Christmas is over and let’s all take a restful week before the new year. Is it just me or does this weird post-Christmas, pre-New Year time always feel a little bizarre?
Here are a few titles I’ve recommended quite a bit in the lead up to the holidays. I honestly love it when people come into the bookstore and need recommendations for their loved ones. It’s a mix of matchmaking and a scavenger hunt.
Which books have you recommended lately? Did you get any books for the holidays from friends or family?
A Peculiar Combination
I find that it can be hard to recommend historical mysteries that aren’t already a few books deep, which can be intimidating to new readers. I loved the thief heroine and book two isn’t even out yet for those who want to take it slow!
The first in the Electra McDonnell series from Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver, set in England during World War II, A Peculiar Combination is a delightful mystery filled with spies, murder, romance, and the author’s signature wit.
“Filled with wry humor, tight suspense, and a delightful cast of characters.”—Alyssa Maxwell, author of the Gilded Newport mysteries
FIRST RULE: DON’T LOSE YOUR CONCENTRATION.
Electra McDonnell and her family earn their living outside the law. Breaking into the homes of the rich and picking the locks on their safes may not be condoned by British law enforcement, but with World War II in full swing, Uncle Mick’s locksmith business just can’t pay the bills anymore.
SECOND RULE: DON’T MAKE MISTAKES.
So when Uncle Mick receives a tip about a safe full of jewels in an empty house, he and Ellie can’t resist. All is going as planned—until the pair is caught red-handed. But instead of arresting them, government official Major Ramsey has an offer: either Ellie agrees to help him break into a safe and retrieve blueprints crucial to the British war effort, or he turns her over to the police.
THIRD RULE: DON’T GET CAUGHT.
Ellie doesn’t care for the major’s imperious manner, but she has no choice. However, when they break into the house, they find the safe open and empty, and a German spy dead on the floor. Soon, Ellie and Major Ramsey are forced to put aside their differences to unmask the double agent, and stop Allied plans from falling into enemy hands.
The Charm Offensive
There are a couple of romance readers I recommend books for who are on both a queer romance and reality TV setting kick. This covers both of those!
In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to open up to the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
Empire of Pain
At the bookstore, we call these sorts of titles “dad books.” It’s definitely one I have recommended a lot this holiday season for men who love history, biography, and true crime.
The highly anticipated portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing.
The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions: Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing OxyContin, a blockbuster painkiller that was a catalyst for the opioid crisis.
Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling.
The Quiet Boy
For those wanting a legal-ish thriller with a twist, this one has some speculative elements and a morally gray main character. I picked this one up on recommendation of a friend and now I’m paying it forward.
From the bestselling author of Underground Airlines and Golden State, a sweeping legal thriller about a sixteen-year-old who suffers from a neurological condition that has frozen him in time, and the team of lawyers, doctors, and detectives who are desperate to wake him up.
Wesley Keener lies in bed: not dead, not alive, not in a coma or vegetative state, but simply frozen at an unchanging 16 years old, the forward course of his existence having simply stopped midway through sophomore year. His condition is the result of something called Syndrome J, an extraordinarily rare neurological event, at least according to the brilliant young neurologist Anna Pileggi.
When Wes was first hospitalized, his parents Beth and David Keener hired acclaimed PI Jay Shenk to help find answers about the illness that befell their beloved son. Now, years later, when David is accused of murdering the brilliant young doctor who served as expert witness in the hospital case, Shenk and his son Ruben discover that this standard malpractice suit is part of something more sinister than anyone imagined. An alternate explanation, brought forth by a mysterious older man, suggests an inter-dimensional entity wrecking havoc on the community. The child is not a prisoner, this stranger insists, he is a prison.
Told from alternating perspectives, The Quiet Boy explores the tensions between justice and compassion, in heart-pounding prose. With clever plotting, and a knack for character, Winters expertly weaves a group of misfits together in a race to save themselves, and an innocent life.