The Murder Before Christmas by Michele Pariza Wacek

Charlie Kinglsey lives in Redemption, Wisconsin and creates and sells teas to clients. She is also a baker, but her passion is creating new tea mixtures.

When a pregnant, young married woman comes to her seeking a potion to make her husband love her again, Charlie is a bit perplexed because as the woman whose name is Courtney is clearly pregnant, why on earth would she need her help and second Charlie does not do love potions! But then Courtney tells Charlie she knows her husband is cheating on her and was hoping she could help to get him to love her again.

When Charlie informs her, she cannot Courtney then asks if she knows of any teas which could poison someone. Seeing the surprise on Charlie’s face at the turn of the conversation, Courtney explains she is just joking. She says even though she loves her husband sometimes feels like killing him.

Then, Courtney’s husband Dennis is found dead in their house on Christmas Eve after having a glass of brandy which had been sent via mail by his cousin as a Christmas gift. As Courtney mourns the loss of her husband and father to her unborn child, something she knows all too well about as she was raised by only her mother, she becomes the primary suspect.

Now shunned by her neighbors and Dennis’ co-workers, she pleads with Charlie to help her find the truth as to what happened to her husband. Charlie, who sees that Courtney is deteriorating and is concerned for her and her child agrees to help. Unfortunately for Charlie there are an abundance of suspects who would have benefitted from Dennis’ death, including the woman he was allegedly having an affair with. And Courtney’s omission of facts does not help eliminate her as a suspect.

Charlie has to sift through the lies and hidden facts, as she tries to put the pieces together as to what was happening in Dennis’ life before the murder. And what she discovers is shocking!

With a terrific twisty ending, this cozy mystery is enjoyable, engrossing and satisfying. Perhaps author Michele Pariza Wacek could share her recipe for Candy Cane Concoctions to sip while reading! Yum!

Thank you #MicheleParizaWacek and Love-Based Publishing for sending the copy of #TheMurderBeforeChristmas to me. Her second Charlie Kingsley Mystery, Ice Cold Murder will be out in late January. I can’t wait!

The Maid by Nita Prose

The Maid is an extraordinarily inspiring story, mysterious, comedic, pensive and full of plot twists.

Molly Gray works at the famous Regency Hotel as a maid. The guest list includes the rich and famous. Molly is a maid at the fancy establishment. Known by all as Molly the Maid, she knows she is expected to clean and not be seen. She is an expert at not only cleaning but being very discreet. You see, Molly is a bit peculiar. She has her own way of thinking and finds it difficult to grasp social cues. Raised by her Gran who has recently died, Molly is now trying to navigate life by always remembering what her Gran had told her about situations and personalities. Today, Molly’s life will change, and her Gran’s advice will not be able to help.

While cleaning a suite for a very wealthy client and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Black, Molly finds the dead body of Mr. Black on the bed. She remembers protocol and immediately calls downstairs to let them know. But before anyone arrives, she is able to scrutinize the scene. This is a scenario she and Gran had never discussed. Molly feels lost and alone. With no one to help her she asks the advice of a “friend” from the hotel. He is one of two friends she helps out when they ask. For the most part, she keeps her distance from her co-workers, not sure she can trust them.

Suddenly, it is discovered Mr. Black has been murdered and Molly finds herself accused. She has found it difficult to answer some of the questions the detective has asked, and her answers seem to have gotten her into trouble. Having been taken advantage of in the past, Molly finds herself about to be evicted from the only home she has ever known and facing a prison sentence for a homicide she had nothing to do with.

But Molly may never have really been all alone. With the help of another employee at the hotel, and his daughter who is a lawyer, they will attempt to prove Molly innocent of the crime, requesting Molly assist them in finding the true murderer, something Molly is not sure she will be able to do. Can Molly help them before it’s too late and she is charged?

Not only does Molly give us the sage advice she has learned from her Gran, but she learns the true meaning of friendship and exactly what true friends do for you. The Maid is an uplifting murder mystery with heart and soul where the underdog is able to shine.

Thank you #NetGalley #BallentineBooks #NitaProse #TheMaid for the advanced copy. The book will be out in early January.

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

This is a story about lies and mistakes. Some may perhaps come back to haunt you, but some may actually kill you…

Abigail Baskin is getting married! Her fiancée is millionaire Bruce Lamb. He is handsome, kind, generous and caring. How did she get so lucky? Does she have second thoughts? Sure, doesn’t everybody?

But during her weekend bachelorette party with her girlfriends, she gets drunk and makes a terrible mistake. She ends up sleeping with another guest. No real names were ever exchanged, and Abigail feels terribly guilty. She tries to put it out of her mind knowing she loves Bruce, and it was just a one-night stand.

Until a week before her wedding. First Abigail thinks she sees her one-night stand, then receives an email from him. How did he find her? How could he know her real name? He proclaims his undying love for her and thinks she feels the same way. He promises if she tells him she does not feel the same way he will leave her alone. Should she tell Bruce? Would he even understand? She sends an email back telling him to stop stalking her, she knows she loves her fiancée, and he means nothing to her.

She thinks she has nipped the problem in the butt until on her wedding day she begins to smell clove cigarettes, the type her one-night stand smoked. This must be a coincidence. But when he suddenly shows up at the exclusive private island they are honeymooning at, she realizes he must be crazy. If she tells Bruce about her mistake, he will never forgive her. But she is frightened as to what he will tell Bruce. All he wants is to talk to her one last time. Should she take matters into her own hands?

Then while on the island Abigail meets another woman (the ONLY other woman on an island of all men) honeymooning there as well. This woman begins to tell her a frightening story that her former fiancée is staying on the island and has been harassing her. What is happening? This can’t be a bad coincidence!

When Abigail sees this other woman running for her life late one night, she realizes something is not right on this island. Suddenly, her husband’s personality begins to change. Abigail finds herself in the fight of her life, for her life! She may not be the only one keeping secrets! But it might be too late. None of this makes sense. And then Abigail’s life blows up in her face.

This story takes the words till death do us part to a totally different level!

Every Vow You Break is a chilling story created by one of the masters of suspense, Peter Swanson. You won’t be able to put this book down!

Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

When Avery Mason, popular television host of the show American Events decides to cover an exciting story about a woman who died twenty years ago in the Twin Towers on 9/11 and because of new technology, has had her remains identified she thought it would be a piece which her loyal viewers would not only find interesting, but would appreciate. But as she begins to learn about the dead woman, Victoria Ford, she discovers that at the time of her death she had been charged with the murder of her married lover, a famous author who was found dead hanging off his balcony.

When she decides to visit Ford’s sister, Emma to find out more information on the life and last days of Victoria, she discovers Emma has kept phone recordings which were made by her sister on 9/11 while she was in the Tower that fateful day. In both calls she implores her sister to please help her prove her innocence, saying she was set up. All these years, Emma has been trying to fight this fight alone. Now, Avery Mason has agreed to look into the case.

She contacts Walt Jenkins, a retired FBI agent who was the detective overseeing the murder case all those years ago. Unbeknownst to Avery, Walt was asked by the FBI to help them in locating Avery Mason’s father who fled years ago after being accused of running a pyramid scheme and stealing millions of dollars from his clients. You see, Avery has some secrets of her own which could ruin her career.

As Avery and Walt begin to look at the old murder file, they soon begin to see inconsistencies which Walt, at the time of the murder, a novice detective never picked up on. Is this perhaps why he was put on the case in the first place? Although Victoria Ford’s blood is all over the crime scene something just doesn’t make sense. But with fresh eyes, they see there were others who could possibly have benefited from the death.

With Avery and Walt working together, the past and the present begin to intersect, with the terrifying realizations of what may have actually happened twenty years ago. Not only will the characters be shocked, but the readers as well.

Charlie Donlea, author of the incredible book The Suicide House has once again written an absolutely all consuming, heart thumping story with the most incredible twistiest of twists.

Thank you #NetGalley #Kensington #CharlieDonlea #TwentyYearsLater for the advanced copy. The book will be out next week.

Growing Up Laughing by Marlo Thomas

Nowadays, most people know Marlo Thomas as the National Outreach Director for St. Jude’s Hospital where children with cancer can go and stay and receive treatment without paying a cent. St. Jude’s was founded by her her father, comedian Danny Thomas and she and her two siblings, Tony and Terre took over the cause upon his passing. Or, some may remember her as Rachel Green’s mother on the show Friends.

But for some of us, myself included, we know Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie from the 1960’s show That Girl, a show she created by the way, when women were only known as actresses, not a behind the scenes anybody! The storyline was about an independent woman, living alone, looking for stardom in New York City. Ann Marie, along with boyfriend Don Hollinger and her father Lew Marie each week would find themselves in comedic messes they would have dodge. The show was so popular back then that Ann Marie’s hairstyle, make-up and clothes would have their own twitter account today!

In Growing Up Laughing, her memoir of sorts, she tells funny stories of growing up as Danny Thomas’ daughter, having dinner on Friday nights surrounded at the table by her dad’s “friends”, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, and George Burns.

She also chronicles her father’s rise to fame as well as how her mother put her own dreams on the backburner in order to raise their family and travel with Danny when he was on the road with his stand-up act.

Growing up in Beverly Hills in a house full of laughter, even when being scolded was blissful. Although her father travelled quite a bit, as did her mother to keep him company, there were nightly calls, and anticipation when they knew he was coming home. So when Thomas decided she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps, he was not too pleased. He felt as a woman and as his daughter too much would be expected of her. But, in pure Marlo Thomas fashion, and future That Girl, she decided to listen to her inner voice. And when she came off the stage after starring in Mike Nichol’s Barefoot in the Park in London, the first person she saw was her dad, with a huge bouquet of flowers and an enormous smile on his face!

She chronicles how she met and married her husband, Phil Donahue, although she never thought she would get married. One story relates her conversation with Gloria Steinem the only other single woman in their group when she realizes she wants to marry Phil. She also tells the story of finding out her father has died suddenly and trying to get back to California to be with her family.

If reading about her was not enough, scattered throughout the book are interviews she did with upcoming comedians at the time. Remember, the book was written in 2010, which means Thomas could certainly see talent. Some of the interviewees were Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Kathy Griffin as well as some of her dad’s old buddies such as Don Rickles.

Throughout the book there are terrific, funny, interesting pictures not only of her father and his friends, but family as well.

Some memoirs seem to dwell on the person’s unhappy upbringing, or how they were able to remove themselves from terrible situations. Growing Up Laughing is not one of those. It was quite refreshing to read an autobiography in which the story is so full of family, love and of course, laughter!

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox is an epic thriller everyone will want to put on their must read list!

College student Zoe Nolan disappeared from her dorm building in Manchester, England in 2011 and has never been seen since. What began as a missing person investigation, erupted into a full-scale is she dead mystery, with suspects including her twin sister Kim as well as her boyfriend, father and even friends.

When writer Evelyn Mitchell decides to write a book about the case and asks her friend, fellow best-selling author Joseph Knox to give her some guidance, never did they see the horrible, shocking outcome to the mystery.

Through a series of riveting transcribed interviews Evelyn does with Zoe’s family, friends and the police, before, during and after her disappearance, Evelyn and Joseph begin to learn many alarming pieces of information about Zoe, as well as about her twin sister Kim, who always felt as if she could and would never live up to her sister’s talent. Zoe’s boyfriend is even suspected as more is learned about the days and hours leading up to her vanishing. Even Zoe and Kim’s father is suspected as he has no alibi for the time his daughter went missing. More importantly, it seems everyone involves is hiding information.

As days turn into weeks and then years there is no word or sign of Zoe. Everyone has tried to move on, most not being able to let go of the trauma they had endured. Then suddenly, out of the blue, close to the anniversary of the disappearance, they are all jolted by information none of them had ever known. Why now?

Will Zoe ever be found? What happened to her? Is she alive? If not, who killed her? And why?

This story is so unique, eerie, captivating and gripping with astounding twists and turns and an incredible jaw-dropping ending which was staggering!

Thank you #NetGalley #SourcebooksLandmark #JosephKnox #TrueCrimeStory for the advanced copy.

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapeke-Dale

Ballerinas are delicate and beautiful dancers who move with precision and effortlessness. But unbeknownst to their audience, what is going on inside their minds can be quite shocking.

Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux met at ballet school as teens. Since then they have been best friends as well as competitive dancers while continuing to be each other’s cheerleaders. All that was changed when an incident occurred which altered their friendships as well as their individual lives.

Delphine, now in her mid-thirties, who basically ran away from her friends after the incident fled to St. Petersburg, and now has come back to France as a choreographer preparing a new ballet. She is a rising star, she has been told. Hoping to rekindle the friendships, she casts both friends in the ballet, along with a male dancer whom Delphine has never been able to get out of her mind. But she immediately realizes this was perhaps a mistake. You cannot really go back to relationships which had been fractured and never been put back together.

As the tension mounts with the friends, Delphine finds out the woman who basically raised her is having medical problems. Delphine’s mother was a prima ballerina in her day, known all over the world. The most shocking thing her mother ever did was actually have Delphine when she found out she was pregnant. Because as ballerina’s know, pregnancy changes the body and then there goes your career.

But their past secrets and resentments do come back to haunt the women. Who they loved, why they married, and who they left are were never answered questions among them. Delphine soon discovers that her friends whom she thought had it all clearly did not. They too had regrets, a fear of getting older. Even secrets which are hidden in plain sight which will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The story moves back and forth from their current situations to when they first met and the escapades they all endured, some funny and some heartbreaking. But no matter who was angry at who their camaraderie could not be broken. Until it broke.

Sometimes friendships can become toxic and unhealthy, but true friends are able to move past those parts and regrow what was the base of the bond from all those years ago. Even when the love they have for each other takes a dramatic turn, one no one could have seen coming. But will they survive the new secrets which now must be hidden?

The Ballerinas is an interesting behind the scenes look at what it must be like to be a classical dancer, the pain they tolerate as they put their bodies through enormous stress, as well as the competition element which certainly makes it difficult to be friends, never mind stay friends, But the twist at the end is by far well worth watching the whole performance!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #TheBallerinas #RachelKapeke-Dale for the advanced copy. The book will be out December 7.