Spotlight/US Giveaway: Cold Harbor by Matthew FitzSimmons

Description:

A Wall Street Journal bestselling series.

After a period of brutal isolation in a CIA black-site prison, former Marine and gifted hacker Gibson Vaughn is free—but with no idea where he was or how much time he’s lost. Struggling to maintain his grip on reality, he races to return to the life he left behind. Angry and disoriented, his thoughts turn to vengeance and the man responsible for his rendition. But Gibson’s drive for retribution and the ghosts of his violent past plunge him back into a world he wants only to escape.

As old enemies and once-trusted allies resurface, the architects of a murderous conspiracy will beat a sinister path to Gibson’s doorstep. In discovering the shocking truth about those he thought he knew best, only one thing is certain: those responsible must be made to answer…and pay.


About the author:

Matthew FitzSimmons is the author of the bestselling Gibson Vaughn series, which includes The Short Drop and Poisonfeather. Born in Illinois and raised in London, England, he now lives in Washington, DC, where he taught English literature and theater at a private high school for more than a decade.


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Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

  • Title:  Bel, Book and Scandal
  • Series: Belfast McGrath Mystery #3
  • Author:  Maggie McConnon
  • Genre:  Cozy Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  December 2017 – St. Martin’s Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Book, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought. (publisher)

My take:  Belfast McGrath is a chef who left her last gig in disgrace and returned home to work for her parents at Shamrock Manor, cooking for weddings and other events. Being back in the place where she grew up is a challenge rife with memories both good and bad. After a meeting with a prospective client Bel finds a newspaper the client left behind that has a startling photo – Bel’s best friend who was thought to have died now appears to be very much alive. This starts amateur sleuth Bel on a search for her friend.

Maggie McConnon’s mystery was entertaining but not in a laugh out loud way (although I did occasionally). I loved her characters – Bel’s parents and brothers were funny in the same way we may see our own family members as funny, quirky, odd.  In addition to her family were assorted towns-people, old boyfriends, new friends. They all added to my enjoyment and any of them could have been a red herring. I didn’t figure out whodunit until close to the end – and then I wasn’t sure!

Bel, Book and Scandal is the third book in the Belfast McGrath series. I haven’t read the first two but didn’t feel lost because McConnon did a good job of bringing me up to speed in the opening chapters. Recommended to fans of the series and the cozy mystery genre.


About the author:

MAGGIE MCCONNON grew up in New York immersed in Irish culture and tradition. A former Irish stepdancer, she was surrounded by a family of Irish musicians who still play at family gatherings. She credits her Irish grandparents with providing the stories of their homeland and their extended families as the basis for the stories she tells in her Belfast McGrath novels, beginning with Wedding Bel Blues.

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Spotlight/US Giveaway: Next of Kin by James Tucker

Description:

A New Year’s Eve celebration begins with the pop of a champagne cork—and ends with the bone-chilling screams of a killer’s victims. Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family at their upstate New York compound. But from the moment he evades death, Ben’s life is in constant danger. Can NYPD detective Buddy Lock keep the boy safe from a killer intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan?

When two more massacres decimate the Brookses’ ranks, Buddy’s hunt narrows. But his challenges grow as power, money, and secret crimes from the family’s past stand in the way. With Ben more and more at risk, Buddy steps closer to the edge, forcing a relentless killer to become more brazen, brutal, and cunning. Saving the boy will put all of Buddy’s skills to the test…and risk the lives of everyone he loves.


About the author:

James Tucker has worked as an attorney at an international law firm and is currently an executive managing real estate strategy at a Fortune 50 company, where his work includes frequent travel throughout the United States. Fascinated by the crimes of those in power, he draws on these cases for his writing. He has a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School and was one of four fiction writers awarded a position at a past Mentor Series at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. He has attended the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop in Portland, where he was mentored by author Walter Kirn. He lives near Minneapolis with his wife, the painter Megan Rye, and their family. Next of Kin is his first novel.


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Christmas Reads

My busy November (aka my low-reading month) has left me without reviews to post this week. I was thinking about possible blog posts and decided to list my recent Christmas additions to my library. I’m hoping to read all or most from now until the end of December.

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Join USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts this Christmas as she returns for the final installment in her treasured Icicle Falls series

When Muriel Sterling released her new book, A Guide to Happy Holidays, she felt like the queen of Christmas. She’s thrilled when the new tree she ordered online arrives and is eager to show it off—until she gets it out of the box and realizes it’s a mangy dud. But rather than give up on the ugly tree, Muriel decides to make a project out of it. As she pretties up her tree, she realizes there’s a lesson to be learned: everything and everyone has potential. Maybe even her old friend Arnie, who’s loved her for years. Except, she’s not the only one seeing Arnie’s potential…

Meanwhile, Muriel’s ugly-tree project has also inspired her friends. Sienna Moreno is trying to bring out the best in the grouchy man next door, who hates noise, hates kids and hates his new neighbors. And while Olivia Claussen would love to send her obnoxious new daughter-in-law packing, she’s adjusting her attitude and trying to discover what her son sees in the girl. If these women can learn to see the beauty in the “ugly trees” in their lives, perhaps this might turn out to be the happiest holiday yet.

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From New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio comes a heartwarming novel as merry and bright as a red-feathered cardinal taking flight.

Frank Lombardo’s never been spontaneous. The closest he’s come was accepting a side job chopping firewood for a lakeside community of rustic cabins. But with another lonely holiday season imminent, Frank’s sister urges him to be spontaneous because, seriously, who does he ever expect to meet out in the woods?

With a suitcase in hand and a bit of reluctance, too, Penny Hart arrives at Cardinal Cabin on Snowflake Lake. It’s only for a brief stay, though nobody knows where she is. Not her boss, not her friends…

Only Frank Lombardo. As the two unexpectedly meet at Addison’s hidden hideaway, a spontaneous kiss sets everything amiss. But can the magic of this quaint New England town keep these snowy sweethearts together?

Cardinal Cabin is an enchanting tale about finding love where you least expect it. So come on inside. A cozy fire crackles, lights twinkle on the evergreen tree, snowflakes tap at the windowpanes, and little redbirds bring cheer this time of year.

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Stevie Franklin is ready to go all-out Grinch on Christmas this year, but a snowy trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains could provide some unexpected gifts…
 
Stevie is thrilled to help her best friend Sunny launch her new greenhouse business in Blue Hollow Falls. Not only does it give her a chance to visit the quaint location, but it’s a welcome distraction from Stevie’s recent bad luck with men. Just one catch: since Sunny’s home is under renovation, Stevie must stay at the local inn, whose amenities feature hunky innkeeper, Noah Tyler.

Noah may be as tempting as her grandmother’s famous sweet potato pie, but city-girl Stevie isn’t sticking around—and she doesn’t do flings. Yet when Noah’s chef gets stranded in a Christmas Eve snowstorm, Stevie can’t resist pitching in and serving up some of her family’s favorite recipes. The magic of a Blue Ridge Christmas is already rekindling Stevie’s holiday spirit and making her wonder what else she might be missing out on. Now can Noah restore Stevie’s belief in love?
 
Includes original down-home holiday recipes!

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Warm up with this heartfelt romance in the Mustang Ridge series…

Grateful to her twin for keeping Mustang Ridge in the family, Jenny Skye agrees to return home for a month so her sister can get away. It’s the middle of winter, and only a few year-round staffers, her family, and the animals will be there. But the globe-trotting videographer is soon in way over her head at the dude ranch dealing with reservations, her redecorating-obsessed mother, and the town’s hunky new veterinarian.

Despite his adventurous past, Nick Masterson is putting down roots in Mustang Ridge. When a stray dog, a missing family member, and a snowstorm conspire to throw him and Jenny together, there’s no denying the blaze of attraction. But can a relationship that began in the heat of the moment turn into something more for a woman who’s always been eager to put her hometown behind her?

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Are you reading any Christmas books this season? I’d love to hear about them. Any favorites?