Top 10: The First Four Years of Nightstand Book Reviews


Book Cover - Cold Dish

The first four years of Nightstand Book Reviews delivered a wide range of books to my doorstep and to my email inbox. Right from the beginning, I have received more than 100 requests a month (once over 400) from writers and publicists and friends of writers and publicists to review the latest book they had to offer.


It has been a fun problem to have. The strategy was (and remains) to choose great reads to chat about and share with the thousands of Nightstand Book Reviews followers around the world. The books on the site are by and large fiction, and tell a well-plotted story involving nicely developed characters. The authors are a mix of bestselling writers of longstanding, and newbies to the field when I first met them. Traditionally published or ebook only? Both happily co-exist on NBR. Occasionally I highlight biographies, great cookbooks, and helpful gardening books. A new feature in 2016 was Author Profiles. You’ll see more of those in 2017.


Below is the list of Top 10 books reviewed on Nightstand Book Reviews over the last four years, listed in ABC order by author. These were the books that garnered the most interest on NBR from the worldwide audience during the four years. Six books on the list were the debut novels from those authors. Some powerhouse writers (long, successful careers with great popularity) mixed in with newbies? A good book is a good book.


All of these authors now have multiple books out. Click on the book title to read the review.


Lee Child – “The Killing Floor”


Robert Dugoni – “My Sister’s Grave”


Robert Dugoni – “The Conviction”


Sherry Harris – “Tagged for Death”


Sue Harrison – “Mother Earth, Father Sky”


Erin Hart – “Haunted Ground”


Tami Hoag – “Alibi Man”


Craig Johnson – “The Cold Dish”


Leigh Perry – “A Skeleton in the Family”


Andy Weir – “The Martian”



Have you read any of the titles on the list? Wildly different books to be sure, with thrillers, sci-fi, traditional mysteries, and cozies in the group. 


And soooo much fun to read.  :-)


Thank you all, kind readers, for being part of the Nightstand Book Reviews community during the first four years. Your comments and participation make me smile as I search for the next great read to share with you.


10 of the Best Books of the Past Year-2016 update



…and the prize goes to…


Readers all over the world choose their next book based on the award winners announced by various organizations during the recent year. Here is a list of ten popular awards for recent novels in the adult category to receive applause and/or rave reviews from colleagues in the genre or from readers who loved the books.


Have you read any books on the list? If so, let us know what you enjoyed about them in the comment section. 


Agatha Award given to mystery and crime writers, in 2015 cozy subgenre:

“Long Upon the Land” by Margaret Maron


Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction 2016:

“The Five Times I Met Myself” by James L. Rubart


Edgar Allen Poe Award awarded by the Mystery Writers of America 2016:

“Let Me Die in His Footsteps” by Lori Roy


Goodreads Choice Awards chosen by readers 2015:

“Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee


Hugo Awards awarded for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy 2016:

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin


Macavity Award given to favorite 2015 mystery by Mystery Readers International:

“The Killer Next Door” by Alex Marwood


Man Booker Prize literary prize for best 2015 novel translated to English language:  “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith


National Book Award for fiction given to U.S. authors 2015:

“Fortune Smiles: Stories” by Adam Johnson


Nebula Awards presented by Science Fiction Writers for 2015 work:

“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik


Pulitzer Prize in Literature administered by Columbia University 2016:

“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Congratulations to all the winners!  :-)




2015 ITW Thriller Awards Finalists & Winners



Are thrillers your favorite genre reading? Then feast your eyes on the winners of the 2015 ITW Awards (International Thriller Writers) handed out in July in New York City. The level of quality was terrific and the competition fierce. See the links to my reviews for two of them (Best First Novel and Best Paperback Original categories).


2015 ITW Thriller Awards Nominees – winners noted with asterisk.

*Megan Abbott – THE FEVER (Little, Brown and Company)
Lauren Beukes – BROKEN MONSTERS (Mulholland Books)
Joseph Finder – SUSPICION (Dutton)
Greg Iles – NATCHEZ BURNING (William Morrow)
Chevy Stevens – THAT NIGHT (St. Martin’s Press)


Ray Celestin – THE AXEMAN’S JAZZ (Mantle)
Julia Dahl – INVISIBLE CITY (Minotaur Books)
Allen Eskens – THE LIFE WE BURY (Seventh Street Books)
*Laura McHugh – THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (Spiegel & Grau)
Andy Weir – THE MARTIAN (Crown)  (Read review here)


Shelley Coriell – THE BURIED (Forever)
Robert Dugoni – MY SISTER’S GRAVE (Thomas & Mercer)  (Read review here)
James R. Hannibal – SHADOW MAKER (Berkley)
Rick Mofina – WHIRLWIND (Harlequin MIRA)
*Vincent Zandri – MOONLIGHT WEEPS (Down & Out Books)


Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!
Please visit for the YA, ebook original, and short story nominee and winner lists.




“The Martian” by Andy Weir


Book Cover - The Martian

Andy Weir’s “The Martian,” has received a tremendous amount of positive hype since it was first published in 2011, and lots of great reviews, even from scientists and astronauts.


It’s all well deserved. Instead of being a boring, techy tome (sorry, but some science based fiction bogs down in the science and forgets to entertain) it is a riveting, barnburner of a story.


Mark Watney is an astronaut that has been accidentally left behind on Mars after a sandstorm threatens to strand the Ares3 crew millions of miles from home. He has been seriously injured and the other crewmembers think he is dead, so they leave the surface under orders from Control.


When he comes to, he assesses his situation and declares that he is in deep trouble. Two words come to mind: ingenuity – the quality of being clever as well as inventive, and resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from hardship. Watney never blames the crew for abandoning him, and instead, attacks his problems head on.


The best sci-fi throws real people into a strange world where they must use skills from their own world to cope and/or deal with the new. “The Martian” is a cross between the TV shows MacGyver and Survivor. As if just being alone on the planet isn’t challenging enough, he has to work out his oxygen supply and food supply and somehow let Earth know that he’s not dead yet. Being the first and only Martian is not as much fun as you might think.


Watney knows that the next mission to Mars won’t arrive for another four years and that he has to travel 2000 miles to get to the rendezvous point. He has to find a way to stay alive that long. That is, if he doesn’t blow himself up before the food runs out. Anything can go wrong, including explosions and leaks and not having access to the guys at NASA. Yes, even computer access goes down. Imagine being cut off from the guys that keep thousands of possible solutions to any given dilemma only a keystroke away.


Complete silence outside the Habitat. Isolation. Like every other pioneer in the wilderness, every decision Mark Watney makes is about life and death. We groan at his harrowing setbacks, gasp/laugh at the outrageous solution to growing his own food, admire his ingenuity at solving space/sleep/water issues. “The Martian” is a celebration of man's resilience in the face of intolerable hardship.


When Weir (an actual scientist and software engineer) wrote “The Martian,” he worked out planet positions and shuttle orbits to support his storyline. Andy Weir tested many of the decisions made by his  astronaut so that Watney could realistically work his way through the challenges. If the science wasn’t right, it didn’t go onto the pages.


Weir gives Watney a belief system in “The Martian” that makes it all work. Watney has an outrageous sense of humor and an “I can fix this” attitude, no matter what is thrown at him. If he’s alive, he has another chance to get it right. If he can get past listening to old disco songs left behind by his crew mates, and do without even the fake coffee, he can survive anything. 


Of course, Watney has the right credentials (engineering and botanist degrees) to do the job, making the book that much more successful. There is no high school student solving the complex problems in this book just by virtue of being a computer whiz. But, duct tape – that heavy, cloth backed, silver tape that plumbers and electricians use so often – plays a great role in the book. Gotta love that legitimately, a low-tech item could save expensive equipment from complete failure.


There is strong language in response to some of his situations, so don’t read “The Martian” if you are offended by four letter words. It’s not pervasive, but it’s there, and appropriately used.


The Goodreads Readers Choice voting in 2014 revealed “The Martian” to be the top vote getter in the science fiction category, garnering twice as many votes as the second place title.  


A movie based on the book, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, is scheduled for release in early October, 2015. Stay tuned.



10 of the Best Books of the Past Year



...and the prize goes to...

Readers all over the world choose their next book based on the prizewinners announced by various organizations during the recent year. Here is a list of ten novels in the adult category to receive applause from colleagues in the genre or from readers who loved the books.

Have you read any books on the list? If so, let us know in the comment section what you enjoyed about them. 


Edgar Allen Poe Awards awarded by the Mystery Writers of America 2014:

“Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger


Hugo Awards awarded for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy 2013:

“Redshirts” by John Scalzi


Bram Stoker Awards bestowed by Horror Writers Association 2014:

“Doctor Sleep” (The Shining #2) by Stephen King


Man Booker Prize literary prize for best original English language novel 2013: 

“The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton


Pulitzer Prize in Literature administered by Columbia University 2014:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt


National Book Award for fiction given to U.S. authors 2013:

“The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride


Anthony Awards, literary awards for mystery writers 2013:

“The Beautiful Mystery” by Louise Penny


RITA Award bestowed by the Romance Writers of America 2014:

“Off the Edge” by Carolyn Crane (Romantic Suspense)


Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction 2013:

“Rare Earth” by Davis Bunn (Suspense)


Goodreads Choice Awards chosen by readers 2013:

“And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini


Bravo to all the winners!


*Photo by Patti Phillips



“Ghost Country” by Patrick Lee


Book Cover - Ghost Country

Patrick Lee’s “Ghost Country” is the second in a three-book series. I read solid comments about the first book, “The Breach,” and wanted to see if “Ghost Country” lived up to the reported high standards set by the debut sci-fi/adventure/thriller. Wow! That would be a resounding, “YES!”


ENTITY: Technologically advanced gadgets (entities) come through the super secret BREACH.

BREACH: A type of wormhole in Wyoming, created when an ion collider exploded.


As “Ghost Country” opens, Paige Campbell, a high-level employee of a government agency called TANGENT, has just left a briefing with the President about an entity so powerful that it can change our view of both the present and the future. This entity (in the shape of a rolling pin sized cylinder) has the ability to transport the holder through time – but only 73 years into the future and back again.


Paige’s convoy is attacked while the White House is still in view. In a minute by pulse-pounding minute description of the perfectly executed attack, including details of a PDA-holding guy checking for photos of the ‘keepers’ as a shooter follows behind to dispatch the rest, Lee sets the pace and feel of the book.


Paige is able to send a message to her tech-savvy contact, Bethany Stewart, right before she is abducted. Bethany enlists the help of Travis Chase, a man who has been in hiding for two years, working at a low level job, avoiding contact with anyone and everyone associated with TANGENT.


Bethany and Travis obtain an entity, but have a limited amount of time to figure out what it does, while trying to save both the world and Paige. Along the way, they discover evil schemes, get a look at a hideous bone-filled, ruined future, and take advantage of Bethany's considerable hacking skills. Oh, and nearly get killed several times.


Lee treats us to imaginative uses of the time travel device to help Travis and Bethany stay ahead of the bad guys, gives a nod to the inevitable time travel paradox and delivers one of the most chilling methods to change civilization that I’ve ever read – worthy of the intelligent-but-twisted villains that want to counter the world’s present path.


The clever storyline in “Ghost Country” is diabolical, and even shocking, but there are no loose ends. The tech part of “Ghost Country” is blended with great dialogue, interesting characters and relationships, and action that works in any time period. Make sure your ereader is fully charged before starting this novel, because you'll want to read it uninterrupted.


“Ghost Country” raises an intriguing question: if you had the opportunity to move to another time (whether past or future) would you? Would you at least be curious enough to take a peek without stepping all the way across the threshold of the time/space continuum? Lee’s novel made me want to.


There are references to events in “Breach,” but “Ghost Country” can be read as a stand alone using the brief definitions supplied at the book’s beginning. “Deep Sky” is the third in this series and I’m looking forward to reading about what’s next for these engaging characters in the midst of complex circumstances.


“The Runner,” the first in a new series, has just been released.

Please visit for more information about this talented author and his other books.


Full disclosure: Patrick Lee’s thrilling “Ghost Country” came through my techport as a result of an online endorsement by his agent, Janet Reid. I’m a subscriber to Ms. Reid’s marvelously informative and occasionally sharky snarky column.