It’s Friday. You know what that means.

Welcome to January and welcome to 2021!

Hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year. Even if you didn’t – that’s okay too! Doesn’t always have to be happy times.

One thing I will take out of last year is not taking anything for granted.  Being able to pop on a plane and visit friends or family.  Popping to the pub for a pint and some wings to watch a game with a buddy on a whim.  Heck – being able to go to a library!  All things that I just took for granted.  If anything, 2020 gave me a whole new appreciation for life and what we have and when things get back to normal I won’t forget that.

I’m happy to report that I made two New Years Resolutions in 2020 and completed both of them. It’s funny as growing up I considered resolutions a joke – everyone would make them and then break them within the first month. So I never took them seriously.

Then back in 2015 I randomly decided to make a resolution which was to quit smoking at some point in the year. I woke up January 1st and for some reason, my brain was thinking of that and wanting to get it done ASAP. I ended up smoking less and less then quitting in February of that year and haven’t smoked since.

So each year I set resolutions for myself and my gosh – they actually work!

For 2020 I set a goal of running my first half marathon and doing at least 10,000 steps every day. The 10k steps challenge was the toughest – it can be very hard to motivate yourself to go out and walk for an hour in -40 weather on an ice rink. I am happy to report that I was able to get out there for at least 10,000 steps all 365 days of the year.

It was fun too seeing how it would affect my mood. It became a bit of a hassle to be honest – however those mornings where I got out at 7am for a run, and had 10k steps over with by 745? The best. I was on cloud 9 the rest of the day and bouncing off the walls to the point where my wife, who isn’t a morning person, would tell me to “stop being so damn happy!”.

I had dreams of running an official half marathon alas for obvious reasons that didn’t happen. I was a bit bummed out about that and then at the end of November I randomly thought “Screw it I’m going to run one anyway”. Not sure why I couldn’t come up with that idea in like August or September. As it is I set out on a Saturday morning in early December, -2 weather, snow and wind and a bit of rain, and completed my first half marathon. Felt good and looking forward to more in 2021.

For Christmas I got a mechanical keyboard. I’ve been curious about them for years and finally decided to take the plunge. I’m already a fast typist on a regular keyboard at about 140wpm so not sure how much faster I can get but we’ll see how it goes. It’s a big adjustment that’s for sure – I’m still pushing the keys all the way down and I am feeling a bit of finger pain. Going to at least stick with it the rest of January and see if I can adjust.

Last year I decided to try one of those subscription food boxes and it was one of the highlights of my year for a variety of reasons.  I intended to try various services to see what one I liked best but the first one I tried was Goodfood (Canada only) and I stuck with that one throughout the year.  Picking out and then making the recipes with my wife was great – but the real highlight was my son.

I’ve been trying to get my 17 year old into cooking more but I mean he’s a teenager; I’d show him my recipe for spinach mushroom tortellini and he’d reply “Eh I’ll just make a mr noodle”.  I had him cooking a few recipes but it was hard to get him passionate about it.

Enter the Goodfood box.  I started getting him to pick recipes from the website and he really enjoyed everything about it.  He went from cooking the basics to making grilled Italian sausage burgers with marinated zucchini, balsamic glazed chicken with peach & feta salsa and pork rendang with coconut-turmeric sauce.

He ended up getting super into cooking and signed up with a program all on his own that involved doing cooking classes over zoom once a week.  It was pretty cool ending the year yesterday eating the sweet potato naan pizza with caramelized onions and thyme that my son whipped up considering we started the year by scraping the burnt bits off the grilled cheese he made!

If you’ve been debating doing one of those food boxes I recommend it.  For Canadians I recommend Goodfood.  What I like best about them is there is no commitment – I can skip as many weeks as I want.

That’s enough about me – let’s talk about books!

Something I love is discovering an author in the most random way possible. I wrote in the mid-month newsletter about the book The Warehouse by Rob Hart. Someone e-mailed me saying it sounded familiar to a James Patterson book but they couldn’t remember the name.

I was pretty sure it was The Store and looked it up. Sure enough, it was. While searching though I saw there was another book by that name by the author Bentley Little. I’m aware of Bentley although never read any of his books. I am not a big fan of the horror genre. I read the synopsis though and I was hooked. I started it immediately and absolutely loved it and could barely put it down.

What’s great about Bentley is almost every synopsis is right up my alley and hooks me. All it takes is one little paragraph. I just finished reading The Association by him. I’ll paste the synopsis for that here:

Congratulations, Barry and Maureen: You’ve been approved by the Association and are encouraged to move into your exclusive gated community as soon as possible. Please be aware that we reserve the right to approve your decor, your landscaping, your friends, and your job. All relationships with neighbors should be avoided. Any interference from the outside will not be tolerated. Any attempt to leave will be stopped. Any infraction of the rules could result in severe fines, physical punishment, or death. Please send all other inquiries to the house on the hill. Preferably before dark.

P.S. You’re being watched.


That’s the sort of description I just love. I read that one too. A bit of a weak ending – but I still enjoyed it and will read more from Bentley.

However big warning – this dude is dark and depraved. I know there are readers out there who won’t read a book with swear words in it for example – this guy is NOT for you. This is not one you want to suggest for your family or church book club! Some seriously messed up stuff.

Anyway – I just find it neat how we sometimes stumble upon or discover a new author like that. I’ll make that the mailbag topic this month as it’s neat to hear those sort of stories.

As promised I read The Last Flight by Julie Clark. Really enjoyed it and I’m glad I put it in the recommendations section in the last newsletter. Julie is someone I will certainly read more of.

Alright that’s enough from me for now. Let’s get on with the rest of the newsletter!

Each month we give away 5 $25 Amazon gift certificates to random subscribers.

To win all you have to do is be a subscriber. Nothing more! When we go to hit “Publish” we take a list of all of our subscribers, throw them into a random draw and those are the winners.

Our winners this month are:

Sandra from Austin, TX
Linda from Belhaven, NC
Darla from Oxnard, CA
Kari from Sterling Heights, MI
Debbie from Bloomington, IL

All of you have been e-mailed. If you don’t see anything, check your junk folder or contact me.


Book Recommendations

In this section I give 4-5 random book recommendations. They can be old books, they can be new. But either way – I recommend you read them if the type of genre they are in appeals to you. Feel free to e-mail suggestions to as many of the suggestions each month are from our readers. If you wish to add a description for the book around the same size as the ones below that’d be great too! I should note we also have a huge backlog of recommendations so if you don’t see one that you recommended then don’t worry – it’ll show up eventually!

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Margaret is an incredible author and mostly known for The Handmaid’s Tale. After I talked about The Warehouse by Rob Hart in the previous newsletter, Jon e-mailed in to say that based on that book, he would recommend this one. “I recommend Margaret Atwood’s 2015 novel, The Heart Goes Last – somewhat similar. Lighter fare than her usual works.”

I haven’t had the chance to read it yet but will soon for sure. It’s about a couple trying to stay afloat amidst social and economic collapse and The Positron Project seems to be the answer. A place where no one is unemployed and they get to live in a house for 6 months of the year. The other 6 months they must be inmates in the Positron prison system. Very interesting concept and I am looking forward to reading it soon.

Leine Basso Thriller series by D.V. Berkom

This one was recommended by Laurie who said it is intense, and a “can’t put down thriller series.”

It started in 2012 and there are currently 10 books in the series. I should note even though it was published a few years later, the author lists A Killing Truth as the first in the series so you should probably read that one first.

In that one, Leine is a deadly assassin who kills terrorists. A routine assassination goes wrong and it looks like she was double crossed by her boss.

A popular series with a bad ass female protagonist. Check it out!

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Overstory is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

It was recommended by Judy who wrote:

“I wanted to call to your attention a book from the Fiction Best Seller list that I just finished reading. It is “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. What a powerful book! I learned more about trees that I never knew (they are really social beings) and the nasty ways lumber companies get their product. It is not a happy book, but one I am very glad I read. It is a real eye opener.”

It’s about five trees and their unique experiences with nine people as they look to address the destruction of the forests. Seems like an interesting one and I hope to check it out soon. Visit our Richard Powers page for more details.

Atlee Pine Series by David Baldacci

Much like earlier this year when I started receiving many, many e-mails about the great Amos Decker series by Baldacci, I’m now receiving many, many e-mails about the Atlee Pine series!

There are currently three books in this series and they feature FBI Agent Atlee Pine. The first book is Long Road to Mercy. Her twin sister Mercy was kidnapped when she was 6. The kidnapper chose her over Atlee by doing the “Eeny Meeny” mine.

Seems like an interesting series and when I am finished the Decker series (one book to go) I’ll check it out. Thanks to everyone for the recommendation. Head on over to our Baldacci page for the series.

November of the Heart by LaVyrle Spencer

Seeing this one recommended was a blast from the past – and I was pleasantly surprised to see that even though LaVyrle hasn’t written anything since 1997, she’s still alive and kicking!

I remember seeing her books everywhere in the 90s. She was a legend in the romance genre. One of our readers Joan discovered her recently and wrote “I just finished reading November of the Heart by LaVyrle Spencer and would like to read all of her books now and you had them all listed – WOW.”

I love that sort of passion – when you read one book from an author and immediately want to read everything they have wrote. If you’re a fan of romance and haven’t read any yet – make it a resolution to read some LaVyrle Spencer.

Book of the Month: The Breaker by Nick Petrie

In all my years of recommending authors and series I’ve never received anything close to the reaction I receive when I recommend the “Peter Ash” series by Nick Petrie.

If you like Jack Reacher, this is the series for you. Even if you don’t like Reacher it’s still well worth checking out.

Just an excellent series (save for that last book in Iceland) and the latest one comes out on January 12th, 2021.

I’m not joking when I say this – I actually scheduled a tattoo appointment on the 12th of the month just so I have a few hours uninterrupted where I can zone out and read this one.

If you haven’t read the Peter Ash series this will be the sixth book and it is highly recommended. Read The Drifter immediately. Check it out.

10 More Notable Books Releasing in January

New Author Spotlight: Matthew Farrell

This month we are featuring Matthew Farrell.

Matthew is American and writes suspense thriller novels. He actually wrote a book back in 2005 then nothing for 13 years until What Have You Done in 2018.

What Have You Done is Matthew Farrell’s thriller that is really hard to put down. The book starts with a mutilated body found hanging in a Philadelphia motel and Liam Dwyer, a forensics specialist, is on the case. He’s used to this type of thing as part of his job, but he is not prepared for the woman to be someone he had an affair with. Liam is a suspect and he has no idea where he was on the night of the crime. Liam looks to his brother Sean, a detective, for help as the incriminating evidence piles up. As he digs deeper and deeper into this case though, he soon finds that Sean should have been the last person he should’ve asked for help.

For more details, check out our Matthew Farrell page.

Audiobook Arena

By Amy

I would recommend for listening while running, two of my favorite series. You may have read the books, of course, but these two series are made by the narrator for me. I feel like I know the characters personally.

1. David Rosenfelt’s “Andy Carpenter” series. Grover Garner’s voice is perfect for it. Book #22 was just released. They’re not long books, but you have several.

2. Stuart Woods’ “Stone Barrington” series. These are also short, but there are 50+ of them. Again, the narrator makes the characters. Someone else narrated the first one, but it’s been Tony Roberts ever since.

I don’t listen to a lot of cozy mysteries, but occasionally a series appeals to me. Quite often the narrators for these are just annoying. One series I love though is Jana DeLeon’s “Miss Fortune” series. They are so humorous and Cassandra Campbell does an excellent job with the various characters. There are close to 20 of these.

Beware, once you get started with audiobooks there’s no going back! Though some books don’t lend themselves, and again the narrator will make or break it for you.


By Andy

“You Can’t Make a Good Deal with a Bad Person”
Quote by Warren Buffet, thoughts by Andy

I don’t believe I’ve discussed this before, but you can buy a full collection of audio books by an author from a “deep discount” seller – and you may be getting far more, or far less than you bargained for.

A couple times a year I review our library to see what series we may want to start but has holes in it. With some series it doesn’t matter, however with others continuity is important – like the Harry Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (loved it!). While trying to find a few specific titles online I was reminded of an experience I had not long ago, and my experience can translate to two warnings – is it legal, and what quality are you settling for?

First, when buying a collection, make sure it’s authorized by the publisher. There are a number of unscrupulous people currently selling large collections by authors claiming to have ‘agreements’ with the publishers to offer all this at a discount. Several factors should raise red flags – such as how long they’ve been in business (many online venues show how long the account has been active), where is the user profile registered, and where will the “product” ship from (right now China, Hong Kong, and the former Soviet Union are some of the worst violators). Price is another way of determining something is hinky, such as someone selling every one of James Patterson’s books for under $100 (US). That is dozens of titles for the price of just two or three! Please don’t forget, if you purchase from these folks you’re not only likely complicit in breaking the law (not legal advice – check with your solicitor) but you’re bypassing the system which allows the authors to get paid – which is kind of an important incentive for them to keep entertaining us! I’m not speaking out against buying used – goodness knows most of what WE have is second-hand, but rather I’m asking you to beware of illicit sellers and their “too good to be true” offers.

Second is the sound quality. While the original source files probably come from the original publisher, these files are often reduced and compacted to get more on a single CD (or more often DVD). Some are so bad they are literally useless. I once purchased an audio DVD of classic books that were out of copyright, and the recordings had been compressed to the point that we couldn’t find a single audio file that was worth trying to listen to. The lesson here is again, if the offer is too good to be true then it likely is.

I’d like to close on a completely different thought – or if I may quote Monty Python, “and now for something completely different!”

If someone who reads a lot is a bibliophile, and someone who listens to music is an audiophile, what is a person who listens to audio books – other than someone too lazy to turn pages?

We have a lot of audiobook fans and invite book listeners to write their own column every month. Want to discuss audiobooks or a favourite narrator? Hit reply and write and we’ll feature your column in a future newsletter!

Picture of the Month:

Your Thoughts:

Last month I asked what were the best books or best book experiences for you in 2020. The responses are at the bottom of the newsletter.

This month I am asking: what are the most random ways you have discovered a new author?

I wrote in the beginning about searching for “The Store” by James Patterson and discovering “The Store” by Bentley Little that led me down that rabbit hole. That’s one example.

I think it was Harlan Coben I first discovered while on a flight. We were waiting to disembark the plane and the couple in front of me were in an argument. He wanted to get off the plane and she had just “one more chapter” to go. Knowing how badly people want to get off a plane I knew I had to read whatever book she was reading. I glanced at the cover as I walked past them and bought it that same week.

Then there are just general books that I discover based on seeing their covers. I mean I don’t “judge a book by its cover” but I used to go to the library or bookstores regularly, just browse looking at the featured / recommended books and pick one based on their cover. I can’t remember any specific books from that unfortunately but I’ve discovered many authors that way.

E-mail us your feedback to or just reply to this e-mail, and we’ll pick the best comments and feature it in next months newsletter. Five people will also randomly win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.

Reader Mailbag:

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