Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle

Just Like Magic is a wonderful story which all Christmas junkies should read to put themselves in the holiday spirit. It’s so funny, heartwarming and well…just magical!

Bettie Huges had it all! An influencer who had money to buy anything her little (and I mean literally little) heart desired. She was also the creator of products which would (or should) do wonders for you. And then everybody found out she was just a fraud and she lost it all.

Now, she is living in a small town in a dead woman’s house with no money right before Christmas, the very holiday in which her very wealthy family including her movie star mother, her diplomatic father, her sister who is a famous model, and her brother who is an actor and producer all try to outdo each other by giving the most outrageously, expensive unusual gifts or feel the wrath of shame.

As Bettie drinks her embarrassing life away, she ponders, how did she get here? Not looking forward the next week of staying at her parents with all her siblings, she decides to get herself somehow into the holiday spirit by of course playing Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You. But in her drunken stupor she accidentally plays the record backwards. That’s when she sees a very handsome yet quirky man appear in from of her whose name is Hall and he explains he is there to make all her wishes come true so she can find joy in the season.

But when she wakes up, she thinks, boy what a dream, until she finds Hall waiting for her so they can begin their holiday journey. And when he proves to her he really can make her wishes come true, Bettie sees a way of being the envy of her family by wishing for the most outlandish items for them. No one will be able to top her! She will win!

So, she concocts a plan to take Hall with her to her parent’s house and introducing him to everyone as her fiancĂ©e. At first, they don’t believe anybody could fall for Bettie. But their time all together begins to be something very different than they are all used to. Something begins to happen to them all. The petty jealousy, selfishness, competitiveness and apathetic family begins to see and feel differently. Hall seems to be creating some kind of Christmas miracle! He is innocently giving them the Christmas they never could have imagined.

And as they all begin to get along, with Bettie even changing her mind about the extravagant gifts she has wished for like Amal Clooney’s engagement ring, she asks they be returned. Bettie starts to become happier, which is the whole reason for Hall’s visit. But with that knowledge comes the fact that as soon as Bettie’s joy meter is full, it will be time for Hall to leave, something they both begin to feel they don’t want to happen.

But too soon it’s time for Hall to move on. Something he and Bettie have dreaded. Unfortunately, his job has been accomplished. He must go back to wherever he came from. But Bettie is not sure what will happen to her when they finally have to say goodbye. Her life has changed, she has changed so much thanks to him. What will she do?

Just Like Magic is such a delightful feel-good read with so many funny pop culture moments thrown in you will find yourself laughing out loud and smiling up until and including the ending!

Thank you #NetGalley #G.P.Putnam’sSons #SarahHogle #JustLikeMagic for the advanced copy.

Crime Writer by Dime Sheppard

Crime Writer is an incredible read! It’s gumshoe, romance, action-packed and funny!

Evie Howland is your average introverted best-selling crime writer. In real life she lives in New York and is engaged to a handsome billionaire named Daniel Bradley. Although she must go to some fancy events, which in truth she hates because she would rather be at home in her sweats eating licorice and writing, she adores her soon to be (in two weeks) husband-to-be so she tolerates the inconvenience.

She also treasures her two main characters in her crime series, Detectives Carolyn Harding and Jack Ryan. But for some reason she is finding it very hard to sit and concentrate and write. You see this is book sixteen and it will be the last in the series. While writing she usually talks to her characters and they talk back (in her head), or so she thought. But for some crazy reason this time is different.

She could always envision them in her mind’s eye, but now they can be seen by everyone! She has no idea why, and neither do they, but they are very excited! Carolyn and Jack now have free will and don’t have to listen to Evie’s boring written instructions. While the story Evie is writing plays in real life, she not only becomes embroiled in it, but she realizes the bad guys have also somehow crossed over to reality.

As Carolyn and Jack enjoy their new freedom, Evie finds it hard to reel them back in. And while the three of them try to avoid being killed by a psycho she created in a past book, she begins to feel the excitement her characters must have felt for all these years. She even realizes they have given themselves their own backstories which she finds bewildering.

She soon discovers as they are being hunted and shot at that she starts to look at Jack in a very inappropriate way which is kind of crazy as he is not real, right? When she figures out she can write their way out of the chaos and killing, she’s not sure she wants to. You see, she knows the ending. She’s not ready to let them go. But unfortunately for Evie, New York City depends on her solving this case before it gets blown up!

But how can she say good-bye to these lovable, crazy, uncouth hero’s, one of which she may love?

Crime writer has everything in a story you could ask for. Funny, witty quick dialogue, bombs, explosions, romance quirky characters and many surprises.

One last thing, there is a music video from the 1980’s called Take On Me by a group called Aha. Watch it. Enough said.

Thank you #NetGalley #RubyBooks #DimeSheppard #CrimeWriter for the advanced copy.

The House in the Orchard by Elizabeth Brooks

When a widow with a young child inherits a dilapidated, unkept countryside home in England, she accidentally discovers a hidden diary written by the previous owner of the property, her father-in-law, Frank’s sister Maude.

As she begins reading the diary, which was written by a very young Maude during the late 1800’s, she discovers a girl whose life was changed forever by the death of both her parents. Her father dying quite suddenly and her mother due to illness the deaths coming very close together. The lavish life she and her older brother Frank were accustomed to came crashing down as she became an orphan and her brother who was in college certainly unable not take care of her.

She was then parceled out by “the relatives” to a stranger named Mrs. Greenaway who owned an estate called Orchard House. No knowing or understanding the woman’s connection to her family, she desperately tries to like her and fit in. But she finds the house cold and is not quite sure what to make of her new guardian.

Parts of her feel Mrs. Greenaway is trying to take her under her wing and help her, but there is a side of the woman that makes Maude uncomfortable. Maude is put in a situation that she as a child is not really capable of understanding. She begins to snoop a bit and discovers adult secrets her adolescent mind finds confusing.

But when her older brother Frank suddenly comes to visit and seems to take a liking to Mrs. Greenaway, Maude is terribly jealous she will take her brother away from her and petrified at what might happen to her next. She begins to not trust Mrs. Greenaway and believes she wants her to leave.

When the three decide to travel for a few weeks in the summer, Maude believes they are trying to get rid of her. She concocts a plan to make sure Frank and Mrs. Greenaway don’t go away together with her. Instead, she will have her brother all to herself in hopes of making him love her as much as he used to.

But her plan goes terribly wrong, and the three lives will be changed forever. Maude will never be the same and will regret her actions until the day she dies.

The House in the Orchard is a tragic story about a child, too young to understand the complexities of adult life, too embarrassed to ask and sadly with no one she believes she can trust, just a lost soul.

Thank you #NetGalley #TinHouseBooks #ElizabethBrooks #TheHouseintheOrchard for the advanced copy.

The Enigma Of Room 622 by Joel Dicker

Joel Dicker’s novel, The Enigma Of Room 622 is an absolute homage to Agatha Christie and is flawless with mystery upon mystery upon mystery within the pages of this unexpected imaginative story with an astonishing ending.

When a writer named Joel loses his girlfriend and then his publisher who was also a close friend suddenly dies, he tries to start a new novel, just as his assistant reminds him, she will be taking vacation which he of course forgot about. So, he decides to get away also and try and pull himself together to continue his work. He travels to a plush resort in the Swiss Alps called Hotel de Verbier hoping to relax. But upon checking in he notices something very strange. There seems to be no Room 622. Now, there is a 621 and a 623. Of all the rooms not to be listed, why is room 621 not there?

As he is mulling this over, he bumps into a woman named Scarlett who is as intrigued as he is, and she convinces him that they should investigate this strange enigma. And their curiosity is piqued deeper when no one at the hotel will give them any information as to why there is no room 622.

So, left on their own, they begin to put together what happened all those years ago. They discover there had been a murder in the room one weekend during an elaborate Bank Gala years ago where the new President of a large bank was going to be announced. The murder was never solved and in order to keep the reputation of the hotel in good standing, they wiped out all traces (including the room number) of the horrible event. Then Scarlett convinces Joel to write a book about the missing room, and the murder.

As they investigate, they come up with a cast of characters who could possibly be responsible for the murder. They begin interviewing witnesses from that weekend. What the reader soon discovers through going back in time years before and days before the actual fateful Bank Gala is the complexity of all the lives of the people connected to that weekend. What they will find as they dive into the characters is a foray of lies, deceits, espionage, greed, trickery, jealousy and affairs.

They begin to feel with all these clues, they themselves may really be able to solve the mystery. But soon begin to realize that not everything is as it seems. As they race around Europe following the past lives of the suspects, the two discover they have an incredible working bond. Excited about solving the mystery, they are also a bit hesitant because they know it will more than likely be the end of “them”. What will they finally discover?

The Enigma Of Room 622 is an incredible page turner, with stunning details no one could have ever seen coming, well, maybe Agatha Christie could have, but no one else! The ending is both surprising and wonderful at the same time!

Thank you #NetGalley #HarperVia #TheEnigmaOfRoom622 #Joel Dicker for the advanced copy.

City Of Likes by Jenny Mollen

City of Likes is a satirically mocking yet unfortunately incredibly realistic look at what a super hold social media has on some mothers and how that potential can affect people’s lives, decisions, marriages and ethics.

When Megan Chernoff, an unemployed married mother of two meets Daphne Cole, an infamously famous social media influencer of everything…style, kids, dog food and she takes a liking to Megan and introduces her to the tips of the trade of influencing, Megan, her children and her marriage will never be the same.

As Megan thinks she has hit the motherload, learning from the best of the best as to how to use social media to her advantage and become popular, her popularity with her family begins to suffer. You see, in order to be the best, you must always be a media wizard, whether that means using Instagram to post a new pancake or new shirt. It means locking yourself in the bathroom on Thanksgiving while your family eats, and you try and grab some new followers by posting Turkey.

As her obsession with social media grows and so does her need to be the best, Megan begins to take the lessons she’s learned from the master (Daphne) and try and get her child in the best possible school. So what if there is a bit of embellishment, or perhaps fudging the truth a bit, getting her son into the prestigious school will give her access to more freebies and more followers.

As her life is taken over by likes, her family begins to fall apart. And when she makes the decision to go to Paris with her mentor, even though her husband can’t really take care of the children as he is in the middle of work commitments, what could possibly go wrong! As she throws caution to the wind to be more well-known, Megan begins to see and feel the not so pretty side of being famous.

As everything begins to blow up in her face and she quite possibly could lose her husband and children, she begins to see in Daphne as a person she does not want to become. But is it too late to put her family back together?

Although City of Likes is a very funny, sarcastic look at social media, it is also a sad story to warn those who spend so much time on social media that although they may be enjoying the Instagram “high” of followers they will never meet, there is a real life waiting for them with real people which believe it or not is so much better.

Lucky Girl, How I Became a Horror Writer by M. Rickert

Lucky Girl, How I Became a Horror Writer is both a wonderfully crafted horror tale just in time for a Halloween read, but is also a perfectly written chilling Christmas tale which can be voraciously consumed in one sitting!

When five lonely strangers happen to be in a diner which will soon be closing its doors for good meet and share Thanksgiving together, no one could ever foresee their futures. But as they eat, they decide they will get together again for Christmas dinner. Although they don’t know each other, and have no money, they agree upon picking names and bringing a gift, not worth more than five dollars.

The dinner is held at Ro’s dilapidated apartment with a tree with more branches on it than ornaments. Christmas is not Ro’s favorite time of year. As a struggling writer who has no family, she is a bit uncomfortable at having these strangers see where she lives, but it will take her mind off her problems for a bit.

As with any group of people who hardly know each other, there are awkward silences. That’s when Ro suggests they each tell a ghost story which has a Christmas theme. Everybody does that, right? As they begin their stories, one in particular stands out. It is so haunting that they all seem to feel there could be possible truth in the story. At the end of the evening, they decide they will continue this tradition next Christmas. This time, their gifts must be stolen.

Years pass and Ro is now a best-selling horror writer. She receives an invitation by one of these acquaintances from years past to all get together and have Christmas again. She decides to accept the invitation. Ro realizes just how lucky she has become, remembering their first Christmas and the limit of a five-dollar amount for a gift.

But Ro will never be the same after this Christmas. And the reader will be shocked at what we don’t know. And with that I will leave the rest of the stories…both ghost and real for you to separate out and digest on your own!

What I will say is that sometimes when your luck runs out, fear can set in!

Thank you #NetGalley #Tor.com #M.Rickert #LuckyGirl for the advanced copy.

The Guest House by Robin Morgan-Bentley

In this chilling novel, two parent’s bonds with their newborn will be tested to limits unimaginable. It will take the strength and love and fight to endure the absolute unthinkable to pick up the broken pieces.

This is the story of a happy couple, awaiting the birth of their first child. They have decided to go away on a weekend vacation before their whole lives change. Little did they know it would change sooner than they thought. It would change in a horribly evil, sadistic way.

When Jamie and Victoria decided to take this vacation, they wanted to stay somewhere they had already been, but that being booked up, they made the choice to stay at a guesthouse run by an elderly couple, Fiona and Barry.

But on their first night there, Victoria suddenly goes into labor in the middle of the night. Barry and Fiona are nowhere to be found. Neither are Jamie’s and Victoria’s cell phones or car keys. It seems all the rooms are locked. What is happening? When Barry and Fiona finally appear, it is much too late to call for an ambulance. Fiona, a retired mid-wife must deliver the baby. What happens next and throughout the story can only be described as sick, evil and unspeakable.

When the couple returns from their “vacation” they are alone without their newborn son Danny. They begin to tell everyone something had gone wrong, and they had lost Danny, which was partially true.

But what no one knows is the sinister way in which their child was taken. Only Jamie and Victoria, Barry and Fiona know what really happened. And if they ever breath a word, they know they will be charged with murder.

Still in shock, Jamie cannot let go of what has happened and devises a plan to make things right no matter if he goes to jail for the rest of his life. But what he discovers is all is not as it appears and in reality, it is even more horrific than anyone could ever imagine!

The Guest House is a petrifying story in which given the ending which pulls all the sick pieces of the puzzle together, believe it or not will leave you both heartbroken yet rooting for the underdog and breathless.

Thank you #NetGalley #PoisenedPenPress #RobinMorgan-Bentley #TheGuestHouse for the advanced copy.

I’m The Girl by Courtney Summers

I’m The Girl is a powerful story which combines a murder mystery with a young girl’s rite of passage into an adulthood no one her age should ever have to live through. It is not helped by some who would prefer to lie in order to take advantage of her. It also shows the power of suggestion and what some young women want to believe in order to achieve their dreams.

Georgia Avis is 16 years old. She lives with her older brother. Their mother has passed away and they are barely making ends meet. It’s Georgia’s dream to become a model and make it big, which it seems everyone except her mother has told her.

Their mother when she was alive worked for Aspera, a place where rich people go, and all their dreams come true. They have what they call “Aspera girls” who help these famous people get what they want. Unfortunately for Georgia, her mother was fired from Aspera and with the firing went Georgia’s dream of being an Aspera girl. Or so she thought.

It’s summer and Georgia is trying to create her own destiny. She had met a man at the mall who told her she was so beautiful she could become a model and she should get head shots. Unfortunately, she fell for the idea and took all the extra money her brother Tyler had put aside. She never found the man after the photo shoot and realized much too late it was a scam. Putting the poverty-stricken duo deeper into debt. But Georgia is confident she knows her beauty will help them. She knows if she could just get a job working at Aspera their money problems would go away.

Tragically one day she discovers the dead body of a young girl on the road, only to be hit by a car in the process of finding her. She was lucky that the owner of Aspera had been driving by and was able to help her. The dead girl, Ashley, is the sister of someone she slightly knows who she has had a crush on since she was younger. Her name is Nora James, and her father works on the police force.

When Georgia is approached by the owner of Aspera to work as an Aspera apprentice, she jumps at the chance, being told that her beauty will get her far. Meanwhile, Ashley’s sister Nora decides she needs to find out who killed her sister and Georgia agrees to help her.

As Georgia and Nora begin to get closer, Georgia is having a difficult time understanding the rules at Aspera. What she begins to understand is power can trump the truth. Georgia will never be able to go back to being the innocent girl she was at the beginning of the summer, even though she seems to think her beauty is sustaining the cash she is receiving for her job.

But when Georgia and Nora’s worlds blow up, they will only have each other.

The It Girl is the initiation of a young innocent girl into the dark, seedy underworld of people who can make you believe you are the most important, beautiful person on earth only to disregard and break you. Manipulation and abuse are a disturbing combination and a life lesson a young woman should not have to endure.

Thank you #NetGalley #WednesdayBooks #CourtneySummer #I’mTheGirl for the advanced copy.

All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

In this wonderfully twisted mystery, get ready to play along with a group of guests who are staying at a grand hotel preparing to participate in a delightful murder mystery game. But one murder may unfortunately be real!

Becca and her husband Blake have been having serious marital problems. Blake has decided to take Becca away on a surprise 1920’s themed weekend. But unfortunately for Becca, Blake has neglected to tell her it’s a murder/mystery game. And thus lies a part of the reason they are having issues!

To make this adventure even worse for Becca, her husband’s business partner and wife are there playing the game as well! Just what Becca needs! Trying to pretend their marriage is as perfect as theirs. But Becca knows this weekend is important to Blake so she must just play along with it all for the sake of saving her marriage.

As the game begins, they are given their identities and their history of their characters and soon someone is found “dead”. As Becca begins to look for clues as to which guest could be the “murderer”, she accidentally stumbles on the fact that one of the actresses portraying a character has gone missing. She finds this mystery even more interesting than the actual game itself. So, she begins to look for clues as to why this girl could have disappeared.

Unfortunately for Becca someone might be on to her interest in the disappearance and exactly what she knows. Becoming a bit paranoid, she tries to decipher the clues of the game versus the clues of the disappearance without getting her facts mixed up.

On top of all this, she and Blake cannot get past their troubled relationship and Becca hesitates to explain what else is going on figuring he will just think she is jumping to crazy conclusions. And maybe she is?

But when she stumbles upon a scene which is not from the game being played, she becomes the target of a true killer. A killer nobody even knows exists! Can Becca survive this murder mystery weekend without getting herself actually killed?

All Dressed Up is an amazingly executed mystery within a mystery with many clues and suspects and characters. But the ending is totally worth the wait!

Thank you #NetGalley #RandomHouse/Bantam #JillyGagnon #AllDressedUp for the advanced copy.

Peg And Rose Solve A Murder by Laurien Berenson

Peg and Rose are sisters-in-law who have never really gotten along. Now in their 60’s Rose has decided they need to make amends and try and bury their past displeasures with each other. Unfortunately, Peg, who is stubborn, is a bit unwilling to let it go.

Rose is a former nun who is married to a former priest. She was very young when she took her vows and at the time believed she knew it all about life and love. But of course, with age comes wisdom and sometimes regret. She and her husband Peter have traveled the world helping people in need. Rose is quiet and subdued.

Peg is an inquisitive curmudgeon who owns poodles and works at dog shows as well as shows her own animals. She lost her beloved husband Max years ago and misses him terribly but has her animals to keep her company and is quite content.

Rose asks Peg to join a bridge club with her. Peg says absolutely not. Rose tells her they are family, and it is about time they try and find a way to get along. The usually stubborn Peg finally relents.

But if Rose thought playing as partners in a bridge club with Peg would be a bonding experience, she was seriously wrong! Their squabbling was quite the entertainment for the rest of the players! Peg, who in the past has helped solve a few murders was not too happy with the cast of characters they were playing with. It seems some were cheating, while others were gambling. But Rose convinces Peg to try one more week and lucky for them they did because it would be the last week of the bridge club.

One of the players is shot dead in his home. He was the quiet type and seemed to have no enemies. But of course, this piqued Peg’s interest, and she convinces a very reluctant Rose to help her look into the murder.

As they begin to interview the other players, they find out sometimes bridge partners could think they have deep hidden secrets but in reality, everyone else knows. And the list of suspects seems to only grow when Peg is shot at while in her house. While the two investigate, they begin to get comfortable with each other and actually “gasp” start to like each other! Could this 40-year feud be over?

Now all they both need to do to have a real friendship is not get killed as the murderer seems bent on never being caught even if that means shutting down Peg and Rose’s investigation.

Peg And Rose Solve A Muder is a funny, wholesome cozy for any age as well as for anybody who enjoys great mysteries and loves dogs.

Thankyou #NetGalley #KensingtonBooks #PegAndRoseSolveAMurder #LaurienBerenson for the advanced copy.