4 of my favorite books I’ve read this year (so far)

4 books to read

This year, I set out to read 100 books. We are now almost 1/4 of the way through the year, and I’ve just reached the quarter mark of my reading goal with 25 books. To celebrate, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite books I’ve read this year. At the end, I’ll share some of my secrets for reading fast. Also, I’d love if you commented with some of your favorite books you’ve read because I’m always looking for recommendations!

Note: These are affiliate links, which means I get a small kickback at no extra cost to you when you purchase through them. The recommendations are purely my own, based on my own reading experience.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Elison

midwifeBecause I’m currently working on a dystopian novel, I’ve been adding more of this genre to my reading list. This book surprised me at how much I loved it, and it tops my list for a reason. Meg Ellison is a San Francisco Bay Area writer, which is exciting to me since I live in the North Bay (hey neighbor!). This was also her first book, a fact that’s almost unbelievable when you begin reading this book. Elison’s way of rounding out her characters is incredible, and her description places you right there in the story.

The premise of the book is that a disease has swept over the earth, killing almost anyone, especially women. The women who do survive find they’re unable to get have children, as they and/or their infant dies during childbirth. Women are also such a rarity that those who have survived death are in danger of enslavement by predator men.

The main character is a female in this world, but she takes on the persona of a man to keep herself safe. The way Elison changes this character’s identity is seamless and artful. With an inexperienced author, it could have come off as confusing, but not so with Elison. The author addresses gender roles, sexuality, morality, and the different ways people cope in the fall of society in this story, and does so with grace and utter believability.

This was one of the first books I read this year, and it’s still stuck with me. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I enjoyed the second book (The Book of Etta) just as much. The third book is due to publish in April.

Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson

jacobThis is an oldie from my childhood that I sat down with one day when I wasn’t feeling well and needed a book that felt kind of like a blanket. This was absolutely my book blanket. In fact, my husband walked in on me when I was almost to the end and caught me with a tear-streaked face and a sob in my throat. I pretty much cried the whole last half of the book, but it was that really good kind of cry that only a great book can produce.

The story follows Louise, a tomboy girl growing up in 1940s Chesapeake Bay, and the twin sister of beautiful Caroline, a girl as fair and delicate as much as Louise is dark and strong. As time goes on, we see Louise struggle with her identity, feeling held back because of the person she is compared to her sister. The story will resonate with anyone who struggles with jealousy or frustration, especially those who grew up with these feelings. It’s a middle grade to young adult book, but don’t let that fool you. The writing is beautiful, and it still stands strong almost 40 years after it was published.

5,331 Miles, by Willow Aster

5331milesI discovered Willow Aster because she teamed up with Tarryn Fisher (one of my favorite authors and human beings) to write the End of Men series, a steamy dystopian romance that will have you fanning yourself as you turn the pages.

5,331 Miles is much more innocent then the End of Men series, but no less incredible. It’s the endearing love story of Jaxson and Mirabelle, two English kids who grew up together and move to the US at separate times, and who also keep missing their chance at love. The characters are flawed and completely human, making mistake after mistake, and still remaining likeable. And the love scenes? Touching and beautiful. This one left me with a smile on my face.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen

moonSarah Addison Allen is tiptoeing her way into my favorite author slot. Her books have a hint of magic wrapped up in sweet character-driven stories, and her writing is beautifully descriptive, and just as magic as the storyline. This latest book was one I never wanted to end, and yet I couldn’t stop reading until it was done. It’s the story of Emily, a girl who goes to live with her grandfather after her mother dies, and discovers this quirky little town where her mother grew up….and that the noble, altruistic mother she grew up knowing was not the same girl the town knew. Emily finds herself living under the shadow of her mother’s mean girl persona as a teen, and she pays socially for her mother’s mistakes as the town turns their noses up at her. However, Emily also meets a few people who are willing to look past her mother’s mistakes and see the true person this girl really is.

As for the magic, it’s honestly just a sprinkling—which is what I love about Allen’s writing. She doesn’t try to overexplain it or even make it a huge part of the story, but offers just a taste of something mystical that enhances the sweet flavor of the story. I just finished the book last night, and it still lingering with me.

HOW I READ FAST

To read 25 books in three months, it takes a bit of strategy. First off, I read every day, mostly at night before I go to bed. This works because I don’t watch a ton of TV (though I do watch American Idol, and was seriously getting irritated that there were TWO two-hour episodes every week. So. Much. TV.). But the kind of books I read matters, too. First off, I do not pad my numbers with novellas, though I’m not opposed to the occasional short read. So far, all of the books I’ve read have been full-length novels. However, length does matter. There’s one book I’m reading that proved to be much longer than I anticipated, and I had to put it down because it was clogging up my progress. Now that I’m ahead of schedule, I plan to pick it up again.

I also pay attention to those genres I read faster than others. My favorite genres are dystopian or end-of-the-world books, magical realism, and romance. That last genre I read the fastest for several reasons. First, I really, really love a good falling in love story, and even better when paired with a bit of steaminess. Second, the writing in standard romance novels isn’t that dense, allowing the reader to breeze through the story without chewing on the words. Yes, I really love reading books with exquisite descriptions and incredible world building (Barbara Kingsolver is my queen). But sometimes I just want a book that serves as an escape. So when my book number is lagging, I reach for chick lit, romance, or any other kind of book that I know I can read in a day or two.

Finally, I make sure I read at least 8 books a month, and strive to read more (since 8×12=96). Once I reach that magic 8 number, I pick up any book I want, even the long ones, and keep on reading.

All right, your turn. What are some of your favorite books you’ve read? Go!

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New book release! Come Here, Cupcake is now available!

Who’s ready for some cupcakes? 🙂

I am so excited to announce the release of my latest novel, Come Here, Cupcake. This book has been years in the making, and has been a true labor of love in its creation. I am so proud of this story and hope to share it with as many readers as possible.

This is why I am offering the eBook version of Come Here, Cupcake at 99 cents – TODAY ONLY.

Cupcake Release Tease

There are a couple of advantages to buying the eBook version of Come Here, Cupcake. First, it’s less expensive than the print version. Second, only the eBook version has a recipe to Limoncello Cupcakes inside (one of the desserts made by main character, Morgan Truly). And third, you can start reading the story immediately!

Here is where you can purchase this book:

CHC ebook teaseeBook – ONLY 99 CENTS ON OCT. 5!

Print

Oct. 5 only: Win a dozen cupcakes delivered right to your door. See my Facebook page for more details.

Add Come Here, Cupcake to your To-Read list on Goodreads

Find out more details about Come Here, Cupcake at bit.ly/ComeHereCupcake.

The ABCs of ‘Come Here, Cupcake’


The countdown is on for the release of Come Here, Cupcake! I still don’t have an exact release date, but I’m still aiming for some time in August. And yes, I am totally chomping at the bit—especially since I got to see a sketch of what the cover is going to look like!!! I won’t reveal all of it yet, but I can give you a tease…

cupcaketease

Just wait till you see the rest of it! To give you a better idea of how talented my cover artist is, here’s a link to her cool swag website.

At any rate, today I was working on the back cover copy for the book (which is harder than writing a whole entire book), and was hitting a wall. So I started brainstorming keywords that make up the basis of the novel, and came up with this list.

Here’s a taste of what Come Here, Cupcake is about:

A – Attitude
B – Bodega Bay
C – Cupcakes!!!
D – Dreams
E – Emotions
F – Fire!
G – Good friends
H – Happiness
I – Icing
J – Journey
K – Kisses
L – Lemon tartlets
M – Magic
N – Nautical
O – Obligations
P – Palm reading
Q – Questions
R – Romance
S – Sailor
T – Thor
U – Unsuspecting party guests
V – Visions
W – Whimsy
X – eXpasperation
Y – Yearning
Z – Zest

To stick to one genre….or not.

There is countless advice about sticking to one genre when you are an author – especially when you’re a new author. I can see the point in this. When you’re presenting stories to the world, you’re trying to rope in readers who like your writing. When you stick to one genre, your reader can be comfortable knowing what to expect every time you publish something new. They’re drawn to you because of something you gave them initially. If you fray from that, you run the risk of confusing your readers, and even turning them away.

I am a fiction writer. The genre I plan on sticking to is contemporary literature, occasionally dappling in magical realism.  I like writing about real life. And I love books that are based on real life but include a hint of surrealism in them. So that is the genre I plan to stay in.

Except, I didn’t start out writing fiction.

My first passion has always been personal stories. I began writing for the public over 10 years ago when I began chronicling my life as a mom. Back then it was blogging. But eventually, it turned into true articles for the newspaper. I have hundreds of these stories, and it seemed a shame to just let them be forgotten. So I began gathering them up to create books out of them.

The first one can be found as an eBook HERE, and it’s free today for Kindle.

Today I am also finishing up the final touches on a poetry book.

Wait, what? Poetry?

I always wanted to write fiction books. But when I hadn’t written much fiction, at least shareable fiction, my prose skills were a bit lacking. So to help me paint a picture with my words, I dabbled in poetry. I thought what I wrote would end up being totally ridiculous. But it actually turned out quite good. And now, I am making it into a book – even if this book ends up only appreciated by me.

(I’m not sure when I’m releasing this, by the way. I kind of want to get “Forever Thirteen” published next before I share anything else. Then again, this poetry book would make a great Christmas present…. So we’ll see.)

I get that the smartest thing I could do is write under one genre. But the thing is, I’m a writer. I love all things written. I see beauty in words. And I’m tired of keeping my own words under a rock. I hid them for too long. So while I am focusing on one genre, I am not being exclusive to it. This fiction writer has much more up her sleeve than a good, made-up story.