Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.
Without further ado, here’s the installment for April 2013 (and if you’ve missed any, be sure to check out past recs via the related posts section at the bottom of the post):
The Island by Elin Hilderbrand — This seemingly simple story of a cancelled wedding and two sisters, their mother, and their aunt spending a month on a rustic island off the coast of Nantucket kept me surprised all the way through. Elin Hilderbrand has a way of taking your expectations about where a story is going and completely subverting it. The Island had me turning the pages so fast I almost gave myself a headache. On top of an incredible sense of place (I could feel the and in my shoes and see the ocean, the characters are intensely real. And it was drama, drama, drama. I loved it and felt that bittersweet sadness when it ended.
Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman — Courting Greta marks the marvelous debut of author Ramsey Hootman. It's romantic fiction rather than genre romance, but it's the only book I've loved in an entire year.
Until they find each other, the lead characters have led sad, solitary lives. Samuel Cooke, a 34-year-old crippled software genius, moves to a small town and becomes a high school teacher. Samuel is quite private and quite angry, mostly because of his physical situation. He's surprisingly attracted to gym teacher Greta Cassamajor, a middle-aged, tall, large woman who suffers no fools and makes no compromises. Outwardly Samuel knows how to fit in. Outwardly Greta is prickly. The way she resolves personal problems is oblique. But she knows herself and understands Samuel far better than he understands himself; as a result of his years-long personal pity party, he always brings the focus back onto himself. When, for instance, he thinks he's being heroic for Greta's sake, he simply has no clue. Then again, he's never had a relationship with a woman, and has no understanding of why she generally refers to him as “Mr. Cooke.”
Samuel and Greta's unlikely courtship is like eating a slice of dark, bittersweet chocolate cake. It's rich and complex, and, by the way, how he proceeds upon discovering why she calls him by his honorific is the romance equivalent to a gooey chocolate ganache frosting.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop — Bishop definitely is deserving of all the favorable reviews for this book. I picked it up to read every chance I got. It was that good. While I love a good paranormal, Written in Red was much deeper than that.
Bishop has created an alternate world history in which the Others take on both animal and human form but don't really belong to either. The characters are rich and complex and the detailed descriptions of the Others captures their nature.
Human Meg Corbyn, who seeks asylum amongst the Others, is one of the most likeable protagonists that I have ever read. She is, despite all the horrors she has experienced, the best of humanity. Simply put, Meg is goodness. She touches all those who take the time to get to know her. So much so that the Others are willing to fight humans to protect her.
Written in Red has the makings of a fantasy fiction classic. I can’t wait to see where Bishop takes us in her next installment, Murder of Crows, due in 2014.
To Love and to Cherish by Patricia Gaffney — I'm so happy to have finally read Patricia Gaffney's To Love and to Cherish, first in her Wyckerley trilogy. It ought to be as well-known as the middle book, To Have and to Hold. I love the way hero and heroine are each so isolated, in different ways, before they meet; I love how they discover their feelings for each other, and deal with the consequences; and I love the complex, realistic oppositional character.
Down By Contact by Jami Davenport — This third book in series about players on the fictional American football team, the Seattle Lumberjacks, finds linebacker, Zach Murphy, being ordered to attend “charm school” after embarrassing the organization at a high-end charity function. As if that weren't bad enough, it turns out his private tutor is none other than Kelsey Carrington-Richmond, the former Mean Girl that he carried a pretty big torch for in high school. However ,now Kelsey has fallen on hard times and is determined to make her own way in the world—which means reforming her ways and apologizing to Zach for how horribly she treated him in the “good old days.” A sexy, fun contemporary romance featuring interesting, damaged characters who have a lot of baggage to work through to get to their happy ending.