Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire by Lizzie Johnson
Eighty-five people died in the wildfire that devastated the small northern California town of Paradise in November 2018. Lizzie Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the fire extensively and has put together a gripping, novelistic narrative of the events and their aftermath.
Johnson introduces several figures—first responders, medical professionals, town officials, ordinary citizens—and follows them through the course of that horrific day. She ably demonstrates the guilt of PG&E, the California utility whose outdated and poorly maintained infrastructure is believed to have caused the fire, and examines other contributing factors, such as climate change, the misguided policy of forest fire suppression, and the town’s poorly conceived and executed evacuation plan.
Johnson doesn’t go into graphic descriptions of the remains later found of people overcome by fire in their vehicles or homes. But you will find yourself cheering for the brave souls who make up her cast of characters, who managed to save themselves and their loved ones in the face of unimaginable danger. — Bland Lawson
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
No matter the time or location, Amor Towles’ works convey a strong sense of place, robust character development and are guaranteed to keep readers enthralled. His previous books covered 1930s Manhattan and early Twentieth Century Russia. Towles’ latest is an unforgettable cross-country road trip in the 1950s with a cast of hilarious and memorable characters. When Emmett comes home after serving a year for involuntary manslaughter, his father has died, leaving him to raise his precocious eight-year-old brother, and the family’s farm is being foreclosed on. Emmett and his brother view this as an opportunity for a fresh start and set out on a remarkable journey. — Megan Mathis
A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria
In this follow-up to her bestseller, You Had Me at Hola, Daria introduces Mich and Gabe, two Latinx entrepreneurs who haven’t seen each other since they didn’t quite get together in high school. Now Gabe’s business partner, unaware of their history, has hired Mich to market Gabe’s new celebrity gym location – they’ll have to work together if either wants to take their career to the next level! Will Gabe reconcile with his parents, to whom he hasn’t spoken in years? Will Mich forgive him for leaving her to go to college in California? This second chance romance about family and personal growth is a smart and steamy read – and a great holiday gift for the romance reader in your life! — Sara McBride
Never Fall for Your Fiancée by Virginia Heath
In a new historical romance series by seasoned author Virginia Heath, we meet Minerva, the eldest of the Merriwell sisters, in this fun rom-com that is perfect for a fall afternoon. Cassanova Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, has created an imaginary fiancée to stave off his overbearing match-making mother. Still, when she comes into town two weeks early, he must scramble to find someone to play the part. Enter poverty-stricken artist Minerva Merriwell who gets offered a handsome sum to go along with the ruse. Will Hugh and Minerva be able to keep the smoke and mirrors show alive, or will their lies get tangled up in true love? Fans of Bridgerton will adore this hilariously witty and steamy read. — Morgan Ryan
The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer
Meet Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt, a Jewish girl with a lot of secrets. She loves Christmas and writes popular Christmas romances under a pen name. Her publisher is asking her to mix things up a bit and write a Hanukkah romance. This proves to be a challenge since she finds absolutely nothing romantic or magical about Hanukkah, not to mention she is dealing with a chronic illness. With her deadline quickly approaching and nothing inspiring her, she finds herself helping childhood crush turned enemy, Jacob Greenberg, with the Hanukkah event of the season. Can she find the spark to her story? A lovely rom-com told with heart, just in time for the holiday season! — Ariel Hackett