Books We Can’t Wait to Share!
Review by Kait
As someone who is always up for a good Hallmark holiday movie, I really enjoyed The Brightest Star by Fern Michaels and the themes centered around family and giving. Biography author Lauren moves back home after her father is diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis to help her parents with their Christmas decoration store while her mother cares for her father. What she finds is a store on its last leg because her father refuses to step into the age of technology and create a website for the store—or even at least have Wi-Fi in the store.
Then, Lauren’s world takes another turn when she’s offered the chance to write a biography for John Gerard Giampalo—a tech giant and one of the richest people in the world. This opportunity comes with a large paycheck and offers Lauren the chance to really lean into her giving nature. And, possibly the chance to convince her father to step into the 21st century.
So, grab your coziest sweater and a cup of something warm before settling in to read The Brightest Star. Her newest book will put you in the mood for the Christmas spirit. And will have you wishing you could visit the idyllic town of Fallen Springs and check out Razzle Dazzle Décor. Plus, who doesn’t love a pinch of romance mixed into their holiday read?
Review by Larissa
What more can you want for Christmas than a page-turning, criminally delicious holiday-themed Hannah Swensen Mystery from Joanne Fluke? The Queen of Culinary Mystery herself takes us to Lake Eden, Minnesota in CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE MURDER, where Hannah must speed through a lengthy holiday checklist while dealing with family drama. But then the holiday mood gets even more dampened when a John Doe is found near death in an abandoned storefront two doors down from Hannah’s bakery, The Cookie Jar—and he can’t recall a thing about himself. Hannah must juggle frosting Christmas sweets while following the clues to the man’s identity.
CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE MURDER has everything you want in a Christmas book—a lighthearted mystery, a cozy small-town setting, all your favorite Lake Eden characters, vivid images of yummy baked goods, and of course plenty of holiday-themed cupcake and dessert recipes for readers to try. I personally recommend trying out the delectable White Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes—a special exclusive bonus recipe from My Food and Family by Kraft Heinz—and the Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing.
Even though it’s not yet just the holiday season, you’ll find yourself craving all things Christmas after reading CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE MURDER!
Review by Michaela
There’s nothing like a cozy mystery to take us away from life’s stresses for a few hours. Here’s one that will do all that – while also getting you into the holiday spirit – and inspiring you to cook some tasty seasonal dishes worthy of the finest Armenian-American restaurant. MISTLETOE, MOUSSAKA, AND MURDER is the fifth book in Tina Kashian’s intriguing and popular Kebab Kitchen mystery series, set at the New Jersey Shore. Tina’s family members are former restaurant owners, and she is drawing on her own history and cultural heritage in crafting these books. You can feel the love on every page. You can also feel the drama and suspense as our intrepid protagonist, Lucy Berberian, solves the murder of a participant in the town’s annual Polar Bear Plunge. Be sure to save time to try the recipes for Azad’s Moussaka, Angela’s Perfect Pilaf, Susan Cutie’s Lemon Meringue Pie, and Niari’s Holiday Pretzel Treats. Don’t be shy about coming back for seconds!
Fans of forensic thrillers should not miss Lisa Black’s savvy, suspenseful Gardiner & Renner series, which features forensic expert Maggie Gardiner and her tangled relationship with Jack Renner, who’s a police detective, vigilante, brooding loner, bad, mad, and dangerous to know, and – okay, I’ll just say it – a serial killer. But a good guy, like Dexter. (Isn’t Dexter a good guy?). It’s hard for me to describe EVERY KIND OF WICKED without giving away the kind of spoilers that could turn even the nicest reader into a serial killer, too. Lisa Black always delivers twists and turns and surprises, but this book really knocked me off my chair. Lisa is a forensic expert herself, and her insider’s look at cops and criminals and crime-solving is always spot-on. I urge you to get out your blood-spatter evidence kit, your Luminol, your fingerprint dusting powder – and your reading glasses – and enjoy EVERY KIND OF WICKED. It really lives up to its title.
Review by Susanna
I have been a fan of Charlie Donlea’s since his debut Summit Lake and I know it’s cliché, but I think he just keeps getting better and better with every book! As a fan, I was even more ecstatic when I learned that Donlea would be doing his first sequel to continue following the cases of deeply interesting forensic reconstructionist Rory More and her psychologist partner Lane Phillips (first seen in his recent novel Some Choose Darkness). As a fan of both retro suspense story lines and Scandinavian-style thrill rs, I was excited to see that THE SUICIDE HOUSE would be following the mysterious and twisted killings at a prestigious and secluded private school.
On the wooded campus of Westmont Preparatory School one year ago, two students were slaughtered in an abandoned boarding house as part of a secret club ritual. Now, while the killings were supposedly solved and a teacher was convicted, the mysterious events have become the subject of a very popular podcast. Lane, a prominent psychologist and profiler who specializes in serial killers, was asked by the reporter running the podcast to come and offer his opinion. Rory, his anti-social partner and an expert in reconstructing cold cases, becomes equally intrigued – feeling something is amiss with the details of the case. She begins recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. The more she learns, the more she believes something sinister is still happening at Westmont Prep.
If you’re a suspense reader like me, this is the perfect book for some dark, twisty, escapist reading and is ideal for fans of Riley Sager. While I don’t think you need to read Some Choose Darkness first to understand and appreciate THE SUICIDE HOUSE, they’re both so good – why wouldn’t you?!
Review by Esi
I’ve wanted to work with Vanessa Riley for years, so this has really been a publishing dream come true for me. A DUKE, THE LADY, AND A BABY, the first of the Rogues and Remarkable Women series, has everything I love in a historical romance: great research, immediately engaging characters, and sharp wit. The bravery of Patience as she comes up with new and creative ways to protect her son and their livelihoods; the (reluctant, lol) openness of the Duke of Repington to incorporating an infant into his soldier’s life; The Widow’s Grace—women helping women at a time when they had very few rights. And of course, as Vanessa always does, a story that highlights the complexities and complications of race aren’t a brand-new invention. If you like well-written, adventurous, historically accurate romance, then this is the book for you!
Review by Michaela
When you pick up a thriller by John Gilstrap, you can be sure you’ll get certain things. A fast plot, high-stakes action, authentic details, and compelling characters are a given in many thrillers. But with John Gilstrap, you also get a personal, visceral connection to the story that is rare in any genre. Gilstrap’s hero, Jonathan Grave, has a personal stake in every mission he takes on. When two boys are kidnapped on their way to Resurrection House – a sanctuary Grave founded for the children of incarcerated parents – it’s as though members of his family have been abducted. Grave sets out to get the kids back, and he’s not taking “no” for an answer. HELLFIRE, the twelfth Jonathan Grave thriller, starts out in high gear and quickly goes ballistic. I recommend it for all thriller fans.
Review by Kristin
GHOSTING: A Love Story has everything that I adore about New York City all wrapped up into one adorable Rom-Com. Both Miles and Zoey are characters that I can relate to, as different as they are from each other. They’ve both been hurt in the past and are nervous about making new connections…so they help others find love instead! In a comedy of errors, they both fall into the position of being ghost writers for competing companies focused on writing dating profiles. Unbeknownst to them, their clients match and the ghost writing turns into actual feelings. But will Miles ever realize the person he’s really falling for is Zoey? And vice versa?!
The ups and downs in this book had me flipping pages faster than I can catch a cab in Times Square! I couldn’t get enough of how fun this book was. I rooted for Miles and Zoey to realize they were perfect for each other the entire time. The story paired with the fantastic background of NYC made this such an incredible read.
Review by Susanna
Tash Skilton’s debut rom-com Ghosting is an adorable, quirky, layered story in the vein of a modern-day NYC Sophie Kinsella with a touch of You’ve Got Mail for good measure.
30-year-old Miles and Zoey are both living in NYC, working as online Cyranos for dating companies: they are both available to be hired to help you online date – anything from reworking your dating profile, to even chatting online as you! Miles is in a bit of a dark place: his fiancée just left him for another man and he has been relegated to couch surfing for the past few weeks as he tries to land on his feet. Zoey has just moved to New York from LA in an attempt to force herself to work on her screenplay, but is instead just dealing with an incredible amount of anxiety.
One early morning, at the local café, Zoey and Miles reach for the same day-old free biscotti – and chaos ensues. The two instantly become frenemies, exchanging sharp banter and witticisms every day while vying for the best seat at the café and for the last of the free day-old baked goods. As their real-life friendship slowly starts to form, the two don’t realize that they have also been exchanging messages online – as other people through their day jobs. Before they know it, Miles and Zoey have both fallen for each other without even realizing it.
This layered, quippy story is a real gem. It manages to have laugh-out-loud moments and fantastic banter while still having a lot of emotional depth. If you’re missing the fun of rom-coms in theaters, are intrigued by the antics of online dating, or even want to experience a bit of NYC from the comfort of your couch, this one is for you.
Review by Kait
A fake romance? Check. A dream destination? Check. A hunky firefighter? Check! And a romance that will have you fanning yourself? Double check!
Set in the beautiful Key West, Island Affair by Priscilla will have you believing that you’re really there and the location becomes as big of a character in the book as Sara Vance and Luis Navarro. Halfway through reading, I decided to add Key West to my list of future vacation trips!
What added an extra layer to this rom-com was the healing that happened between Sara and her family, and Luis and his brother. I loved the dive into the different family relationships, and how Priscilla showed that things are not always what we think. And that everyone is going through something, even when it might not seem like it.
Island Affair has everything you need in a good summer read! From the get-go, the tension building between Luis Navarro and Sara Vance is off the charts. But, their relationship is more than flirtatious quips and steamy kisses. Throughout their charade, the couple really push each other to open-up and trust each other. Which, had me swooning even more about the couple!