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!

Advertisements

Hope at the Crossroads, and writing my heart

Crossroads FINALThe countdown is on for the release of Hope at the Crossroads, the 2nd book in the Hope series. The book is set to release on Sept. 5, which is only 7 short weeks away. Right now, beta readers are finishing with the book, and then it goes to the editor before it’s finally released to all of you.

This series is one that’s extremely close to my heart. This morning I was thinking about what the entire 3-book series is about, and what it means for me. When I first wrote The Road to Hope, it was only meant to be a stand-alone book. I wrote about Jill’s loss of her son so that I could write about my feelings of losing my own son to stillbirth. I wrote about Maddie’s journey as a teen mom and becoming homeless so that I could write about my own journey as a young mom who struggled through poverty. I wrote about the Wilsons, who took Hope in and gave her a home, because they were like my own parents who nursed me back to health after I left an abusive marriage.

When I ended that first book, I felt like I’d said everything I needed to say. But then I realized, I really hadn’t, particularly through Maddie. That first book, I spoke about loss, about falling down and then getting back up. What I didn’t write about was what happens next. What happens after you’ve turned your life around? I’ll tell you what—your mind plays tricks on you. Your life might look different, but inside, you’re still that same person you were, ready for the deck to fall in your fragile house of cards. When things are great, you question if you’re worth all this goodness. You are prone to turning back to your old lifestyle. You feel inadequate. You may even sabotage everything you’ve gained in your new life.

In Hope at the Crossroads, Maddie is now living at the Winstons’ house with Hope. She’s just graduated, and her future is promising. She’s learning about the winery business with Mr. Winston, and her life on the streets is far behind. Except, it really isn’t. In her mind, she feels out of place. She will always be that rejected teen, the one her parents threw away, and then her boyfriend. She’ll always be that homeless pregnant teen, the one people avoided looking at while they walked by. She battles feelings of unworthiness while trying to move forward—and this affects every single aspect of her life, and threatens her relationships with the people who love her most.

While the 1st book was about falling back down and getting back up again, book 2 is about the inner battle of identity. It’s about life after a dramatic change, when life has changed but the mind hasn’t. It’s about worthiness, overcoming old narratives, and about how we tend to sabotage ourselves because we feel we’re not worthy.

I wrote this series to get out my most personal story of loss, identity, and redemption. But I also wrote it because I’m not alone. I wrote this to offer HOPE to others who have experienced loss, who struggle with overcoming lies about our identity, and about letting love lead us out of the trenches.

Of everything I’ve ever written, this series is the one that’s my heart.

‘Come Here, Cupcake’ only 99 cents for a limited time 

Did you get a Kindle for Christmas? Come Here, Cupcake is only 99-cents for a limited time, and free to borrow for Amazon Prime members. bit.ly/CupcakeKindle

  
Morgan Truly moves back to the coastal town she grew up in to take care of her mother, leaving her job at the newspaper to work in a bakery. But it isn’t until she starts baking when it becomes apparent there’s an extra magical ingredient in her desserts. Every emotion Morgan feels as she bakes is infused into her baking, and passed on to whoever eats it. Sadness, happiness, embarrassment… And when a rugged sailor walks into the bakery and sweeps her off her feet… Let’s just say that her desserts make quite the impression. ❤️

Read more about this book at crissilangwell.com/come-here-cupcake

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.

Cover reveal! And publish date for Come Here, Cupcake!

After months and months of blood, sweat and tears, working with an awesome story team, lots and lots of revisions, being talked off the ledge, more tears and a few cupcakes, I can finally announce the date you can expect to have Come Here, Cupcake in your hot little hands!

Drum roll please…..

OCTOBER 5TH!

You guys, that’s less than a month away! But wait! There’s more!

Are you ready for the cover?

….

..

.

Is that not the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen? The cover art of Come Here, Cupcake was created by talented artist and my dear friend, Rachel Corn-Hicks.

Here’s the story about Rachel. For years, Rachel has delighted all of her friends, myself included, with gifts of calendars featuring all of her art. Every month, I couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what the next month would bring. So when the story of Come Here, Cupcake came about, I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect it would be for Rachel’s art to be on the cover.

What I love about this book the most is that it’s been a labor of love. I worked very closely with my good friends, Alberto Melendez and Katie Talbot (aka Studio Rawr – check out their podcast, Random Survivors Club, a gab fest that starts out on Walking Dead, but always evolves into fun  tangents), who both helped to guide the story as my developmental editors (zombie lovers? On a book about cupcakes and magic??? You guys, it totally works. And no, there are no zombies in this book. Sorry.)…

And now the cover holds the gorgeous art of my friend, Rachel.

Next up, the back cover:

Here’s what it says:

There are four things to know about Morgan Truly.

  1. She is not thrilled to have moved back to her seaside town of Bodega Bay.
  2. She’s falling for a handsome rugged seafarer.
  3. She’s discovering that she loves baking.
  4. But with that discovery of baking comes a dark secret.

Set in the sleepy coastal town of Bodega Bay in California, Crissi Langwell blends the ingredients of family bonds, good friends, first kisses and accidental enchantments to create a delicious story that is meant to be devoured.

So now the question is…. Who’s ready for Cupcakes? 🙂

Kids – the ultimate romance blockers

door2We didn’t hear the first knock on the door. But the second knock was unmistakable, vibrating the pictures that hung on the wall.
“I know you’re awake,” the muffled voice called from the hallway. “I’m trying to sleep, and between your racket and Joey talking in his headset, it’s kind of hard.”
John groaned in frustration. The moment was gone as fast as it had come, neither one of us getting to the point of completion before it was over. He rolled away from me and rubbed his eyes.
“You might as well stay up, Sam,” John called back to his fourteen year old son. “We have a ton to do in the yard today while Rachel and Joey are shopping.”
“Whatever, Dude,” Sam replied. “I’m going back to bed. Don’t wake me up.”
– Chapter 1, page 6, A Symphony of Cicadas

If there’s anything that will ruin your love life in a hurry, it’s having kids. I don’t mean to scare those of you who haven’t yet traveled down the path to kid-town, but it’s true. After that little tyke is brought home from the hospital, getting in a little alone time with your mate becomes next to impossible. It starts with being too tired to even feel the slightest bit sexy. Then the kids become too needy whenever the moment does strike. Once you become parents, you have to be creative about when the time is sexy time. Of course, the jig is up when they become teenagers because they’re all too aware of what’s going on behind closed doors.

Alright, so I’m exaggerating a bit. It’s totally possible to have a healthy love life while raising kids. But keeping the fire burning does require some creativity and seized opportunity. Stolen moments, from those that are planned to those that arise without warning, are key to keeping the romance going when kids demand the majority of the attention.

The main characters in A Symphony of Cicadas are John and Rachel, a soon-to-be married couple who are also raising two teenage boys. For any engaged couple, romance is at the forefront of their mind. But as an engaged couple who already have kids in the house, they must also work around parenting – thus, early mornings become the perfect time to prevent interruptions. However, as this scene portrays, even perfect timing can be cast aside since interruptions aren’t truly preventable.

The idea about this book came from a dream I had last year. I was in the throes of planning my own blended family wedding when I woke from a dream that was so vivid I had to get it down. So naturally, I also included the realities of trying to raise teenagers at the same time as beginning a new chapter in romance. Of course, I’d like to point out that this scene is NOT a play by play of my husband’s and my love life, MOM. But it is an example of how the joys of romance and raising snarky teens make for an interesting combination.

This scene is also when we first meet Sam, Rachel’s stepson – at least on the other side of a closed door. And it’s a prelude to diving a little deeper into the complex relationship that exists between a child and their stepparent.

This is just one of many posts to come that dissects the chapters of A Symphony of Cicadas and the inspiration behind them. For all sneak peeks at the novel, CLICK HERE. To purchase the book, go to http://amzn.to/YZYB8w. Stay tuned for more!