November 2023

7 Books I Loved In September & October

November 2023 Book Recommendations from the Charliemadison book club

With the exception of two books, September and October were filled with mysteries and thrillers. Last month I shared my 10 favorite books for spooky reading season, so I’m wrapping up a few of my other recent favorites! One of this month’s authors, Gillian McAllister, had a big hit last year so I couldn’t wait for her latest book to arrive and it was just as good. I also discovered a new author and read two of her books, plus added a few more of hers to my wish list. 

I hope you find something that makes you want to rush over to your local library or bookstore and add to your fall TBR (to be read) list!

XO, Wendy



Police detective, Julia is assigned to the case of the missing 22-year-old Olivia, who was seen on CCTV heading into a dark alley and never reappearing. Julia has experience with missing persons cases and as the hours tick by and she interviews family and friends, she soon discovers that her own family’s darkest secret may be the key to finding Olivia. But she must decide whether to protect her family or frame someone else for Olivia’s murder.

I was excited to see a new title from Gillian McAllister after loving last year’s Wrong Place Wrong Time. An audiobook listen for me, this was a fast-paced thriller that hooked me right from the start. The author definitely did it again with a fabulous suspenseful plot that will keep you wanting just one more chapter. I loved this one!

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Two years ago, a tragic event lead to the deaths of D.C. philanthropist Sloan Chase’s husband and Senator Whit Montgomery’s wife. Now the pair have married and are ready to move on with their lives together. As Sloan prepares for her upcoming hip replacement surgery due to a lifelong battle with lupus, Whit hires a home health aide, Athena Karras, to help Sloane recover and stay on top of her many responsbilities. But Sloane starts to get sicker and sicker, questions arise over Athena’s past. Sloane wonders if she’ll ever recover and if Athena is planning to take over her life.

A good friend recommended this book and it took me a few months to finally get it from our local library. This was an audiobook listen for me and oh my goodness, I finished in a day and a half. So many twists and turns - I thought I had it figured out but was totally shocked at the end. One of my favorites this month.

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The Owens family has been cursed in the love department since their ancestor, Maria Owens, was deemed a witch in 1620. Now, as the 1960’s arrive, Susanna Owens worries about her three children - Franny, Jet, and Vincent - who each seem to find themselves in troubling situations. Susanna sets rules for her children - no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic - and never, ever, fall in love. When the children visit their Aunt Isabelle in a small town in Massachusetts, they uncover long-hidden family secrets that explain who they are and the truth about their family’s curse.

Alice Hoffman is a true storyteller and this book is absolute magic (pun definitely intended!). With rich characters and a beautiful story about what loves means to each of us, I was in love with this book from the start. I’ll be looking for her other books in this series, including one that was made into a movie.

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Eighteen years ago, Tess made some serious mistakes she’s tried to keep buried during her time as a student at Haywood - an elite boarding school where she’s now a professor. Her 17-year old son Rudy, a typical teenager is doing well in school and has a lead role in the play, until Tess gets a text from Rudy at 2:50 am in need of her help. Tess soon learns Rudy’s girlfriend has died; her body was found on the beach close to where she picked up Rudy. As the police investigate Lila’s death, they suspect not only Rudy, but Tess’ husband as well. Then the skeletons in Haywood’s closet start to surface, leaving everyone wondering who they can trust.

Another audiobook listen this month - I took a chance on this one after it popped up in my Amazon recommendations. It turned out to be a great read and got me searching for other books by the same author.

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A luxury holiday for nine family and friends at a tiny village in Provence takes a turn when they start to question whether their young and adventurous caterer, Lulu is really who they thought she was. As the pressure on Lulu heats up, she must decide whether to run from her troubled past or stay and face up to who she really is.

Set in a beautiful rustic French home in a tiny town complete with its own bakery, I could imagine a relaxing vacation sitting by the pool, having all my meals taken care of. Fast-paced, with danger lurking around every corner, this book was so hard to put down. I listened to the audio version in just a couple days - really entertaining!

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Set during the Cold War, two secretaries working for the CIA are sent on a mission to the USSR to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the country so it can be distributed around the world. From the inspiration behind Pasternak’s character Lara, his real-life mistress who was sent to the Gulag, to the country homes of artists in the USSR, to the lavish parties in Washington D.C., this book centers around the height of the spy world.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and this book opened my eyes to the controversy surrounding Doctor Zhivago and the control the USSR had on its citizens, most especially its artists. An enjoyable book that transported me to another age - a great read!

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Briarwood College alumni are gathered for a weekend to honor the student who disappeared 25 years ago and the professor who died while searching for her. A dangerous winter storm rolls in, leaving a small group of students - the last ones to be taught by the professor - stranded, as they share the horrific stories they wrote during their class about their biggest fears. One by one, the students start dying in the manner they wrote about in their stories as the rest of the group tries to stay alive and uncover the secrets of the past.

I picked this one up after reading The Sea of Lost Girls by the same author. Moody and mysterious, this book was also well worth a listen. I’ll be interested in searching for more by this author.

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