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Archives - December 2020

In her essay collection MADNESS, RACK, AND HONEY, the poet Mary Ruefle entitled one entry “Someone Reading a Book is a Sign of Order in the World.” That optimistic title came to mind as I scanned the list of a dozen favorite books I compiled this year, as I do each December, from the 70 or so I reviewed as a freelance reviewer in 2020, the year that order in the world took a sabbatical.
We wrap up this year’s Holiday Author Blog series with John Hart, whose upcoming thriller, THE UNWILLING, releases on February 2nd. John’s parents read to him all the time when he was a kid, but the book that he remembers the most is DIVERS DOWN! by Hal Gordon, which his father gave him for Christmas when he was six years old. The book was not his favorite, and it took his father a month to read it to him, even though it was a little over 200 pages. So why does John have such fond memories of it? Read on to find out why!
Sharon Virts is a successful entrepreneur and visionary who, after more than 25 years in business, followed her passion for storytelling into the world of historical fiction. Her debut novel, MASQUE OF HONOR, releases on February 9th. In this coming-of-age tale set in early 19th-century America, two sons of the Virginia aristocracy risk it all to defend their dreams and determine their own destinies. Sharon was a voracious reader from a very young age, so the Christmas present that meant the most to her growing up was a box of used books that she would find under the family tree each year. This treasure trove was lovingly assembled by her mother, whose visits to their local Goodwill store would yield an embarrassment of literary riches. But there was one book from that first box that turned out to be her favorite story of all.
Deborah Goodrich Royce was an actress in film and television for 10 years. Her first psychological thriller, FINDING MRS. FORD, was published in 2019 to rave reviews. Her second, RUBY FALLS, will release on May 4th and revolves around a fragile young actress, the new husband she barely knows, and her growing suspicion that the secrets he harbors may eclipse her own. 1978 was a difficult and challenging year for Deborah, but she was fortunate to have a close friend in her life, Nicky, who made her “feel lifted up from the world we inhabited.” That winter, he gave her a book that helped get her through those dark and uncertain times. It’s a novel that she cherishes to this day as it transports her to another world --- and serves as a powerful reminder of Nicky and his gift that will last a lifetime.
Liese O’Halloran Schwarz is the author of the acclaimed novel THE POSSIBLE WORLD and the forthcoming WHAT COULD BE SAVED. Alternating between the past and the present, the book, which releases on January 12th, is about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty that can exist even in the midst of brokenness. Liese has so many wonderful childhood memories of giving and receiving during the holidays, but what she remembers most fondly are the books that were gifted to her on Christmas morning. While shopping in bookstores may not be possible for many of us these days, Liese is hopeful that books will continue to be an important part of our holiday celebrations this year.
Janet Skeslien Charles is the author of THE PARIS LIBRARY, which releases on February 9th. During World War II, the librarians at the American Library in Paris defied the Nazis in order to hand-deliver books to Jewish readers. She first learned about this incredible true story when she worked at the American Library. In her holiday blog post, Janet recounts how family, reading and bookstores made all the difference to an impatient teen who wanted to leave home, and how she now longs to return to those simple days.
We are kicking off this year’s Holiday Author Blog series with award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, whose new novel, INFINITE COUNTRY, releases on March 2nd and is about a Colombian family fractured by deportation. Patricia, the daughter of Colombian immigrants, reflects on her family’s celebration of Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), which would culminate in her grandfather dressed as Santa Claus entering the house with a bag of gifts. She and her cousins would act as his elves and deliver all these goodies to the relatives and friends who had gathered for this very special occasion. Considering her eventual career path, it should come as no surprise what Patricia often received as presents.