TROUBLEMAKER by Linda Howard

January 14, 2017
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I read a Linda Howard book many years ago and didn’t love it, and haven’t picked up another one until now. I’ve never been a fan of romantic suspense but apparently I’m turning into one. First Nora Roberts, and now Linda Howard – this was a really good read.

Morgan Yancy works for a secret government agency and travels the world. Then he gets shot in his own backyard, and almost dies. His boss, Axel, decides he needs a safe place to recover so he sends him to his stepsister’s home in the tiny hamlet of Hamrickville, West Virginia. Isabeau “Bo” Maran is the police chief and lives alone in a house well off the beaten path with her beloved golden retriever, Tricks. Bo wants nothing to do with her idiot stepbrother Axel but when he offers her enough money to get out of debt, she agrees to help out.

Morgan is intrigued with the fiercely independent Bo and her insanely smart dog. Eventually they both drop their defenses and work to help one another. As Morgan heals, he is more and more determined to catch whoever shot him and sets himself up as bait to do so.

I loved watching their relationship develop, especially Morgan and Tricks. There is enough action to keep things moving and enough romance to make it all interesting. I will definitely be reading more Linda Howard.

1/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TROUBLEMAKER by Linda Howard. Avon; Reprint edition (December 27, 2016). ISBN 978-0062418999. 496p.


DISCOVERING YOU by Brenda Novak

September 9, 2016
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Whiskey Creek, Book 10

The publisher, Mira, sent me this book a while back and it’s been in my mass market  to-be-read pile for a few months, but I’m happy to say I’ve worked my way down and have only one or two more books to go in that pile….at least until the Fedex man shows up later today. This was my first Brenda Novak book.

Novak writes romantic suspense, which is not my favorite genre and I don’t understand why exactly. I love suspense, I love romance, but I don’t always love them mixed together. That said, this was a quick read and I did enjoy it.

This may be the tenth book in this series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I can guess at a few of the romances that came before, and the one that’s coming next, but it definitely works as a first read in the series, at least for me. I know there are readers who only read series in order but while there are some series that definitely require that, most romances don’t. And apparently romantic suspense, at least the ones that I’ve read.

India recently moved to Whiskey Creek, right next door to the Amos family. Middle son Rod takes notice; well, actually all the men do, India is beautiful. But she’s moved to start her life over after her husband was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, right in front of her. Her in-laws are keeping her young daughter for a month to allow her time to get settled, and all them time to spend with their granddaughter but the relationship between India and her in-laws is strained at best.

India meets Rod when she picks him up from the side of the road. Someone has ran him down on his motorcycle, and Rod went after the guy, beating him unconscious. They find themselves confiding in one another rather quickly, and the relationship blooms, which makes India somewhat uncomfortable.

Her ex was released from jail after his trial ended in a hung jury, and he is still obsessed with India. And that is at the heart of the suspense here.

If you haven’t tried Novak, this seems like a good place as any to start. Her reviews are generally quite good and I can certainly understand why. If you like romantic suspense, I highly recommend this book.

9/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DISCOVERING YOU by Brenda Novak. MIRA (May 24, 2016).  ISBN 978-0778318804.  400p.

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WILDE LAKE by Laura Lippman

May 9, 2016
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Laura Lippman, why do you make us wait so long for new books? I know you have a toddler, and I know I’m being totally selfish, but I read this new one in one night and could just cry thinking about how long it will be before you give us another. If I thought I could get away with it, I’d go back and reread your entire series, but there are just too many new books to read.

Anyway, Wilde Lake is another stunning novel from one of my favorite authors. Lippman has left Tess Monaghan for another book (I hope?) and this standalone is set in a small town called, Wilde Lake. A town much like the one Lippman lived in through her own high school years.

Lu Brant has just beaten out her incumbent boss for the state attorney’s job in Howard County, Maryland. She is settling in when a murder case falls into her lap. There are very few murders in this suburb, but Brant is determined to win this one. A homeless man is accused of beating a woman to death in her own home, and while they cannot find a motive, his diminished mental capacity may be cause enough, while not being severe enough to plea out on insanity.

The book is written in alternate chapters of the present day case and Lu’s coming of age in the 1980’s. She lost her mother a week after her birth, and was raised by her state attorney father and much older brother, AJ. This is a very close family so when secrets start to come out, we realize even the closest of families may have skeletons in the closet. Lu’s view of events as she was growing up take a decided turn as an adult with a much different perspective.

Somewhat reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, (and I don’t say that lightly,) this is a deeply compelling story with themes of family, secrets, murder, mental illness, truth and justice. And one of the best books I’ve read this year.

5/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WILDE LAKE by Laura Lippman. William Morrow (May 3, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062083456.  368p.

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THAT DARKNESS by Lisa Black

April 27, 2016
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This is the first book of a new series featuring Cleveland forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner, but this is not your typical detective story.

Gardiner is a complete forensic nerd with no real personal life outside of her job. She has become obsessed with the victims of several murders, all of whom were shot point blank in the back of the head, yet are seemingly unrelated. By using tapings – pieces of tape pressed against victim’s clothing that pick up threads, dust and fibers – she has literally picked up enough clues to find the place where all the murders took place.

And just in case you think that sounds far fetched, Black has worked as a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, where she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she is a latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes. In other words, she knows her stuff.

Renner is a vigilante cop turned serial killer, but he only kills people who need killing, somewhat reminiscent of the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay. But Renner is no sadist; he kills quickly and cleanly in his quest for the justice often denied by the legal system.

While Gardiner is not a cop, she works hand in hand with the police as she narrows in on the killer. The surprising ending is sure to keep readers coming back for more.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

4/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THAT DARKNESS by Lisa Black. Kensington (April 26, 2016).  ISBN 978-1496701886.  336p.

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POISONOUS by Allison Brennan

April 20, 2016
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Max Revere Novels (Book 3)

Max Revere is an investigative reporter who specializes in cold cases. She is tenacious, speaks her mind without a filter, is a trust fund kid, and always seeks the truth. I could be friends with her.

Max has a lot of baggage from her childhood with a mother who abandoned her and no father, but luckily she was raised by her wealthy grandparents. Her relationships are difficult at best. Her boyfriend Nick, and her best friend/bodyguard David are both in similar situations with child custody issues, and Max just doesn’t get it.

When Max receives a letter from Tommy, a young man who is a bit slow, she wants to help. He tells her that his sister was killed and no one was arrested, and his stepmother thinks he did it and has banished him from the family. Max can relate and decides to take the case.

The local cops haven’t been able to ascertain whether or not Ivy was killed, committed suicide or just fell off the cliff where her body was found. Ivy was a cyber bully who had tormented a classmate into suicide, so not a very sympathetic victim even though she was a teen. Yet somehow Max does empathize, and with her resources, is determined to ferret out the truth.

This is a good look at the whole teen online social networking nightmare that every parent has to deal with nowadays, only this time with devastating results. A really good story, well developed characters and enough twists to keep me up half the night makes this another excellent entry into this terrific series.

04/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

POISONOUS by Allison Brennan. Minotaur Books (April 12, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250066848.  368p.

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THE OBSESSION by Nora Roberts

April 15, 2016
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I am happy to be along for the ride on Nora Roberts’ blog tour for The Obsession. It is my first Nora Roberts book!

I met Nora at least sixteen years ago when I was a bookseller at Borders – in those days, she was still doing book tours. She was incredibly nice and friendly to everyone. I recommended her books regularly, she was (and is) enormously popular.

My favorite Nora Roberts story happened when she started writing under the J.D. Robb name. We had an employee at Borders, a young man who flat out refused to read anything written by a woman. I knew that Robb was Roberts, but he didn’t. He read Naked in Death and loved it. Did my heart good. <smirk>

So the other night I started reading The Obsession, and within the first hundred pages I knew why Nora Roberts has so many diehard fans. I became obsessed with it – stayed up well into the night to finish it. The book has everything I like all rolled up into one terrific story; a serial killer, a coming of age story, a great dog, a terrific romance and even an old house renovation and antiquing.

Naomi Bowes is twelve years old when the book opens. That child accidentally stumbles on her father’s secret and saves the life of a young woman. That finding unleashes a nightmare for the family – her father goes to jail and her life is never the same. Her uncles raise Naomi and her brother, and they change their name to Carson. Naomi becomes a professional photographer, always travelling and never settling down. Her brother becomes an FBI profiler. Then Naomi finds this big old house on the other side of the country and moves in.

Shortly after moving in she finds a stray dog who just wiggles his way into her heart. Then she meets a mechanic who also worms his way into her heart. Her contractor and his wife become good friends and life is good. Until a young girl goes missing and turns up dead a few days later. Murdered in the same way Naomi’s father’s victims were. And then there’s another missing girl. But it soon becomes apparent that Naomi is his intended target.

This was a real page turner and I loved it.

4/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE OBSESSION by Nora Roberts. Berkley (April 12, 2016).  ISBN 978-0399175169.  464p.

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TRICKY TWENTY-TWO by Janet Evanovich

December 14, 2015

TRICKY TWENTY-TWOA Stephanie Plum Novel

Anyone who peruses my reviews knows that I am a long time Evanovich fan. I have received review copies of her books since about book five; her publisher would just send them. She changed publishers a few years ago, and I had to ask for her books but still, no problem. Until this book.

There are a handful of authors who don’t make their books available for review prior to publication. This is usually a big deal, involving leaks, accidental sales (Walmart was notorious for selling Harry Potter books prior to publication) and really, it usually isn’t the author, it’s the publicist, trying to drum up even more anticipation.

There are occasionally books that aren’t released for review because they are so bad, they want to avoid the inevitable for as long as possible. And there are books by New York Times bestselling authors that aren’t released for review because too many reviewers enjoy taking pot shots at them, denigrating their writing, their stories, their characters because frankly, some reviewers enjoy the power that brings. Must I add I am not one of them? I hate writing negative reviews, and I’m rarely snarky. When I do feel compelled to write a negative review, I try and keep it as appropriate to the subject as possible, specifics about writing style or characters or whatever I’m not liking. I never attack an author and I never write anything disparaging without careful consideration and criticism.

So when I was told there would be no review copies for this book, and none of the review journals published a review prior to publication, I got nervous. Let’s face it, Janet has been taking a lot of pot shots for the last 10, 12 books – which hasn’t diminished their popularity one iota. This newish publisher not wanting early reviews made me think that maybe this book was going to be the last one I’d want to read.

I am thrilled to say I was wrong, I was nervous for nothing. I loved Twenty-Two, and think it’s her best book in years. I haven’t loved the last ten or so, but I enjoyed them. I knew what I was getting and she always made me laugh. In a way I felt like I was putting up with the inevitable car explosions, the back and forth between Joe and Ranger, and all the other crazy, quirky characters because I loved these people so much. Takedown Twenty almost did me in – that giraffe was so over the top (sorry, couldn’t help it) that I really thought Janet had finally pushed me away. But habits, especially reading habits, are hard to break so I read Top Secret Twenty-One and enjoyed it again.

Which brings me, finally, to Tricky Twenty-Two. It’s short. Publisher claims 304 pages, but that includes a preview of Scam, the new book in the Fox & O’Hare series co-written with Lee Goldberg. I love that series, by the way. So in actuality, the new Plum book clocks in at a fast 280 pages, easily read in one sitting. And that includes a lot of laughing, too.

Lula is here in all her glittery, spandex glory as is Grandma Mazur, who is still packing heat, and Stephanie’s mom, who is still ironing and drinking whenever Stephanie gets into trouble. And Stephanie gets into plenty of trouble. Ranger and Joe are both heating things up and yes, a car or two are blown up. This is a Stephanie Plum book after all, and the plot is the usual bounty hunting goes awry.

All you really have to know is that it is tightly written, moves along at a nice clip, has lots of laughs and lots of romance. All the characters are true to themselves and have earned their longevity. If you’ve given up on the Plum books, it’s time to come back to the fold. If you haven’t read them, or worse yet saw that God-awful movie and were afraid of the books, read this one then go back and start with One for the Money.

I am delighted to say I loved it!

 

12/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TRICKY TWENTY-TWO by Janet Evanovich. Bantam; 1St Edition edition (November 17, 2015). ISBN 978-0345542960. 304p.

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A LOT LIKE LOVE by Julie James

July 8, 2015
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I am really enjoying Julie James’ FBI/US Attorney series. I’ve read the first one, Something About You,  book 3, About that Night, book 4, Love Irresistibly, and book 5, It Happened One Wedding. I finally got hold of book 2; thank you library! Need I say I did not read these in order? Probably not, since I’m finally reviewing the second book in the series.

This is a terrific series, and one of the things I like best is that they don’t need to be read in order. But if you are one of those people that feel the need to do that, there are delicious little nods to the previous books, so go for it and enjoy.

The series centers around the Chicago U.S. attorneys’ office and the FBI agents that they work with so closely. A Lot Like Love is about FBI agent Nick McCall and the billionaire heiress Jordan Rhodes. Rhodes made an appearance in About that Night as her brother, Kyle, AKA the “Twitter terrorist” is at the center of that book. But that’s the next book in the series, so never mind…

Nick McCall has been working undercover for years, precluding any sort of relationship. His newest assignment is to help out a rookie, but when the rookie gets sick, Nick has to go undercover again. This time he’s Nick Stanton, wealthy businessman who is Jordan’s date at the swankiest charity gala of the year.

In reality, he is there to infiltrate the owner’s office and plant a few bugs that will hopefully tie up a big money laundering sting. Nick and Jordan take an instant dislike to each other; he has no use for high society, and she finds him sarcastic and thug-like. But when Nick finds out he’s being followed, he knows he needs to play the boyfriend full time.

Chicago is the setting once again, with a side trip to beautiful Napa valley. Believable characters and a suspenseful storyline make for a great read – the hot sex is just the icing on the cake. Hope there’s another book or two left in this series, I am seriously hooked.

7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A LOT LIKE LOVE by Julie James. Berkley (March 1, 2011). ISBN 978-0425240168. 304p.


BEAUTIFUL DAY by Elin Hilderbrand

June 25, 2015
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Narrated by Therese Plummer

I am (sort of) patiently waiting for the next Diana Gabaldon book on CD (A Breath of Snow and Ashes) to come in from the library, so I’m listening to other things while I wait. I really like Elin Hilderbrand’s books, at least the few I’ve read so far, so when this audio book became available, I grabbed it.

It is a heart-tugger for sure. The “beautiful day” in question is Jenna’s wedding day. The wedding is set at her family’s home on Nantucket, and the story involves everyone in the family.

Her mother Beth died while Jenna was in college, and she took off a semester to stay home with her. Beth left her a wedding notebook, basically a long letter to Jenna describing every detail of the wedding she would not be around to take part in. So of course, Jenna considers every word to be gospel, from the grassy green bridesmaids dresses to their dyed to match shoes.

Jenna is the youngest of four and the older three are much older, and therefore very close. The oldest is Margaux, whom Beth has decreed should be the maid of honor. Margaux has lots of drama in her life. She is a single mom, having divorced her surf bum of a husband, and is currently involved in a secret relationship with her father’s law partner, a man 30 years older than she.

Nick is single and a player, but nonetheless things get weird when he starts sleeping with Finn, Jenna’s best friend and one of the bridesmaids – who happens to be married but her husband is in Vegas at a bachelor party. The other brother is happily married with kids. They all squish into the Nantucket beach house they summered in all their lives and the drama begins.

There is more drama with Stuart, the groom. His mother Ann is the state senator from North Carolina and his father had left her for another woman several years earlier. They had a child together, but divorced soon after and his parents were married once again. Since his half-brother is in the wedding party, Ann decides to invite her husband’s ex, much to his disappointment. In reality, Ann simply wants to gloat that she got her husband back but of course that plan doesn’t work out exactly the way she wants it to.

I am a hopeless romantic and cry at everything wedding related; TV commercials, crazy wedding dances gone viral, and especially books like this one. I welled up on several occasions, not really a great thing to do while driving!

So much happens over this wedding weekend that the pages just fly by – or they would had I read it. Instead, I listened to it and while I really enjoyed the story, I did not enjoy the reader. I haven’t listened to enough audio books to pinpoint exactly what the problem is, so I’m just throwing that out there. I wished I would have read it instead of listening to it.

6/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BEAUTIFUL DAY by Elin Hilderbrand. Back Bay Books (March 4, 2014). ISBN 978-0316099769. 432p.

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LOVE IRRESISTIBLY by Julie James

June 21, 2015
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I am really enjoying Julie James’ FBI/US Attorney series. I’ve read the first one, Something About You,  book 3, About that Night, and book 5, It Happened One Wedding. I managed to get my hands on book 4, and I was very happy I did.

This is a terrific series, and one of the things I like best is that they don’t need to be read in order. But if you, there are delicious little nods to the previous books, so it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned. The series centers around the Chicago U.S. attorneys’ office and the FBI agents that they work with so closely. Love Irresistibly centers around assistant US attorney Cade Morgan.

Cade’s specialty is bringing down dirty politicians, and anyone who knows Chicago politics knows that can be a full time job.  He has the goods on the state senator, but knows there will be a meeting at a swanky restaurant, and he wants to get that meeting on tape to cinch the conviction. To do so, he needs permission and assistance from the restaurant.

Enter Brooke Parker, general counsel for the Sterling restaurant group. Brooke and Cade are trading barbed quips from the get go, but with her help, Cade manages to get what he needs. But he owes her and she is soon collecting when her company finds out someone hacked into their account.

I love that James creates characters that we can care about. They are real people with real problems and it’s fun watching them work things out.

I really enjoyed this book and now have to hunt down the last book in the series, which is my case is book 2, A Lot Like Love. Berkley, are you listening? Stay tuned…

6/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LOVE IRRESISTIBLY by Julie James. Berkley; First Printing edition (March 2, 2010). ISBN 978-0425251195. 304p.