I'm reading down my TBR this coming week because I'm heading on what should be a gorgeous vacation to London and Spain (I can't wait!). Here's a look at what I'm looking forward to that's been sitting in my TBR pile. And yes, it's an ambitious list...
So yeah, that was a longer blog hiatus than I meant to take. Sorry about that, everyone. The good news is that amid all of the day job and professional writer craziness, holidays, and family time, I actually got a lot of reading done. Several transatlantic flights will do that to a girl.
So here's a big, long list of what I've read recently and am happy to recommend.
Romance & Erotica
by Alyssa Cole
Short and deliciously not sweet. This is a multi-cultural historical erotic romance set in Scotland, and I can't gush enough about it. The rafters of a great hall never saw so much action...
by Alyssa Cole
I'm shamelessly plugging an Alyssa Cole that you can't read yet (sorry, not sorry). It's on pre-order until February 2nd, but I got an ARC and guys. Guys. I had no idea that I was into post-apocalyptic romance with hot Korean doctors, but I am. I really am.
Blamed: A Blood Money Novel
by Edie Harris
A little bit James Bond, a lot of hot romance with a sexy British hero. What more do you need?
Stripped (Volume 1)
by Alexis Anne
We're several volumes into this very sexy rockstar romance from Alexis Anne. This is another I've been getting sneaky early reads of, and it's hot. Very hot. The hero, Travis, also has a knack for being sexy and tender at the same time. Perfect.
How to Fall
by Mary Chris Escobar
If erotic romance and rockstars aren't your thing, take a look at this book. It's a women's fiction with a sweet, slow burn romance that develops over a summer.
Dept. of Speculation
by Jenny Offill
I went on a depressing reading streak somewhere in late December-early January, and that's when I read this book. Yes, it's depressing (it's about the rise and fall of a marriage), but, man, is it good.
Dear Committee Members
by Julie Schumacher
An epistolary novel told entirely in letters of recommendation written by a cynical, sardonic, egotistical English professor at a second tier university. This book is a masterful send-up of academic life.
My Salinger Year
by Joanna Rakoff
My Salinger Year manages to capture the feeling of being a twentysomething year old woman living in New York City, broke but hopeful (and in a terribly dysfunctional relationship with a man you know you won't wind up with). The writing is masterful. My sister and I both reached the 40 page mark before realizing that this is a memoir and not a novel. I didn't want it to end.
Outliers: The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell
To say that Outliers is out of my comfort zone is an understatement. Normally I would never pick this book up, but it was recommended so ardently that I took a chance. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gladwell has an easy way with narrative, and his work makes you think about how you look at the world.
Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles
by Robert Sackville-West
I'm a sucker for family histories of the English aristocracy. There's enough scandal and bad behavior in this book to make parts of it read like a novel, and it has added interest in being tied in with the history of the house.
Bad Feminist: Essays
by Roxane Gay
I love Roxane Gay's collection of essays on everything from feminism and culture to Scrabble and questionable adult life choices. Some of the essays work better than me for others. I tend to get the most from her personal anecdotes or reviews of works I've engaged with (The Hunger Games books and movies). Although Gay doesn't believe in trigger warnings, I will say that if you're sensitive to rape accounts you're going to want someone one to screen some of the essays in the Gender and Sexuality section.
Liverpool is close to my heart. It's where my mother is from. It's where most of the British side of my family still lives. It's a place I spent quite a lot of time in my early 20s. This morning I ran across an article on The Edge talking about the Save Liverpool Libraries campaign. 11 of Liverpool's 18 libraries are under threat from budget cuts. That means fewer opportunities for people living in the Liverpool metro area to check out books, get jobs services, and take computer courses.
Losing more than half of a city's branch libraries would be devastating anywhere, and it's particularly hard to think about in a city that means so much to my family and me. My mother has fond memories of the Walton Library on Evered Avenue. Going several times a week as a child helped solidified her life-long love of reading. The mass closure of libraries like these 11 in jeopardy makes our cities culturally, intellectually, and economically poorer.
Here in New York City, I've watched the City Council threaten to slash the New York Public Library's budget multiple times. In 2013, the preliminary city budget looked to cut funding to the NYPL, Queens Public Library, and Brooklyn Public Library by $106.7 million. That would have meant the end of Saturday service at branches across the city, one of the only days that many people (myself included) can get to the library. Happily that did not happen, but it was too close for comfort for patrons.
I've watched politicians praise NYC's branch libraries for making books available to kids, resume and job training to the unemployed, and technological education to seniors. Then some of those same people have turned around and tried to pass budgets that would dramatically slash those same library services. This has prompted me to do two things: vote for City Councilmembers who campaign on supporting the NYPL and have the voting record to prove it and open my checkbook each year to make a contribution (albeit small) to the library.
So what can you and I do for Liverpool's libraries? There is a campaign asking us to write love letters to the libraries to keep branches open. Supporters of library accessibility can contact the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson by clicking here. Authors David Nicholls, Caitlin Moran, Malorie Blackman and Carol Ann Duffy have already written their letters.
With campaigns like this, there is always a question of whether outside advocacy will make a difference. I strongly believe that if you care about library accessibility worldwide you have to do something. Even if your contribution to the effort to keep Liverpool's libraries safe from budget cuts is small, it matters.
If you would like to read more about the love letters to the Liverpool libraries, The Guardian recently write about it. I hope you'll join me in spreading the word because even a little nudge from each individual who cares about libraries can help.
What a month! A mild summer here in NYC doesn't mean that the fall is any less welcome. It's my favorite time of year. The cool, crisp weather makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and take a deep dive into a great book. With that in mind, here are a few of the things I've enjoyed this past September:
Devil in Winter (Wallflowers #3)
by Lisa Kleypas
Excuse me for a moment while I drop the professional author guise and go all fangirl for a moment. OH MY GOD, THIS BOOK. I'm not sure what prompted me to pick it up -- perhaps it was all of the people telling me over the years that I would love Kleypas' historicals. I should listen to those people more often.
This is a marriage of convenience story (which just happens to be one of my favorite tropes). Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent, is the perfect alpha hero. His alphaness is director more towards protecting the heroine, Evie, than being a bossy asshole. Even better, although Evie is quieter than her husband, she has serious backbone. The chemistry between them is electric, and it's wonderful watching their marriage of convenience turn into love.
Unlocked (Turner #1.5)
by Courtney Milan
Courtney Milan is pretty much an instabuy for me at this point. I found this novella in the Seven Wicked Nights boxed set featuring a lot of my favorite historical authors. It tells the story of a heroine who has been bullied for years and the man who has to humble himself to win her heart. Since it's a Milan, there's no surprise that there's a good dose of science in the storyline as well.
Upside Down (Off the Map #1)
by Lia Riley
I'm not a very prolific New Adult reader. Usually the high drama and angst turns me off, but I found that this book has just the right mix of humor and drama. Upside Down also fills my recent cravings for romances in unusual settings as the action takes place in Melbourne where Talia is studying abroad. I'm lucky enough to have gotten an early read of book 2, Sideswiped, and I've got an author interview with Lia Riley coming up in a few days so keep an eye out!
A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death that Changed the British Monarchy
by Helen Rappaport
If you're feeling like some history, this might be a good place to start. Rappaport is a highly accessible writer who focuses in on a specific period of Queen Victoria's reign. The book focuses primarily on the death of Albert and Victoria's decade-long period of high mourning for him. It touches on the Victorian obsession with death and the various social and political issues caused by the queen's refusal to assume her public duties. If you're at all interested in the Victorian era, this is a good way to dive a little deeper into a fascinating subject.
Just a quick heads up. First Draught is coming up on October 7th. We'll be talking about revising that book you started but shoved in a drawer (or the deepest, darkest depths of your hardrive). RSVP here to make sure you don't miss out on the discussion!
You can tell a lot about a person by the books on their nightstand.* Here's how To Be Read lists work in my family. First there's the long list (I keep mine on Goodreads). Then there are the books that are physically kept in your bedroom. Those are a little more likely to be read in the next couple of years. When a book makes it to the nightstand, it's like being called up to the big leagues.
Earning a spot on the nightstand means there's a good chance I'm probably going to read that book next. Once I pass the midway point of whatever I'm currently reading, I'm mentally queuing up what comes next. Since I often read in bed, the most natural thing is to finish a completed novel and pick up the next one off of the nightstand stack.
Crazy Thing Called Love, by Molly O'Keefe
I'm ashamed to say I've never read any of Molly's work despite the glowing recommendations I've gotten. I plan to fix that very soon.
Too Good to Be True, by Kristan Higgins
I got this book at RWA along with her book The Best Man. I loved that one so much this immediately went into the TBR pile.
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
There are few books I will gladly reread over and over again. This English novel is perhaps the best coming of age story I've ever read. I try to revisit it every couple of years. If you haven't read it yet, I strongly recommend grabbing it (the movie starring Bill Nighy isn't half bad either).
Phineas Redux, by Anthony Trollope
Anthony Trollope rivals Elizabeth Gaskell when it comes to my favorite 19th century author. No one else depicts upper class Victorian London in such rich detail. I challenged myself to read all of his Palliser novels in 2013. I'm clearly going to miss that goal as Phineas Redux is the 4th out of 6 in the series, but I hope to wrap up my challenge early next year.
Writing prompts ahead.
The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, by Lauren Willig
My sister Justine turned me on to Lauren Willig a few years ago, and since then I've read everything Willig has put out. This is the most recent entry in the Pink Carnation series - a fun, snappy set of historical romances all centering around a spy ring filled with witty (if sometimes bumbling) Georgian era characters.
Freud's Mistress, Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman
My mother and I have a wonderful bi-coastal book exchange going. Every few months I will come home to a USPS box stuffed full of books curated by my own personal librarian. I ship a box back filled with the ones I've read and a few things I picked up here in New York. Mum sent me Freud's Mistress after I read Henry James' Midnight Song by Carol de Chillis Hill which also deals Freud's strange love affair with his sister in law.
The Book in the Renaissance, by Andrew Pettegree
Bookworms find each other. A couple years ago one of my coworkers and I discovered we're both voracious readers. Ever since then we've been recommending and sharing books. Our taste for non-fiction is similar, so when he asketd me if I wanted to read a book about books I jumped at the recommendation.
What is in your to be read pile?
*Or piled up on the floor/window next to their bed.
I'm not a terribly impatient person, but travel gods willing I will be at my very first Romance Writers of America conference in less than 24 hours. 24 very long hours. You see, Atlanta will be my very first RWA. I'm a little nervous, but the thought of meeting other romance writers and becoming part of this community is really exciting. Writing can be a very solitary thing. Hopefully after this weekend can help make it a little less lonely when the words just won't flow.
When I'm not writing I work as a TV news producer. This means I'm hardwired to love lists. I'm prone to backtime every event in my life so I know exactly where I should be when. I also research everything. It makes sense then that when I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of going to RWA for the first time I turned to the internet for info.
I will, of course, be writing about RWA after I come back home to NYC, but I thought I would touch on a few things I was told I should know before heading to Atlanta:
1) Pack like a pro
Erin Knightley seems to be the reigning queen of conference packing. I've traveled all my life so I'm pretty efficient, but Erin's videos take it to the next level. One of the most helpful things about her posts, however, weren't the tips about making your clothes fit into that tiny TSA-approved bag. She gave me some perspective about what to wear. I've packed for a business casual dress code along with something pretty for the RITAs. And shoes. I love my stilettos (and yes, in case you were wondering, I can wear them 12 hours non-stop).
2) Prep for the swag
Books. This conference is all about books. Wonderful, romantic books. From what I can tell you're also given plenty of books to dive into when you get home. I thought I was a good little romance reader before I started to seriously get involved in the community on Twitter. Some of these ladies put me to shame. I can't wait to learn about authors I've never heard of before and read across subgenres when I get home.
Someone very clever told me I should pack a couple of USPS flat rate boxes with pre-printed postage into my suitcase. Those boxes are lining the top of my luggage and keeping me from bringing my entire wardrobe. There is a post office right near the conference hotel, so I hope to be able to just drop those boxes off and go along my merry way.
3) Pull my reporter cap on
Once upon a time a long time ago, I thought I wanted to be a reporter. Turns out I really didn't care about being on TV, and I wanted to be in charge of the newscast behind the scenes. I became a producer but not before putting some time in reporting for print, radio and TV. RWA is going to mean dusting off my old "Reporter Julia" personality.
When you're a reporter you're forced to walk up to total strangers, strike up a conversation and figure out if there's a story there. From what I've been told RWA is similar. I'm a newbie, and I know so few people that I'm going to have to be my friendliest. The good news? Everyone attending loves romance. Instant icebreaker.
So look for me. I'll be the blonde first-timer rocking the ridiculous high heels all conference long. I'd love to say hi!