SHOTGUN LULLABY by Steve Ulfelder: Conway Sax, former racecar driver turned Massachusetts mechanic, is a recovering alcoholic and a member of the Barnburners, a tightly knit group that is an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous. A new member of the group, Gus, bears a striking resemblance to Sax’s estranged son so Sax becomes his sponsor and champion. Gus lives in a halfway house, but when three of the housemates are murdered, Sax correctly figures that Gus was the real target. There are a lot of suspects; Gus’s wealthy father, his trophy wife, the crime family Gus ripped off, and a con man from Texas. Sax may have his drinking under control but not his temper, which gets him into a few near death situations and some trouble at home. The bodies keep piling up and the action doesn’t let up while Sax turns fixer. With help from his parole officer’s son and a local cop, Sax finally figures out who is behind all the killing and why. This action packed story moves lightning fast and Sax makes an appealingly damaged protagonist. Dennis Lehane and Robert B. Parker fans should enjoy Ulfelder as well. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker: It’s 1899 when Chava and Ahmad come to New York. Chava is a golem. She was created and brought to this New World as a wife for a man who unfortunately didn’t survive the voyage. But she was lucky that her husband-to-be did manage to wake her before he died. She’s lucky again when she meets a rabbi who knows exactly what she is. He takes her under his wing and names her Chava, after his own grandmother. Ahmad is a jinni who has been trapped for centuries in an old flask that has been passed down from generation to generation. The owner of the flask is completely unaware of the magic inhabitant and so the jinni’s release comes as a surprise to the tinsmith hired to fix the old thing. The jinni has no knowledge of how he came to be trapped in the flask but quickly realizes that part of his curse has left him stuck in human form. Like the golem’s rabbi, the tinsmith decides to help the jinni and takes him on as an apprentice. When the golem and the jinni finally meet, they can each see the other for what they truly are. Together, they form a bond and a friendship that will help them both in this new and foreign land. Turn of the century New York City proves to be an enchanting setting for this fairy tale wrapped immigration story. The Golem and the Jinni, their histories, and the folklore they both come from make Helene Wecker’s debut a truly remarkable and unforgettable read. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
THE ELITE by Kiera Cass: The competition grows more challenging as the Selection continues. Only six girls remain but America Singer still isn’t sure about her feelings for the Prince. With her childhood sweetheart, Aspen, serving as her personal guard in the palace things are even more complicated. Prince Maxon has already made his feelings clear and says that with her word he’d end the competition that moment. But America has witnessed some things in the course of the Selection that she isn’t sure she’s prepared to handle. Would her feelings for Maxon balance out her fears of the responsibility of being queen? This second in the Selection trilogy is just as much fun as the first. There’s a bit more of the history of Illea included in this installment as well, which makes me think there are big things to come in the final title – more than just who Maxon will choose as his bride (or better yet, who America will choose for herself.). The story as a whole is fairly light but there is a good amount of action and politics as well, all of which makes Cass’s teen series both intriguing and enjoyable. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
15 SECONDS by Andrew Gross: It starts
out with two seemingly unrelated events. First, 19 year old Amanda Hofer, stoned
on prescription drugs, is involved in a traffic accident that kills a mother and
her young son, a child never seen by his father who is serving in Afghanistan.
Then a Doctor is stopped in Jacksonville, Florida, in a seemingly meaningless
traffic stop. Things get ugly when backup cops arrive but eventually everything
settles down. Doctor Henry Steadman thinks he is going to get off with a
warning. But then a blue sedan drives by and shots ring out. The policeman who
stopped Dr. Steadman is dead, and Steadman knows there are a bunch of policemen
who think he is the killer, so he runs to the only friend he has in
Jacksonville. When he gets there he finds his friend shot to death. From there
on, things only get progessively worse for Henry Steadman. On the run and cut
off from the help he needs, Steadman's only hope is a Jacksonville Community
Relations officer who seems to be the only one willing to not pass judgment on
Steadman's guilt or innocence. Will that be enough? Andrew Gross cut his teeth
co-authoring with James Patterson but has certainly come into his own. This one
puts the thrill in thriller as a diabolical plot unfolds trapping the guilty and
the innocent in a maze from which there appears to be no exit. Yes there are
parts that are "over the top" but isn't that true of most thrillers? That is
part of what makes them so exciting. This one was unputdownable.
5/13 Jack Quick
WITH THIS KISS by Eloisa James: This is a three part, e-book only novella. The main character is Lady Grace, the daughter from The Ugly Duckling. Lady Grace has grown up with Colin Barry, but when she turns into a teenager, she falls in love with him. He is in the Royal Navy and hates it, and Grace writes him upbeat letters about their families and all the gossip. Eventually, he comes home but he falls in love with Grace's younger sister, a natural siren who has men falling at her feet right and left. He goes back to sea, Grace stops writing, and she eventually meets a man from Scotland who falls for her. She agrees to marry him even though her heart belongs to Colin. Lots of angst and several twists keep the pages turning until the requisite happy ending. This is a fast, fun read and Eloisa James fans won't want to miss it. Right now you have to buy each part separately for $.99 each. Amazon does list the complete book for $2.99 but it won't be available in that format until 6/25/13. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
AND THEN SHE FELL by Stephanie Laurens: This is part of Laurens' Cynster series. Henrietta is known as the "Matchbreaker" because she's willing to tell the truth when asked. Her brother's best friend, James Glossup, is wooing a friend, but Henrietta knows he has to marry within a month or lose his inheritance. That bit of info causes the demise of that relationship, and James is quite put out. After he explains the situation, Henrietta feels bad and decides to become a matchmaker and help him find a bride quickly. But spending all that time together finds them falling in love, but neither will admit it as the matchmaking continues. Another enjoyable Regency romance from Laurens. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
MURDER AS A FINE ART by David Morrell: In his outstanding novel First Blood, David Morrell depicts a Vietnam veteran afflicted by post traumatic stress syndrome involved in violent confrontation with law officers of a small town. The horror of war and killing motivate John Rambo, to what happens to him in that town. "Murder As A Fine Art" has at its premise the psychology behind a murderer's motivation. The novel is set in London in 1854 during the mid years of the Victorian age and shortly after the Crimean War between England and Russia. Two sets of murders take place: the first in a shop after business hours, and the second a few days later in a tavern. Called to the scene of the first set of murders is Sean Ryan who is depicted as one of the first detectives in England to have studied scientific detection methods. He approaches the murders with both an active searching for clues and a logical attitude towards the set up of the crime scene. Utilizing persons that actually lived at the time and facts about them enables Morrell to enhance the story and plot. First is Thomas De Quincey who was infamous for his memoir "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater". He was a suspect in murders committed 43 years earlier in London due to his essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts". He is enticed to come to London with his daughter by an anonymous offer of lodgings in order to meet with a woman that he loved during the period of the first murders and lost touch with. The murders currently perpetrated are similiar to those committed 43 years earlier and De Quincey again becomes a suspect. Next is Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston known as Lord Palmerston and home secretary during the period depicted in the book. An historical view of him shown by Morrell was his active secret movements to foment unrest in Europe as a means of fostering England's continued rise to power. He was involved with protecting the Opium Trade with China which is an important background issue in the novel. He was a superb politician and his political machinations are done justice in the book. In an afterward David Morrell indicates that he spent a year researching the London of 1854 and his descriptions enhance an already good story. The noise, the filth, the overcrowding, the life of people forced by poverty to live on the streets is presented as it was and are an integral part of resurrecting the London of the era. The motivations of the murderer and the reasons for the crimes will be understood by today's reader based upon current knowledge of abnormal psychology. An engrossing read and one which will keep the reader glued to the pages. 05/13 Paul Lane
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill: When Victoria “Vic” McQueen rides her blue Tuff Burner bike she can travel a bridge that doesn’t exist and go anywhere to find anything. Charlie Manx, a serial kidnapper and all around bad guy, shares this ability. For him, it’s his old Rolls Royce and his road leads to Christmasland. For years, Manx eluded officials who never even connected his crimes. All that came to an end when Vic went in search of trouble. Her bridge led her to Manx’s house where, with the help of some very nice folks in Gunbarrel, Colorado, Manx was finally taken down. Or was he? Manx is a man like no other and he’s never forgotten the girl who got away. Vic is all grown up but things haven’t gotten any easier for her. She suspects she’s going crazy but when Manx shows up again she knows she’s the only one who can take him down for good. This latest from Hill is phenomenal. NOS4A2 is wonderfully creepy and wholly original. Definitely highly recommended. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
THE TIME OF MY LIFE by Cecelia Ahern: Lucy Silchester is ignoring her life. He’s a bit frumpy and he’s kind of a mess and when he schedules an appointment to talk, Lucy goes out of her way to avoid him. She’s not even sure why her life is calling. It’s not like she’s unhappy. But Lucy has spent so long skating by and hiding things from those around her that she’s not even sure what she wants anymore. She’s lied about her breakup with her ex, she’s lied on her resume and has a job she’s not quite qualified for, she’s even kept her apartment off limits to her friends and family. She says that she was the one who dumped the ex, she’s secretly outsourced the Spanish portion of her job to someone else, and she claims the apartment is her personal space. The reality is, Lucy is in need of a change and whether she likes it or not, life is going to make it happen. This is probably one of my favorites from Ahern. For an author who never disappoints, she has managed to surprise me with something completely new and different. The idea that life is a real entity who forces Lucy (who’s pretty fantastic, I must say) to face facts is so much fun. Another hilarious and heartfelt read from one of my favorite authors. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN by Amy Shearn: When Jenny Lipkin’s husband disappears, the mother of two isn’t terribly worried. Her husband has been known to go on unannounced gambling weekends in the past. No, Jenny’s not worried. She is pissed, though. And stressed out. And the longer her husband is missing the more stressed and upset she becomes until one day she finally cracks. Help comes in the form of a rusalka – a mermaid – who saves Jenny after a fall from the Brooklyn Bridge. With the rusalka by her side, Jenny begins to put her life back together, but is her savior even real? There are so many things I loved about Amy Shearn’s latest. Shearn’s writing is wonderfully sarcastic and funny but also quite elegant. This unique blend brings both the characters and setting to life, making the story fun and believable. What I found I liked the most, though, was the fact that you never quite know whether the rusalka is real or a figment of Jenny’s imagination. The Mermaid of Brooklyn is an amusing and sweet read about families and motherhood. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
RELISH: An Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun by Daphne Oz: The cover of this book features a photo of the beautiful Daphne Oz looking somewhat like a throwback to a 1950's housewife, hair in a messy bun, tied on skirt, or is it an apron? Her book is also somewhat of a throwback; part cookbook for sure, but mostly a how to be a successful homemaker for her generation of Millennials. If you're not familiar, Daphne is one of the co-hosts of The Chew on ABC, author of The Dorm Room Diet: The 10-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works, but is most famous for her last name; Dr. Oz is her dad. In her new book she discusses healthy eating, healthy living, decorating, juggling family and career, crafting, weddings, and so much more. The timing of this release is a gentle nudge towards gifts for upcoming college graduates, spring engagements and young marrieds, and that's probably a good idea. Included is some very practical advice running the gamut from how to hang a picture to how to take a great picture. The recipes include some vegan dishes like Oz Family Cauliflower Pesto Mash, which is as delicious as it sounds, especially if you adore pesto as much as I do. Other recipes run the gamut from Oz Family Stir-Fried Rice with shrimp, or the vegetarian alternative of tempeh, to Chile Jam Chicken with Carmelized Sweet Potatoes and Peaches (yum!) and another favorite, Roasted Cauliflower Grilled Cheese with Jalapeno Aioli, which I all I can say is the recipe only makes one sandwich so you are going to want to double it at least. Desserts are included, most have fruit but lest you think that means they are healthy, think again - Strawberry Cake with Caramel Fleur de Sel Whipped Cream Frosting is positively decadent. But no worries, Daphne fans will find her amazing smoothie recipes here as well. There are lots of pictures throughout the book representing all areas of young life, and I especially enjoyed her wedding photos. This is a lovely and useful book. 5/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
THE HIT by David Baldacci: Will Robie was introduced in The Innocent. He is an assassin working for the CIA and charged with killing persons deemed enemies of the United States at any location necessary. A skilled killer, with no mercy, he is considered by his peers at the agency as one of the best they have handling the assignments given to him, and not questioning the reason for the kill order. Will is handed the assignment of hunting down and killing Jessica Reel, a fellow employee who has apparently gone rogue and murdered two officers of the CIA with no reason, nor any official sanction to do so. Jessica has a reputation of being almost as good as, or possibly as good as Will in handling assignments for the CIA. With David Baldacci setting up the scenario we know that all is not as initially depicted, and the reader is again treated to another engrossing novel by this master craftsman. What is the truth, and where does it lead Will is a fascinating study in what could happen when people in power find reasons to abuse that power thinking that they are the only ones knowing what is right and wrong. The plot leads us from an assignment to stop a rogue agent to a conspiracy taking place at very high government levels. With his usual talent for fleshing out people in this books, we become involved in the action, and do understand why everyone acts as they do. Another page turner by Baldacci, and a continued desire to read more books by him. 05/13 Paul Lane
TRAVELS IN ELYSIUM by William Azuski: A mystery, awash with metaphysical discussions about history, the meaning of life, and if the witnessing of a white light by people that have had a near death experience means that there is another existence after dying. Nicolas Pedrosa, a recent university graduate living in England is stuck in a dead end job when he comes upon a newspaper ad looking for an archaeological apprentice for work on a dig on the Greek island of Santorini. Nick applies for the job and in spite of no real credentials, gets it. Upon arrival he begins work with the director of the project, Marcus Huxley, who is fixated with proving that the buildings, artifacts, paintings and writings that have been unearthed so far prove that the fabled city of Atlantis has been discovered by the team he heads up. The writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato talk of a cultured city in the Atlantic destroyed by an earthquake, and one of the areas that scientists believe might have been Atlantis is Santorini. Nicolas and others in Huxley's team fall under the spell of the director's philosophies and ideas and begin to imagine that they had separate lives in Atlantis as well as those they live today. Scenes of Atlantis become real to them, and the presence of spirits permeate their thoughts. Huxley leads the team also in the direction of thinking that the Greek concept of Charion ferrying the dead to another land is real and the portal to that land is in the area they have excavated. There are discussions of different concepts between the characters often leading them into following Marcus Huxley onto subjects which are completely metaphysical in nature and sufficiently well presented to carry the reader into analyzing what is discussed. Azuski's concept of Atlantis existing on Santorini and being destroyed by a titanic earthquake is a fascinating one, and his juxtaposition of events in the present with those that may have taken place in the past is unique. A very original and enjoyable adventure into past and present events vividly presented. 05/13 Paul Lane
BLOOD MAKES NOISE by Gregory Widen: Widen has done several screenplays prior to this his first novel and his writing is clear and crisp with no false steps in telling the story. An afterward indicates that the idea is based on true events occurring after the death of Eva Peron (Evita) in Argentina with, of course fictional license involved in creating the entire story. Michael Suslov, one of the first actual CIA agents working for the new agency and a man raised in Argentina is serving at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1955 with a group consisting mainly of FBI agents. A contact of Michael's and a member of Argentine Military Intelligence summons him to a secret vault which contains the body of the legendary Evita. He is asked to move the body to a new location due to the probable fall of Juan Peron from power. Michael feels obligated to do it and makes arrangements to do so. While preparing for the move there is a home invasion at his house, and in the chaos surrounding the break in, he accidentally shoots his wife and kills both her and their unborn baby. Sixteen years after these events Michael Suslov is barely able to go through the days and nights with the horror of his crime haunting him. The same member of Argentine Military Intelligence that contacted him to hide Evita's body contacts him again, asking for help to bring her back to Argentina in the light of the probable return to power of Peron. In an attempt to somehow quiet the demons haunting him, Michael agrees. There are other forces anxious to get hold of Evita's body and all their interactions are carefully delineated within the book. Widen does an excellent job of fleshing out the principal characters allowing the reader to understand their thoughts, reservations, ideas and consequent actions. Blood Makes Noise is truly a book to sit down with and enjoy for the story, the writing and the descriptions of the events of the period after Evita's death and the later passing of Juan Peron and subsequent rise to power of his last wife Isabel. 05/13 Paul Lane
SCARE ME by Richard Parker: A very taut extremely fast paced novel that drags the reader into the spinning world of a psychopathic serial killer and doesn't let up until the very last pages. Will Frost, a successful British businessman is awakened one night from a sound sleep by a call from a woman telling him that he should immediately check himself out on Google. Will does so and is plunged head long into a horror never before imagined by himself nor his wife Carla. He sees seven houses on a site created for him and told that he must visit them in order, or his daughter and her boyfriend will be killed. The couple ascertain that the two have been kidnapped and are being held captive. Will begins a trip to each of the houses as guided by directions on a laptop he carries with him. He is told that he has to get an item owned by his daughter at each of the houses. The horror is that occupants of the houses have been brutally killed and left for him to discover and in most cases murdered just prior to his arrival. In the space of four days he is bounced from England to the U.S to the Far East and back again to England with no apparent rhyme or reason. Parker shows himself to be a master at maintaining the tensions of not knowing if Will's daughter is dead coupled with coming head on with indescribable violent murders of people he doesn't know anything about. We experience the complete exhaustion of the Frosts as each works via cell phone with the other in order to comply with the seemingly senseless directives of the killer. Scare Me is a book that readers will finish in one sitting and end up exhausted from event after horrifying event coming one after another. Excellent read and masterful fleshing out of people forced to comply with the dictates of lunacy, and this includes the motives of the killer explained at the book's ending. 05/13 Paul Lane
STOLEN by Daniel Palmer: Daniel Palmer, in an engrossing novel, brings us the ultimate identity theft book, and as he has done in his previous stories keeps the reader riveted to the pages right up to the final words. John and Ruby are young marrieds seemingly on top of the world, both with John's growing on line gaming business and a perfect marriage when like a bolt of lightening their world crashes around them. Ruby is hit with a devastating diagnosis of cancer, and the low end insurance they have will not pay the bills for the proper treatment. John, frantic at his wife's apparent death sentence, devises a scheme based on his knowledge of computer controls. He searches out and grabs the identities of two people that have played his games on line and have the profiles of barely hanging onto a much better insurance plan. The scheme seems to begin working immediately with Ruby's treatment being paid by the other insurance plan when out of the blue he gets a call from the man whose identity he has stolen. John is told that the scam will not be reported if he does what the man wants him to do. His nightmare begins when he is ordered to steal expensive scarves from a high end store and doesn't do so. A woman living in the same building as he and Ruby is killed in a violently gruesome fashion and John is told that this is the price for not playing "Criminal," the game devised by his caller. More demands are made and John finds himself in a web of terror attempting to comply with those demands and trying to save lives threatened by the man tormenting him. He has to continue in order that Ruby can receive her treatment or she will die, but lives a life trapped in the hands of what is really a serial killer in action. Characterizations of the people in the story are excellent and in keeping with Palmer's previous books. The ending is not telegraphed at any point but is logical and well thought out. Chalk up another winner for Daniel Palmer. 05/13 Paul Lane
EX-PATRIOTS by Peter Clines: St. George, Stealth, Zzzap, and Cerberus have seen friends and allies fall in the two years since the Zombocalypse. They and the LA survivors who have populated The Mount have survived though and that’s reason for celebration. Their little fireworks show catches the attention of a military outpost who soon sends an entourage to check things out. The visit proves that they aren’t the only survivors, something that comes as a relief to the superheroes and the rest of The Mount. But these are no ordinary military men and women. They’re the remains of Project Krypton, a science experiment intent on creating super soldiers. St. George and crew agree to a short trip out to Krypton’s base in Yuma but soon find that the military has plans that differ a bit from their own. Plans that they aren’t ready to outright reveal to the superheroes. This excellent follow up to Ex-Heroes gives readers a bit more insight into the existing superheroes while also introducing a few new faces—both good and bad. Ex-Patriots is equally as addicting as its predecessor and is a great fix for any zombie and/or action adventure craving. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
LONDON FALLING by Paul Cornell: When Rob Toshak, the so-called king of London, dies while in police custody, it falls on DI James Quill, Kevin Sefton, Tony Costain, and analyst Lisa Ross to figure out who did it. The problem is, the death happened in the interview room while Quill himself was watching. And it was a pretty graphic and gruesome death, too. The team soon discovers that their top suspect is a little old lady rumored to be a serial killing witch with a penchant for football. Legend has it she’ll kill anyone who scores a hat trick against her favorite team. Impossible as it seems, the group has to admit there’s truth behind the rumor when they all strangely become gifted with the “sight.” Now privy to a whole different side of London, they find they’re on their own to chase down a killer like none they’ve ever faced before. In London Falling, Paul Cornell has set the scene for a fabulous new urban fantasy series. The reader is dropped in the midst of an already in progress investigation. Much of the story unfolds along the way bringing the reader completely up to speed by the time the new investigation has begun. It’s well worth the rocky start. The pacing picks up significantly and the book ends with a cliffhanger-like set up for the expected second in the series. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA by Kimberly McCreight: Shock cannot begin to describe how Kate Baron feels when she learns that her teenage daughter has died in an apparent suicide. Just a short time before it happened, Kate received a call asking her to pick up her daughter from school. Amelia had been caught cheating and was to be suspended. Cheating—and suicide—were so against everything she knew about her daughter. In the weeks after the funeral, Kate forces herself to face facts. But when she receives a text simply stating, “She didn’t jump,” Kate knows there has to be more to the story. She quickly learns that Amelia was hiding things, but was it enough to push her to kill herself? Reconstructing Amelia is a tense and suspenseful read, a thriller of the highest order. Chapters alternate between Kate present day and Amelia in the months leading up to her death, with texts, Facebook updates, and posts from the unofficial Grace Hall gossip blog, gRaCeFULLY. Don’t plan to start this one late in the evening unless you’re prepared to read through to the very end. You won’t be able to put it down. 5/13 Becky Lejeune
"The whole family is a bunch of dangerous freaks...Most are ex-cons or junkies or deranged from inbreeding. Five have died violently, three are back in prison, two have gone insane from untreated venereal disease, and one writes book reviews." ~ Triggerfish Twist by Tim Dorsey
BLACK IRISH by Stephan Talty: It is about time someone wrote a crime story set in my old hometown, Buffalo, New York again. To those of us who grew up there, the City is a character all by itself. And Stephan Talty gets that character right - the ghostly figures of the empty steel mills, the pollution that remains after the jobs have gone and the kicking of slush off behind the tires on your car before it freezes are all true notes. And I am pleased to report that he has placed a fine character, Abbie (Absalom) Kearney, in the still beating heart of that city.
Abbie is a police detective who grew up in an Irish neighborhood and is the daughter of a retired hero of a policeman. When she is called in to investigate the murder of a meter-reader whose body has been stuffed into a small space in a vacant Catholic Church, her detective senses begin to tingle. And rightly so, as this is the first in a series of murders where the bodies are carved for more than killing, the corpses are posed and placed significantly and a toy monkey is always concealed at the site. These factors and the Irish connections of all the victims lead Abbie into a search through the Irish bars, the Irish secret societies and the Irish policemen of Buffalo. At times, it seems like both the Irish community and the police department itself are stonewalling her. And then, at the height of her frustration, she comes home to find a toy monkey hanging from her front door.
The story moves along well and has a satisfying resolution. I have put this book on my "Buffalo shelf" along with Dan Simmons' Hard Freeze and Hard as Nails. More, please. 04/13 Geoffrey R. Hamlin
Brandenburg by Glenn Meade: Originally published in May of 1998 and now reissued in a paperback edition, the background and circumstances depicted in the original hardcover are more in keeping with today's economic and political conditions than in 1998. Against the backdrop of world wide economic problems, joblessness, monetary crisis and political unrest, Joseph Volkmann, an international policeman is given the name of a German reporter, Erica Kranz, as the person that has information concerning murders he is investigating in different parts of the world. Volkmann contacts Erica who willingly tells him what she knows about the crimes and asks that he investigate the murder of her cousin in Asuncion, Paraguay. Volkmann obliges and with her aid begins the lengthy process of uncovering what is in reality an amazingly well thought out plot to change the political situation in the world. Meade delivers the scenario of this plot for the reader in a crescendo of events taking place in many different countries in South America, Europe and the United States. There are no haphazard twists and turns to the story, but a logical series of related events leading to one of the most amazing climaxes possible. This is a work of fiction, but it will be impossible for anyone reading it not to immediately recognize conditions described with actualities of today. That romantic feelings develop between Volkmann and Erica is certainly expected, and may allow future books based on International crime and detection to pair them again and will be welcomed by anyone reading Brandenburg. 4/13 Paul Lane
DARKFEVER by Karen Marie Moning: MacKayla Lane’s world falls apart when she learns that her sister has been murdered. Alina had been attending school in Ireland when she was brutally killed and dumped in an alley. The gardai have no leads and Mac and her family are helpless back home in Georgia. Mac is disturbed to find that her sister managed to leave her a mysterious voicemail just before her death. While the message makes no sense to Mac, she is sure that it could help in finding her sister’s killer. And so, against her parents’ wishes, MacKayla decides to take matters into her own hands and travel to Dublin herself. She soon discovers that Alina was hiding a second life, one in which the formerly serious student’s studies took a backseat to a relationship she’d kept secret even from Mac. But the biggest surprise is the one that Alina discovered about her and Mac’s heritage. Dublin awakens a part of Mac that she never knew existed, one that could save our world from the fae threat that’s coming. Darkfever is the first installment in Moning’s wildly popular Fever series. It’s a bit dark for paranormal romance—something I enjoyed quite a bit—but Moning does lighten things up with Mac’s snarky attitude. It’s fortunate that the whole series is available now as the cliffhanger ending here definitely leaves readers anxious to dive into the second installment. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
EREBOS by Ursula Poznanski: When Nick’s friend Colin bails on their basketball practice and then begins screening his calls, Nick knows something is up. Colin and others in their school are beginning to slack off in class – if they even attend at all – and a strange package is being passed around. But no one is talking. Then Nick finally has a chance to discover what all the fuss is about: it’s a game. Erebos is secretive and highly addicting fantasy game that comes with rules: first, no one can know about the game. No one can talk about the game and each player plays under an alias that they must not reveal in the real world. What’s strange is that the game seems to know when someone has broken the rules. And then the game begins to bleed into the real world as well. Nick has assignments to complete IRL (in real life), assignments that earn him points and level ups in the game. When the real world assignments start to become too intense, Nick begins to wonder if it’s really worth it at all. I think I might have become as involved in this book as the characters were in the game. Erebos is a real page turner and though it’s a teen release it definitely has the right kind of elements to appeal to an adult audience as well. Originally released in Germany, this translation is the first of Poznanski’s books to be released overseas. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
EX-HEROES by Peter Clines: What happens when you mix superheroes and a zombie apocalypse? You get Ex-Heroes, Peter Clines’s debut and first in a new series. It takes less than a year for the world to fall apart; the spread of the zombie plague decimated everything. Straggling survivors fight to make it day by day, but one group in LA is lucky enough to have the support of a band of superheroes for help. They are St. George/The Mighty Dragon, Zzzap, Gorgon, Cerebrus, and Stealth and together they protect and defend the Mount —the old Paramount Studio lot, which they’ve revamped into a protected compound. But they aren’t alone in the City of Angels. Outside the compound walls, a zombie horde fights to get in and further out in the city another group of survivors has come together. This second group is led by the Seventeens, a gang that once fought for control of the city and is gearing up to do so again. Ex-Heroes is great fun. It’s a perfect mash-up: the love child of classic super hero comics and zombie horror, complete with gore and inappropriate humor. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
THE GUILTY ONE by Lisa Ballantyne: An eight-year-old boy has been murdered and his eleven-year-old playmate stands accused. Sadly, though only eleven, British law allows the boy – Sebastian Croll – to be tried as an adult. Daniel Hunter has made a career out of defending minors. The case is already attracting a lot of attention and the hearing is sure to be both emotional and controversial. Sebastian is an odd child: he’s clever but a bit awkward and small for his age. In him, Daniel sees something of himself. As a child, Daniel was shifted from foster home to foster home while his mother spiraled further into a drug-induced haze. Had he not met and been adopted by Minnie Flynn he would never have become what he is today. But Daniel had a falling out with his adoptive mother and hasn’t talked to her for years. Unfortunately, just as the case begins, Daniel receives news that Minnie has died. With the pressures of the trial looming, Daniel is forced to face his past and reconcile his feelings towards Minnie. Lisa Ballantyne’s debut is gripping, to say the least. The story shuttles back and forth between the present and the past, leaving the true revelation about Minnie and Sebastian until the very end. I enjoyed everything about the book: the pacing, the build and intensity of the suspense, and the characters. This is a debut that will likely appeal to a wide range of readers including fans of Laura Lippman and Jodi Piccoult. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
THE LAST DANCE by Lonna Enox: When the husband of Sorrel Janes is brutally murdered, Houston police suspect the crime may be related to Janes’ high-profile position as crime reporter for a Houston television station. They recommend she leave the area, at least until they can get a better handle on the situation. Fortunately Sorrel has property in Saddle Gap, a quiet little town in southwestern New Mexico. Her aunt had willed Sorrel a combination home and gift shop, which seems the ideal solution for her. She can pursue her hobby of photography and run the now dormant gift shop started by her aunt. Within a few days of her arrival in Saddle Gap, she is involved in not one, but two, murders and an inquisitive detective seems determined to solve the murders as well as Sorrel's secrets. Recommended. 4/13 Jack Quick
LIFETIME by Liza Marklund: Nina Hoffman is the closest cop to the scene when gunshots are heard in a swanky Stockholm apartment building. She responds to find cop David Lindholm shot dead in his bed. Nina's best friend, David's wife, Julia, is incoherent, mumbling that a woman took her boy. Their small son is missing, and all evidence points to Julia. Even Nina can't vouch for her friend's innocence, but reporter Annika Bengtzon is on the case. The more she investigates, the clearer Julia's innocence seems, but no one else believes Annika. Julia's court-appointed lawyer is a dolt, and her case is pushed through the courts quickly; law enforcement wants revenge for David's death. Annika doesn't have the time she needs to prove her case, but she pushes on despite a crisis in her personal life (her husband has left her for another woman). The latest in Markland's Annika Bengtzon series tells a complex but fascinating story full of misdirection and police obfuscation. Recommend Marklund to fans of Jussi Adler-Olsen and Camilla Lackberg. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
LITTLE ELVISES by Timothy Hallinan: Cops and robbers, mobsters and gun molls – what has LA burglar Junior Bender gotten himself into this time. Crooked LA cop Paul DiGaudio is going to frame Junior for a particularly nasty burglary unless Junior can prove aging music industry mogul Vinnie DiGaudio (Paul’s uncle) is innocent of the murder of a nasty tabloid journalist he'd threatened to kill a couple times. It doesn’t help that the dead journalist’s widow is one pretty lady, and she’s trying to get Junior to mix pleasure with business. In addition, Junior's hard-drinking landlady begs him to solve the disappearance of her daughter, who got involved with a very questionable character and both Junior's ex-wife and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Rina, seem to have new boyfriends. After being run into with a Humvee, been threatened with death a few times, Junior must also cope with having the kingpin of LA crime involved with his little task. It’s almost enough to make a thief go honest. Serious but funny action in a story superbly told by a master of the genre, Mr. Timothy Hallinan. 4/13 Jack Quick
THE MIDWIFE OF VENICE by Roberta Rich: This book was recommended to me by several people so I gave it a read and was not disappointed. Set during the 1500s, Hanna is a Jewish midwife living in the ghetto with her husband Isaac. Isaac is a spice merchant and gets kidnapped and taken to Malta as a slave. Jews are forbidden from giving medical assistance to Christians, but when a rich Venetian offers her enough money to ransom her husband back, Hanna agrees. The baby is the heir to a huge fortune, leaving his uncles plotting ways to get rid of him and Hanna. Hanna runs to her estranged sister, a courtesan who helps hide her. Meanwhile Isaac is trying his best not to starve to death in captivity to a nun who will only help him if he converts, and then to a brutal ship owner. The characters are not very well developed other than Isaac, but the story moves and is interesting. The Midwife of Venice feels like the anemic younger sister of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant or People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, but it's definitely worth a read. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
No Way Back by Andrew Gross: Andrew Gross again comes out with a "grab the reader fast and hold them" novel. The book centers on the Mexican Drug Cartel and it's evil tentacles spreading into the United States. Two different, but very brave women are brought together by events tied to murders committed by one of the Cartels. In order to survive being hunted they must unite and find the real causes of their danger. Wendy Gould is a suburban housewife caught in a chance situation in a hotel room that forces her to kill a government agent to save her own life. Her shooting skills come from a past job with a police department. Lauritzia Velez, on the other hand, is a nanny working for a wealthy couple tending their children. Her past, which she keeps hidden from her employers, involves an indirect involvement with a Mexican drug cartel and the necessity to flee Mexico to save her life. Gross brings the two together in a very logical and well thought out scenario while keeping the reader riveted to the book. His plot and events in the story show the same attention to detail that he has exhibited in the past both while collaborating with James Patterson and writing on his own. The only problem I find with Andrew's books is that they end and I have to wait for the next one. No Way Back continues with the trend of good plots, riveting action and logical sequences to get the reader and hold him or her. 4/13 Paul Lane
NOWHERE BUT HOME by Liza Palmer: Growing up, Queenie Wake couldn’t wait to escape her hometown of North Star, Texas. Her family name has been synonymous with poverty, bad luck, and – thanks to Queenie’s mother, BJ – fallen women. As a result, Queenie and her sister never fit in regardless of how hard they tried. Queenie has spent her time since college moving from job to job and place to place. When she’s fired yet again, her sister convinces her to return home to regroup. What’s meant to be a temporary stay becomes complicated when Queenie is offered an odd but compelling new position cooking last meals at the local prison. The chance to reconnect with her family and the support of her sister are exactly what Queenie needs, but is it enough for the Wakes to overcome the years of North Star’s harassment? Liza Palmer’s latest is a wonderful, wonderful read. Her characters are so believable and real, it’s easy for any reader to slip into their shoes and see life through their eyes. What’s more, Palmer always manages to infuse her story with a great balance of humor, making her tales heartfelt and funny at the same time. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
PALE HORSES by Jassy Mackenzie: Sonet Meintjies accidentally jumps to her death off a swanky downtown Johannesburg skyscraper when her parachute doesn’t open in this fourth book in the Jade de Jong series. Her base jumping partner hires private investigator Jade de Jong to clear his name and find out what really happened. De Jong reluctantly takes the case and immediately finds much more than she bargained for; Sonet’s sister, an investigative journalist looking into the timely topic of genetically modified seeds, is missing. As de Jong starts digging around, all leads seem to point to a small, mysteriously abandoned farming community in Limpopo. In a another storyline, Ntombi Khumalo, a widow with a young son, is working as a driver for a man she is sure is a murderer. Her employer has effectively trapped her in his employ; she is completely dependent on him for all support, and he threatens her very existence. Khumalo is terrified, yet determined to protect her young son no matter the cost. De Jong is tough as nails and persistent, despite the fact that every clue leads down a dark, twisted and dangerous alley. The South African setting and culture are fascinating, the strong women characters intriguing, and the way the storylines eventually intersect adds another layer to this dark and disturbing tale. While not for the faint of heart, Pale Horses is sure to appeal to fans of Liza Marklund, Zoe Sharp and fellow South African crime writer Deon Meyer. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch Copyright © 2013 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association. Reprinted with permission.
THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult: Picoult steps away from her usual ripped-from-the-headlines plots to one that feels much more intimate, yet worldly. The titled storyteller refers to Minka, a Holocaust survivor who got through Auschwitz by taking a page from Scheherazade and enthralling one of the upper echelon SS officers with her fairytale that Disney wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole; her hero is a cannibal and the story is an allegory for the Nazis, despite her naïveté about it. Minka's story is interwoven amongst her own Holocaust experience, her granddaughter Sage, a baker in a small New Hampshire town with a lot of her own angst, two brothers of the Third Reich, and Josef, a ninety-five year old highly respected and admired retired teacher and coach. This is compelling reading, despite all the clichés strewn throughout. I must admit to feeling uncomfortable even saying that, because is it cliché to repeat the oft told horrors of the Nazi regime or is it just reinforcing those stories in hopes of remembrance? Yet somehow I expect more, especially from Picoult with her enormous talent, not to mention her professional editor, to bring her own unique perspective to these horrors instead of dishing us up more of the same. Regardless, the story is intriguing, based on the premise of an old man asking a young woman he perceives to be Jewish to forgive him for his war crimes and help end his life. The legal aspect adds an additional layer of intrigue as does the surprising, twisty ending. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
TUESDAY’S GONE by Nicci French: After her involvement with the Dean Reeve case, therapist Frieda Klein is a little surprised to get another request for help from the police. Sure the Reeve case closed fairly successfully with the kidnapped child recovered safely, but Frieda is facing a complaint from a patient’s wife thanks to the case. What’s more, Frieda soon learns that Reeve’s wife is releasing her version of the story in a published memoir that doesn’t necessarily paint the therapist in the greatest light. But when a social worker finds a dead man being served tea at one of her appointments, Karlsson decides that Frieda may be able to make some sense out of the whole thing. Frieda isn’t at all certain that the woman entertaining the dead man is actually responsible for his death, but the cops aren’t so sure. When the therapist expands her involvement beyond a simple consultation, however, she does manage to uncover evidence to support her theory. In spite of her success, Frieda is still unsure she wants any involvement in police work at all, and the continued scrutiny of both her professional and private lives complicates things further. This follow up to Blue Monday is excellent. The characters – Frieda in particular, but the more peripheral characters as well – are all quite quirky and, now that the series is beyond the introductory phase, are all beginning to grow in really intriguing ways. Although Tuesday’s Gone can stand alone, I have to recommend reading the books in order. The bit of continued plot from Blue Monday is something I particularly enjoyed and would definitely lose effect if readers jumped in at the second installment. 4/13 Becky Lejeune
DON'T GO TO THE COSMETICS COUNTER WITHOUT ME by Paula Begoun: This is the newest, 2012 edition of this very popular book. Begouin analyzes makeup and skin care products and gives a Consumer Reports type rating to them. When it first came out in 1992, it was truly groundbreaking but now I have some issues, chief of which is Begouin now has her own skincare and makeup line which amazingly scores in the "best" rankings for every product. Her products may very well be fantastic, but it does make the rest of her ratings somewhat suspect as bias is now firmly in place. I was also surprised that some brands were completely overlooked; I would have liked to see how Costco's marriage with Borghese cosmetics stacked up as well as a newcomer (to me, at least,) Ulta and their line of products. But beyond these critiques, I don't see the point of buying this book. All the information is readily available on the author's website, which she advises us is www.cosmeticscop.com but which miraculously, automatically turns into www.paulaschoice.com/ online. Not to mention this book is a doorstopper; at 950 pages, no one is schlepping this book anywhere, never mind to the cosmetics counter. Save your money, borrow from your library or check out the products that interest you online. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
SMITTEN KITCHEN by Deb Perelman: This hugely popular cookbook is based on the hugely popular blog of the same name. It's a very chatty cookbook, there are stories with all the recipes about the how or why of the recipe and that definitely adds to its appeal. Perelman is a charming (see Today Show piece) young mother, not a professionally trained chef as she is quick to point out, and most amazing of all, she cooks and created this cookbook in a tiny New York City kitchen with a 3/4 size oven, a refrigerator that freezes whatever is in the back, and a miniscule prep/counter area. After reading this book, I had my cookbook discussion group have a go at it too. We read cookbooks, try a recipe or two at home, then get together to discuss. With this book, the consensus was unanimous; we all loved reading the cookbook, but felt the recipes were lacking flavor. Recipes we tried included the New York Breakfast Casserole, which is made with bagels and was found to be pretty bland and too thick/bready; Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto, also bland and the consistency was pasty; Honey and Harissa Farro Salad, once again bland was the best descriptor. I made the Broccoli Slaw which was delicious, but I subbed probably half the ingredients for what I had on hand and upped the flavor with balsamic vinegar over the recommended apple cider vinegar. More salad than slaw, following Perelman's suggested cutting method, my husband and I polished it off in one day. I also tried the zucchini, using the Perelman recommendation of weighing the ingredients but it seemed as if the 142 grams of almonds was twice the alternative 1/2 cup would have been, but I went with it anyway. I amped up the flavor by using twice as much garlic, a heavier hand with the crushed red pepper, and adding the lemon zest in addition to the juice. Sadly, I didn't end up with pesto, I had to add a ton more oil and still just had mush which turned my zucchini to mush as well. Disgusting. Very disappointing. 4/13 Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch
Additional lists include my lists of favorite books, along with brief reviews: Best Books of 2012, 2011 Favorites, 2010 Favorites, 2009 Favorites, 2008 Favorites, 2007 Favorites, 2006 Favorites, 2005 Favorites, 2004 Favorites, 2003 Favorites, 2002 Favorites, 2001 Favorites, 2000 Favorites, 1999 Favorites and 1998 Favorites. The visitors to this site have chosen their favorites for 2001 and 2002 as well.
For information about reading group titles & events, including a list of favorite book group selections, see the Book Groups page.