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  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/10/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , family sagas, , , from screen to page, , , , , , queens of innis lear, rich people problems, ross poldark, , the dinner, the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood, , , , the next, , the stationary shop   

    21 Books to Read for Fans of HBO’s Succession 

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    The second season of HBO’s Succession is in full swing, and I’m absolutely obsessed. The Roy family saga is one of constant undermining, financial deceit, cozying up to power, and lots and lots of secrets. But who would expect anything less from a story about a media mogul’s duplicitous attempts to secure his family dynasty and the ill-advised actions of his three children? If you love the show, here are twenty-one books full of family drama across all genres you might want to check out.

    Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
    Which moment was it, that defined the Gleeson and Stanhope families? Was it when they moved to the same neighborhood? When their children, Kate and Peter, became friends? Was it when Anne, Peter’s mother, started to suffer from mental illness, or when his father struggled with alcoholism? Or was it what came after, when a devastating incident of violence forces the two families apart and only the next generation can start to heal the wounds that came before? A triumphant novel about how individual people often are lost in the claustrophobia of family, and how the mistakes of the past can either condemn or liberate the next generation.

    The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
    When they were children, the Golds visited a psychic who claimed she could pinpoint the day they would die. It is the end of the 60’s and their entire lives are in front of them. After hearing the prophecies of their eventual demises, each of the children responds in differing extremes: Simon comes out as gay and finds love in San Francisco; Klara finds solace in magic and a family; Daniel joins the military; and Varya becomes a scientist determined to outsmart time itself. The novel follows each child on their journey, wrestling with whether the fate they were given is one they deserve, one that was destined, or one they should have attempted to escape.

    Flowers in the Attic, by VC Andrews
    After a terrible tragedy, four children are locked in an attic, presumably for their own protection—and that of their inheritance. Alone in their grandmother’s house with infrequent visits from their mother, the children must turn to one another in order to survive—even if the consequences are a forbidden love. Money, secrets, scandal and romance combine in this classic start to the Dollanganger series. If you didn’t read this family drama as a teenager when your parents thought you were asleep, then you should definitely try to emulate that experience when the 40th anniversary edition publishes this fall!

    Ross Poldark, by Winston Graham
    Ok, fans of another TV show should be familiar with this one, but there are so many similar elements to Succession in Poldark that I had to include it! Sure, it takes place after the Revolutionary War in Cornwall, Britain and not modern-day America, but— there’s a family feud that ends in bloodshed, new money vs. old money, forbidden love, and one man holding onto hope that he can make a better life for his family in an era that seems poised to make him falter. Money is largely the enemy, because it is what enables the Warleggans, the primary villains, to enact their spite and hatred on the Poldark family.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    A multi-generational epic about the Buendía family, beginning with their founder, José Arcadio Buendía, who founded the fictional town of Macondo in Colombia. Lush descriptions infused with magical realism makes this one an intimidating selection for high schoolers (which is when I read it the first time), but it deserves returning to again and again. The story begins, and is punctuated throughout, with violence: a man and his wife flee their home after a murder, and everything that happens after seems rooted in the haunting lack of justice for that original sin. History repeats itself over and over throughout seven generations, and the ghosts of Buendías past watch as their descendants perpetuate their own mistakes.

    Fleishman is In Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
    Toby Fleishman is getting a divorce. He thinks. It’s not super clear right now, because his wife may have gone completely off the grid, leaving him to raise their two kids alone. This sharp examination of marriage, masculinity, and motherhood written from the perspective of one of Toby’s friends from high school as she watches him try to juggle single parenthood and her own marriage teeters on the edge of imploding. It is less of a sweeping an epic and more of an intimate drama, where every single line of dialogue and observation serves a purpose, leading to a fitting ending.

    Commonwealth, by Anne Patchett
    When Bert shows up at Franny Keating’s christening and unexpectedly kisses her mother, the ramifications spiral throughout two marriages and the generation that follows. The story eventually jumps forward in time to Franny’s twenties, when she makes a decision that, like that kiss, will also have unforeseen consequences: she tells a famous writer the story of her blended family, and he decides to profit from it. I love how this story directly confronts not only how a single action can reverberate through the ages, but how a story itself can do the same.

    The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
    Another inter-generational story where a single action has a lifetime of consequences, this time about a Chinese American boy and his mother, Polly, who suddenly vanishes without a trace. Deming is only eleven when this happens, and he spends the rest of his childhood and early adulthood in a state of looming and receding turmoil. Even though he is adopted by two white middle-class academics and has what most would describe as a “good life”, the scars of his mother’s abandonment never fade. As the novel traces his journey, it follows Polly’s as well, crossing the ocean to China, where her story began.

    The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
    Succession is about the legacy of a domineering, abusive father on his two sons and daughter—but mothers leave an indelible imprint on their children as well, a dynamic explored in this by-now classic story of friendship, family, and how the fractures in those relationships can alter the future. When Siddalee and her mother, Vivi, get into a fight over the differences in their perception of events from when Sidda was young, Vivi’s friends (aka, the Ya-Yas) intervene to reunite them.

    The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    Perhaps the most similar to the show that inspired this list (they even share a scandal in common), this novel features a wealthy family fighting over an inheritance. Leo Plumb was just released from rehab after a devastating tragedy when, under the influence, he caused an accident with an innocent passenger. His actions means that he, and his siblings Melody, Beatrice, and Jack might not receive their  trust fund after years of waiting for it. It’s money that everyone needs with varying levels of desperation, believing that it can rewrite the past and protect the future. Sweeney’s characters are inherently flawed and entirely relatable, with prose that is both effervescent with humor and laden with dread.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    Four women—four sisters—struggle to come into their own in the looming shadow of their parents’ seemingly epic romance. Set in Chicago and its suburbs, this uniquely American saga spans almost fifty years and culminates when a long-buried secret shows up to unsettle their already trembling definition of family.

    A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    How could I not include the ultimate family succession drama on this list? Even if you take away the dragons and the blood magic (though why would you want to?) Game of Thrones is about feuding families, plain and simple. Combine torrid love affairs, secret alliances, hidden heirs and surprise deaths, and the saga of Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens could look like something ripped from the headlines. (Also, since the last season wasn’t everyone’s favorite, now is the perfect time to re-read the books in case Martin finishes the next one!)

    Queens of Innis Lear, by Tessa Gratton
    A fantasy inspired by King Lear puts his daughters center stage: the ruthless and strong Gaela, seductress and political manipulator Regan, and the sweet priestess Elia. Each of them believes they have a part to play in the future of their father’s kingdom, even if it means rebelling against one another and turning towards dangerous magic in order to achieve their aims. Lear’s daughters were always the most fascinating part of Shakespeare’s play to me, and this inventive, impeccably-written novel explores each of them with depth, making even their most horrific choices relatable.

    Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan
    [Spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books!]
    In the third book in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series, an elderly relative on her deathbed inspires family to descend upon her in the hopes of claiming some of her riches for their own. Nick and Rachel are happily married in New York City when their lives are uprooted with the news of his grandmother, Su Yi’s illness. When he married Rachel, he forfeited his inheritance but now his mother believes that if he returns home to make amends, he might be able to get it back. But Nick isn’t the only one with a financial scheme against Su Yi. Different in tone to many of the other books on this list, this romcom features flawed characters with hearts of gold, and is as gilded in humor as it is in fun.

    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    The trailer for the new movie has me in a mood to re-read this classic about four sisters and their mother living in Concord during the Civil War. With Mr. March away, Marmee must make do with what little they have to support the girls—unless, of course, they can be married off into better circumstances and gain some financial footing. It always comes down to money and marriage in the end—but each girl has their own beliefs about what kind of life that would mean for them. Most opinionated on the matter is Jo, who wants to pursue a career as a writer (unheard of at the time), and while she falls for two men over the course of the novel (and does marry one of them), she does it on her own terms. Alcott’s novel remains so loved today because the themes and characters ring true no matter the century or decade, as all young people (and women) wrestle with coming of age, family obligation, and love.

    The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali
    Roya lives in Tehran, Iran in 1953, where she falls in love with Bahman, a budding revolutionary. They are engaged to be married when disaster strikes and instead of the life she had planned, Roya and her sister emigrate to America. She marries someone else, and has a family. But sixty years later, Bahman shows up with a stunning story to share about why they couldn’t be together, and the family secret that kept them apart. Told in alternating chapters between past and present, this beautiful novel about lost love is about the sacrifices we make for the people we love, that often wind up hurting them just the same.

    Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
    This coming-of-age novel infused with magical realism follows “Milkman” Dead III, the first African-American child to be born in his Michigan town. As he learns about his origins and grows into his destiny, he learns the jagged edges of family and the dark underbelly of love. How can a boy become a man and learn to love who he is, when he is born into a legacy of violence and anger?

    Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
    A teenage girl falling in love is a simple story. A girl in 1900’s Japan falling for a married man, and then getting pregnant…isn’t simple at all. The saga in Pachinko is tragic and hopeful; Sunja decides to marry a traveling minister, turning away from what her family believes is honorable and the powerful influence of her son’s father. Her choice has an impact on generations to come, turning a not-so-simple story into a beloved, award-winning epic.

    The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
    Two sisters engage with the trauma of World War II in different ways: Vianne works to save Jewish children in occupied France, even adopting a little boy she isn’t sure she will be able to save, and suffering severe consequences for her bravery; while her younger sister Isabelle joins the French Resistance and becomes a soldier for the cause. While war tears them apart, a secret unites them both that can only be revealed by the narrator, whose identity remains unknown until the end. If you’re tired of stories about sibling rivalry and betrayal, this is the antidote to Succession: a story of war where people fight for one another, in addition to against their enemies.

    King Lear, by William Shakespeare
    How could I not include this classic play about a larger-than-life King who destroys his family by using his kingdom as a bargaining chip? Lear is a play about family, greed, and what love looks like without any ornaments or jewels to make it shine. It’s also about how power can pollute the mind, and as his daughters watch Lear’s sanity unravel, they each have differing reactions including rejecting him, manipulating him, and trying at any cost to save him.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In this suspenseful thriller, two families meet for dinner to discuss the terrible thing that involved both of their fifteen-year-old sons, and the police. The catch? The two fathers are also brothers. Double catch? One of the brothers is running for prime minister, and has a lot to lose politically if the wrong decision is made over dinner. I love this story for doing what Succession does so well: examining how the actions of parents impact children, which then cause them to act in ways that impact parents—and on and on the cycle of family goes, until someone is brave enough (or angry enough) to stop it.

    What books would you recommend to fans of Succession?

    The post 21 Books to Read for Fans of HBO’s <i>Succession</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/10/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , his bright light, , , the dark side   

    An Interview with Danielle Steel On Motherhood, Writing Every Day, and the Novels That Have Meant the Most to Her 

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    Danielle Steel is a venerable novelist who has written over 180 books and is a staple of the New York Times bestseller list. In the interview below, she discusses everything from her experience as a mother, to how she develops her ideas, and why her decision to include an intimate LGBTQ scene in her latest novel, Child’s Play, was an important one.

    I’d like to ask some follow up questions to the recent (and incredible) piece in Glamour about your success and work. You mentioned that some ideas begin as more “mundane” but then become “magical.” From where do you draw inspiration? Does it start with a character or a conflict?

    My ideas start with a character or an event, either a theme that intrigues me, or sometimes a news event that captures me. In Child’s Play, it’s about a mother who thinks she has ‘perfect’ adult children who are doing everything she hopes for them and thinks they should—-and suddenly they all have their own life plans, entirely different from hers or what she wished. It’s something most parents of young adults go through, and should resonate both with parents, and adult children. Mother does not always know best!!! A big adjustment for all!!

    I was fascinated by your rigorous writing schedule that you detailed in that article, which has obviously paid off in spades. If you could give any advice to young writers about starting and maintaining a consistent writing practice, what would it be?

    Write Every Day!! (I didn’t take a day off from writing for the first eleven years). And work as hard as you can—and even harder. Discipline is essential, and perseverance. Don’t just wait for inspiration to strike you, sit there and work no matter what, even if it comes slowly. There is NO substitute for hard work (in anything, not just writing).

    You have written 180 titles at the time of this printing. As a thought experiment: other than Child’s Play, your most recent title (which I’ll get to in a moment), if you were a bookseller recommending your own work to a prospective reader (or a professor teaching a Danielle Steel 101 course) which ones would you recommend they start with? Of all your books, which stand out as particularly special throughout your career?

    183 titles. My work is intentionally very varied, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, books about corporate life and industries, some thrillers (like my recent book The Dark Side), some books slanted toward women, some of strong interest for men, family sagas, some lighter themes, and some very serious ones. There should be something for everyone in my body of work—-even children’s books, and a few non-fiction. The book that was the most special to me of course was the one about my late son Nick, “His Bright Light.”

    Child’s Play, your newest novel, introduces the reader to Kate, a successful woman who has lots of ideas about how her life and the lives of her three adult children should be. Her steadfast devotion to certain ideals—high quality education, marrying well, etc. reminded me about a section in the Glamour piece where you discussed the differences in how you experienced your early working life and how your children have experienced theirs. Was the inspiration for this book drawn from your own observations as a mother?

    My observations in Child’s Play come from my experience as a mother (of many children. I have 9), and from what I’ve seen around me among young people and parents. We want the best for our kids, but our plans for them aren’t always what they want or what is suited to their life. It takes strength and courage to find the right path in life, and it takes patience, understanding and great love to let your children follow the path that seems right to them. And sometimes the two are very different!!

    I loved how Kate really thinks she knows her children but they are all keeping things from her, to varying degrees. As she described her relationships with them, I felt only encroaching dread because I knew that the more clearly she defined them, the more wrong she would wind up being. Without betraying their privacy of course, what are some of the things about your own children that have surprised you as they’ve grown up?

    Motherhood and mothering is always surprising!! Life is surprising!! My children have followed paths I expected for the most part, but with their own special spin on it, which suits their individual needs and personalities.  I’m very proud of them!!

    The three “children” in Child’s Play are of course adults in their own right with fascinating storylines: the son Kate describes as a nerdy video-game designer who would have no social life without his squeaky-clean fiancé is actually quite a Romeo who has an affair; Claire, whom she views as naive in relationships decides to pursue the most permanent of them all, motherhood; and Tammy, her workaholic daughter with no time for a relationship is actually in a committed partnership with a woman. How did you develop each of their characters, and did you plot each of their endings before the story began?

    I tried to think of the things that would surprise me the most and might be the biggest adjustment for most parents, to make the book varied and resonate with my readers going through challenges with their kids.

    The reader quickly learns that Kate has been keeping secrets of her own, and that realization is what sparks the children to be more open about their own paths in life. Your novels often overlap genres, between mystery, thriller, and even coming-of-age journeys. What do you love most about writing in each genre?

    I write about the human condition, which is what fascinates me most, the things that make us all suffer and bring us joy, the challenges we face that we have no control over (like the loss of a loved one). I love what difficult situations bring out in people, how we grow from them, however painful. I love writing about people and relationships that bind us, what brings us closer to each other and tears us apart. The rest is all a backdrop for those relationships, a stage on which life plays out.

    Tammy’s storyline in particular was quite moving and very modern—there’s a beautiful intimate scene between her and her partner involving artificial insemination as they pursue building a family. I can’t recall another book with a scene like that in it, and I think it’s so important for the LTBQIAP+ community to see themselves represented, as well as for your straight, cisgender readership to be exposed to scenes like that. Can you discuss the process of writing that scene, and why it was included?

    Tammy’s storyline and the scenes around it are important because it is part of our modern life. It’s as real as all relationships, and important to include in a book about relationships, couples, and families.

    I know you don’t read while you write, but are you reading anything right now? If not, what are some of your favorite books by other authors that you would recommend?

    I’m not reading anything right now, and I wish I were. I have a lot of work on my desk at the moment, and two books in outline that I’m going to start soon, so I’m not reading right now.

    Last question: please describe Child’s Play in three words.

    Describe Child’s Play in 3 words: A Great Read.  And 3 more words:  Please read it!!

    Child’s Play is on B&N bookshelves on October 8.

    The post An Interview with Danielle Steel On Motherhood, Writing Every Day, and the Novels That Have Meant the Most to Her appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , fake like me, , , , , necessary people, , , straight man, temper, , very nice, white tears,   

    12 Books to Read Before Binge-Watching Netflix’s The Politician 

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    Picture this: a high-stakes election, a pathologically-ambitious politician, sex, scandal, violence, and social media…and no, I’m not talking about our IRL political climate. I’m talking about Ryan Murphy’s Netflix show, The Politician, airing September 27th and starring Ben Platt (of Dear Evan Hansen fame) with a star-studded cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, Zoey Deutsch, and many more. If the trailer is any indication, it promises to be high-stakes, horrific, and even a bit hilarious. Until all the episodes drop, here’s a list of thrilling reads—political, psychological, domestic, and criminal— to keep your darker impulses at bay.

    Election, by Tom Perrotta
    It may be the most linear comparison to the upcoming Netflix show, but this novel about a (female) pathologically ambitious high-school politician willing to do whatever it takes to win inspired the movie of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon. Tracy Flick is unlikeable but seemingly unstoppable in her pursuit of power over the student body until a teacher intervenes and convinces a student to run against her. The book may be over twenty years old now, but it may ring more true today than ever before in this age of competition, social media comparison, and the cut-throat college application process.

    Fake Like Me, by Barbara Bourland
    Fraud. Sounds fun, right? Not to the protagonist of this art-themed thriller in which an up-and-coming artist has a terrible decision to make when her studio burns down with the majority of her next gallery collection within it. With only three months until the opening and her entire career (not to mention a lot of money) on the line, she decides to conceal the truth of what was damaged in the fire and re-create the ruined pieces without anyone finding out. That involves a trip to an exclusive and secretive artist’s commune where one of her artistic idols—who died of suicide—created her work. That’s as much as I can say about the plot without spoiling the twists I never saw coming. It is a fascinating commentary on the value of art, and the dangers of it.

    Necessary People, by Anna Pitoniak
    The line between best friends and enemies is a just-sharpened blade, and this novel cuts deep. When two girls from different backgrounds collide, their friendship is so propulsive that even Stephen King blurbed this book, saying he “couldn’t stop reading.” Stella is the heiress who has everything she wants; Violet is used to cleaning up everyone’s messes, especially Stella’s. Until now, when Stella starts to infringe on the purposefully separate career Violet has cultivated for herself. Now, Violet wants her “friend” to stop taking credit for the work she’s done behind the scenes, and realizes it might be necessary to bring the privileged down a peg in order to truly shine on her own.

    Very Nice, by Marcy Dermansky
    The scenario of this novel is my personal nightmare in book form: a creative writing student, her professor, and her mother engage in a twisted love triangle. Here is how it happens: Rachel seduces her creative writing professor, who also happens to be a well-known author. When he goes home to visit a relative, she takes care of his dog at her own childhood home…where her mother, a beautiful woman mourning her marriage, takes to it. So when Zahid, the professor, shows up and finds himself falling for Rachel’s mother instead…chaos ensues. A book that examines wealth, privilege, and creativity, Very Nice seems to be about what happens when “nice” people take off their veneer and reveal their true selves.

    Macbeth, by Jo Nesbo
    Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the original political thrillers, about a man who kills his king in order to ascend to power. In this retelling by one of the preeminent Scandinavian crime noir writers, the 1970’s get the Shakespearean treatment when Duncan, the chief of police, believes he can rid a small town of its unshakeable drug problem. Macbeth leads SWAT, and through a manipulation by one of the town’s own drug lords, finds himself sinking to the lowest of possible lows in order to establish himself. If the Bard himself has always felt intimidating but you want to give Macbeth a try, this is the retelling to start with.

    Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
    My one nonfiction pick for this list, Furious Hours tells the story of a vigilante murderer who was acquitted for killing a preacher accused of killing his own family. If that weren’t fascinating enough, add this to the mix: Harper Lee, the celebrated author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was researching the murders. The intersections of fiction, revenge, drama, celebrity, and truth all make for a deeply-researched and narratively compelling tale that asks as many questions about humanity as it answers.

    White Tears, by Hari Kunzru
    When Seth records a musician in the park, and Carter puts it online, they never expect a response. After all, they claim the recording is ancient, and sung by a musician who doesn’t exist, whose name they just made up. Except, according to a music collector, he does exist. The two white boys are plunged headfirst into what is either a ghost story, a crime, or both—and raises questions about race, identity, and who music actually belongs to; those who make it, or those who consume it?

    The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
    What are the consequences of excellence? That’s one of the main questions in this part murder-mystery, part coming-of-age novel in which a group of college students are influenced by a Classics professor. From the very beginning, you know one of them ends up dead, but the who, how, and why of it all is told through the eyes of Richard, a blue-collar West Coast transplant to the college who wants to fit in. As part of their curriculum, they enmesh themselves in the rituals of the ancient Greeks, which is all well and good in theory, until an accidental death becomes an actual murder. How they process what they’ve done and why leads for a shivering tale of friendship.

    Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
    Ani has rid herself of the past: her reputation, her insecurities, and even her old name, TifAni. Now a successful writer at a magazine with a powerful, rich fiancé, she believes she’s armored herself with everything she needs to get through her upcoming wedding—and a documentary around her scandalous past—unscathed. But Ani, while ambitious, cut-throat, and determined, has forgotten one thing: that while she can coat the past in candy, biting into it will break her teeth. The truth will out in this non-linear New York Times bestselling psychological suspense in which the reader races towards the truth Tif/Ani has tried so hard to bury, especially as her need to control the narrative (like, some might say, a politician) threatens to destroy her present. My favorite thing about this thriller? That by the end, we completely understand why Ani did what she did—and maybe, in fact, wish she’d gone even further in her cold-blooded pursuit of power.

    Temper, by Layne Fargo
    What is politics if not theater on a grander scale? That’s why I’m recommending this thriller that takes place in the Chicago theater scene. An ambitious actress meets her match in a controlling theater executive director as they both vie for the affection and approval of the mercurial lead actor. Tension lingers on every page as the characters propel themselves into passionate, and sometimes violent, circumstances, all the while justifying their falls from grace as being necessary for the success of their upcoming performance.

    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
    They were once the “wonder boys”; full of potential and certain to live up to it. Now, Grady is a professor who can’t seem to finish his novel the way he’s finished three of his marriages, and Terry is an editor with a bit of a #MeToo problem. The possibility and promise that was once theirs has descended to a new generation. What is there to do with all that wasted time but find yourself implicated in a crime? A celebrated writer explores what happens when your youth was spent being celebrated, and your adulthood is spent making more mistakes than you ever thought you’d be capable of.

    Straight Man, by Richard Russo
    Witness the unraveling of a man in this impossible to put down novel about an English Department chair who loses everything—including it—in the span of a single week. Like The Politician’s trailer, with its dark humor interspersed with moments of character catastrophe, this novel tackles one man’s undoing with equal amounts slapstick and suspense.

    Are you excited for The Politician?

    The post 12 Books to Read Before Binge-Watching Netflix’s <i>The Politician</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2019/09/10 Permalink
    Tags: already gone, angel in a devil's arms, , butterfly in frost, captivating in love, , not the girl you marry, , , , the bromance book club, , the wonder of now, twice in a blue moon   

    12 New and Upcoming Romances to Bring You From Late Summer Through Fall 

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    Summer is in the rearview, and we’re looking at longer days, darker nights, and less time outside. What better excuse to make a list of 12 romances for the next 12 weeks? Read on for bodice ripper recs, quirky rom-coms, and paranormal fantasies galore from end of August through early November.

    The Duchess in His Bed, by Lorraine Heath
    A passionless widow meets a man whose business is his passion in the next “Sins for All Seasons” novel by Lorraine Heath. When Aiden, the owner of an illicit club designed to arouse women meets Selena Sheffield, the Duchess of Lushing, he has no choice but to consider breaking one of his most steadfast values: never getting involved with a client. But Selena has her own motives for venturing into the dangerous world of the Elysium Club, and they may not be as innocent as Aiden thinks they are.

     Already Gone, by Kristen Proby and K.L. Grayson
    Scarlett came home for one reason: to take care of her Dad. She doesn’t need any distractions, or reminders that she left New Hope behind for a successful life in country music. Who shows up with both? Tucker Andrews, one of the people she thought she’d left in New Hope, for good. Well, he’s still here, hotter than ever, and once they reconnect, he’ll be harder to leave behind.

    Butterfly in Frost, by Sylvia Day
    A new Sylvia Day romance to keep your bookshelf sizzling! Teagan is a survivor, but she’s definitely a bit more fragile— who wouldn’t be after seeing what she’s seen? Which is why when Garrett Frost bullies—and buys—his way into being her next door neighbor, she is ruffled and on guard. Garrett is not the kind of man she should be with, but there’s something appealing about his strength when she herself feels so weak. But why is Garrett the way he is? Well, fans of the Crossfire series will know that Day loves a good third act twist, so they’ll hae to wait with bated breath until she chooses to reveal his reasons.

    Bringing Down the Duke, by Evie Dunmore
    This cover totally stole my heart. I can’t WAIT to have it on my TBR! The first in a series stamped “extraordinary women”, this romance is set in 1879 when Annabelle Archer, the daughter of a vicar without a penny to her name, is given a challenge she cannot refuse. In exchange for a much-needed scholarship to Oxford, she must gather influential men to the side of the suffrage movement. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object: Sebastian, a man who is looking for a woman that can live up to the title she would be bequeathed, not a penniless girl fighting for the vote, no matter how much his heart burns to have her. She wants a voice, and he wants her—together, they may very well topple the Magna Carta.

    The Wonder of Now, by Jamie Beck (On Sale 9.10.19)
    Peyton didn’t want to write a memoir about her battle with breast cancer, but here she is promoting it. At least she has a European leg to the tour coming up, if only her workaholic publicist would let her enjoy some of the scenery. But Mitch has a history with giving in, where beautiful women are concerned, and with his career on the line, he can’t budge an inch. On a trip where business and pleasure collide, will Peyton and Mitch find a way to get along—and maybe fall in love?

    Captivating in Love, by Bella Andre and Jennifer Skully (On Sale 9.12.19)
    The premise of this series is a group of men who struggled when they were young have now come out on top, calling themselves the Maverick Billionaires. But of course, each maverick is destined to meet his match in each of these books, and in this one, a war veteran and former foster kid fall in love despite their differences. Gideon feels unworthy after the war—of his wealth, his friendships, and of course, of Rosie Diaz, the woman he’s head over heels for. Rosie, a single mother and former foster kid, will do anything to have a stable life. Which is why when an innocent babysitting arrangement turns dangerous, she must find the strength to rely on Gideon to save the day. Alpha dudes, money, and quick-witted banter make this standalone a fun summer fling.

    Royal Holiday, by Jasmine Guillory (On Sale 10.1.19)
    All I want in the world are for Jasmine Guillory’s books to be made into movies. Until then, though, I’ll settle for the next one: Royal Holiday, in which a woman makes the most of an unexpected trip to England by falling for the Queen’s private secretary, Malcom. But all trips must eventually come to an end. While at first they’re fine with just being a fling, New Year’s Day is approaching fast and something tells me they won’t want to say goodbye. Can a mother who barely leaves the country and a royal servant who barely leaves the Queen find a way out of (or into) this royally-long-distance romance?

    Faker, by Sarah Smith (On Sale 10.8.19)
    This cover totally drew me in! What woman hasn’t felt like Emmie Echavarre at some point in her career—like a total fake, surrounded by men she has to pretend to be tougher than when all she wants to do is wilt like a stomped-on flower petal. But when it comes to Tate, she’s anything but fake: he’s hostile and rude, only answers her with single word responses, and he’s hot. That’s the most annoying part. But in this diverse romance, Tate and Emmie are paired together for a work project, and as time goes on she begins to realize that the only thing that’s fake is her hatred for Tate.

    Twice in a Blue Moon, by Christina Lauren (On Sale 10.22.19)
    Who doesn’t love a good second chance romance with a Hollywood twist? When she was a teen, Tate fell for Sam. Hard. It didn’t help that they were in Europe at the time, either. But when Tate tells Sam her secret—that she’s secretly the daughter of a famous actor—and he betrays her to the paparazzi, she never imagines she’ll see him again. But of course, she does—over a decade later, this time as a famous actress, while he’s a screenwriter on the set of her new film. Sparks still fly between them, but how can Tate ever forgive Sam for the events of the past? A new Christina Lauren is always a welcome addition to our bookshelf, but this one in particular is full of their crackling, spitfire prose and swoony moments that are sweeter than chocolate.

    Angel in a Devil’s Arms, by Julie Anne Long (On Sale 10.29.19)
    He has devil’s blood in his veins.” Well, sign me up with that teaser alone. The legend behind Lucien Durrand—allegedly drowned in the Thames, but now returned from the dead—is improbably dark and full of deception. Ten years have gone by, but now he has returned with a thirst for vengeance…and one woman, who is afraid that the only legacy he will leave her with is a broken heart. This new release from a USA Today Bestselling author has autumn weekend with hot cider and a comfy blanket written all over it!

    The Bromance Book Club, by Lyssa Kay Adams (On Sale 11.5.19)
    And last but certainly not least, a book that continues the romcomissance we’ve been seeing lately, but with a twist: this time, it’s the dude that relies on romance novels to guide him towards a better love life! When a former MLB player learns that his wife has always “faked it” in bed with him, he goes a bit…well…caveman on her. It’s no surprise that his reaction is what spurs her on towards a divorce. What is a surprise? That Gavin, having nowhere else to turn, decides to join a secret book club full of alpha dudes like him. But can the lessons he learns from bodice rippers and romance novels help him save his marriage?

    Not the Girl You Marry, by Andie J. Christopher (On Sale 11.12.19)
    This book is like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and that’s all you need to know about it. Just kidding! Jack wants to be a real journalist, but instead he’s writing fluff pieces. The next piece he’s assigned: How to Lose a Girl. The girl is Hannah, an event planner who is as driven as she is beautiful. But with a reputation as a bit of an ice queen, how can she prove to her boss she’s invested enough in love to plan the white whale of events: weddings? Jack is the perfect ruse for Hannah to prove she has what it takes…if he doesn’t succeed at losing her, first.

    What new and upcoming romance novels are you excited about?

    The post 12 New and Upcoming Romances to Bring You From Late Summer Through Fall appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
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    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 

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    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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