Tag: Guest Bloggers

Five Books Everyone Should Read: Mandi from Smexy Books

Posted November 8, 2015 by Rowena in Features | 1 Comment

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Today we have Mandi from Smexy Books on the blog to share her list of books that she thinks everyone should read. I’m a huge fan of Smexy Book’s Smex Scene Sunday so make sure you visit her blog to check it out.

Broken by Megan Hart

This month my name is Mary

My name is different every month—Brandy, Honey, Amy…sometimes Joe doesn’t even bother to ask—but he never fails to arouse me with his body, his mouth, his touch, no matter what I’m called or where he picks me up. The sex is always amazing, always leaves me itching for more in those long weeks until I see him again.

My real name is Sadie, and once a month over lunch Joe tells me about his latest conquest. But what Joe doesn’t know is that, in my mind, I’m the star of every X-rated one-night stand he has revealed to me, or that I’m practically obsessed with our imaginary sex life. I know it’s wrong. I know my husband wouldn’t understand. But I can’t stop. Not yet.

Intense, erotic, devastating. This book will haunt you for a long time. This author always makes you work for the happy ever after, and even then, sometimes the happiness is a slippery thread. She writes beautiful words and makes me feel all the things. It’s deep and dark and pushes boundaries.

cut and run
Cut & Run by Abigail Roux

A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case. Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He’s cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he’s paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it’s hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliche: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple. They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer. Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again – this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer’s knife.”

This is book one of a must read series. Two male FBI agents who hate each other and then fall deeply in love. One has never been with a man before. Oh Ty and Zane. They make me laugh, they make me have anxiety and they have really, really hot sexy times. I adore them. While I think the first two books of this series are the weakest, stick with it. The series just concluded and the author did a great job with this couple. A treat to read.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death—a cryptic message on MacKayla Lane’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed—a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.

Another must read series, this one is a dark urban fantasy. I think most romance fans have at least heard of this, if not have already read it. The most alpha, brooding hero I’ve read. A naive heroine who turns totally bad ass. Cliffhangers! Twists! More twists! The best.

slightly dangerous
Slighty Dangerous by Mary Balogh

All of London is abuzz over the imminent arrival of Wulfric Bedwyn, the reclusive, cold-as-ice Duke of Bewcastle, at the most glittering social event of the season. Some whisper of a tragic love affair. Others say he is so aloof and passionless that not even the greatest beauty could capture his attention.

But on this dazzling afternoon, one woman did catch the duke’s eye—and she was the only female in the room who wasn’t even trying. Christine Derrick is intrigued by the handsome duke…all the more so when he invites her to become his mistress.

What red-blooded woman wouldn’t enjoy a tumble in the bedsheets with a consummate lover—with no strings and no questions asked. An infuriating lady with very definite views on men, morals, and marriage, Christine confounds Wulfric at every turn. Yet even as the lone wolf of the Bedwyn clan vows to seduce her any way he can, something strange and wonderful is happening. Now for a man who thought he’d never lose his heart, nothing less than love will do.

With her trademark wit, riveting storytelling, and sizzling sexual sparks, Mary Balogh once again brings together two polar opposites: an irresistible, high-and-mighty aristocrat and the impulsive, pleasure-loving woman who shows him what true passion is all about. A man and a woman so wrong for each other, it can result only in the perfect match.

The final book in her Bedwyn series, they can be read as stand alones but I enjoyed all of the Bedwyn siblings. Wulfric is featured in this book, and oh did I love him. Quiet, intense, the head of the family. So cold and aloof – but then he meets Christine and his frozen little heart starts to grow. It’s a quiet romance that suits him perfectly. I think it’s about time I reread this one.

Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley

Get ready to ride . . .

Tyra Masters has had enough drama to last a lifetime. Now, she’s back on track and looking forward to her new, quiet life. Until she meets the man of her dreams. The tattooed, muscled biker plies her with tequila-and the best sex of her life. She knows it isn’t the tequila and hot sex talking. He’s the kind of man she’s always wanted. Unfortunately, he’s also her new boss . . .

Kane “Tack” Allen has a rule. He doesn’t employ someone he’s slept with. So when he learns he spent last night in bed with his new office manager, he quickly fires Tyra. Yet when Tyra stands up to him and fights for her job, Tack is intrigued. He tells her she can keep her job on one condition: no more sex. Ever. But as things heat up between them, Tack finds that he’ll be the one breaking all the rules…

Tack stole my heart – at first I thought he was the biggest jerk but by the end I about swooned off my bed. He’s still a jerk, but his devotion and love for Tyra knows no bounds. I always have a blast reading Kristen Ashley books, and Tack and Tyra will always be my favorite. I would read another 1,000 pages about them easily.

Rowena: Thanks to Mandi for sharing the books that have resonated with her enough that she wants us all to read them as well. If you want more goodness from Mandi, please stop by her blog Smexy Books and say hey.

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Blogger Azteclady

Posted July 26, 2015 by Holly in Features | 13 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project


I’m excited for today’s guest. Azetclady is a reader and blogger who has been around the romance block a time a two. I find she and I have very similar reading taste (I’ve chosen to forgive her for her love of Suzanne Brockmann, just as I’ve forgiven Rowena). Her list includes many of my own favorites.

__________Rita Hayworth avatar

There is no way, in this universe or any other, where I can list only five books that I think everyone should read (and, hopefully, love). Therefore, I gave up on that. I’m giving you an off-the-top-of-my-head list which includes five of the many, many, many books I think everyone should read. As a way of further narrowing said list, I’m gearing it towards readers of genre romance–or rather, as a conversion kit/introductory package for readers who are willing to try this much maligned genre. As such, I’m trying to include books from a variety of subgenres, though it’s impossible to cover them all, or hell, even many, with only five books!

morning gloryMorning Glory, by LaVyrle Spencer. I was incredibly lucky that this was the first of Ms Spencer’s books that I read, many, many years ago. It is one of the most poignant and well written romances, ever. The setting, both in time and space, is both rare and incredibly humble. A small town in Georgia, in the early 1940s. The main characters are an ex-convict–who was guilty of the crime he served time for–and a barely literate, pregnant widow with two young children–who is held as crazy by the neighboring town. This is a novel that will transport you into the lives of these two people, and to the time and place they inhabit, so skillfully that you won’t even realize it. This is a book I first read almost twenty years ago, and one I’ve read and re-read many more times than just twenty. Morning Glory will squeeze your heart tight, then give you hope, in people, in love, in life.

lord of scoundrelsThe next one is a book I regret waiting so many years to read, a true classic example of great writing within the genre: Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. I have not (yet) read any more of Ms Chase’s work, but this novel is everything good you’ve ever heard said about it, and more. An independent heroine who has realistic, feasible, logistically possible, plans to support herself as a single woman without falling from society’s grace–in freaking Regency England! An emotionally damaged hero, who–by all that’s holy!–grows up, becoming a man worthy of his heroine. Delicious sexual tension without gratuitous sex. Fully realized characters that break the mold, great historical detail that doesn’t overwhelm, witty dialogue, fantastic use of language…oh lord, it just has everything that’s good in the genre.

gone too farSuzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far–though I would definitely say that, in order to do this novel justice, the reader would do well to read the previous five books in her Troubleshooters series. This novel also has several unique elements. One, it’s one of the first well-known novels where the conflict between the main couple has been developing for a number of books prior. In fact, one of the main conflicts between them is established from their first appearance in the pages of The Unsung Hero, a cool twelve hundred pages before the beginning of Gone Too Far, and it’s explored in bits and pieces in the background, or as a secondary plotline, in the intervening books. Mind you, this conflict is fleshed out enough in Gone Too Far itself that a reader could skip directly to this book and enjoy Alyssa’s and Sam’s story perfectly well; there is just enough background information on what’s happened in the other novels, without too much repetition or info dumping. Still, I would encourage readers to do themselves a favor by witnessing these two characters’ personal growth in ‘real time’ (as it were) by reading the series in order. This is also one of the first wildly successful books–back when appearing in the New York Times bestseller list meant something–featuring an interracial romance for the main protagonist, and a gay secondary character that was more than a clichéd stereotype. Finally, another unique element of Gone Too Far, independent of where it fits in the series or the larger romance genre landscape, is how, particularly towards the climax of the story, as several plot lines–and a number of characters–converge, the novel reads more and more like a movie. Shorter and shorter scenes, switching from one character/storyline to the next, and the next, and the next, until…boom! (so to speak).lord peter wimsey

Though these are not strictly romance, I can’t not recommend Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books, written between 1923 and 1937. There are only eleven Lord Peter Wimsey books, and of those, only four include a romantic story arc, between the eponymous Lord Peter and one Harriet Vane. These books are wonderful in so many ways, it’s difficult to be concise about it. Ms Sayers’ use of language is beautiful beyond the telling. The mystery aspect is different in all the stories, and the character development of the main character is absolutely wonderful. Harriet’s and Peter’s relationship starts in Strong Poison, when he falls in love with her, on sight, as she sits in court, on trial for the murder of her ex-lover. What’s a man to do, but find the true culprit? The climax of the series is Busman’s Honeymoon, which is unusual in several ways. The happily ever after for the couple happens here, after years of struggle, both between Harriet and Peter, and internally within each character. This novel can be read alone, but frankly, why would anyone want to miss all the goodness that is Lord Peter Wimsey? (And let’s not forget Bunter.)

son of the morningThe fifth and last book for this list was extremely, extremely difficult to pick–I haven’t mentioned time travel romance (hey, how about Linda Howard’s Son of the Morning or Jude Deveraux Knight in Shinning Armor? ducking), I haven’t mentioned paranormal romances (but if I were, I would probably go with Maggie Shayne’s Wings in the Night novels, first released back in the early 1990s–I still remember, so vividly, my first time reading Twilight Phantasies, the first title of the series–or perhaps Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling books, which are far more recent, but so wonderfully written), or westerns (Elizabeth Lowell’s Only series, or Lorraine Heath’s Texas trilogy). Then we have the fantasy romances (Robin D. Owens’ Celta novels, anyone?), and steampunk romances (Meljean Brook’s wonderful, amazing, fantastic Iron Seas stories), and space opera romances (Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax/Grimspace novels–please note, I beta read a couple of the books, mid-series, and was Ms Aguirre’s virtual assistant for a little over a year during the same time–or Lauren Dane’s Federation Chronicles). And, while not quite my cup of tea, there’s also new adult romance (Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years books, or Courtney Milan’s Trade Me, for the win). Then there’s erotic romance, GLBTQ romance, adventure romance, all the flavors of category romance, and so many more!

the witnessBut I decided to go with contemporary romance, as it’s arguably the subgenre with the widest audience, and though there are many great authors writing this genre, my favorite is Nora Roberts. It does not hurt that Ms Roberts is probably the most widely known romance author for decades. I count many of her books in my keeper shelves, but I’ll go with a relatively recent release that encompasses all the best of Ms Roberts’ writing: The Witness. The writing voice is always solid; the central character is beautifully written, and her growth as the story unfolds is both realistic and poignant. There is a suspense subplot, which is just complex enough, and written competently enough, to entertain, though it’s by no means the focus of the novel. The Witness is Ms Roberts’ 200th published book, and definitely a high mark in her oeuvre. If you don’t read anything else by her, read this novel. You won’t regret it.

About Azteclady: reader, reviewer, rabble rouser. Opinionated blatherer and occasional crafter, she blogs at Her Hands, My Hands, Can also occasionally be found at Karen Knows Best, and in the library (aka, Other Media: Literature and Art) at MyMedia

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Kaetrin

Posted May 31, 2015 by Rowena in Features | 5 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a new feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.


5 Books Project

cropped Kaetrin pic1-002My reading is heavily skewed to romance, so my 5 books are too.

There are over 2200 books on my “read” shelf at Goodreads. Only about 270 of them are 5 star reads, but that’s still an awful lot to choose from. Trying to reduce that list to only 5 was HARD. In the end, I went with books that I have re-read (which is not something I do a lot) and added in a non-romance sci-fi novel just to be contrary.

heartless mary baloughMy favourite historical romance is Heartless by Mary Balogh. It’s a Georgian set story, featuring a Duke and a lady with a dark secret. I love it so much I can’t see any flaws in it. I know it’s not actually perfect; I just don’t care. It’s a comfort read for me and it also happens to contain my very favourite, most romantic sex scene* (*which is not terribly sexy at all but it is super swoony). I’m particularly fond of the hero, Luke, who is nothing like my usual preferred heroes. He’s not very tall and he’s not very broad. He wears makeup and high heels and carries a fan and he is so very masculine all the damn time, I cannot even.

The book is out of print but I’m told that the author plans to reissue it in digital format. I hope she does that soon because I just love this book so much. My worn paperback was second-hand when I got it and, even though I’m not much of a re-reader, it’s one I turn to when I want just the right pick-me-up. (And, very often, what was supposed to be a 20 minute interlude ends up a complete re-read because: Luke!)

The Martian

Last year I had the pleasure of listening to The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by JC Bray. It’s not a romance. It’s a science fiction popcorn adventure – think Robinson Crusoe on Mars – and it’s a cracker of a listen. I gave the book to my brother for Christmas and he is now a complete convert even though he usually avoids any first person narration. The pacing and the tension of the story just don’t let up and the main character, Mark Wattney has such a dry sense of humour; it’s a wonderful foil. It’s only science-fiction in the sense that we haven’t gone to Mars yet – all the science is real and theoretically possible right now. It’s being made into a movie starring Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott. I have high expectations and high hopes!

the searchThe Search by Nora Roberts is not even the book I’d say is the best romantic suspense she’s written (that would probably be The Witness) but it’s my favourite nonetheless. Fiona Bristow is a search and rescue dog trainer and she runs a dog obedience (aka owner obedience) school as well, on Orcas Island off the Washington coast. When she was in college, she was abducted by the Red Scarf Killer. She was the only one of his victims to escape and her testimony was instrumental in putting him behind bars for the rest of his life. Now someone is killing girls again and leaving the signature red scarf around the victim’s necks and it looks like Fiona is in his sights. There is some serial killer POV in the book and if that kind of thing makes you squeamish, best to avoid it – he’s a really nasty guy (Trigger Warning: rape). But Fiona is a kickass heroine and there are dogs!! And puppies!! And, there’s Simon. He’s a wood artist and fine furniture maker newly relocated to Orcas Island. He recently adopted a puppy. The puppy is eating his shoes and making a mess and Fiona is his last best hope of salvation. This is a book I’ve re-read more than once and it’s great on audio too (I have both formats). Tanya Eby narrates and she’s one of my favourite narrators.

no souvenirsNo Souvenirs by KA Mitchell is also a book I’ve read many times and it never gets old. Dr. Jae Sun Kim takes a scuba diving holiday in Belize. Shane McCormack is a dive instructor and sparks fly between them when a snafu occurs and “Jay” and Shane are forced to share a cabin. Things take a desperate turn during a dive when the boat leaves while Jay and Shane are still in the water. If you’ve ever seen the movie Open Water, this section of the book has that kind of vibe. It’s probably silly, but every time I read that bit, I get nervous – even though it’s a romance so I know it has a HEA and even though I’ve read it multiple times before. The writing just sucks me in every time. After they are rescued (hey, it’s a romance, of course they’re rescued), Shane comes to Jacksonville, Florida where Jay works, to see if their chemistry holds up in real life. I love Jay and his “Scuba Cowboy”. KA Mitchell is one of my favourite m/m romance writers and No Souvenirs is my pick as her best book. (There are a couple of other books jockeying for poll position but so far No Souvenirs has managed to hold them off.)

alpha and omegaAlpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs is a novella I’ve read (and listened to) many times as well. It’s an urban fantasy/paranormal (shifter) romance featuring Charles Cornick, enforcer for the Marrok (the leader of the North American werewolves) – who also happens to be Charles’s dad – and Anna Latham, a woman who was turned against her will and who is desperately in need of rescue. (Trigger Warning: rape) I am a complete sucker for the rescue trope. I love it when a hero comes in and saves the day. Over the course of the novella (and indeed, the subsequent books in the series – all of which are great), Anna does her share of rescuing too so it is not all one-sided. Alpha and Omega is the best novella I’ve ever read. It’s a perfect little story full of emotions and SO romantic. Holter Graham narrates the stand alone audio version and Lorelei King narrates the story in the Shifting Shadows (audio) anthology. Both versions are excellent, but I prefer Holter Graham’s – he narrates the other books in the series also.

I didn’t have room for my favourite New Adult novels – I went with the “re-read” factor so they missed out this time (mostly because they are all relatively new). But I could do an entire list of “5 New Adult books everyone should read”. If I mentioned Sarina Bowen, Tammara Webber, Elle Kennedy, Trish Doller and Kristen Callihan, that wouldn’t be cheating would it?

Reader & reviewer of romance at Kaetrin‘s Musings, Dear Author & AudioGals. I blog. I tweet. I eat cake. Gimme HEA. Also on Twitter @kaetrin67

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: JenB

Posted March 22, 2015 by Holly in Features | 2 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read is a new feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Holy cow, was this a hard list to come up with! I can think of at least a hundred books everyone should read. How could Holly expect me to narrow it down to just five? Is she crazy? (The answer is yes. She is.) But somehow I did it. So here it is, in no particular order:

the awakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin.

The Awakening, originally titled A Solitary Soul, is a novel by Kate Chopin, first published in 1899. Set in New Orleans and the Southern Louisiana coast at the end of the nineteenth century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle to reconcile her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women’s issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating mixed reaction from contemporary readers and criticism. The novel’s blend of realistic narrative, incisive social commentary, and psychological complexity makes The Awakening a precursor of American modernist literature; it prefigures the works of American novelists such as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway and echoes the works of contemporaries such as Edith Wharton and Henry James. It can also be considered among the first Southern works in a tradition that would culminate with the modern masterpieces of Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, and Tennessee Williams.

I read this my senior year of high school and became completely obsessed with it for several years after. It’s the story of a woman who decides she wants more from life than just to be a wife and a mother. She wants freedom and an identity. It’s a tragic story of self-discovery, and it’s one of the most famous feminist novels written to date. The book has meant different things to me at different times in my life, and no matter how I feel about the choices the protagonist makes and the path she takes, I can’t help but relate to her a little. I think we all can at some time or another. The author’s voice is spectacular. The language in her stories is beautiful and evocative and immersive, and I’ve yet to find another author with such an astounding ability to make me feel.

Bet Me Welcome to Temptation

Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation, and The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie

Welcome to Temptation

Sophie Dempsey wants to help her sister film a video and then get out of Temptation, Ohio. Mayor Phin Tucker wants to play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. But when Sophie and Phin meet, they both get more than they want. Gossip, blackmail, adultery, murder, vehicular abuse of a corpse, and slightly perverse but excellent sex: all hell breaks loose in Temptation as Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble… and in love.

Bet Me

This is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Crusie’s novel about long shots, risk management, true love, and great shoes. . . .

Minerva Dobbs knows how to work the odds.

Calvin Morrisey always plays to win.

But when they face off, neither one is prepared.

Because when real life meets true love, all bets are off. . . .

The Cinderalla dealMinerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet, even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs, even if she does wear great shoes and keep him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon they’re dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

The Cinderella Deal

Daisy Flattery is a free spirit with a soft spot for strays and a weakness for a good story. Why else would she agree to the outrageous charade offered by her buttoned-down workaholic neighbor, Linc Blaise? The history professor needs a makeshift fiancée to secure his dream job, and Daisy needs a short-term gig to support her painting career. And so the Cinderella Deal is born: Daisy will transform herself into Linc’s prim-and-proper fiancée, and at the stroke of midnight they will part ways, no glass slippers attached. But something funny happens on their way to make-believe bliss, as a fake engagement unexpectedly spirals into an actual wedding. Now, with Linc and Daisy married and under one roof, what started as a game begins to feel real—and the people who seem so wrong for each other realize they may truly be just right.

I love Jennifer Crusie’s old romances. There’s no way I can pick just one, so I’ll narrow it down to my top three. The first two are pure fun—strong, independent heroines and smart, supportive men who appreciate their lovers’ quirks and flaws. The third is fun too, but it’s also sweet and sad and thoughtful, with some pretty important lessons about staying true to oneself.

The Bible

The NASB is a smooth reading literal English Bible translation, which provides increased clarity and readability for greater understanding while maintaining superior accuracy to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Trust, discover, and grow in your faith with the NASB today.

This high quality pew Bible is also a great handy size text Bible for daily reading. It’s printed on high quality white Bible paper with a bold 8 point font, making it an excellent value! This Bible is complete with a concordance and 10 full-page maps with incredible detail.

I read it because it’s an important part of my life and the foundation of my faith, but the Bible is also just an important book, both historically and to the literary world. It contains history, moral lessons, love stories, war and intrigue and violence (a chick in the book of Judges hammers a tent stake through a dude’s head!), and it’s just a pretty cool book to read even if you aren’t religious.

The Indian in the Cupboard
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

Full of magic and appealing characters, this classic novel takes readers on a remarkable adventure.

It’s Omri’s birthday, but all he gets from his best friend, Patrick, is a little plastic Indian brave. Trying to hide his disappointment, Omri puts the Indian in a metal cupboard and locks the door with a mysterious skeleton key that once belonged to his great-grandmother. Little does Omri know that by turning the key, he will transform his ordinary plastic Indian into a real live man from an altogether different time and place! Omri and the tiny warrior called Little Bear could hardly be more different, yet soon the two forge a very special friendship. Will Omri be able to keep Little Bear without anyone finding out and taking his precious Indian from him?

I have such fond memories of this series. My fourth-grade teacher read the first book aloud to us in class, and it held me in absolute thrall. What an incredibly vivid and fascinating world this author creates. I can’t recall ever reading another book that sparked my imagination quite like this one. The whole series is great, but the first book is the best. It’s a shame most kids nowadays have never heard of it. (I, Houdini is another of my favorites by this author.)

The Kissing Hand
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children’s classic that has touched the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, or going to camp. It is widely used by kindergarten teachers on the first day of school. Stickers at the back will help children and their parents keep their Kissing Hand alive.

When I was in junior high, my mom started the tradition of giving each child a book for Christmas. It was always something meaningful about parents and children, and she would write a sweet message in the front and sign and date it. So my brother and I each now have a shelf full of these beautiful picture books with special notes from our mom, who is still with us and is now continuing the tradition with her grandkids. The first of these was The Kissing Hand, the story of a young fearful raccoon whose mother kisses his hand and tells him to carry the kiss around with him and remember her and not be afraid. It’s so sweet, and it inspired me to start buying a book for each of my kids every Christmas. I still can’t read it without sobbing.

jenBAbout Jenfantastic

Jen B is a former romance blogger/reviewer turned copy editor extraordinare. She’s currently on hiatus from editing to keep up with two demanding kiddos, but she still reads every chance she gets, and tries to keep up with the crazy world of publishing via social media and the good ol’ Romance Gossip Network (which is made up but could totally be a thing).

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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Jessica Tripler

Posted March 15, 2015 by Holly in Features | 3 Comments


Five Books Everyone Should Read is a new feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.

5 Books Project

Five Books Everyone Should Read

When I agreed to write this post I had no idea it was actually a torture device in disguise.  I mean, what avid reader can list just five books? Most can’t even list the best five books they read last week. And “everyone” just makes it even harder. Trying to think of a book I’d want my mother, husband, teenage sons, close friends, students, rabbi, and mayor to read scrambles my brain. To have any hope of getting this post finished this year, I’m focusing on romance and romance readers. And I’m going to cheat even more by listing types of books (with examples of course).


lord of scoundrels1. A romance classic. You can define “classic” however you want. I think of Georgette Heyer as a historical classic, Betty Neels and Charlotte Lamb as category classics, and Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan as PNR classics. I have only barely scratched the surface of classics in romance myself, but whenever I manage to resist the allure of the shiny and new and make time for an oldie-but-goodie, I’m glad I did. (H: I chose Lord of Soundrels to represent this category, since I consider it the best historical romance of all time.)

2. A romance featuring a sexuality and gender other than heterosexual with cisgender* characters (*cisgender just meaning a person whose identity fits with the gender that matches their That Certain Somethingbiological sex). M/m is the most popular, probably thanks to romance readers’ love of heroes, but lately I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of f/f and a transgender m/m romance. I could have combined this with #3 and just said, “read more diversely” but I wanted to separate out this particular category because romance is all about gender and sexuality. I think of all the literary genres, romance can have the most to say, and say well, about these issues. (H: That Certain Something by Clare Ashton was Jessica’s pick. It’s a Lesbian Romance.)



3. A romance featuring a main character who is a person of color (PoC). What counts as a PoC may vary depending the reader and the genre context. For example, as a Jewish reader of romance, I know it’s rare find a bollywood affairJewish main characters, so, in the context of genre romance, I do count Jewish MCs in the large “PoC” umbrella, but I probably wouldn’t in literary fiction. I have to look hard to find PoC protagonists (unless I want to read a category, in which case I just go to Kimani). It’s just so easy to keep reading historical and contemporaries (my favorite subgenres) with white characters. But there are great love stories I’d miss if I didn’t make the (not exactly Herculean) effort. In my reading life, I’ve been lucky to have a choice of protagonists that look just like me. I figure the more I buy and read diversely, the better the chance that some other young reader will get to read romance protagonists that reflect her background. (H: A Bollywood Affair is Jessica’s pick. Or The Nurse’s Not So Secret Scandal by Wendy S. Marcus.)

4. A romance in a subgenre you are sure you hate. That is how I felt about New Adult when it first became a big thing. I was like a toddler shaking her head in front of a plate of broccoli. I don’t like first person narration, I don’t want to read pushing the limitsabout college students, I don’t want to be the victim of some stupid marketing fad. And on and on with the reasons. But then I read Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series, and I loved it. As much as I dislike it when people dismiss the entire romance genre without trying it, I was just like those people when I dismissed NA.




match me if you can5. A romance you’ve already read. Until I started reading romance in my thirties, I did not have a comfort read. I did not even know what a “comfort read” was. I had books I loved and cherished, but none that I felt I could slip back into and get that wonderful feeling again. It took me a few years in the romance community before I felt re-reads weren’t  “cheating” (seriously, is there a Book God keeping score?). But now, the comfort read — Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You, or Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Match Me If You Can are my faves — is a regular (and guilt free) part of my reading routine. With the added bonus that I almost always find something new in a book I thought had no more gifts to give me.

Jessica Tripler
Bio: Jessica Tripler has been blogging at Read React Review since 2008 and at Book Riot since 2014. Romance is her go-to genre, but anything with compelling characters and a good plot will do.

Follow Jessica on Twitter: @RRRJessica

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