Christmas Sweets by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, and Leslie Meier

thGMR5OOBM Christmas Sweets is an enjoyable book of short stories by three well-known women authors who write cozy mysteries.

The Twelve Desserts of Christmas by Joanne Fluke

This holiday short story is perfect for any Hannah Swensen fans, as well as anyone looking for some holiday recipes as those are included at the end!

Two boarding school teachers must spend their Christmas holiday at the school taking care of students who had no where else to go. They begin to fall in love, but someone isn’t too happy about this and wants to keep them apart. It is up to Hannah to both snoop and bake to find out who is behind trying to break the two up.  Will Hannah, armed with both wonderful easy to follow recipes and her disposition to solving crimes help love win out?

Nightmare on Elf Street by Laura Levine

Having never read a cozy by Laura Levine, I found this short story to be my favorite. It is very comical and I assure cat lovers you will enjoy this as well.

Jaine Austin is looking for work.  Any work.  She finds a job working as an elf at a local mall.  Between the hideous elf costume and one of the Santa’s not being very nice, Jaine is miserable.  When she decides to take her cat Prozac to the mall to have holiday pictures taken things go “cat crazy” thanks to Prozac. During the chaos Santa is  murdered by a tree ornament.  Jaine soon discovers she is the prime suspect. Now she must catch the Santa killer before they catch her.

The Christmas Thief by Leslie Meier

All Elizabeth Stone wants for Christmas is to go home to Tinker’s Cove, Maine and see her family.  Elizabeth works at a lavish resort in Florida.  When she finds out all vacations have been cancelled due to a very expensive posh party which was suddenly booked, she is beyond disappointed.

Then during the party one of the pieces of expensive jewelry goes missing and Elizabeth becomes the prime suspect in the heist.  Afraid of losing her job, she is banned from the establishment until the case is solved. She doesn’t know where to turn.  Enter her mother Lucy Stone and friend Miss Tilley who fly in from Maine and take charge. Between the three of them, will they be able to convince the police Elizabeth is innocent?

I found the short stories to be full of cheer, wit, mayhem and of course mystery.  A lovely cozy to read with some apple cider and one of Hannah’s cookies.

Thank you #NetGalley #Kennsington #JoanneFluke #ChristmasSweets for the advanced copy.

Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates

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Abby has just met and married the man of her dreams.  But as her wedding fast approaches she begins to feel as if she does not deserve to be happy.  She finds herself having confusing nightmares about skeletons and awful feelings of dread.

Then, less than 24 hours after she has married, Abby steps off and is hit by a bus causing her to almost die. As her husband Willem sits lovingly by her side and waits for her to wake up, he can’t help but wonder if his wife accidentally or intentionally caused the accident.

Abby refuses to answer this question, but as she grows stronger and she begins to see Willem’s true love for her, she starts to reveal truths she has kept hidden since her childhood. Willem makes the decision that in order for Abby to completely heal, they must go back to her childhood town and revisit what happened.

It is then that Abby must confront the abuses she and her mother endured many years ago at the hands of her father.

Oates has once again written an intense psychological horror story with a narrative which goes back to the past and then to the present and with an ending which although is quite sad, if filled with hope.

Pursuit is a haunting tale of abuse, murder and salvation.

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

thForget about computers taking over the world, instead we should all be worried about our smart phones taking over!

In this suspenseful multi genre book of psychological thriller meets ghost story meets the macabre, you have a recipe for one heck of a ride!

When Kate Collins meets and falls in love with Scott Palmer at a weekend retreat on how to curb phone addiction, and he finally asks her to relocate and move in with him, she is beyond thrilled.

As the date of her move nears, Kate’s contact with Scott goes silent.  Determined to squelch her fears that she has been dumped, or even that he has died, she packs up and moves her life.  But when she gets to his apartment what she finds jolts her.  Not only is Scott not there, but the apartment is empty with the exception of his cell phone.

Has the love of her life ghosted her? But why would he leave his phone in an empty apartment?  So Kate decides to play detective. She figures out Scott’s password to his phone.  And that’s when the situation begins to get very creepy.

Once into his phone, Kate discovers certain apps which she cannot believe belong to the  person she fell in love with.  How was he able to hide this other side of himself?

The story gets even eerier as Kate begins to see what she believes is a ghost and she starts to receive strange calls with strange voices from Scott’s phone. But she is determined to find the answers and thus begins her obsession with his phone.

The underlining theme of the story is how we have become so co-dependent on social media for all types of entertainment that we are constantly looking down and never looking up. Our phones have taken on almost a human/friend component.

Ghoster was such a great read I was so tempted to flip to the last page, but I didn’t and I am glad I was able to wait for the surprising ending which will suck you in!

Thank you so much to #NetGalley #OrbitBooks #JasonArnopp for the advanced copy.

 

 

The Dinner Party by R.J. Parker

51W5JqCD4GLHow can a simple dinner party with a group of good friends go so terribly wrong?

Ted and Juliette are having  a dinner party with three other couples at their house.  As the wine begins to flow, one guest has an idea for a game.  The game consists of a truth and a forgiveness.  The couples must write down a secret they are keeping from their partner.  Without knowing what the secret is the other spouse must forgive them and burn the paper without ever knowing its content.  Although most of them feel uncomfortable playing this party game, they reluctantly go along with it.  What really could go wrong?

When two of the guests are found dead the next morning, the others are left with unimaginable guilt for many reasons.  Could the game have caused a terrible fight which lead to murder?  Do they tell the investigators about this crazy game they played?

As Ted and Juliette begin to try and piece the puzzle together, Ted begins to question everyone’s motives…even his wife’s.  Then another death occurs!

What secrets are being hidden and why does Ted feel as is Juliette is not being honest with him? Could this silly game have had anything to do with what is happening to all of them?  As marriages and friendships are being tested will anyone survive?

This fast paced psychological thriller hooks you from the very first sentence.  The story so well told I gave up trying to figure out who did it and just enjoyed the twists and turns and surprises with an I did not see that coming ending which will make you think…wait what?? Wow!

I will say this…at the next dinner party I attend, when someone suggests playing a game…that is going to be my cue to leave!

Thank you to #NetGalley #HarperCollinsPublishers #R.J.Parker #TheDinnerParty for the advanced copy.

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

thClaire and her husband Jason live on Nantucket Island.  Jason owns a company and Claire is a well-known glassblower artist. They have four children and although not one of the very rich elite, lives pretty comfortably.  She is a cautious happy, always trying to make sure everyone else is ok.

Locke Dixon, a wealthy resident is the head of a local charity called Nantucket’s Children which is an organization that assists the children of the locals who live on the Island all year.  When Locke asks Claire to chair the Nantucket Children’s major gala the following year, the sole fundraiser which keeps the charity afloat, Claire, against her husband’s wishes says yes, and thus begins a summer affair.

Claire and Locke quickly start a relationship which begins to tear Claire apart.  Always a pleaser, Claire also agrees to not only make a glass blown chandelier to auction off at the gala, but to try and get her high school sweetheart turned mega rock star Max West who she has not seen in twenty years to perform a concert at the event.

As Claire’s marriage suffers, and pressure to make this fundraiser a success, the closer the day comes the more Claire’s life spirals out of control.  The day of the gala, which should go without a hitch turns into a disaster, which some people are thrilled about.  As Claire suddenly realizes the importance of family, love and self-esteem, will it be too late to put the pieces of her life back together? Does she even want to?

We learn no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors and although someone may look put together, facades are common and sometimes no one sees the true heartbreak people really endure. And heartbreak can come in all forms…

The title takes on many meanings throughout this enlightening book.

Christmas Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella

thAnyone who has read Sophie Kinsella’s Shopoholic series will not want to miss this newest installment after Kinsella took a brief hiatus from Becky to work on other projects.

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) now lives in a little village in England with her darling husband Luke and her young daughter Minnie.  She works for her best friend and continues happily to enjoy her true passion…shopping.

When her parents move into a very unconventional neighborhood, Becky decides to host Christmas at her house.  Which means not only preparing her place and shopping for gifts, but it means she needs to grant the wishes of her guests, who seem to be multiplying on a daily basis.  Her father has a new obsession with avocado and would like a supply on hand at Christmas dinner, her sister is insisting she won’t come unless there is a vegan turkey and of course there are the brussel sprouts.

In the meantime, an old flame of Becky’s has moved into town with his new girlfriend and they have taken an unusual liking to Becky and Luke. And per usual there are misinterpreted goings on with laugh out loud blunders.

Becky’s most comical errors (I truly don’t want to give them all away!) are when she desperately tries to find her husband a Christmas gift and the lengths to which she will go to find her daughter the only gift she wants for Christmas.

And of course thrown into the mix of the story are Becky’s shopping sprees which make for pure delight for the reader.

I read this book with a smile on my face from beginning to I never want it to end.  As she goes from one misadventure to another, as she innocently makes major mistakes, you think this book cannot get any funnier and then it does!

Thank you #NetGalley #TheDialPress/RandomHouse #SophieKinsella for the advanced copy. This book will ensure a happy holiday season!