Hi y’all! Long time, no blog. I know it’s been a while because I was in the deadline cave, but I’m happy to report that I FINALLY turned in my book! This will be book one in a new contemporary romance series that I’m very excited about. I’ll share more details when I can. Also, I have a new online romance writing class open! (See the bottom of this post for the details or click the link.)
Now on to the real reason why we’re here—books. Since it’s the first day of fall (not that it feels like it in Dallas with our 96 degree high today—UGH), I thought it’d be a good time to share some of what I’ve been reading the second half of the summer. (If you want to see my first half of summer list, go here.) Because even though I was in the deadline cave, I was still reading. If I stop reading, I stop writing. I’m also happy to report that I’ve already completed my Goodreads annual challenge of reading 60 books! I get a thrill every year when I hit that number. I blame Pizza Hut’s Book It program when I was a kid. I love counting up how many books I’ve read and hitting some goal. #nerd
So, what have I been reading? Let’s dive in.
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg (Btw, the hardback is currently on sale for $7.99, which is 3 bucks cheaper than the Kindle version.)
I thought this was a perfect summer read. A funny and sweet romance set in the world of food trucks. The characters were great and felt real. I also liked the fact that it was set in Arizona. I realized I haven’t read a lot of books set in that part of the west. My only complaint was that romance-loving me wanted an epilogue at the end to see a little more of these characters and their romance.
About the book:
Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn't want to think about, ever.
Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His "wives" and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won't like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he's the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.
Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what's considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.
Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they're willing to risk -- to get the thing they want the most.
Misadventures with a Professor by Sierra Simone
Everyone had been telling me to try Sierra Simone, and I just hadn’t gotten to one of her books yet. I’m so glad I finally did! This one was well-written and hawt. Plus, some of her metaphors made me envious (nerdy writer moments brought to you by Roni.) I promptly went out and bought more of her books.
About the book:
Zandy Lynch never planned on going to grad school a virgin. So when her professor father finds her a job abroad as a research assistant the summer before she starts her master’s program, she sees her chance. She’s got one night in London to lose her V-card to a Mr. Darcy lookalike before she has to join some ancient professor in the country.
Oliver Graeme is not looking forward to having some American co-ed hovering around while he’s trying to work, but he owes her father the favor, and besides, his office is an untidy mess of uncatalogued research. He needs the help. Still, he decides to take the edge off his frustration while visiting a colleague in London, and winds up having the sexiest, sweetest night of his life with a stranger, who vanishes in the morning without a trace…
To Zandy’s shock when she arrives at Professor Graeme’s house a day later, the door isn’t opened by a fussy old scholar, but by the wild, passionate man she met in London. Cold and reserved by day, Oliver is ferociously greedy with her at night, and it’s not long before Zandy finds herself falling for both versions of him―the aloof professor and the generous, rough lover. The trouble is that summer only lasts so long, and Zandy already has a plane ticket waiting to take her home…
Verity by Colleen Hoover
This one was super dark and quite the mindf**k, so of course I loved it, lol. It had a gothic feel (big house, invalid wife, spooky kid) and was legitimately creepy. It also kept me guessing. I was rooting for it not to be a certain type of trope that I really dislike and it wasn’t. Hurrah! It kept me guessing until the end. I have a feeling this is the kind of book someone will either love or hate. I fell on the love side.
About the book:
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night their family was forever altered.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
Best for a Mental Reboot
Who is not in need of a mental reboot? I have two picks in this category. The first is a short little read but backed with great nuggets.
In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman
About the book:
In this timely and essential book that offers a fresh take on the qualms of modern day life, Professor Alan Lightman investigates the creativity born from allowing our minds to freely roam, without attempting to accomplish anything and without any assigned tasks.
We are all worried about wasting time. Especially in the West, we have created a frenzied lifestyle in which the twenty-four hours of each day are carved up, dissected, and reduced down to ten minute units of efficiency. We take our iPhones and laptops with us on vacation. We check email at restaurants or our brokerage accounts while walking in the park. When the school day ends, our children are overloaded with “extras.” Our university curricula are so crammed our young people don’t have time to reflect on the material they are supposed to be learning. Yet in the face of our time-driven existence, a great deal of evidence suggests there is great value in “wasting time,” of letting the mind lie fallow for some periods, of letting minutes and even hours go by without scheduled activities or intended tasks.
Gustav Mahler routinely took three or four-hour walks after lunch, stopping to jot down ideas in his notebook. Carl Jung did his most creative thinking and writing when he visited his country house. In his 1949 autobiography, Albert Einstein described how his thinking involved letting his mind roam over many possibilities and making connections between concepts that were previously unconnected. With In Praise of Wasting Time, Professor Alan Lightman documents the rush and heave of the modern world, suggests the technological and cultural origins of our time-driven lives, and examines the many values of “wasting time”—for replenishing the mind, for creative thought, and for finding and solidifying the inner self. Break free from the idea that we must not waste a single second, and discover how sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.
Slow by Brooke McAlary
The second pick is a more comprehensive look at how to slow down, declutter, and it leans toward the minimalism philosophy. Some minimalist books can be extreme, but I found this one to be a practical and doable approach.
About the book:
What is slow living? It's a way to find happiness by stepping away from the never-ending demands to constantly succeed and acquire more and more. It's easy to get stuck in the carousel of frantically wanting, buying, and upgrading the things in your life. The philosophy of simple living is about finding the freedom to be less perfect and taking time to enjoy the pure joys of life: a walk in the forest, sharing laughter with family, a personal moment of gratitude. Reconnecting with the living world can help you integrate moments of peace, joy, and mindfulness into an otherwise rapid life.
Simple living: After being diagnosed with post-natal depression, Brooke McAlary learned about the power of minimalism and found that the key to happiness was a simpler, more fulfilling existence. She put the brakes on her stressful path and reorganized her life to live outside the status-quo, emphasizing depth, connection, and meaningful experiences. Brooke shares the story of her journey alongside practical advice for simplifying in ways that work for your life.
Most Compelling on Audio
Evil Has a Name by Paul Holes & Jim Clemente
This was a 6-hour audiobook that I listened to in one day (things you can do when you finally turn in your overdue manuscript.) I found this super compelling and well-told. Now, a caveat: I read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara already, so this paired well with that. I don’t know if it would have had the same resonance had I not read the other book first. Because in McNamara’s book, you get to meet Paul Holes (the cop/investigator and narrator of this book) through her eyes. Then, in this audiobook, he talks about meeting her. So if you haven’t read, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and you can handle reading true crime, I highly recommend it. Here’s my original review of that one. Both together paint a really full picture. Also, note the trigger warnings at the bottom of the description.
About the book:
The Golden State Killer. The East Area Rapist. The Original Night Stalker. The Visalia Ransacker.
The monster who preyed on Californians from 1976 to 1986 was known by many aliases. And while numerous police sketches tried to capture his often-masked visage, the Golden State Killer spent more than 40 years not only faceless, but nameless.
For his victims, for their families and for the investigators tasked with finding him, the senselessness and brutality of the Golden State Killer's acts were matched only by the powerlessness they felt at failing to uncover his identity. To be sure, the chances of obtaining closure - or any form of justice - after so many years were slim to none, at best.
Then, on April 24, 2018, authorities arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo at his home in Citrus Heights, Calif., based on DNA evidence linked to the crimes. Amazingly, it seemed, evil finally had a name.
Delivering all-new details about the investigation and a stunning final act to the events of Michelle McNamara's haunting best seller, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, this is the true story of how the suspected Golden State Killer was captured, as told, first-hand, by those closest to the case:
Paul Holes - the forensic criminologist and retired Costa County detective who spent 20 years trying to crack the Golden State Killer case, and finally did.
Jim Clemente (Host) - a retired FBI profiler and former New York City prosecutor who has investigated some of the highest profile criminal cases in U.S. history, including The Unabomber.
Please note: This work contains descriptions of violent crime and sexual assault and may not be suitable for all listeners.
So, as you can see, it’s been a great summer of reading! I can’t wait to see what the fall brings.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve read this summer?
NEW ROMANCE WRITING CLASS OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT + A COUPON CODE!
Fellow writers or aspiring writers, my 8-week Rock That Romance Novel Online Beginner class is officially open for enrollment! Class size is limited so sign up soon. Classes start mid-October but can be self-paced if you need them to be. Get all the info here. Use code: FALL25 for $25 off!