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.

Book on CD

Downloadable audio book (Audible.com)


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.


EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES by Laura Dave

June 17, 2015
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I like wine. A lot. But I didn’t know that it takes 800 grapes to make one bottle, and that was only one of the tidbits I picked up reading this fast paced, heartwarming novel.

At its heart this is a story about a family, but it happens that this family owns a small, biodynamic vineyard in Sonoma – and were one of the first families to settle there to make wine. The story is told from the viewpoint of the daughter, Georgia, a successful lawyer in southern California, and begins at her last wedding gown fitting.  As she looks out the window, she sees her fiancé strolling down the street with a drop dead gorgeous movie star and a little girl. She runs out after them, finds out that the little girl is his daughter and then Georgia makes a beeline for home – the vineyard.

Georgia’s parents are having problems, but they haven’t told her anything. She walks in and finds a towel clad man coming out of her parent’s bedroom – and the man is not her father. Then she finds out that her father is selling the vineyard to a “factory” wine maker – a large, successful commercial winery, and that the closing is right after her vineyard wedding, and she is incensed.

This is a family that is loaded with secrets, but their love for one another helps keep them afloat. The story moves around various timelines as it follows all the family members, but the chapters are short and the story is easy to follow. Besides all the family drama, there is romantic drama of the best kind as well.

I loved the setting, which becomes almost another character in this warm, wonderful novel. If you like wine and romance (and really, who doesn’t?) then this is the book for you.

6/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES by Laura Dave. Simon & Schuster (June 2, 2015). ISBN 978-1476789255. 272p.


SOMETHING ABOUT YOU by Julie James

June 13, 2015
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU

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So as regular readers know, for some reason I rarely start a romance series at the beginning. And Julie James’ FBI/US Attorney series was no exception. I read book 3, About that Night, and loved it. Here’s my review.

Now I’m going back to the beginning and read book 1, Something About You. Actually, I listened to the audiobook, couldn’t find the printed book. Karen White is the reader and she did a great job and I really enjoyed it.

U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde lives in a big old house that she inherited. The floors need to be redone, so she gives herself a little mini-staycation and checks into a swanky hotel. Much to her surprise, the paper thin walls brings amorous sounds into her bedroom for most of the night, keeping her awake and making her cranky. Things finally calm down, she falls asleep and then it starts over again. Exhausted, she complains to the front desk then watches out the peephole to see what happens.

What she doesn’t expect is that the woman next door has been murdered, and she saw the murderer, or at least his back, as he left the room before the hotel staff arrives – quickly followed by Chicago’s finest and then the FBI. And sadly, the one FBI agent with whom she has history – he thinks she dumped years of his hard work when she wouldn’t take a crime lord to trial, and that she got him transferred out of state for a few years. She thinks he’s an arrogant jerk, albeit a really good looking man. They are not on the best of terms but they are about to become very close – as the only witness, her life is in danger and it is his job to protect her.

This is a great romantic suspense novel. Frankly, the murder mystery is quite secondary to the romance, but it all works brilliantly. A fun and sexy read by one of my new favorite authors.

6/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU by Julie James. Berkley; First Printing edition (March 2, 2010). ISBN 978-0425233382. 336p.
Audible Audio Edition. Listening Length: 10 hours and 3 minutes. Tantor Audio. Audible.com Release Date: June 29, 2012


BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty

July 29, 2014

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Wow!

My first Moriarty book was What Alice Forgot, a fast, entertaining read with memorable characters and an unusual story. Then I picked up The Husband’s Secret, and saw that she really stepped up her game. Big Little Lies is her latest and it appears that Moriarty just keeps upping the bar.

The book opens at a school event for parents in the small beach town of Pirriwee, Australia – but it could be Any Town, USA, too. This costume event – all the parents are dressed as Elvis Presley or Audry Hepburn, is part of  a Trivia Night fundraiser for the public elementary school. The drinks are strong and the food hasn’t arrived yet, so everyone is getting drunk and having a good time, that is until someone dies. The police are called, and then we are left hanging – the story moves back in time to six months earlier.

Sprinkled throughout the pages are little snippets from the police interviews, with parents gossiping about everything that’s gone on that semester. This is black comedy at its best, and the story moves back towards the day of reckoning with lightning speed.

At its heart, this is a story is about bullying. On the first day of school, Amabella (not a misspelling) accuses Ziggy of trying to choke her, and has the bruises to prove it. Ziggy and his very young, single mom Jane have just moved to this small town and he instantly becomes the class pariah. The parents all take sides, with the emotional Madeleine and the super wealthy Celeste forming the Jane triumverate, and the “blonde bobs,” a group of helicopter moms with identical haircuts, taking the other side.

The perfect Celeste is in a deeply troubled marriage, but no one knows. Madeleine’s teenage daughter (from her first marriage) is pulling away from her and towards her new stepmother, the eternally calm, yoga loving Bonnie. And Jane is running away from something.

There are so many secrets in this small town, the malicious gossip is scintillating and  neverending, and the characters are fraught with all the foibles we’ve come to expect from Moriarty. The way she builds almost unbearable suspense is simply magical, especially as we don’t even know who dies until the end, never mind who did it. Moriarty has become one of my favorite authors and this is a page turner of the finest kind. Don’t miss it.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty. Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (July 29, 2014). ISBN 978-0399167065. 384p.


THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

April 15, 2014

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Fox and O’Hare

This is the sequel to The Heist, which I really enjoyed. For those Evanovich fans that enjoy her humor but are getting tired of the Stephanie Plum books, you might enjoy this bit of fresh air.

Nick Fox is a con man. Kate O’Hare is the F.B.I. agent (and former Navy Seal) who was obsessed with catching Fox. She got her man, but instead of prison, her boss has forced them to work together in an unorthodox and often illegal manner with the ends justifying the means. If you can get past that premise, you should enjoy this book.

Carter Grove is the former White House Chief of Staff and heads up Black Rhino, a security/mercenary black ops type business for hire. Wealthy beyond reach, his passion is collecting stolen artwork from some of the world’s most famous museums. Nick and Kate are assigned with stealing back a Chinese antiquity that the Smithsonian needs to return to China.

This is the kind of crime Kate can get behind but it irks her that she can’t arrest Carter. But when Carter threatens her family, all bets are off and the con gets even bigger. They end up moving through Washington D.C., Scotland, Montreal, and Shanghai before solving the case.

The cast of characters is as zany as it gets. Kate’s dad is retired black ops and often gathers old friends with amazing skills to help out. A surgically enhanced beauty with a penchant for driving anything at top speed, a method actor who doesn’t mind crossing the line of the law for a juicy part and a healthy payday, and a techie whistle blower who’s been reduced to working for the Geek Squad round out the crew and create lots of laughs while getting the job done.

There is great chemistry between Fox and O’Hare, adding another level of intrigue to the mix. This is an enjoyable read with enough action to keep the pages turning quickly.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CHASE by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg. Bantam; First Edition edition (February 25, 2014). ISBN 978-0345543080. 320p.