Readers' Favorite

Featured Post

Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

November 29, 2019

Book Buying Guide 2019

by Donna Huber

To my U.S. readers, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I'm back this year with my top book recommendations for the readers on your holiday list. Of the 108 books I've read so far this year, I have rated 26 of them with 5 stars. I narrowed the list down a dozen that I'm sure will be enjoyed by any reader you are trying to buy for. I also have an Amazon deal offer for you at the end of the post where you get $5 when you purchase $20 in ebooks.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site.

Young Readers

What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren

I really enjoyed this book. It was bit of a memoir with science, history, geography, geology, law enforcement, and animal behavior thrown in. I think homeschooling families could find a number of fun and interesting lessons to incorporate into their learning time from this book. Any curious child will be delighted by the interesting facts about training cadaver dogs. A free book was provided for an honest review. Read my full review.

Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many thousands of scent-detection dogs all over the United States. That’s a group that includes cadaver dogs, tracking, trailing, and apprehension dogs; dogs that can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers; and even dogs that can find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake.

All these dogs love to use their noses. They think their job is simply the best, most interesting game they’ve ever played! What good working dogs can do may seem magical or mysterious, but What the Dog Knows shows the science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie these amazing abilities.

Buy What the Dog Knows at Amazon

Young Adults

Dawn of Spies by Andy Lane

Dawn of Spies
This was a really cute story. I wouldn't mind reading more in the series. I don't know much about the Robinson Crusoe story written by Daniel Defoe in the 1700s as I've never read it. I liked them as a group of spies and that one of Defoe's many covers is as an author (or a pamphleteer as he is called in the book). I purchased this book for myself.

Rescued from a deserted Caribbean island, 17-year-old Robinson Crusoe and his female friend, Friday, find themselves in late 1600s London, a bustling city that proves as treacherous for them to navigate as the remote island they just left behind. Thanks to their honed survival skills, Crusoe and Friday are recruited by a young writer named Daniel Defoe to work as agents for Segment W, a covert spy group that reports directly to the Crown.

Crusoe, Friday, and Defoe must rescue the Countess of Lichfield from a kidnapping plot. They are shocked to discover that a mystical and mysterious organization known as the Circle of Thirteen is behind the kidnapping.

With an illustrious cast of historical characters including King Charles II and Sir Isaac Newton, Crusoe thrusts the reader and its young heroes into a world of espionage, intrigue, and peril at the dawn of the spy age.

Buy Dawn of Spies at Amazon

Cozy Mysteries

Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd

Death Comes to the Fair
I really liked Lucy Harrington and Sir Richard Kurland. If Poldark was a cozy mystery, I think it would be a lot like this book. I'm going to have to see if my library has any more of this series. I purchased this book for myself and I checked out book 1 in the series from the library. It is one of my favorite series.

As Miss Lucy Harrington, daughter of the village rector, and Major Sir Robert Kurland plan their nuptials, the major is beginning to wonder if he'll ever hear wedding bells. He's seen complex military campaigns that involved less strategy, and he's finding Lucy's meddling family maddening.

When the body of Ezekiel Thurrock, the church verger, is discovered crushed by a gargoyle that has fallen from the bell tower, the wedding is delayed. But the evidence suggests this was no accident, and Lucy wonders if bad blood at the village fair had anything to do with the man's mysterious demise, since there was much bitterness over Ezekiel's prizewinning vegetables.

As Lucy and Robert uncover long-standing village feuds, the town's dark secrets begin to take their toll and the couple soon finds they too are in grave danger.

Buy Death Comes to the Fair at Amazon

Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy

I haven't read the first book in this series, but I really enjoyed this book. Victorian gothic isn't usually something I'm drawn to, but the cover kept catching my eye. I also have enjoyed Conroy's other cozies so I felt that I wouldn't be disappointed and I definitely wasn't disappointed. I'm looking forward to more stories in this series. A free ebook was provided for an honest review. Read my full review.

The mist-shrouded moors of Devon proffer a trove of delights for two vacationing zoologists--but also conceal a hoard of dark secrets reaching down to the fathomless depths of the ocean.
Miss Merula Merriweather barely saved her uncle from the gallows after he was wrongly accused of murder--and now, she's left the bustle of Victorian London to recuperate in the fresh air of Dartmoor with her fellow zoologist, Lord Raven Royston. The trip offers a unique treat, as they'll be staying with a friend of Raven's, who owns a collection of rare zoological specimens--including a kraken, a sea monster of myth and legend.

But all is not right in the land of tors, heaths, and mist. Their host's maid has vanished without a trace, and the townspeople hold him responsible, claiming that his specimens are alive and roam the moors at night, bringing death to anyone who crosses their path. Merula and Raven are skeptical--but the accusations become more ominous when they find several specimen jars empty.

As the two hunt for clues across a desolate and beautiful landscape, a stranger appears bearing a shadowy secret from Merula's past. Could there be a connection between her family history, the missing girl, and a fearsome monster that could be on the loose? The race is on to find the truth.

Buy Death Comes to Dartmoor at Amazon

Historical Fiction

A Pledge of Silence by Flora J. Solomon

A Pledge of Silence
This was a well-done audiobook. I loved the story. Though I've read a lot of WWII stories, I've not read many (if any) set in the Pacific Theater and not about army nurses. I liked that the story spanned more than just the war years. It was a free read/listen for Prime members. And it is still a free read/listen for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Read my full review

When Margie Bauer joins the Army Nurse Corps in 1941, she is delighted to be assigned to Manila—the Pearl of the Orient. Though rumors of war circulate, she feels safe—the island is fortified, the airbases are ample, and the Filipino troops are well-trained.

But on December 8, 1941, her dream world shatters. Captured by the invading Japanese, Margie ends up interned at Santa Tomas, an infamous prison camp. There, for the next three years, while enduring brutality and starvation, her bravery, resourcefulness, and faith are tested and her life forever changed.

At once an epic tale of a nation at war and the deeply personal story of one woman’s journey through hell, A Pledge of Silence vividly illustrates the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made for their country, and the price they continued to pay long after the war was over.

Buy A Pledge of Silence at Amazon

Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim

Wow. This book looked interesting, but I wasn't prepared for the powerful writing that illuminated a piece of immigration history that I knew nothing about. This was a free read/listen for Prime members. I listened to the audiobook and it was really good. I didn't want it to end. Read my full review. (It's still free to read/listen for Kindle Unlimited subscribers).

Southern China, 1923. Desperate to secure her future, Mei Ling’s parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband’s first wife—a paper wife.

On the perilous voyage, Mei Ling takes an orphan girl named Siew under her wing. Dreams of a better life in America give Mei Ling the strength to endure the treacherous journey and detainment on Angel Island. But when she finally reaches San Francisco, she’s met with a surprise. Her husband, Chinn Kai Li, is a houseboy, not the successful merchant he led her to believe.

Mei Ling is penniless, pregnant, and bound to a man she doesn’t know. Her fragile marriage is tested further when she discovers that Siew will likely be forced into prostitution. Desperate to rescue Siew, she must convince her husband that an orphan’s life is worth fighting for. Can Mei Ling find a way to make a real family—even if it’s built on a paper foundation?

Buy Paper Wife at Amazon


Lost Without the River by Barbara Hoffbeck Scoblic

Lost Without the River
I really enjoyed this memoir. I loved the historical bits intertwined with family history. Scoblic is a great storyteller. A free book was provided for an honest review. Read my full review.

Barbara Hoffbeck never quite felt she fit into the small farming community of Big Stone City, South Dakota―and as the youngest of seven growing up during the post-Depression era, she struggled to find her place within her large Catholic family. Barbara defied expectations at every turn, determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated time and place, whether it be by joining a "no girls allowed" hunting trip with her brothers, racing to help save her family's burning barn, or moving across the United States to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. Barbara took her experiences in stride, grounding herself in the beauty of her surroundings―an appreciation stemming from her Dakota roots. Lost Without the River is the story of a girl who grows up, leaves home, and eventually discovers an appreciation for the farm she left behind. It demonstrates the emotional power that even the smallest place can exert, and the gravitational pull that calls a person back home.

Buy Lost Without the River at Amazon


Caitlin's Song by John A. Heldt

Caitlin's Song
You can always count on John Heldt for a sweet, light read that is full of heart. This one had a bit more a thrill than the other books I've read from him. My jaw literally dropped open upon reading a shocking detail. While it does involve time travel, this isn't really science fiction. I would classify it more as historical fiction. A free ebook was provided for an honest review. Read my full review. (The ebook is free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.)

Love, courage, and commitment take center stage as the Carsons, a family of time travelers, continue their saga in the great American West. For the Carson children, ages 19 to 29, an unplanned stop in 1962 is a chance to grow. Adam, Greg, and Natalie begin lives with new spouses in Boulder, Colorado, while twins Cody and Caitlin get their first taste of college. All plan to resume the search for their missing parents as soon as they can. For Tim and Caroline Carson, a planned stop in the rendezvous year of 1972 is a nightmare. While reading about their children's lives in 1962, they learn that one has crossed paths with a killer. Faced with limited options, they race back to the past to reroute history and prevent a series of murders. In CAITLIN'S SONG, the fourth novel in the Carson Chronicles series, members of a modern family find romance, adventure, and terror as they seek answers and each other in four memorable eras of American history.

Buy Caitlin's Song at Amazon


RED Hotel by Gary Grossman and Ed Fuller

RED Hotel
I haven't read a spy thriller this good since Tom Clancy stopped writing Jack Ryan, Sr. in the field. I loved the character of Dan Reilly, a man whose job isn't to save the country but feels it is his duty to what he can. In a time when most spy novels are focused on cyberterrorism and financial espionage, I loved that this went back to good old spycraft. An ARC was provided for an honest review. Read my full review.

When a bomb rips the fa├žade off the Kensington Hotel in Tokyo, dozens are killed and injured while one man walks calmly away from the wreckage, a coy smile playing on his lips. Former Army intelligence officer Dan Reilly, now an international hotel executive with high level access to the CIA, makes it his mission to track him down. He begins a jet-setting search for answers as the clock ticks down to a climactic event that threatens NATO and the very security of member nations. Reilly begins mining old contacts and resources in an effort to delve deeper into the motive behind these attacks, and fast. Through his connections he learns that the Tokyo bomber is not acting alone. But the organization behind the perpetrator is not who they expect. Facilitated by the official government from a fearsome global superpower, the implications and reasons for these attacks are well beyond anything Reilly or his sources in the CIA and State Department could have imagined, and point not to random acts of terror, but calculated acts of war. RED Hotel is an incredibly timely globe-trotting thriller that’s fiction on the edge of reality.

 Buy RED Hotel at Amazon

Into the Dark by Karen Rose

I loved Say You're Sorry and I have to say I loved Into the Dark just as much. I will definitely need to find more books by this author whenever I'm in the mood for an emotional thriller. I was in tears before I even 10% into the story. Her writing is so raw and realistic. A free ARC was provided for an honest review. Read my full review.

Michael Rowland is not your typical teenager. Deaf from birth, he’s always looked out for his five-year-old brother, Joshua. When his stepfather comes after Joshua, Michael takes the child and runs. He’s determined to protect his brother at all costs, even if that means making himself vulnerable to a danger he can’t hear coming. And the danger intensifies when Michael witnesses a stranger kill his stepfather.

Desperate and afraid, the boys have nowhere else to go but to Joshua’s soccer coach, journalist and ex-Army ranger Diesel Kennedy. When Diesel sees that Michael is injured, he takes them to see Dr. Dani Novak—not only because she’s fluent in American Sign Language, but because he’s drawn to her and everything she stands for. She never refuses Diesel’s requests—because she, too, feels their connection—but she resists him for reasons she doesn’t want to confess.

When Dani and Diesel learn that Michael saw the face of his stepfather’s killer, they fear for his safety. But they quickly discover that it’s even worse than they feared: They may have a serial killer on their hands—and all signs point to Michael as the next target.

Buy Into the Dark at Amazon

Women's Fiction

The Orphan Daughter by Cari Noga

The Orphan Daughter
I wasn't sure about this book when I started it, but as it progressed I fell more and more in love with the characters. The story is told in alternating POVs. Lucy, a pre-teen whose life is turned upside down with the death of her parents, and Jane, a woman whose life fell to pieces after losing a child. Together they forge a new life, healing the past grief and re-discovering love and trust. This was a free read/listen for Prime members. It is still a free read/listen for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

At forty-five, Jane McArdle has experienced her share of life’s twists and turns. Yet she’s shaken by the sudden death of her estranged half sister and the news that she’s now the guardian of her orphaned niece, Lucy.

Still nurturing unresolved grief from a marriage bookended by loss, as well as her guilt over her adult son’s imperfect upbringing, Jane is her own worst enemy, content to focus on her small Michigan farm. Now, confronted with a traumatized eleven-year-old, the prickly empty nester is thrust into motherhood again, unsure she’ll do any better this time.

City girl Lucy is bewildered by aloof Aunt Jane and a new life in rural Michigan. The debilitating phobia Lucy has developed since her parents’ deaths keeps her stuck in this place that’s nothing like home. She secretly plots to run away to live with other relatives. Jane and Lucy must decide if they’ll both endure yet another loss—each other—or if their paths will lead them to forge a new family together.

Buy The Orphan Daughter at Amazon


Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer

I didn't know Nancy Thayer wrote Christmasy stories. I love her beach reads in the summer so when I saw this book at Netgalley, I had to pick it up. While I don't like to read Christmas stories until after Thanksgiving, I was really excited to read this book and it isn't overly Christmasy. I loved it! A free ARC was provided for an honest review. Read my full review.

Christina Antonioni is preparing for the holidays at her Nantucket toy shop, unpacking last-minute shipments and decorating for her loyal Christmas shoppers. But when her Scrooge of a landlord, Oscar Bittlesman, raises her rent, it seems nearly impossible for Christina to continue business on the wharf.

Even so, Christina hopes there is a warm heart underneath Oscar's steely exterior. When she bonds with Wink, his sweet, young granddaughter who frequents the shop, it becomes clear that perhaps he isn't so cold after all. And with the help of Wink's uncle, who happens to be a charming and very handsome bachelor, this may be the best Christmas any of them could have ever imagined. Nancy Thayer's enchanting Nantucket setting provides the perfect backdrop for this holiday love story.

Buy Let It Snow at Amazon

Need more suggestions? Check out our Best of the Bunch posts where the staff of Girl Who Reads attempts to name their favorite read each month. You can also check out our past holiday shopping guides.

Whether you are buying for yourself or others, you can save a bit of cash this weekend (Nov. 27 - Dec. 4) with Amazon's get $5 back when you purchase $20 in ebooks. Follow this link to activate the deal.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


  1. Dog books are pretty much always an instant win with my daughter---and lots of other kids too!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction