Given that Must Love Otters is a romantic comedy, I should have a long list of rom-coms on my TBR, right? Wrong! I read from a ton of different genres as I find this varied taste informs my writing … and romance gets a little schmaltzy sometimes, doesn’t it? Can we agree on that? Reading from different genres is like cleaning the palate at a wine tasting. It’s always nice to have a clean tongue to move on to the next great flavor. Not that I’ve actually ever been to a wine tasting. I prefer craft beers. And cookies. So maybe it’s like cleaning your palate between an Oreo and a Chips Ahoy. Yeah. That works better.
But let’s talk BOOKS! Following are ten titles from the tilting pile on my desk and overstuffed bookshelves (forgive the Goodreads summaries—I don’t want to exhaust you or do disservice to the authors by trying to summarize!):
1. Longbourn, by Jo Baker: A story told from the perspective of the servants living in the Bennet household, fans of Jane Austen will be interested in this, even if Lizzie Bennet (Darcy) doesn’t approve.
From Goodreads: Pride and Prejudice was only half the story.
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.
2. Shakespeare’s Rebel, by C. C. Humphreys (summary from Goodreads): London 1599, a city on the brink of revolution …
He is Queen Elizabeth’s last, perhaps her greatest, love—Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Champion jouster, dashing general … and the man that John Lawley, England’s finest swordsman, most wishes to avoid. For John knows the other earl—the reckless melancholic—and has had to risk his life for him in battle one time too many.
All John wants is to be left alone to win back the heart of the woman he loves, be the kind of father that his son can look up to, and arrange the fight scenes for the magnificent new theatre, the Globe. To realise these dreams, John must dodge both Essex and his ruthless adversary for the queen’s affections, Robert Cecil, and remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare finish the play that threatens to destroy him: THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.
But John is doomed by his three devils: whisky, women and Mad Robbie Deveraux. Despite every effort to evade the clutches of Elizabeth and her cohorts, John is soon enmeshed in the intrigues of court and dragged into the seemingly hopeless war in Ireland, forced to play his part in a deadly game of power and politics, conspiracy and rebellion.
From the scaffold of the Globe to the one in the Tower. From ambush in Ireland to even greater menace in Whitehall, John Lawley must strive to be—or not to be—the man who might just save England.
3. The Six Rules of Maybe, by Deb Caletti (summary from Goodreads): Scarlett Hughes is overly involved in the lives of everyone around her, and exceptionally interested in the habits of her neighbors. But Scarlett is thrust solidly into her own life when her sister, Juliet, returns home from school—pregnant and surprisingly married to a sweet, handsome man whom she seems to have no interest in, but who is hopelessly in love with her. Forced to take a look inward for the first time, Scarlett discovers the necessity of dreams, as well as the necessity of facing reality and speaking the truth.
4. Twistrose Key, by Tone Almhjell: I first heard about this title through one of my all-time favorite authors, Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone). Although this is considered a middle grade title, great stories have no age limit.
From Goodreads: When a mysterious parcel arrives at her family’s new home, eleven-year-old Lin Rosenquist has a curious feeling she’s meant to discover what’s inside.
Much to Lin’s surprise, the ornate key contained in the parcel unlocks a spellbinding world called Sylver, hidden behind the cellar door. Sylver is an enchanting land of eternal winter, inhabited by animals that shared a special connection with children in the real world, either as beloved pets or tamed wild animals. In death, they are delivered to Sylver, where they take on a curiously human-like form and still watch over the children they cherish. While Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with her beloved pet, Rufus, she soon learns that the magic of the Petlings and Wilders is failing, and snow trolls want to claim Sylver for themselves. Lin must discover a way to stop them and save this enchanted world.
Full of charm, suspense, and heartfelt emotion, this memorable classic in the making will leave readers breathless.
5. Game, by Barry Lyga: OMG, I read the first book in this series (technically classified as YA, the intensity of this story suggests it should be on shelves with the grown-up books!), and I am so excited to dive in.
Summary from GR: I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jazz, the son of history’s most infamous serial killer, Billy Dent.
In an effort to prove murder didn’t run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple—and its police force—running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.
6. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray: I will read anything by Libba Bray. She’s a genius. Though technically classified as young adult, Bray’s books transcend age limits. I finished The Diviners a few months back and loved it. Looking forward to this!
Summary from GR: The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.
What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program—or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan—or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?
7. I’ve Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella: Look—a romantic comedy! Sophie Kinsella’s books are a fun pick-me-up when you want something accessible and yet heartfelt to occupy your brain cells. I’ve read a few of her titles recently, and giggles are never in short supply.
From GR: Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!
Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.
What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents … she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.
8. The Gatecrasher, by Madeleine Wickham: Surprise! Madeleine Wickham is the real name for Sophie Kinsella. I can’t sneak anything past you, can I? Sorry for the double-dip, but giggling is fun.
From GR: Everything’s coming up roses for Fleur Daxeny, as she goes through more rich men than she does designer hats….if that’s humanly possible. Beautiful, charming, and utterly irresistible, her success at crashing funerals to find wealthy men is remarkable. But behind Fleur’s Harvey Nichols wardrobe, is a woman with a mysterious past.
Fleur wastes no time in seducing her latest conquest, the handsome and rich widower Richard Favour, and she swoops into his life like a designer-clad tornado. His children are caught up in a whirlwind as their father’s new girlfriend descends on the family estate leaving chaos and excitement in her perfume-scented wake. Soon, more than one family member is suspicious of Fleur’s true intentions.
Fleur is not one to wear her heart on her Chanel sleeves, but she soon finds herself embracing Richard and his lovable family. But just as Fleur contemplates jumping off the gold-digger train for good and enjoying the ride of true love, a long-buried secret from her past threatens to destroy her new family. Fleur is thrown into a race against time to prove herself to Richard before it’s too late. Can she trust her heart or will she cut ties and run away as fast as her Prada pumps can take her?
9. House of Secrets, by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini: This one is another middle grade title that I’ll be reading alongside a younger member of our household. The only sad side note—co-author Ned Vizzini has recently died. I have no idea what this means for the rest of the series, although Book 2 is done and will hit shelves March 25, 2014. You might recognize the name Chris Columbus from his wildly successful movie career (The Goonies, Home Alone, three of the Harry Potter films, Percy Jackson, etc.).
Summary from GR: The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.
Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.
10. The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman: One of my bookish girlfriends recommended this to me—it sounds a little dark, so I will definitely have to be in the right mood, but hey, variation is the spice of life, right?
From GR: It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
I could list another 100 books, but it’s embarrassing how many are sitting here. Mr. Gordon says we could travel on the next civilian space flight with the money I spend on books. I tell him that’s ridiculous because the desire to go on a civilian space flight only happens if you don’t have enough books to read. Plus, with books, there is no gravity sickness or barfing or possibilities for crashing into the moon or facing one of those aliens that launch themselves out of your chest while you’re eating spaghetti.
Books are definitely safer. Happy reading!