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.
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.
My 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!)
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 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 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 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?