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  • Belle Brett

Your Holiday Book List: 5 Novels and a Memoir

In her later years, my mother made her gift shopping a little easier by buying each family member a special book. If you know someone's interests, books make great presents. Here are my picks of some recently published books that you may not know about. All were written by women but will appeal to men as well. I have not only read but can recommend each of them. You may want to buy one or more not only as gifts but for your own reading pleasure!

For crime story and police procedural lovers:

Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle. The third in Gayle's Thomas Lynch Series, this one is told in two voices: that of the gruff, gay, urban transplant we've come to know and love, Thomas Lynch, and of Officer Michael Finnigan, trying to solve the cold case of the disappearance of Finnigan's younger sister. You don't need to have read Idyll Threats or Idyll Fears to enjoy this one, but you will want to. This small town police office and the characters in it are as compelling as the story itself

For baby boomers and those interested in the anti-war movement of the 1960s:

The Fourteenth of September by Rita Dragonette. Set on a Midwestern university campus, this novel is told through the eyes of "Judy Blue Eyes," who unbeknownst to her fellow protesters attends college thanks to her army scholarship. The story builds up to the day when the results of the draft lottery will be announced, affecting the lives of those around her in different ways. The 14th of September refers to the #1 birthdate selected, a date that is also Judy's birthday. Dragonette's varied cast of characters feel authentic, and the emotions portrayed, raw and real. Dragonette is using the publication of her novel to mount her "Coming of Conscience" campaign to raise scholarship money.

For those who want to laugh:

Chuckerman Makes a Movie by Francie Arenson Dickman. Two stories in one, this novel toggles between 35-year-old David Melman's attempt to write a film script (and his affair with his eccentric teacher) and his actual, developing script about a childhood visit to his grandparents' house in Florida one December. His grandfather's Cadillac, featured on the cover of the book, has a prominent role as well. Engaging, funny, and sometimes cringeworthy, Chuckerman Makes a Movie will leave you craving not only to see the movie Melman is writing, but also its sequel.

For those who like cozy stories that feed their senses:

The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller. Two quite different sisters disagree about what to do about the property they inherit in the small town where one of the sisters lives and works. There is also a blooming romance and a dog gone wild after his mistress's death. Miller paints a rich picture of life in the same Vermont town she created in her first novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living. In this new novel, she gives us another sensual treat that includes her signature emphasis on baked goods.

For fans of literary fiction who don't mind a serious shot of bleak:

Winter Loon by Susan Bernhard. This just-published novel follows 15-year-old Wes Ballot, who witnesses his young mother's drowning in a lake in the woods of Minnesota. Sent to live with his rough, maternal grandparents, Wes maintains hope that his father, who has repeatedly abandoned him, will come to get him. Over the course of a year, he must deal with his grief, uncover family secrets, and attempt to find a shred of hope. This beautifully written but dark story will have you holding your breath until the end.

For those who want to be inspired to greater heights:

48 Peaks, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains by Cheryl Suchors. In her late forties, petite Suchors, who suffers from a fear of heights, sets a goal to climb the 48 4000 footers of New Hampshire's rugged White Mountains. In the course of her quest, which extends over a decade, she loses her hiking companion and dear friend to cancer, suffers injuries herself, and then deals with her own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Through it all, she develops a strong connection to nature, which keeps her coming back despite the challenges she faces. Lyrical and inspiring, this memoir is not just for hikers, as it covers a myriad of issues facing those in midlife and beyond.

Happy holidays, happy gift-giving, and happy reading to all!!

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