THE BISHOP’S PAWN by Steve Berry

March 21, 2018

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Cotton Malone Novel, Book 13

Steve Berry and his wife Elizabeth are both ardent advocates of historical preservation. Their passion has taken them to a multitude of places and sites as well as the founding of a charitable foundation, “History Matters,” to raise both awareness as well as money to preserve historical places. Many of Berry’s novels have had a little known historical event become the basis for the story told in the book.

Bishop’s Pawn is the latest adventure of Berry’s main protagonist Cotton Malone, but includes several changes in the format of the story. It is written in first person with Malone being the one telling the story. It is also out of the continuing time sequence of Malone’s career with the Magellan Billet, a secret group attached to the Justice Department. Insteaed, we are taken to the beginning of Cotton’s work for Stephanie Nelle, who founded the Magellan Billet and is the supervisor.

Eighteen years ago Malone was working as a lawyer in the Navy and trying to outgrow his reputation as a maverick. He is approached by Stephanie and asked to help with an investigation currently underway by the Justice Department. Cotton takes the assignment with the hope of getting into a situation other than his present tedious job with the JAG.

Cotton then finds himself involved with an extremely rare coin and a set of documents that provide explosive data on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Malone becomes embroiled in a war between the Justice Department and the F.B.I. for possession of both objects.

Dr. King is pictured here as the giant that he was in the early days of the Civil Rights movement, but also shown as a man with faults and hesitations. The real life war between the F.B.I. and Dr. King is brought vividly into the scenario.

J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the F.B.I. at the beginning of Dr. King’s work, had an obvious hatred for the man. Hoover ordered wire taps, surveillance, and branded Dr. King as a trouble maker all against orders from Congress. Berry brings out the distinct possibility that Hoover ordered the assassination of Dr. King and was instrumental in bringing James Earl Ray, Dr King’s killer, conveniently into the picture in order to do the actual shooting.

The book is a fascinating study of both the events surrounding Dr. King’s assassination and portraits of some of the individuals that both worked for and against him. Berry eloquently pictures the F.B.I. as Hoover’s fiefdom, and due to the secret files held on many people by him, was able to establish total control over the organization as well as becoming a law unto himself.

The ending consists of the airing of Berry’s thoughts about the assasssination with actual facts presented to back up his theory. I feel that while Steve Berry may have written better books, Bishop’s Pawn is beyond any doubt the most thought provoking of them. Totally mesmerizing and the “king” of all nighters.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE BISHOP’S PAWN by Steve Berry. Minotaur Books (March 20, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250140227. 352p.


March 19, 2018

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The  Highlanders Series, Book 5

I tend to avoid historical romances set in Scotland because I can’t help but compare them to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and let’s face it, there is no comparison. So I was determined to just read this book and judge it on its own merits, so I did. It was okay, nothing bad to say about it but nothing great, either.

From Amazon:

In New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands’ captivating romance, a lass targeted by an unknown foe is saved—and seduced—by a bold Highlander

Edith Drummond owes her life to Niels Buchanan and his brothers. Waking after an illness to a castle overrun by rugged Highlanders is disconcerting, but so is learning that she’s slowly being poisoned. Niels insists on staying by her side, and Edith soon discovers that even more dangerous is her wild attraction to the fierce warrior.

Niels has never met a more courageous—or enticing—woman than Lady Edith. The idea of such a bonny lass being forced to enter a nunnery is more than any red-blooded Scotsman could bear. He’ll gladly marry her himself. But while sweeping her off her feet is easy, it’ll take all his skill to defeat her family’s relentless enemies, and convince her to surrender to his sweet embrace. . . .

This definitely falls into the historical romantic suspense category. People are dropping dead with some regularity and we don’t find out the who or why of it until the end. The romance plays nicely against this backdrop and we get the requisite happily ever after. Maybe if I had read the entire series I would have been more invested, but I didn’t like this enough to pursue any more. If you like Scottish historicals with a lot of suspense, then this is the book for you.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SURRENDER TO THE HIGHLANDER by Lynsay Sands. Avon (January 30, 2018). ISBN 978-0062468987.  384p.



March 14, 2018

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The Duke’s Daughters Series, Book 2

Lady Olivia Howett is determined not to make the same mistake her sisters have made. She loves helping those less fortunate than herself, and thinks she ought to marry the man her sister threw over, Lord Carson. He works hard in Parliament to help make England a better place, and Olivia thinks that together, they would be the perfect couple. So she proposes. Really.

Shockingly, he says no and in a scene straight out of Gone With the Wind, the man lying on the couch overhearing said proposal and the flinging of china after the rejection finds Olivia most interesting. He is Edward Wolcott, a bastard. Really. His father won’t claim him and polite society cuts him with some regularity, but he decides to help Olivia grow up. And she does, with growing self awareness and eventually, she sees that Lord Carson isn’t the one for her.

This was a fun romance and has a few hot sex scenes as well. If that opening wasn’t such a blatant ripoff of GWTW, I would have liked it more.

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUKE’S DAUGHTERS: LADY BE RECKLESS by Megan Frampton. Avon (February 27, 2018). ISBN 978-0062666642.  384p.



March 12, 2018

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The Survivors, Book 2

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

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

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

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

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

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


THE CLOISTER by James Carroll

March 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/18 Paul Lane

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


March 8, 2018

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Sins for All Seasons, Book 1

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

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

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

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

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

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

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



March 5, 2018

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A Novel in Clues

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

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

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

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

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

3/18 Paul Lane

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


HARBOR OF SPIES by Robin Lloyd

March 3, 2018

A Novel of Historic Havana

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

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

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

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

3/18 Paul Lane

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


February 9, 2018

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In years of reading books, there are those that are fine for the short time with them, those that prove good enough to remain with you for a longer time. But every once in a while a novel appears that is so beautiful that it becomes a memory that it will stay with you for a long time. Such a book is Matt Haig’s “How to stop Time.”

Tom Hazard appears like any other 40 year old male. But he is certainly far from that; he is actually more than 400 years of age. Due to a rare shift in his genetic makeup, he ages very slowly and also doesn’t suffer from many illnesses. He was born during the Elizabethan period in England and actually met and talked to William Shakespeare.

Over the years, he discovers that there are others like him and eventually a group is formed as a means of self protection. Why self protection? Simply put, there is a great deal of mistrust on the part of ordinary people that notice when someone does not age over time. Tom actually witnessed his mother being drowned as a witch when it was discovered that she had a son that did not grow older.

Instead of being the blessing that centuries of life could convey, the lack of aging causes those that are affected by it have to constantly change locations in order to remain unnoticed by ordinary people. Tom himself meets and falls in love with a girl in his own time and has a daughter with her. He remains happy and content with their life together until the stares of other people make him realize that in the age he was born in he is a danger to his wife and daughter. He decides to leave them and begins centuries of hiding.

Haig describes the emotions that fill Tom’s mind as he literally runs away from the joys and sorrows of life as normal people experience them. The author is adept at presenting the facts and circumstances present in all the ages Tom lives through. We see him taking part in events that occurred, meeting the people that became famous in each period and experiencing a normal longing for a love that has predeceased him by centuries. A book to savor and think about for a long time to come.

HOW TO STOP TIME by Matt Haig. Viking (February 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-0525522874. 336p.

THE BOOKWORM by Mitch Silver

February 8, 2018

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The novel opens during early World War II. A man dressed as a monk is seen entering a monastery which is not his own located in Germany. He is carrying a book and actually doing his best to sneak it in, hiding it from the monks that live there. He finds a place in which religious tomes are kept and proceeds to place it with the others, clearly in a section designed to allow for the discovery of the item when required.

The plot of the novel starts to unfold with the appearance of people famous during the period under discussion. These include Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and the infamous Adolf Hitler. A scheme is hatched by Noel Coward to prevent the Nazis from launching an invasion of England. Interestingly enough, the plan relies on something written in the book left in the monastery.

The book shifts to Moscow, Russia after the end of the war with Larissa Mendelova Klint, a college professor doing research instead of going on summer vacation like most of her colleagues and students. She comes across references to the book hidden during WWII unearthing an outline of the scheme hatched by Noel Coward. Fascinated she launches a full scale search for the book and enters full force into that task.

Silvers novel flows smoothly bringing the reader from the mysterious placement of the book through the initiation of the plot and termination of those events. The ending of the novel terminates with a trip to Moscow by the President of the United States. And in a very neat way, events provide a logical setup for another book with Larissa M Klint. A very well done novel indeed.

2/18 Paul Lane

THE BOOKWORM by Mitch Silver. Pegasus Books (February 6, 2018).  ISBN 978-1681776415. 352p.