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December's Must-Reads: Top Books to Close Out the Year with a Bang

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Debbie Wiley | Reading Slumps are the WORST

Curse of Salem
Kay Hooper




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Bishop Special Crimes Unit Series #20

January 2022
On Sale: December 28, 2021
336 pages
ISBN: 1984802925
EAN: 9781984802927
Kindle: B08D8K63VK
Hardcover / e-Book
Add to Wish List

Also by Kay Hooper:
Curse of Salem, October 2022
Curse of Salem, January 2022
Hidden Salem, March 2021
Hidden Salem, April 2020


by Debbie Wiley

Books have been part of my life for as long as I remember. Even before I could fully read on my own, I remember my grandmother reading to me and listening to books on record albums, following along with the words in the accompanying book. Everyone knows the last two years have been tough, but for this reader, it’s been worsened by a reading slump. Instead of turning to books for comfort, I’ve watched a lot of mindless television, much to the chagrin of my husband. Fortunately, a few recent reads have really jumped out at me and tugged me into the storylines, snapping that reading slump into tiny pieces!

One of the tricks often cited to break a reading slump is to reread old favorites. My twist on this is to read authors I’ve loved over the years. CURSE OF SALEM by Kay Hooper perfectly fit the bill! Not only have I loved Kay Hooper’s books dating back to the 1980s when she wrote category romances, but I’ve also faithfully followed her Bishop Special Crimes Unit series, devouring them as soon as I could get my hands on each new installment. CURSE OF SALEM returns to the town featured in the prior book, HIDDEN SALEM, so as an added bonus I got to revisit with some of the Salem residents we grew to love.

Jayne Ann Krentz is another author I’ve followed since the 1980s and is sure to kick those slumping blues. I fell in love with science fiction/fantasy after reading her book, SWEET STARFIRE, as my mind was opened to all the possibilities that existed outside the usual mystery and romance books I read at that time. LIGHTNING IN A MIRROR is the third book in the Fogg Lake series and definitely best enjoyed if read in the context of the series as a whole. I fell in love with paranormal worlds all over again in LIGHTNING IN A MIRROR, as Jayne Ann Krentz digs into the dark conspiracy surrounding the Vortex lab and all the enchanted items infused with various powers. I have to admit I haven’t read as many of her Amanda Quick books, as I’m not generally a historical romance fan, but I can’t wait not to dig in to see all the other connections to the Vortex lab that she’s dropped in some of her other series! Having one book lead you to others is a guaranteed way to keep a reading streak (as opposed to a slump) going!

And ah, what can I say about J.D. Robb that I haven’t already said in the past? I will forever be thankful to Mindy Zentgraf (who owned a small independent bookstore in Aiken, SC) for handing me a used copy of the first In Death series and insisting I take it at no cost and read it. Eve and Roarke are two constant characters in my life, along with all their various friends and coworkers. Whether it's Peabody, Mavis, Trueheart, or any of the other beloved characters, I feel at home visiting with them. FORGOTTEN IN DEATH and ABANDONED IN DEATH came along at just the right time for me as I needed to visit with my old friends and see what wrongs Eve will help provide justice for.  Added bonus- we get to spend time with Mavis and Belle and hear Belle’s hilarious nickname for Somerset!

So now I’ve mentioned a couple of my tried-and-true authors for kicking me out of a reading slump, but I want to mention another book with a new to me author. THE CARTOGRAPHERS by Peng Shepherd takes readers into the world of maps and their collectors. I can’t say much without spoiling this phenomenal tale, but let’s just say I lost a lot of sleep trying to turn just one more page to see what revelations we would learn next. Needless to say, Peng Shepherd’s prior book, THE BOOK OF M, is already on my kindle as I can’t wait to see if it keeps me captivated even half as much!

Another new to me author that has helped me kick the reading slump to the curb came in an unexpected way. One of the things I did instead of reading was follow the season-long football rivalry between two local news anchors. It all came to a head with the College Football Championship on the line between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide. How does this relate to books and my reading slump? One of the news anchors just happens to be an author and I only discovered that through their rivalry and the Twitter hashtags! Of course, I immediately bought Linda Hurtado Bond’s ALIVE AT 5 and dived right in! Non-stop action, a steamy romance, and a reporter with some anxiety- it’s a stunning combination that drew me in immediately and now I have a backlist to comb through, as well as an upcoming book, ALL THE BROKEN GIRLS, to look forward to!

What are some of the books that help you beat a reading slump? 


Debbie Wiley is a senior reviewer at Fresh Fiction. You can find more of her articles and reviews here




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