Awards: top pick

Top Picks are 5-star books that exceed expectations and push boundaries. Reviewers can nominate any 5-star book they reviewed as a Top Pick, but the editorial staff has the final say on assigning this award. More about awards

Attracted to the exotic mystery of Warlord Era China? Relish forbidden love in the midst of revolution? Adore political intrigue and heroes/heroines overcoming impossible odds to survive only to be betrayed by someone close and trusted? Then you’ll love The Dragon Of Hidden Treasures, Book 1!

Those who read romantic stories full of adventure and intrigue will enjoy this story. The reader is immediately pulled in from the very first page. Excellent writing, with attention to details, that makes the characters and setting leap off the page. The characters are vivid and unique and the story feels original also. The story is also full of twists, turns and betrayals.
 
There were a few spots that could have used a few editing brush strokes to make the women more believable in their actions at the beginning. At times, Kathryn and her mother figure, or Amah, seemed a bit too accommodating, even for the times, and perhaps could have  protested the actions of the male figures more. But this did serve to show the reality of the times and location, where women had little say in anything, including their own lives. At other times, the pace was so fast, the main characters had to solve problem after problem.

Fans of fast-paced romantic suspense, adventure stories, war dramas and the works of Amy Tan will enjoy this novel. There are disturbing images as well as scenes of graphic violence. This is also book 1 in a series, so the ending is not resolved.

Review by Melody Delgado


Suspicious of the real reason for her mother’s disappearance Esme Silver goes searching for clues in the enchanted world of Aeolia. In her quest for answers she learns much about herself and the value of friendship and family.

For fans of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Harry Potter”, you will find something enjoyable to read in this book. But with more focus on the protagonist’s personal growth, her family and an emphasis on her introduction to the enchanting world of Aeolia, this is a more heartwarming and whimsical story young fantasy readers will surely love.

Review by Kate Ashley


Paul Tomenko knows about the improbable. A sweepstakes winner and renowned counterculture writer by age 19, he’s traveling to God’s library to preserve eternity. If that wasn’t hard enough, his two lovers must become involved as well. But the trio discovers the job can turn someone’s soul inside out. Literally.

Readers who enjoy science fiction with a humorous and slightly irreverent bent will enjoy this fun tale with a unique take on metaphysics, cosmology, and religion. The universe and characters Felyk has created are thought- and laugh-provoking. The sometimes convoluted and unevenly paced plot might hinder those looking for a fast, easy read.

Review by Lynne Hinkey


Love the eighties? Love romantic adventures? How often have you looked back on your high school experiences and just thought . . . WOW. Last Exit to Montauk will take you there . . . and more.

LAST EXIT TO MONTAUK delivers a roller-coaster of a ride with some surprises. A Romantic-Comedy with some touching, heart-felt, thought-provoking and heart-breaking, yet relatable, moments.

The story is extremely well-written, full of humor, heart, and a vulnerability that pulls the reader in from the very first page. Words that describe the story would be: Poignant. Deep. Moving. Heart-felt. Funny. Universal.

Fans of John Green, Nick Hornby and romantic coming of age stories, will enjoy this look at the joys and pitfalls of first love.

Review by Last Exit To Montauk


Two cousins are leaving the protection of their underground bunker, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth. On the other side of North America, a young survivalist is leaving the seclusion of his cabin in the woods.

I would highly recommend this gripping post-apocalyptic thriller to anyone who has a thirst for the genre, and to anyone who wants to read an action-packed, thought-provoking book. The first part of the book builds the tension up superbly, like a horror film, tipping you to the edge of your seat, whilst also dipping back into the past to explain what has brought the world to this point. The second half of the story is almost sad in its gory inevitability. Humans have not had enough violence or death, and the war continues. I was fully involved with the characters and rooting for them to come through. Very much looking forward to reading the next installment.

Review by Chantelle Atkins


A phone call in the small hours after midnight lands Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch in a lethal game where nobody can be trusted and everybody wants him dead. That includes the caller, an old flame with a violent temper and a terminal knack for larceny and betrayal.

The Right Wrong Number is filled with the latest and greatest of Nesbitt’s Quentin-Tarantino wit mixed with everything gory, despicable, irreverent, and plenty of sex. Indeed, a great combination of mystery and a plain laugh-out-loud read—guaranteed to be a favorite for noir enthusiasts.

Review by The Right Wrong Number


“this strikes me as a finely crafted story…I rate it as a superior novel and recommend it to anyone who appreciates the challenge of an unflinching mystery. Certainly I was repeatedly surprised.” —Multiple NYT bestseller Piers Anthony

Whether you’re a fan of sci-fi fan, hard-boiled detective stories, or mysteries, this book will appeal to you. Yes, it crosses genre lines, but in such a seamless manner and with such elegant prose, even purists of any one of those genres will be satisfied. But, don’t grab this if you’re looking for a cozy mystery. The violence isn’t gratuitous but some of it is graphic. The superb writing and editing (the few errors stand out because of their paucity), and complex plotting of The Last Detective make it a great read for anyone who enjoys an exciting who-done-it.

Review by The Last Detective


Frankie Mourning kills the killers. But when something supernatural opens up old wounds in her hometown, she has to turn to a detective on the run for help.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you squirm as you read, look no further. MONSTROUS is haunting and suspenseful; equal parts gore and heart. With a foul-mouthed heroine who has more of a conscience than she would like to admit, and a cast of dubiously moral characters, MONSTROUS is not for the faint of heart or the easily spooked. And beware: once you start reading you will be cast under the author’s spell, and will likely find yourself possessed with the need to continue the series.

Review by Monstrous


Gary is writing what he is convinced will be a best-selling self-help book, despite his own conspicuous lack of success.

Hilarious in its complete embrace of faith-over-substance approach to success and wealth, Gary’s Guide to Life will have readers cringing and laughing at this witty sendup of the Self-Help aisle. If you’re a fan of Dr. Phil types and take your self-help gurus seriously, you might not appreciate this rollicking satire. For everyone else, you’ll want to step in and give Gary a good shake for being so very blind to what’s blatantly obvious to the reader, but you’ll also root for him to succeed at being successful because he is so endearingly naive.

Review by Lynne Hinkey


Aurora, a holiday maker, and David, a globetrotting sushi chef, meet-cute on a skydive, literally falling head over heels for each other. However, after a few days of bliss reality rears its ugly head and they have to part again. Three months later Aurora has rearranged her life to be with David. When she returns to Mallorca their love remains strong. Only, nobody reckoned with the human baggage Aurora unwittingly brings to the island. Two professional hitmen with nothing but murder on their minds. The chase is on

Stanke’s wildly thrilling period piece captures not just the groovy vibe of post-Franco Spain in 1977, but also the feel, the look, the smell, of Mallorca just as tourism was starting to really make inroads into the formerly pristine island.

His unusual and ambitious jumps in point of view wouldn’t have worked in the hands of a less skilled author, but here you’re in good hands. David and Aurora’s whirlwind courtship is over almost before it began, and then, upon her return to him three months later (surprise! With a child in tow) the breathless chase through the pine forests and over the mountains unwinds skillfully. David and his young charge flee for their lives from hit men, and then murderous cops. Then Stanke rewinds and adds another perspective, layering on a new level of understanding for the reader. And again he backs up and goes over the same ground again but in the head of yet another character. By the end, when the whole heart-squeezing narrative has unfolded, the reader knows everything and is satisfied. It’s not an entirely happy ending, you know that going in—but it’s a just one, and a thrill right to the last scene.

I wholeheartedly recommend Falling in Death and Love, for anyone who enjoys and appreciates intricate plotting, who has an affinity for Spain, or who needs a reason to stay up late. Once you start this novel, you won’t want to stop.

Review by Kim Kash