Readers' Favorite

November 24, 2023

Holiday Buying Guide for 2023

by Donna Huber

Do you have a book lover on your list but aren't sure what to get them? Maybe you are loading up an eReader for yourself. I've read/listened to over 145 books this year and this is my list of the best I've read this year. They will make a great gift for the person on your list or yourself.

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Of Manners and Murder by Anastasia Hastings

book cover of historical cozy mystery Of Manners and Murder by Anastasia Hastings

1885: London, England. When Violet's Aunt Adelia decides to abscond with her newest paramour, she leaves behind her role as the most popular Agony Aunt in London, "Miss Hermione," in Violet's hands.

Of Manners and Murder is the first book in the Dear Miss Hermoine cozy mystery series. This book would be great for fans of the PBS television series Miss Scarlet and The Duke as I thought Violet was a lot like Scarlet. Read my full review of this delightful cozy mystery.

Buy Of Manners and Murder at Amazon

A Cryptic Clue by Victoria Gilbert

book cover of cozy mystery A Cryptic Clue by Victoria Gilbert

Sixty-year-old Jane Hunter, forced into early retirement from her job as a university librarian, is seeking a new challenge to keep her spirits up and supplement her meager pension. But as she’s about to discover, a retiree’s life can bring new thrills—and new dangers.

I love cozy mysteries that feature librarians and I loved Jane Hunter. I enjoy Gilbert's Blue Ridge Library mysteries, but I think this new series is my favorite. I enjoy mysteries where there is a partner and Jane Hunter and Cameron Clewe make great amateur sleuth partners. Given their age difference there probably won't be a romance between them which is kind of unique among the couple cozies I read. Read my full review of this hard-to-put-down novel.

Buy A Cryptic Clue at Amazon


The Creative Vegetable Gardener by Kelly Smith Trimble

book cover of The Creative Vegetable Gardener by Kelly Smith Trimble

With The Creative Vegetable Gardener,  lifestyle editor and master gardener Kelly Smith Trimble encourages readers to widen their focus, be playful, and imagine a vegetable garden that reflects their own unique aesthetic and offers a meditative sanctuary as well as a source of fresh, homegrown food. From seed selection to garden layout and regenerative gardening practices, gardeners of all levels will find Smith Trimble's liberating advice a pathway to making the garden a place of nourishment for the soul and creative spirit, while also feeding the body.

If you have a gardener on your list who also enjoys books, then this is a great gift particularly as the winter time is usually spent planning and impatiently waiting for spring so that we can get back out in the garden. Read my full review of this informative book.

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

book cover of nonfiction book Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science
highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary.

I listened to the audiobook and very much enjoyed it, but I would love to have a hardcover edition to see all the artwork, etc. (in case anyone is looking to buy me a gift!). I think it is meant for younger readers (upper elementary school and up) but it was interesting to me as an adult. I liked the short biographical information. There are the famous woman in science - Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, etc, but there were also several I had never heard of.

Buy Women in Science at Amazon

Being Henry: The Fonz...and Beyond by Henry Winkler

book cover of celebrity memoir Being Henry: The Fonz and Beyond by Henry Winkler

Henry Winkler, launched into prominence by his role as “The Fonz” in the beloved Happy Days, has transcended the role that made him who he is. Brilliant, funny, and widely-regarded as the nicest man in Hollywood (though he would be the first to tell you that it’s simply not the case, he’s really just grateful to be here), Henry shares in this achingly vulnerable memoir the disheartening truth of his childhood, the difficulties of a life with severe dyslexia, the pressures of a role that takes on a life of its own, and the path forward once your wildest dream seems behind you. 

I don't usually read celebrity memoirs but I couldn't pass up The Fonz. I loved this audiobook. It is read by Henry Winkler himself which is an extra bonus. Read my review of this moving memoir.

Buy Being Henry at Amazon

Romantic Suspense

Cold Blooded Liar by Karen Rose

book cover of romantic suspense novel Cold Blooded Liar by Karen Rose

Sam Reeves is a kindhearted psychologist who treats court-ordered clients. After one of his patients--a pathological liar--starts revealing plausible new details from a long-unsolved serial murder case, he's compelled to report anonymously to the SDPD tip line, though his attempts to respect patient confidentiality land him facedown and cuffed by the aggressive (and cute) Detective McKittrick.

I don't usually read romantic suspense but I love Karen Rose's books. I have a hard time putting down her novels and this one was no exception. Read my full review of this intense novel.

Buy Cold Blooded Liar at Amazon


Red Winter by Marc Cameron

book cover of spy thriller Red Winter by Marc Cameron

1985. A top secret F117 aircraft crashes into the Nevada desert. The Nighthawk is the most advanced fighting machine in the world and the Soviets will do anything to get their hands on its secrets.

I love Cold War-era spy thrillers and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series is one of the best. I loved this book as it went back to the Cold War. It took me back to those early books in the series and reminded me why I fell in love with the series. Read my full review of this previously untold story from Ryan's past.

Buy Red Winter at Amazon

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni

book cover of legal thriller Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni

Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor, until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. For the competitive former chess prodigy, returning to her family’s failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father is the best shot she has. With the right moves, she hopes to restore the family’s reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career.

If the reader on your list enjoys court room drama, then this is the book to get. It is a great book to curl up with for a long night of reading. Read my full review of this legal thriller.

Buy Her Deadly Game at Amazon

Historical Fiction

Earth's the Right Place for Love by Elizabeth Berg 

book cover of historical fiction novel Earth's the Right Place for Love by Elizabeth Berg

Nola McCollum is the most desirable girl in Arthur's class, and he is thrilled when they become friends. But Arthur wants far more than friendship. Unfortunately, Nola has a crush on the wrong Moses--Arthur's older brother, Frank, who is busy pursuing his own love interest and avoiding the boys' father, a war veteran with a drinking problem and a penchant for starting fights. When a sudden tragedy rocks the family's world, Arthur struggles to come to terms with his grief. In the end, it is nature that helps him to understand how to go on, beyond loss, and create a life of forgiveness and empathy. But what can he do about Nola, who seems confused about what she wants in life, and only half aware of the one who loves her most?

This book is a little difficult to classify. It is historical fiction as it is set in the 1950s, but it is also a little bit of a romance novel. It is a very uplifting story. Read my full review of this sweet, slice-of-life story.

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly

book cover of historical fiction novel The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly

Two former female spies, bound together by their past, risk everything to hunt down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of World War II.

I've read 4 books by Martha Hall Kelly and while I enjoyed the Lilac Girls series, The Golden Doves is my favorite. It might be 500+ pages, but they flew by. If you read my review regularly you know I love WWII fiction that is rooted in true events. If you have a reader that wants more than a romanacized WWII story, then you should get this book. Read my full review of this gripping tale.

Buy The Golden Doves at Amazon

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

book cover of historical fiction novel The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

When a woman discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed.

This is a very enjoyable read based somewhat on Operation Pied Piper where children in London were sent to the countryside while Nazis bombed London. While all her characters in this book are fictional Henry writes them so well that they could be real people. Read my full review of this character-driven novel.

The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

book cover of historical fiction novel The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

In Berkeley, California, in 1944, Homicide Detective Al Sullivan has just left the swanky Claremont Hotel after a drink in the bar when a presidential candidate is assassinated in one of the rooms upstairs. A rich industrialist with enemies among the anarchist factions on the far left, Walter Wilkinson could have been targeted by any number of groups. But strangely, Sullivan’s investigation brings up the specter of another tragedy at the Claremont, ten years the death of seven-year-old Iris Stafford, a member of the Bainbridge family, one of the wealthiest in all of San Francisco. Some say she haunts the Claremont still.

The Golden Gate is a murder mystery, but it is also about racism, immigration, capitalism, communism, fascism, and the history of California. I learn so much historical information that I didn't know. This is Chua's debut fiction novel and I'm looking forward to more. Read my full review of this phenomenal novel.

Buy The Golden Gate at Amazon

Science Fiction

The New One by Evie Green

book cover of science fiction novel The New One by Evie Green

After a tragic accident leaves Scarlett comatose and with little chance of recovery, Tamsyn and Ed are out of options until a lifeline emerges in the form of an unusual medical trial. In exchange for the very best treatment for Scarlett, a fully furnished apartment, and a limitless spending account, the family must agree to move to Switzerland and welcome an artificial copy of their daughter into their home.

I read this book as a possibility for my post-apocalyptic book club (we have a broad definition of post-apocalyptic). I consider this book to be science fiction lite as it really is a family drama with some advanced technology. If you have a reader on your list who is interested in AI, then this would be a great book to get them. Read my full review of this excellent book.

Buy The New One at Amazon

The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy

book cover of post-apocalyptic novel The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy

Coco Wells hasn’t seen another living person since she was a teenager. All of Manhattan is reliving the same few seconds, minutes, or hours on a loop… and they have been for years. Everything looks normal from a distance, but up close it’s a nightmare.

This is another book I read as a possibility for my post-apocalyptic book club and I will definitely be nominating it at our planning meeting in the summer. I listened to the audiobook and it was excellent. So if you have a reader that prefers audiobooks then definitely take a closer look at this book by reading my full review.

Women's Fiction

Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela Kelley

book cover of women's fiction novel Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela Kelley

Jess loves her work as a high-profile lawyer in the respectable and austere city of Charleston. But when she finds her husband, Parker, has been cheating on her with his assistant, she retreats, with her thirty year-old daughter Caitlin for support, to her childhood home on Cape Cod, in Chatham. Caitlin has always been bright but directionless, looking for her passion but keeps coming up blank. And Jess needs to regroup with the help of good food and wine, the company of her best friend, Allison, and come up with a plan for the future.

The Bookshop by the Bay is my first book from Pamela Kelley. She ranks right up there with the Queens of Beach Reads - Nancy Thayer, Debbie Macomber, Mary Kay Andrews, and Anita Hughes. This is the perfect book for a lazy weekend. If you have someone on your list who needs to just relax with a book, then get this book. Read my full review of this lovely book.

Buy Bookshop by the Bay at Amazon

Must Love Flowers by Debbie Macomber

book cover of women's fiction novel Must Love Flowers by Debbie Macomber

Joan Sample is not living the life she expected. Now a widow and an empty-nester, she has become by her own admission something of a recluse. But after another birthday spent alone, she is finally inclined to listen to her sister, who has been begging Joan to reengage with the world. With her support, Joan gathers the courage to take some long-awaited steps: hiring someone to tame her overgrown garden, joining a grief support group, and even renting out a room to a local college student. Before long Joan is starting to feel a little like herself again.

I think I've just about loved every book I've read by Debbie Macomber. She writes great, memorable characters. Read my full review of this relatable story.

Buy Must Love Flowers at Amazon

There's No Coming Back from This by Ann Garvin

book cover of women's fiction novel There's No Coming Back from This by Ann Garvis

It seems lately that Poppy Lively is invisible to everyone but the IRS. After her accountant absconded with her life savings, newly bankrupt Poppy is on the verge of losing her home when an old flame, now a hotshot producer, gives her a surprising way a job in costumes on a Hollywood film set. It’s a bold move to pack her bags, keep secrets from her daughter, and head to Los Angeles, but Poppy's a capable person—how hard can a job in wardrobe be? It's not like she has a choice; her life couldn't get any worse. Even so, this midwesterner has a lot to learn about the fast and loose world of movie stars, iconic costumes, and back-lot intrigue.

Poppy is a great character and I read this book much too quickly. It might not be a perfect book but it was an entertaining novel. Read my full review of this fun novel.

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read for free)

Holiday Romance

Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

book cover of Christmas romance novel Bright Lights, Big Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

When fall rolls around, it’s time for Kerry Tolliver to leave her family’s Christmas tree farm in the mountains of North Carolina for the wilds of New York City to help her gruff older brother & his dog, Queenie, sell the trees at the family stand on a corner in Greenwich Village. Sharing a tiny vintage camper and experiencing Manhattan for the first time, Kerry’s ready to try to carve out a new corner for herself.

Do you have a reader who loves Christmas? Then getting them a Christmas book is a no-brainer and Mary Kay Andrews writes a great one. Or you can treat yourself when you finish your holiday shopping. Read my full review of this feel-good novel.

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.

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