-0778369073. 384 p.

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25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander

January 10, 2020

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From the publisher:

In this heartwarming, feel-good holiday novel, one woman needs to find a little inspiration in the 25 days leading up to Christmas to help her remember the magic of the season and the magic of falling in love—perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Josie Silver.

Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.


For some reason, I missed this book. I had probably a dozen Christmas books to read this year, and unfortunately, I started and put down the vast majority of them. There were a couple I finished that were okay, and one that I liked a lot. So when I finally read this one, I was sorry I missed it earlier. It was really good. If (unlike me) you want to read your Christmas books before the holiday, grab this one and set it aside until you’re ready. I promise, it is worth it. I like how the book is set up like an Advent calendar. Each chapter is titled by the number of days until Christmas, counting down to the big day. It would be fun to read it that way if you are saving it for next Christmas.

This is a British import so right away I liked the quirky little town and its characters. Kate is a struggling young widow with a little boy who is having some difficulties in school. She is fierce in her love for her boy, and determined to do her best by him, one way or another. Ever since she lost her husband, she hasn’t felt much like celebrating Christmas but she decides this year it is important to celebrate for Jack. Kate is working as a Christmas elf selling trees outside a department store. She hardly makes any money and her boss is a pig. She has regular customers and one she remembers well is Daniel. He is very good looking, but she remembers him more for bringing his sister to get a tree the past couple of years. She has seen the young woman go downhill over that time, and the prior Christmas she was in a wheelchair. Daniel always thought of Kate as “Christmas Tree Girl” and appreciated how kind she was to his sister. When he comes alone this year, she realizes something must have happened.

Daniel and Kate are like two ships passing in the night until an event brings them together. They are both very lonely, and Kate especially isn’t sure she is ready for a relationship. But ultimately this is a romance so you know they will have their happy ending. At times their stories are quite sad, but essentially this is an uplifting and lovely holiday read.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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WANT YOU DEAD by Peter James

November 18, 2014

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Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, Book 10

In this tenth entry into the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, Grace is preparing for his wedding to Cleo. His long missing wife, Sandy, has been declared dead, but is she?

That is but a minor footnote to this story, which centers on Red Westwood, a young woman being stalked by her ex, Bryce Laurent, a brilliant psychopath, who blames her parents and the police for their break up. Everything was fine until her mother hired a private detective and found out that Laurent had lied about pretty much everything in his past.

Laurent has some serious skills, including pyrotechnics, bomb building, close up magic, and high tech skills beyond that of the police. Red, a realtor, knowing she’s being stalked, refuses to move, fudges her whereabouts when making appointments to show properties to strangers, and in general is just too stupid to live.

Nevertheless, she gets through her days while Laurent plans her demise, frightening her on a regular basis and not caring how many die as he destroys everything and everyone she holds dear.  Short chapters help make the pages fly, and the suspense builds strongly until the expected ending.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WANT YOU DEAD by Peter James. Minotaur Books (November 18, 2014). ISBN 978-1250030207. 416p.


THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS by Deborah Crombie

March 15, 2014


Vincent Arnott may seem like an unlikely candidate for kinky sex games and murder, but when DI Gemma James and her partner, DS Melody Talbot, are called to a scene at The Belvedere, that’s seemingly what they find. Arnott, a regular at the hotel, known to the staff as Mr. Smith, is found tied up and strangled on a Saturday morning.

As it turns out, Arnott was a local barrister whose wife suffered from Alzheimer’s. His regular routine included a Friday night dinner at his local pub and semi regular Friday night check-ins at The Belvedere – with secret female companions. It could be this time around Arnott simply chose the wrong woman, but it seems he was also involved in a bit of a dust up at the pub. Gemma and Melody end up questioning a local up-and-coming guitarist who, it’s soon revealed, has a bit of a connection to Gemma and her husband.

This latest from Crombie is the fifteenth title in her long running Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. Readers new to Crombie will find that there are quite a few references to previous installments but The Sound of Broken Glass does stand alone for the most part. All of the references are character development rather than plot related.

I’ve only read two titles in the series thus far – this one and its immediate predecessor, No Mark Upon Her – but I already love the characters and the setting. Crombie pays great attention to detail on London and its history, almost equal in fact to her depth of focus on building real and believable characters.

Crombie’s next title in the series, To Dwell in Darkness, is due out this fall.

3/14 Becky Lejeune

THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS by Deborah Crombie. William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0061990649. 384p.


DEAD TO ME by Cath Staincliffe

January 25, 2014


A young woman is murdered in Manchester, England, and the Murder Investigation Team, headed by the formidable Gill Murray, gets the case.

Gill is good friends with one of her detectives, Janet Scott, a 25-year veteran who loves her job. Rachel Bailey is a young cop who has escaped a tough childhood, and she is smart and ambitious. Murray teams Bailey up with Scott and puts them on the murder case.

Scott is not happy with the arrogant and overzealous Bailey, and Bailey thinks there is something wrong with Scott because she has never tried for a promotion. They uncover a rape that may be related, find a roving drug dealer that may have been the last person to see the young woman alive, and investigate an unsavory boyfriend that the mother is convinced is the murderer.

Janet is a rules oriented, methodical detective while Rachel is headstrong and thinks and acts outside the box. Working together is a nightmare for both of them, but gradually they learn to respect each other as they work the case through to the shocking ending.

But this is much more than just a murder mystery; these characters are well developed, idiosyncratic and likeable, and that extends to their families and co-workers as well. Most reminiscent of the Cagney and Lacy TV series, this should appeal to readers who enjoy female buddy books like the Rizzoli and Iles series by Tess Gerritsen, the Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro, or even Lisa Scottoline’s Rosato & Associates legal series.

This book is actually a prequel to a popular British TV series, “Scott and Bailey,” now in its fourth season in the UK and airing on some PBS stations in the U.S. Visit the “Scott and Bailey” Facebook fanpage for more info.

Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

1/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DEAD TO ME by Cath Staincliffe.  Minotaur Books (January 14, 2014). ISBN 978-1250038548. 400p.


CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith

January 19, 2014

I may be the only remaining person on the planet who has never read a Harry Potter book or watched a Harry Potter Movie. The Hunger Games series shares that same distinction for me. However, after reading this one I may have to change my priorities.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Detective Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, desperate designers, and his own celebrity parents, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

I thought it was great.

1/14 Jack Quick

CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). Mulholland Books (April 30, 2013). ISBN 978-0316206846. 464p