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What Have I Been Reading Lately?

  • August 3, 2014

I’ve spent a lot of the last year in a major reading slump. My preferences in contemporary romance have not been aligning well with the current trends, which always leaves me in a bit of a funk. Consequently, I’ve been reading more women’s fiction (which I’ve always read and loved) and literary fiction.

I’m sharing these titles with you today because I enjoyed all of these books. But I urge you to download a sample first to see if the book is something you’d like. My recommendations are completely subjective and are based on my own personal preferences.

1. It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

Julie James goodreads cover image

When it comes to romance, I prefer older characters (30s or 40s), conflict over angst, heroines who are level-headed, and heroes who are smart, chivalrous, and preferably wearing a suit. This book certainly fit the bill. It’s part of a series, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.

2. The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright

the unexpected waltz

I read (and loved) Kim Wright’s debut novel, Love in Mid Air. The Unexpected Waltz features one of the characters from Love in Mid Air but can be read as a stand-alone novel. I loved this story of a middle-aged widow who embarks on a re-awakening through her love of ballroom dancing.

3. Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Your Perfect Life

If you’re looking for the perfect beach read, your search is over. I love how fresh Liz and Lisa made the premise of switching bodies in this highly relatable and often poignant novel. This is women’s fiction at its best.

4. The Vacationers by Emma Straub

the vacationers

The Vacationers is a book I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy. The reviews were quite mixed, which is why I always download the sample first. I’m so glad I did because I discovered this book was exactly what I was looking for. It’s about a family who goes on vacation for two weeks in Mallorca. It’s literary women’s fiction, and not only is it beautifully written, it’s one of those books where the setting is so vibrant you feel like you’re right there with the characters.

5. Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

flat out celeste

No one writes snappy, sparkling, and intelligent dialogue like Jessica Park. No one. And if you’re already a fan of Celeste after meeting her in Flat-Out Love, you will love her even more in this full-length novel. And Celeste + Justin = simply adorable. I also flat-out love (see what I did there?) that this book explores first love in such a sweet and innocent fashion.

6. All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

all fall down

There is something so incredibly addictive about the way Jennifer Weiner tells a story. I’ve been a longtime fan and before I switched to an e-reader I used to love picking up Jennifer’s latest book at Target. All Fall Down tells the very troubling tale of a wife and mother who is addicted to prescription painkillers. It’s heartbreaking to follow the main character down the rabbit hole of addiction, but it’s an honest and eye-opening journey.

7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


This book blew me away. Frankly, I was not sure I’d connect with it because of my tendency to gravitate toward older characters, but Cath and Levi stole my heart and I really enjoyed the fact that their relationship developed slowly. Cath is a twin and I’m a twin, so I know a little bit about wanting to find your own identity. Rainbow Rowell also showed me how powerful a single POV can be. I did not need to know what was going on in Levi’s head, because Rainbow showed me via his dialogue and action. As a reader, I love discovering the nuanced character development that unfolds when a story is told this way. And just like Flat-Out Celeste, Fangirl has a romance that is sweet, innocent, and just as awkward as first love tends to be.

8. The Unimaginable by Dina Silver

The unimaginable

Dare I be so bold as to predict that this book will put Dina Silver on the map? Because I am. Dina is already the author of three delightful books, but The Unimaginable is her most ambitious novel yet. Do you want to know why I loved it? It’s got romance, action and adventure, and one of the most powerful endings I’ve ever read. And it’s different. Frankly, if there’s one thing readers seem to be clamoring for right now, it’s a book that stands out in a crowd. This one does.

9. The Player by Brad Parks

the player

My step-mom actually introduced me to the Carter Ross mysteries because she knew my main character in Every Time I Think of You was a newspaper reporter and so is Carter Ross, the main character in this series. I’ve read all five of the Carter Ross mysteries (they can all be read as stand-alone novels) and have enjoyed them immensely. Brooks McClain, the reporter in my book, is quite serious. Carter Ross, however, is hilarious. He’s also highly likeable, very resourceful, and super entertaining. And in The Player, I finally got something I’ve been waiting for for a long time. I can’t tell you what it is, but if you read all five books you’ll know what I mean.

10. Last (but certainly not least) This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

this is where i leave you

I know I’ve already professed my love for this book on my Facebook author page, but consider its inclusion on this list as just another testament to how much I enjoyed this book. This is what happens when excellent writing is combined with an engaging story. Jonathan Tropper writes in such a way that I totally “get” what he’s trying to say without him having to explain it. To me, that’s an example of perfect word choice. The narrator of the story doesn’t go on for pages, telling me what he means with inner dialogue. He shows me what he means. And I will go on record as saying that I’m a happily-ever-after, plot-threads-mostly-tied-up-kind of girl. But this story is a bit more open-ended. And I was totally cool with that. Am I dying to know what the outcome would have been for a few of the plot points? Yes. Will I pester Jonathan Tropper for the answers? No. (Maybe). No.

And in case you didn’t know, this book will be making its way to the big screen very soon. I cannot wait to see it!

So tell me, what have you been reading lately?


Fiction Friday – What Have I Been Reading Lately?

  • May 17, 2013

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “Now that you’re writing full-time, do you ever get the chance to read?”

The answer is, “Yes and no.” When I was writing On the Island, I wasn’t able to read at all. I was so new to the process of writing a novel that I couldn’t crowd my brain with anything that might take me away from creating the story that was in my head but still needed to be transferred to the page. I was also nervous about inadvertently picking up another author’s voice. I was still trying to find my own, so I didn’t want to do anything that might interfere with that.

But now it’s getting easier for me. There are still times during the drafting process where I intentionally don’t read any fiction, because I just can’t, but I’ve discovered that I can read non-fiction and memoirs with no problem. It’s not quite the same as reading a novel, but it satisfies my need to read, and that’s a good compromise.

When I turn in a manuscript and I’m waiting for my editorial notes, I go on a fast and furious reading rampage, because I know as soon as I receive my edits, it’s back to work. And I’m not talking about the manuscripts I beta-read or the ARCs I read so I can provide a blurb (I have read eleven of those in the last six months or so). While I love being able to read a book before it’s published, that type of reading still falls under my “writer” job description, and as awesome and cool as it is, it’s still “work”. When I read for pleasure, it’s a book I’ve chosen based solely on my own subjective preferences as a “reader.” Sometimes it’s a book I’ve wanted to read for a while, and sometimes it’s a book I buy on a whim.

Lately I’ve received several requests for book recommendations, so here are some of the books I’ve read in the last nine months:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I can’t recommend this book enough. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it because I had a feeling I knew where it was going, and that it would make me cry. I was right on both counts, but it didn’t matter because it was so, so good. I’ve also got Jojo’s The Last Letter From Your Lover on my towering TBR pile. I love the title and I’m intrigued by the premise, to say the least.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah – This book was fantastic. I love Kristin Hannah and I connected with this story on a personal level because my friend Angie (we’ve known each other since Kindergarten) is in the military and was deployed to Iraq. Thankfully, Angie made it back home safe and sound, but this book really drove home the fact that many men and women who are deployed do not. Have your Kleenex box handy.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Just read this book. Okay? Okay.

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers – My first zombie read. It was awesome. And kind of scary. I loved it and made Sarah Hansen read it and then we sort of bombarded Courtney on Facebook with our rambling praise. You should read it because ZOMBIES, people.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray – This is a memoir about a girl who graduated from not only high school, but Harvard, despite the fact that she was homeless the whole time. I finished reading this one in bed. I was afraid my crying would wake up (and freak out) my husband, but thankfully he slept right through my little meltdown. This book will make you think long and hard about just how lucky you are to have a roof over your head.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – I loved this one. The writing is simply beautiful. I felt smarter while I was reading this book. It’s literary fiction, which is not usually my thing (I’m a straight-up genre girl, and proud of it) but wow. There was just something about The Interestings that I found very refreshing.

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen – This novel is set primarily in Jamaica, which is where my husband and I went on our honeymoon. It’s about a group of college friends who reunite for a birthday celebration. I love ensemble books like these, and Sarah Pekkanen is one of my favorite women’s fiction authors.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (memoir) – I’ve been reading Jenny’s blog The Bloggess for years. Her posts are pee-your-pants funny and so is this book. Seriously. You will LOL.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey (memoir) – I’m such a fan of Tina Fey and this book only makes me like her more, not only as an entertainer, but as a person. Super enjoyable read.

Market Street and Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes – I loved both of these books. Not only do I connect strongly with Anita’s writing style, but I love how she weaves the descriptions of fancy clothes, beautiful shoes, gorgeous locations, and gourmet food throughout her stories. It makes a yoga-pants-wearing girl like me want to class up her game a little bit.

Family Pictures by Jane Green – Upmarket women’s fiction at its finest. I just love Jane Green.

What She Left Us by Stephanie Elliot – This book kept me turning pages because the author does a great job of raising questions I wanted the answer to. It also highlights – beautifully – the relationship between two sisters, and how much they rely on and support each other.

Composing Myself by Elena Aitken – This is a contemporary novel that focuses on family relationships and personal growth. I love that the backstory of one of the characters was something I hadn’t read before, making this book feel original and fresh. I predict this will be Elena’s breakout book.

So, there you have it! And now that I’ve met all my deadlines I’m very eager to go on another short reading binge. But right after Memorial Day I’ll be setting down my Kindle and picking up my laptop because my next book is just begging to be written and I’m very excited to get started. I’m currently in the research and outline stage but looking forward to starting the drafting process.

Happy Friday, everyone!!


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