Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, February 14, and whether you love or hate this holiday, it’s hard to deny that it does make for a great excuse to eat copious amounts of chocolate covered strawberries without shame (or is that just me?). I am personally a fan of the holiday, but one of my most favorite holidays is actually the day preceding Valentine’s Day- Galentine’s Day!
If you are unfamiliar with Galentine’s Day, it was born out of the amazing television show Parks and Recreation. The holiday was the creation of the beloved fictional deputy director of Parks and Recreation in Pawnee, Indiana, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). The show’s writers centered the 16th episode of the second season around Leslie’s favorite February tradition, Galentine’s Day. Over a brunch of waffles and excessive gift-giving, Leslie celebrates the joy of female friendship with close friends and co-workers. This has now become a legit holiday with companies creating cards for the occasion and businesses offering Galentine’s Day specials.
Leslie explains, “Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” Unfortunately, this is not the time for brunch gatherings and long evenings at the wine bar, so how can you celebrate? Share some amazing books with your best gal pals or watch a film together online (ideas for how to watch together here)!
Below you’ll find some of my top picks for books (fiction and nonfiction) and films that are perfect for Galentine’s Day celebrating and sharing!
Wishing you all a safe and happy Galentine’s Day! Happy reading!
Departing from her usual science fiction and fantasy offerings, Marissa Meyer has released her first YA contemporary romance with a hint of magical realism and it is delightful.
Prudence Barnett is the stereotypical overachiever. She’s judgmental and difficult to like at times, especially when she’s lashing out at her horrible lab partner, Quint Erickson, the well-liked slacker who is dragging her and her final grade down. After an accidental head injury, Pru discovers she has the ability to bestow instant karma on those around her. The only problem is that Quint seems immune to her new power, much to her dismay. She and Quint have been given a second chance to improve their grade, but he continues to frustrate her.
Things aren’t all fluff, teen angst, and typical romance tropes. The story has real meat to it as both teens deal with family issues. Pru is also forced to confront her own assumptions about her friends and classmates and make some tough decisions regarding how to use her unusual gift. Throw in some environmentalism, an aquatic animal rescue, and some karaoke, and you have fun, refreshing, and thoughtful cautionary tale. The queen of retellings has struck gold with this one.
As the weather grows colder and the days get shorter, treat yourself to this sunny beach read. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Regular readers will remember that I have already shared all of my 5-star YA reads of 2020. It’s now time to start sharing some of my 4-star recommendations.
American Panda by Gloria Chao. Seventeen year old Mei is a pre-med at MIT. Her whole life is already mapped out-become a doctor, marry a parents-approved, successful, Taiwanese guy with an Ivy League degree, and have babies. It’s the least she can do for her parents who have sacrificed everything for her and who have already been betrayed by her older brother. There are a couple of problems with this plan. She is a germaphobe. She loves to dance. Darren is not Taiwanese. This is a funny and heartfelt coming of age story about a young woman stuck between two cultures. It’s also about first love and family secrets and following your passions, all things teens of any ethnicity can relate to. A solid 4-star read.
All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban. What happens when the scholarship dinner you’ve been invited to turns out to be a trap? This debut thriller reads like an Agatha Christie novel. The class valedictorian, the popular girl, the music geek, the stoner, the loner, and the star athlete all think they are being honored with a scholarship. Instead, they are locked in a room with a bomb, a syringe of poison, and a note that tells them to pick a person to die or they all die. The clock is ticking. This is an edge of your seat read that literally takes place over the course of an hour. Will they panic? Escape? Kill someone? This is a wild ride from a new voice in YA thrillers.
One of Us is Next by Karen McManus. Speaking of thrillers…If you aren’t reading Karen McManus, go do it now. This is the sequel to her hit One of Us is Lying. It’s been a year since the incidents at Bayview High and there is a new game circulating- Truth or Dare and this version is dark and dangerous. This is another strong addition to the YA thriller genre. I am definitely a fan of the author and look forward to more great reads by her.
Deadly Little Secrets by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Here’s another thriller and a sequel. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes and will read anything she writes. This one picks up where Little White Lies leaves off. If you like southern charm and wicked family secrets and secret societies, you really need to read the Debutantes series. What I love about all of Barnes’ books is that there is plenty of humor to cut through the tension of her rather dark tales.
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. This one is actually the final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy. You’ll want to start with The Cruel Prince, followed by The Wicked King. I always think I do not enjoy stories about the fae, and yet, any time I decide to read one, I like it, so I guess I am wrong about myself! Holly Black knows her stuff. She is the queen of the fairy tale and she returns to her fairy roots with this brutal and twisty trilogy. It’s full of magic and betrayal and the ending is fantastic. Highly recommend.
Sometimes, we all just need to read something light, fun, with a happy ending, and maybe a little spice for good measure, especially during times of turmoil and stress. Enter- the romance genre! Whether you want your literary escape to be sexy and scandalous or wholesome and heartwarming (or something in-between!) romance has got your back.
Check out some new and upcoming romance titles that are sure to give you some much deserved reprieve or serve as your next beach read.
What are some of your favorite romance novels or beach reads of the summer? Share in the comments! Happy reading!
I always enjoyed Valentine’s Day when I was a kid, the class party, valentines, and snacks. What could be better? Books! Have you considered giving your special someone a book? While the main focus could be on the Romance genre, it’s the thought of sharing that counts. There are all sorts of books, topics, and themes here at the library. Come snag a book that you can read with your partner. Challenge each other to read something you’re not used to.
Do you need help finding a book? There are multiple Literature Resources available from our website. From the library homepage, on the left column select Reference Resources. The page will open, search by the subject Literature & Fiction. That will take to you that section on the page. Use any of those links to search for your next read, by author or title. Check out what the staff at RRPL have read by visiting the Reading Room.
Who doesn’t love love? Well, for a brief time the boy and the girl in the romance story you’re reading don’t love love but that’s just a plot device -no need to worry! They’ll have their disagreement and then things will (mostly) turn out okay at the end! So are you ready to read about what we read? Me too!
Carol: In Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 29-year-old Hannah Martin flees New York after a relationship disaster and ends up temporarily living with her best friend, Gabby back home in L.A. On her first night in town, Hannah reconnects with her high school sweetheart, Ethan, and at the end of the night, Hannah must decide whether or not to go home with him. In parallel storylines, Hannah lives out both decisions, and each take her in very different directions. This book about fate, true love and chance tackles some serious issues and at the same time reads like a choose-your-own adventure. Readers will wonder if there really is such a thing as a soul mate and root for (both versions of) Hannah the whole way.
Steve: You Suck by Christopher Moore is the second book in the “Love Story” series, although you could read it as a standalone. Newly turned vampire C. Thomas Flood and his girlfriend Jody, the vampire who turned him, are being pursued by Tommy’s old work buddies and the very old vampire Elijah, who wants Jodi back. Lots of witty and offbeat humor and characters in this fast-paced read.
Megan: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb-When Eva’s crush-turned-new-boyfriend moves from New York to L.A., she is desperate to see him again. She finds the perfect solution. A reality quiz show, The Smartest Girl in America, is holding auditions and Eva’s best friend Annie is a shoe-in. Having secured a spot show and convincing her mother that they would be safe, Eva sets off on a cross-country road trip. Armed with a bus ticket and a supply of romance novels, Eva is ill-prepared to confront the realities of love. This not-so-fluffy romance focuses on love of all types-love for friends and family and of course, love for the cute poetry writing boy!
Emma: Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray is the story of two sixty-something florists. Divorcee Julie Roseman and widower Romeo Cacciamani fall in love despite the feud between their families. Unfortunately the origin of the feud isn’t known to the second and third generations, but they are bound by it. Julie and Romeo’s children are strongly against any relationship between their parents. Eventually Grandma Cacciamani divulges the secret behind the long-standing dispute. This is a fun light-hearted romance for adults.
Lauren: My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts introduces us to Lady Ravenna Walsingham, a spy for the British crown who is sent to Scotland to pose as a governess for the son of a rebellious laird who refuses to send his boy to England for educating. Ravenna also suspects that Laird Ruiari Sutherland may be part of a plot to band together with other Scottish clansmen to rise up against the monarchy. Still, even though she is sent to investigate the family, she soon finds herself devoted to her young student and falling in love with Laird Sutherland. This is classic, formulaic, historic romance—it’s fast-paced and juicy!
Beth: In Joan Johnston’s Shameless, Pippa becomes pregnant with a married man’s child and is taken by surprise when her father uproots her family from their cattle station in Australia to take over his father’s ranch in Wyoming. Pippa is thrown into family rivalries as she attempts to navigate pregnancy and her desire to learn the truth about her mother. In desperation, Pippa moves in with one of the family enemies and her emotions start to flare. The story is packed with exasperated twists and turns, but in a true romance fashion, ends happily ever after.
Dori: Curtis Sittenfeld reimagines Pride and Prejudice in modern America in her new novel Eligible. Lizzy Bennett, a successful New York editor and her sister Jane, a yoga instructor, return home to Cincinnati when their father becomes ill. There, they find the family in disarray; their two youngest sisters are sponging off their father while obsessing over exercise and diets, Mary, their middle sister, has become a bit of a recluse and their mother still has tunnel vision, only wanting marriage to successful men for her daughters. At a neighborhood barbecue, Jane meets Chip Bingley, a doctor fresh off a Bachelor-like TV show and they hit it off. Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, does not make as positive an impression on Jane. At the Bennetts navigate through these various travails, Sittenfeld provides a modern look at gender, class, money, romance, and family. Funny, charming and romantic, it’s a fresh look at Austen’s classic.
Stacey: Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier, author of Ruby Red Trilogy, is the first in her new The Silver Trilogy -and that couldn’t please me more! Fifteen-year-old Liv and thirteen-year-old Mia have lived all over the world. Their current destination is Oxford to spend the school year with their mom while she teaches for the University, but plans have changed. It looks like they’ll be staying in London with their mom, her boyfriend, and his high school-aged children; and then things really get weird. Liv is able to watch other people’s secret dreams while they sleep. Plus a group of boys in her new school who can do the same… how? why? But that one boy, he seems pretty nice -even if he’s up to no good.
Next time we’ll be reading Award Winners! Another easy category!! All you need to do is find a book that has won a real (legitimate) award -in any genre. (See how easy?!) Happy Spring Reading!
Do you love a happy ending? (Who doesn’t?!) Well then, this list might be The One to make all your dreams come true! That’s right, we were discussion the romance genre! Romance stories are all about relationships and appeal strongly to a reader’s emotions, with everyone walking away from the experience (characters and readers alike) knowing all is right in the world. Are you ready to see the titles we discussed?
Carol: In Amazing Gracie by Sherryl Woods, Gracie McDougall has quit her hotel management job in France to flee to Seagull Point, a small town in Virginia, where she vacationed as a child. There, Gracie becomes fixated on buying an abandoned Victorian house and turning it into a Bed & Breakfast. The one problem in her way is the property manager, hunky Kevin Daniels, who doesn’t want to sell. While the two disagree on the fate of the Victorian, they can’t deny their attraction. Will they let down their guards and give love a chance, or will Kevin’s complicated and meddlesome family scare Gracie away?
Lauren: Danielle Steel’s first novel, Going Home, was published in 1973—something today’s reader will be painfully aware of in the book’s dated imaginings of love and relationships (among other things—smoking and drinking while pregnant? Apparently totally acceptable during this time. Weird to read around). Gillian Forrester is a beautiful, stylish, single mother who meets and (instantly) falls in love with wild-card Christopher Matthews. Chris has trouble staying faithful, routinely disappears without notice, and when Gillian becomes pregnant, is so dismayed at the reality that he will become a father he asks that Gillian leave San Francisco and return to New York City. Despite this, Gillian remains hopelessly in love with Chris. However, having moved herself back to New York, Gillian meets dashing Gordon Harte. And then things get complicated. I had never read anything by Danielle Steel but was curious, as I know her to be immensely popular. I choose poorly. I’ll give her another chance sometime and be sure to pick something people generally agree to be among her best.
Emma: In Pegasus by Danielle Steel, Nick discovers that his mother, who he does not remember, was half Jewish. Nick and his 2 sons leave their aristocratic life in Germany when Hitler starts persecuting Jews. Best friend Alex gives Nick a prize Lipizzaner horse and an Arabian horse in order to join the Ringling Brothers Circus once Nick and his boys arrive in the United States. What follows is their new life with the circus and the tragedy of what’s happening in Europe. A rollercoaster read.
Beth: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire is new adult romance set on a college campus. The prim and proper Abby has escaped a troubled childhood to attend Eastern University with her best friend and start a new life for herself. Shortly after arriving on campus, Abby finds herself attending a floating fight club where she catches the eye of the bad boy, Travis Maddox. Abby and Travis find themselves bound to each other through a bet, the outcome of which, surprises everyone. The plot and the characters are not well developed in this predictable story.
Ann: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty is the first novel by the popular author of The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies. The novel opens at a birthday party dinner for three sisters, Lyn, Cat, and Gemma, triplets who are turning 34. Unfortunately after a few drinks the evening turns ugly, there are arguments, and an ambulance must be called. Though triplets, the women couldn’t be more different. The book takes us through the year leading up to the birthday party- as the sisters deal with sibling rivalry, relationships, unfaithful husbands, divorced parents who are acting just a little too cozy these days, and the trials and tribulations of living life as triplets. Similar themes run through all of Moriarty’s books- strong female characters, strong family ties, wonderful humor, and plots that surprise you around every turn.
Steve: Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore is not your traditional romance, but that’s what makes it so great. Jody is a 26 year old living in San Francisco who wakes up in a dumpster with a scorched hand and as she is trying to figure out what happened to her, she discovers that she is a newly bitten vampire. She heads off to the local Safeway mart and meets Tommy Flood, a 19 year old aspiring writer fresh in from Indiana. Tommy is thrilled with his luck, meeting a beautiful girl upon his arrival in the city, and the two begin a quirky romance. The story is filled with odd characters, a twisted sense of humor and a mysterious vampire who seems to be trailing Jody and plotting Tommy’s demise.
Megan: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes is the story of a single mom, her quirky kids, their enormous smelly dog, and one life-changing road trip to a Math Olympiad with a virtual stranger. This contemporary romance is full of humor and heart and manages to steer clear of expected cliche. Fans of Liane Moriarty and the film Little Miss Sunshine with find themselves rooting for Jess and her kids.
Dori: In Heroes are my Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Annie’s mother has died, and she’s broke, sick and homeless, returning to her family cottage off the coast of Maine to find a valuable family legacy with only her puppets for company. She has terrible memories of the island because in her teens she fell for a wealthy boy there, Theo, who tried to kill her. Soon, however, she runs into him and discovers that he’s grown up to be a brooding, handsome horror writer who’s not as evil as she remembers. As she’s drawn into the lives of the islanders, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want her there: is it Theo or someone else on the island? This book has a bit of Gothic spice but it’s also funny, with a strong female character and a twisted plot, making it a unique romance.
(That’s right! Dori and I read the same book!)
Stacey: Heroes are my Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the story of Annie, a struggling puppeteer, and Theo, a successful author. The two met when they were children and their parents married. Their years as step-siblings were limited but they managed to go from awkward to intrigued adolescents, and a lifetime fascination was born. This author has a special knack at mixing humor into her romance stories and she knows how to add a nice touch of drama to keep the pages turning.
We’re about to ride off into the sunset now, and we’re going to pick up a Western on our way! If you want to mosey in the same direction, you’ll want to look for a book generally set in the Western half of North America with side open skies, a flawed hero and a clear resolution. See ya soon pardner!
Romance! Full of love and affection! Who doesn’t love love? Well, I guess maybe the heartless are physically incapable of love -not having a heart and all- but if we ignore those walking medical miracles? Reading a book that features strong emotions and two individuals struggling to become a happy pair will hopefully leave everyone in a good mood! Let’s see if that’s what happened in our very own romance genre discussion, shall we? (You’ll have to base your opinion on the brief descriptions people provided..)
Megan: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg is the story of Levi and Macallan, two best friends set on proving to everyone that guys and girls can be just friends. They manage just fine for years, but then something changes. What follows is a series of missed connections and misunderstandings that could potentially ruin everything. Full of witty banter and lovable characters, readers will be rooting for Levi and Macallan long after they close the book!
Chris: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert tells the story of woman in desperate need of romance. Emma Bovary hopes to find it with her country doctor husband, Charles, but he proves to be dull beyond words. She enters into a secretive love affair with the worldly Rodolphe, but after awhile he becomes bored with her demanding affections and leaves. She then succeeds in rekindling the flame with an old lover, Leon, but soon tires of him. Will she ever find that excitement and passion she yearns for? Madame Bovary’s search for romance leads her to suffering financial woes and ill health and, ultimately, to taking her own life.
Emma: Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie is the story of two Bradleys’. One is Lucy’s ex-husband Bradley Porter, and the other is a high school friend of Lucy’s ex, John Bradley. John Bradley has stolen a sizeable amount of government bonds and Lucy’s ex is helping him hide the evidence. There is a key to a safety deposit box somewhere in Lucy’s house and it must be found. Tina, Lucy’s sister, has threatened her former brother-in-law if he ever enters the house or tries to contact Lucy. John Bradley tries to scare Lucy away from her house by blowing up her car, but she won’t leave her dogs behind. Police detective Zach Warren moves in to protect Lucy and catch the culprit. The two become a couple very quickly. Getting Rid of Bradley is a great combination of romance, humor, and a touch of suspense.
Dori: Ellen O’Farrell is a hypnotherapist, helping to guide people to change through the power of the mind eve4n though she can’t seem to hold onto a relationship of her own. Then she meets Patrick through an online dating site and the two hit it off immediately, though Patrick has a secret: his ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen, being the empathetic person that she is, is both fascinated and repelled by the idea while Saskia, the stalker, is deeply hurt and confused by Patrick’s sudden rejection. Liane Moriarty explores the inner lives of both Ellen and Saskia in The Hypnotist’s Love Story while delving into the intricacies of relationships, love, loss and just plain old dumb luck.
Donna: The Rosie Project is the debut novel by Australian Graeme C. Simsion. Don Tillman is a genetics professor who is looking for a wife. He designs the Wife Project, a very detailed questionnaire, to screen for potential perfect matches. He starts the Rosie Project when he meets Rosie who wants him to help her find her biological father. Soon, the two projects merge. Rosie and Don are two delightful, quirky characters that the reader will constantly root for in this charming, laugh out loud romance.
Steve: A Knight in Shining Armor, by Jude Deveraux, finds Dougless Montgomery stranded by her boyfriend in a medieval English church near a statute of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564, executed for treason. She had been anticipating a marriage proposal and asks aloud where her knight in shining armor is. The earl, in 1564, hears her sobbing and travels to the 1980’s to aid her. Dougless thinks he is crazy, but grows to believe his time-traveling story and soon is helping him research who falsely accused him of treason. This is a light, funny love story with a touch of intrigue. The historical details and time travel add a nice element. All in all not too shabby.
Ann: Anyone but You by Jennifer Crusie introduces us to Nina, recently divorced and turning 40. She’s moved into her own apartment and is going to get a puppy (her ex-husband never wanted a dog). She goes to the shelter to pick out a bouncing puppy- to cheer her up. Instead, she comes home with Fred. Fred is an overweight, quirky, sad-faced basset hound-beagle mix. But when he crawls through the wrong apartment window, Nina gets to meet her downstairs neighbor, Alex. Now Nina is not looking for a new man and if she would be, it would not be Alex. Sure he is charming, great looking, and shares Fred’s love of Oreos, but he just is turning 30! 10 years is a huge age difference- isn’t it? A witty, clever romantic comedy.
Carol: A Victorian Rose by Catherine Palmer is a historical romance that takes readers back in time to Victorian Yorkshire, England. Artist and young widow, Clemma Laird, has caught the eye of Dr. Paul Baine, a man who is shunned by the community for his past amoral behavior. Despite her better judgment, Clemma is drawn into Dr. Baine’s lifework, and what she discovers about his past changes her outlook on life and her future. This book was a quick, charming, and thoughtful read about love and redemption.
Julie: Beth Harbison’s latest book grabbed me with the title, Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave him the Wrong Finger – fun, right? The story follows Quinn ten years after she left her high school sweetheart at the altar because she found out he had cheated on her. Oh, and it was his brother who told her and who she then ran away with to Vegas. She quickly ended that, but now they’re both back in her life and she has to figure out what to do about it.
Stacey: The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch probably falls a bit between romance and general fiction but it delivers nicely on the main points of a good romance; and so this is my book of choice! Sugar Wallace has moved once a year for the past fifteen years and each new location is chosen by the queen bee of her hive. Wherever she lands, Sugar likes to help as many people as possible and it looks like her newest home in NYC will be business as usual. Well at least until her new friends decide Sugar might need some redirecting herself, no matter what she says! Even better if that new path takes her into the arms of Mr. Right, right?
And next time, if you care to read along with our genre challenge of March, you’ll want to find a biography or autobiography! Yes, that’s right! You’re looking for a book that is written by or about one person and focuses on their life experiences. Enjoy!