‘The Matzah Ball’ by Jean Meltzer is a perfect holiday almost-fairy tale romance

The Matzah Ball
by Jean Meltzer

Matzah balls are soft and filling and satisfying in warm soup. However, “The Matzah Ball” by Jean Meltzer might better be compared to the rugalach that her characters love to nosh on, sweet and sometimes nutty, but made with love (and honesty) and with a texture that melts in your mouth. This story is filled with lots of love in the best tradition of any romance novel, but it’s also much more. Meltzer provides us with an inside look at a main character who is strong and successful, and at the same times struggles with a chronic disease.

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‘An Observant Wife’ by Naomi Ragen gives readers an inside look at the Ultra-orthodox Jews in Boro Park, Brooklyn

An Observant Wife by Naomi Ragen

No one writes about observant Jews as well as Naomi Ragen, and her new novel, “An Observant Wife,” follows Leah Howard and Yaakov Lehman, a story that Ragen began in “An Unorthodox Match.” This sequel, which works as a stand alone book, begins with their Orthodox Jewish wedding, where we learn a lot just by reading that Leah’s mother, wearing a red dress with shockingly high red patent leather heels, walked her up the aisle. To say the least, Leah does not come from an Orthodox background.

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‘The Guilt Trip’ by Sandie Jones: Is anyone NOT guilty?

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

After reading several novels in which people aren’t who they appear to be and the plots kind of blur together, I worried that “The Guilt Trip” by Sandie Jones would be another disappointment. I had really enjoyed her previous books: “The Other Woman,” “The First Mistake” and “The Half Sister.” I am thrilled to say that “The Guilt Trip” kept me enthralled and turning page after page till the surprising ending. And yes, there is one character who is not as he or she (no spoilers!) appears to be, but it’s not the usual kind of misleading characterization.

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‘The Therapist’ by B. A. Paris is a marvelous mystery

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

The title “The Therapist” is a big part of the mystery itself. Author B.A. Paris lets us know, first through occasional first person posts from someone who is obviously a therapist, that the identity of the therapist is a mystery. We have no idea who the therapist is, nor do we know who the clients are. But we do know that there is something off about this therapist with a “relaxation room” next door.

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‘Her Perfect Life’ by Hank Phillippi Ryan; what does it take to be perfect?

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The word “perfect” has many connotations. We dream of the perfect vacation, the perfect home, the perfect family, the perfect job. But for each of us, that word, perfect, has a different meaning. In “Her Perfect Life,” Hank Phillippi Ryan presents a main character, Lily Atwood, whose life seems perfect. She’s a television reporter, and her onscreen image is as beautifully perfect as her offscreen life. She lives in a beautiful house with a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and a beautiful nanny, and she scrupulously maintains her appearance to be beautiful. Everything about Lily matches the Instagram hashtag her fans have created: #PerfectLily.

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‘Blind Tiger’ by Sandra Brown is an action-packed historical fiction with a fascinating female main character

Blind Tiger by Sandra Brown

Exploring the bleak times during Prohibition becomes a thrill-ride in Sandra Brown’s “Blind Tiger.” The story is set right after the “Great War,” and is filled with nonstop action as we meet Laurel Plummer, who ends up in small-town Foley, Texas, after her husband abandons her in his father’s one-room shack. Laurel is left with her sickly, premature newborn, Pearl, in a drafty cabin with no running water or electricity. Laurel, as we come to find out, is a tough character and not one to let a desperate situation keep her down.

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‘A Summer to Remember’ by Erika Montgomery is about the secrets we keep for love

A Summer to Remember by Erika Montgomery

We all have secrets, but the secrets in “A Summer to Remember” by Erika Montgomery are secrets that will rock two families to the core. At the center of the story are Frankie Simon and Louise Chandler, who live on opposite coasts. Frankie is 30 years old and lives in Los Angeles. She runs the memorabilia store her mother started, and she loves the memories that the items she sells evoke from the movies she loved watching with her mother. In Harpswich, Massachusetts, Louise Chandler lives with her physician husband and runs the Stardust Film Festival, one that she had started decades previously with movie star Glory Cartwright. She and her husband, Russ, were Glory’s friends, and her husband grew up in Harpswich with Glory’s movie star husband, Mitch Beckett.

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‘The Tiger Mom’s Tale’ by debut author Lyn Liao Butler is a story of conflicting cultures and the love of family that is at the center of both

The Tiger Mom’s Tale by Lyn Liao Butler

Lyn Liao Butler knows what it’s like to experience conflicting cultures, so the different cultures she depicts in “The Tiger Mom’s Tale” ring true. Butler’s Instagram videos of her parents demonstrating cooking traditional Taiwanese dishes show that while she lives in America, fosters dogs, has a child, and lives the American dream, her roots (her parents) are from Taiwan. Main character Lexa’s roots are American, like her mother’s. But there is also the part of her that is Taiwanese, like the father she didn’t meet until she was eight. And until a traumatic event happened in Taiwan when Lexa was fourteen, she thought that she could straddle both cultures and be lucky enough to be loved by both her American family and her Taiwanese family. We find out that’s not always as easy as one might imagine.

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‘Hostage’ by Clare Mackintosh is a seat-of-your-pants thriller about betrayal, love, and family

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

With “Hostage,” Clare Mackintosh gives us a thriller with nonstop action and not one set of hostages, but two. The family at the center of these hostage situations is the Holbrook family: Adam, MIna and Sophia. Adam is a police inspector and Mina is a flight attendant. Sophia is their adopted daughter, and we learn a lot about the harmful effects of neglect in the first year of a child’s life. Sophia has an attachment disorder which makes her difficult at times, and she is also extremely bright. Mackintosh does a fabulous job introducing the three main characters, and we learn about them from the first person narratives Adam and Mina provide, each chapter detailing the time and the narrator.

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‘Sunrise by the Sea’ by Jenny Colgan is a sweet return to the oceanside bakery with new characters

Sunrise by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

One of the strengths of Jenny Colgan’s writing is that she creates characters who seem so real and so approachable, we end up feeling as if we know them and are friends with them. In “Sunrise by the Sea,” we return to the tidal island Mount Polbearne, accessible to the mainland Cornwall at low tide only. While we meet Marisa, who has been devastated by the death of her grandfather, we also learn about Polly and Huckle, and how their lives have been changed by having twins.

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‘Choose Me’ by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver is a glimpse into the desperation abandonment can cause

Choose Me
by Tess Garritsen and Gary Braver

Abandonment and betrayal feature predominantly in “Choose Me,” specifically as we examine the cost to those who are left suffering. Authors Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver examine how different people respond after experiencing betrayal and abandonment. How, for example, might a middle age police detective live her life after her husband dies in circumstances that can, at best, be seen as a betrayal of their marriage. How differently might a young college coed respond to being abandoned by her boyfriend after experiencing abandonment years before when her father left his family. We must also consider that the very act of having an affair, cheating on one’s wife, is certainly a kind of abandonment — an abandonment of sacred commitments, of promises, of moral values, and even of common human decency.

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‘Life Glows On: Reconnecting With Your Creativity to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life’ by Claire Cook is perfect for jump-starting your creative juices

Life Glows On by Claire Cook

a”Life Glows On: Reconnecting With Your Creativity to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life” is yet another terrific piece of non-fiction by popular and prolific women’s lit author Claire Cook. It’s one that happily invites re-reading — several times — to thoroughly dig into Cook’s many thoughtful ideas about creativity. In her first nonfiction book, “Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention,” Cook shares her story of reinvention. And regarding her subsequent nonfiction book, “Shine On: How to Grow Awesome Instead of Old,” I said, “….we are fortunate enough to be served double and triple helpings of good and wise advice, humor-filled entertainment, lovely and touching memories of events from the author’s very full life, and dollops of her unique ability to communicate ideas for helping “forty-to-forever” women face the challenges and vagaries of advancing age. And to become more awesome to boot.”

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