Books We Can’t Wait to Share!
Review by Esi
That was quite the year, huh? I think we could all use a little sparkle, a little something to brighten our days. Luckily, Saranna DeWylde has launched the perfect series to bring a smile to your face. A little magic, a lot of romance, and a ton of laughs, FAIRY GODMOTHERS INC. is a perfect escape. The three resident godmothers of Ever After, Missouri—Petunia, Bluebonnet, and Jonquil—just want to bring a little love back to the world. And if that means convincing two people to get over their embarrassing breakup and fake an engagement, then that’s what they’re going to do. Add a charming town (complete with prince), an evil queen (with a heart of…well, maybe not gold, exactly), a fairytale castle, and some very vocal animal friends, and you’ve got the ideal treat.
Review by Ann
The pandemic has thrown us curveballs everywhere we turn. Our daily routines abruptly ended, and we are collectively grieving over the loss of the lives we once knew while adapting to an uncertain and fearful one. We’re enduring physical and financial peril, homeschooling strain, and job loss. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store or the gas station can feel hazardous. Throw in a heavy dash of contentious politics, separated families, isolation, monotony, and ceaseless anxiety, and you’ve got all the ingredients for chronic stress.
In addition to the psychological impact, many more are feeling the physical effects of chronic stress – including everything from grinding teeth, sleepless nights, fatigue, fevers, headaches and unexplained pains.
The authors of WHEN CRISIS STRIKES – a psychiatrist and neuropsychologist who have treated thousands of patients going through wrenching life traumas and losses - reveal that on-going, chronic stress impacts both your mind and body. Normally, in a sudden moment of stress – for example, happening upon a bear that wants to have you for lunch - your body and brain’s hard-wired crisis system goes into Code Red, like NORAD during a national emergency. Your body has an amazing series of chemical triggers to give your brain, heart, lungs, and muscles the power to fight or flee. Your body behaves differently in response to evolved, complex, 21st century stressors like a pandemic, job loss, bankruptcy, divorce, chronic illness, or foreclosure. These are stressful situations that don’t quickly resolve after a few hours. Your Code Red system never shuts off, and eventually it will tax your ability to function.
Luckily, there’s a way to handle the strain. The first step is understanding that holistic Code Red response. The second step is examining the multiple causes of stress, making a full assessment, and breaking it all down. What can you control, starting now? What psychological shifts can you try to make? Who can help you – and who can’t? What in your life can you embrace and be grateful for, and what should you toss out? In a time when everything feels momentous and overwhelming, their advice is to start with the smallest possible steps, and be kind to yourself.
Stress triggers are going to be and feel different for all of us, but these seasoned pros offer a lifeline out of crisis, with the hope that you’ll become more resilient in the process. Their book is a reminder that we are in this together, and will get through it together, too.
Review by Michaela
Hello, my fellow thriller fans! Did you hear about the new series that John Gilstrap launched this year? Don’t worry, he will continue writing his fabulous Jonathan Grave series, now in its fourteenth book and counting. But he’s also writing a second series with different characters, fresh plot elements, and all the excitement you’d expect in a John Gilstrap book. The first book in the new series, CRIMSON PHOENIX, was released as a hardcover in March to an avalanche of rave review and reader comments. The protagonist is Victoria Emerson, a Congressional representative from West Virginia who, with her teenage sons, is among the lucky survivors of a nuclear war. In its aftermath, Victoria must lead her family, her community – and ultimately, her country – into a new future. CRIMSON PHOENIX comes out this month in paperback and includes a sample excerpt of the next Victoria Emerson thriller.
Review by Liz
Fans of cozy mysteries are probably familiar with Kate Collins’s Flower Shop Mysteries. The long running series was a New York Times bestseller for many years and was recently adapted into a series of films for The Hallmark Channel, starring 80s icon Brooke Shields.
But with this new series, the author has really reinvented and out done herself. The Goddess of Greene Street series is set in Michigan and follows Athena Spencer a single mom, and daughter of Greek American immigrants who moves back home with her big, loud, loving family, and stumbles across a few mysteries along the way.
When I started reading this book I was instantly reminded of the classic, cult-status film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which nearly twenty years later, is still the highest grossing romantic comedy in history. There is so much humor and heart in this book. Some of my favorite moments were with Athena’s little sister, Delphi, who may or may not have a bit of the psychic gift. Or her mother, who was trying to cook Greek food for everyone, even the prison guards. And with Athena’s ‘pet’ raccoon.
And of course, I really loved the adorable romance with Athena’s neighbor and sleuthing partner, Case. The couple have an adorable flirtation, and a ‘will they, won’t they?’ momentum that will keep any romance fan reading. But the romance never takes anything away from the mystery, and the novel unfolds with humor and twisty suspense.
I invite everyone to grab a warm drink and spend part of this upcoming cold weather season with this big, fat, delightful mystery. You won’t regret it.
Review by Ann
Anna Lee Huber’s fantastically visualized A Pretty Deceit, the latest of her Verity Kent Mysteries, is set against the backdrop of Post-World War I England. The Great War has ended, but it lingers everywhere, including the haunted memories of the protagonist.
What I love about Verity is how the author has loaded her character with juxtapositions. Verity is only 23 years old, fresh and forward-thinking, but much of her spirit still lingers in the War that has ended. She’s deeply in love with her husband, who she was told had died in battle, and hasn’t quite emotionally adjusted to his surprising return, and how this turn of events has influenced their relationship. She’s sensitive, but has had to stay strong in the face of hardship, loss, and the suffering of those around her.
Then there’s the mystery. Her nemesis, Lord Ardmore (who has been compared to a Moriarty-like character for his shadowy powers) again appears. His influence, money, and connections create a complex foe for Verity, who falls back on her strengths as a former spy and clever detective to outwit him as his own nefarious schemes.
Finally, there’s the whole of England. The reader is taken from London to East Anglia to The Isle of Wight. The narrative weaves in Britain’s complex history, back to when it was a Roman province. Buried throughout Britain’s landscape are the remnants of its past, and it only takes a bit of digging to reveal hidden mysteries lurking just below the surface.
Huber’s latest book is darker, more delicious, and the intrepid, spirited Verity even more on her game. We’re still waiting on this series to be developed by the BBC!
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.