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The Spellman Files: Document #1, by Lisa Lutz.

The Spellman Files is the first novel in a winning and hilarious mystery series featuring Isabel "Izzy" Spellman (part Nancy Drew, part Dirty Harry) and her highly functioning yet supremely dysfunctional family of private investigators.

Meet Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors-but the upshot is she's good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family's firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people's privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman.

Izzy walks an indistinguishable line between Spellman family member and Spellman employee. Duties include: completing assignments from the bosses, aka Mom and Dad (preferably without scrutiny); appeasing her chronically perfect lawyer brother (often under duress); setting an example for her fourteen-year-old sister, Rae (who's become addicted to "recreational surveillance"); and tracking down her uncle (who randomly disappears on benders dubbed "Lost Weekends"). But when Izzy's parents hire Rae to follow her (for the purpose of ascertaining the identity of Izzy's new boyfriend), Izzy snaps and decides that the only way she will ever be normal is if she gets out of the family business. But there's a hitch: she must take one last job before they'll let her go-a fifteen-year-old, ice-cold missing person case. She accepts, only to experience a disappearance far closer to home, which becomes the most important case of her life.
372 pages, with a 4.2-star rating from 322 reviews

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Home by Morning (A Powell Springs Novel), by Alexis Harrington.

October 1918: En route from New York to Seattle, Jessica Layton stops for a visit in her hometown of Powell Springs, Oregon, and comes face-to-face with Cole Braddock, her first and only love from years ago.

Now Jessica is a highly accomplished clinical physician preparing for an exciting new job in Washington, and Cole is a successful horse breeder who is courting her sister Amy. Both are convinced they have moved beyond their youthful passion and the heartbreak it produced; nonetheless, they are grateful that Jessica's brief visit will leave little opportunity to rehash old wounds. But before Dr. Layton can leave town, Powell Springs is hit hard by the influenza epidemic ravaging the country. With no other doctors available, Jessica must remain in Oregon and tend to her friends and former neighbors. Her work brings her in constant contact with Cole, and with each passing day he finds it harder to convince himself that mild-tempered Amy can fill his heart as Jessica once did.

Set against the gritty backdrop of World War I and the epidemic of 1918, Home by Morning is a raw, compelling story of betrayal, heartbreak, and redemption.

Q&A with Alexis Harrington

Question: Many of your books are set in the Old West. What intrigues you about that period?
Alexis Harrington: To be frank, cowboys are sexy. I'm sure we view the West through a filter of romantic nostalgia. The truth is that life was uncertain, people could be killed or die more easily, and it was a lawless, free-for-all place. As far as I can tell, the shootout at the OK Corral was nothing more than a turf dispute between two rival gangs who differed only in the flimsy fact that the Earps had badges. Still, some people endured incredible hardships and survived. I think that's the appeal for me, aside from the sexy cowboys: self-reliance; the cowboy code of honor; strong, enterprising women. There's a lot to work with here.
Q: The influenza epidemic of 1918 was such a dramatic, high-stakes race against the clock. Why did you settle on this particular event for your novel?
AH: Using the 1918 pandemic as a backdrop came to me about 10 to 12 years ago. No one was discussing it at the time, even though it killed millions of people. Then scientists and the National Institutes of Health began muttering about the next possible pandemic, the avian flu. I was spurred to action, and I was amazed by some of the things I learned. This is the only time when the subject came first, and then I had to create characters to fit it. I usually do just the opposite when I create the bones for a story.
Q: Readers and reviewers talk about how realistic your novels' historical settings are. How do you achieve this?
AH: This is so critical to me. As authors, we don't have the visual advantage that movies do, so careful, judicious description is a must. Of course, I must be correct about any historical props I use, too. But with description, I want my reader to be right there with the characters. What's the weather doing? Is the wind blowing? Then you can hear it in the trees. If it's blowing over tall grass, the blades flash in the light to show their silvery undersides. It's really a matter of the author putting herself and the reader in that moment.
Q: How did Cole and Jess's story change from the first draft to the one?
AH: That book went through so many incarnations, even I can't remember them all! In one version, Jessica stopped in Powell Springs to attend the wedding of Cole and Amy that she was paying for. In several versions, I killed Amy with the flu--but that made her a martyr, and I didn't want that. For a while, I considered letting Cole and Jess leave together to start a new life somewhere else, but I abandoned that and made her realize she couldn't run away again.
Q: Are there other time periods you'd love to focus on in your writing?
AH: I have one contemporary that is almost finished that's been sitting around for a while. And I have an idea for a dystopian story based on an old rock song that I've been meaning to make into a story for the past 20 years.
Q: Fast-forward 50 years from the book's setting. How are Jess and Cole faring in 1968?
AH: Wow. That's something I've never done. In 1968, they'd be about 80. Of course, they're still together and have grown children and grandchildren. That's what the happily-ever-after ending is all about.

329 pages, with a 3.9-star rating from 251 reviews

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2 Years to a Million in Real Estate, by Matthew A. Martinez.

Quit your day job!
Make a million in real estate!
It's easier than you think!

A few years ago, Matthew Martinez was a lot like you - he worked hard to make as big a salary as he could. But it wasn't enough. He worked by the clock, and yearned to be his own boss. With a small amount of savings, he acquired his first rental property. Two years later, he was making more from his rentals than he was working 9 to 5, so he quit his day job to oversee his real estate investments. Today, he enjoys a multi-million-dollar collection of income-producing properties--and he's ready to share his money-making strategies so you can begin your own journey to career and financial independence.
Two Years to a Million in Real Estateshows you everything you need to know, including how to
  • Invest small amounts early-on while working a full-time job
  • Avoid real estate "bubble" risks
  • Get others to pay your mortgage for you
  • Pick a hot property (and spot others that will become hot)
  • Simplify the ins-and-outs of financing
  • Negotiate like a pro
  • Screen for reliable tenants
  • Understand how local tenant laws work
  • Hire good people to manage your properties
  • Know when to sell
256 pages, with a 4.4-star rating from 126 reviews

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Contagious, by Jacqueline Druga.

What starts as an emergence of a new virus quickly turns into Mother Nature's ultimate population control.

While attending a seminar at the Ambassador Hotel, Ava Mason is unknowingly exposed to a carrier of a highly contagious virus. The next morning, she wakes to a steady pounding on her door. Within minutes, her home is stormed and she and her three children are apprehended, placed in a van and taken away.


They are told nothing. No one is. Ava, her children, and others are brought to the Ambassador and sealed in. It is one of many locations quarantined in an attempt to contain the virus . The outbreak rapidly spirals out of control and the world is thrown into chaos and economic collapse.

What was once their prison becomes their safe haven from a world besieged with violence, illness and a world that desperately stops at nothing to end the virus.

While quarantined, Ava and the others form a bond and they watch as not only the world, but those around them fall victim to the virus.

To Ava, what happens outside the hotel is minuscule compared to what happens inside. Everything she loves and cares about is in the Ambassador. She wants only to protect her children. But can she against such an invincible foe such as the virus that pushed the world to the brink of extinction.
295 pages, with a 4.2-star rating from 89 reviews

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Bedtime for Mommy, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

When it's Mommy's bedtime, she begs her little girl -- Five more minutes? Ok, but then brush your teeth! But then Mommy wants another glass of water...another story...luckily this little girl is very patient!A hilarious reversal of the classic bedtime routine in which a little girl puts Mommy (and then Daddy) to bed.
32 pages, with a 4.5-star rating from 33 reviews

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