I was recently interviewed by Jensen Reed about the books I read and the characters I love. Check it out!
In all honestly, I think love makes the world go round. Whether it be romantic love, familial love, the love between friends, or even lack of love, love is often the driving force of a story.
It doesn’t have to be. But I’m certainly going to be more interested if your fantasy epic has a main character who is never without his loyal best friend or if the two idiotic teenagers in your horror novel are falling for one another while they run for their lives.
The point is, love is essential to all story telling. Here are some novels that make love its main course, rather than a side-dish, and rank in my top five favorite romances.
In no particular order, because I love them all:
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
A classic for a reason, Pride & Prejudice, with it’s witty heroine Elizabeth Bennet and the dashing, if aloof, Mr. Darcy, is the epitome of a romance. I still swoon every time Darcy is on page. From bad first impressions to a love deep enough to sway the headstrong Lizzie into matrimony, Pride & Prejudice endures the test of time due to its relatable characters and wish fulfilling romance. Every reader wants to pollute the shades of Pemberley for a chance at someone as heroic and steadfast as Mr. Darcy.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Nothing like its film adaptation, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite books of all time. I throw down that phrase a lot, but in all honesty, it might actually be my favorite book of all time.
Ella Enchanted tells the story of Ella who was cursed by a fairy to have the “gift” of obedience. Every time someone tells her she must do something, she must do it. Even if it is at personal harm to herself or the ones she loves.
There are Cinderella adaptation nods, including a wicked stepmother, wicked stepsisters, a pumpkin carriage, and balls. But Ella knows her prince Char for many years and their enduring love story, their letters, their banister rides, and adventures are some of my favorite romantic moments in all of literature.
Ella Enchanted is the first book that made me cry and the first heroine I believed could do anything she set her mind to.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The second book of a series, you have to read the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses, to have context for this novel. ACOTAR is well worth it, but the crown jewel of this series is book two. This is a novel that is… just wonderful.
It’s a story of love in so many ways, self love being chief among them, though finding your soulmate and a found family is nothing to to sniff about. It is filled to the brim with romantic descriptions of several fae courts, exquisite gowns, and handsome men with large… wingspans. This love story is one of equals and no part of this book left me unsatisfied. It’s near and dear to my heart as a reader, a feminist, and a fantasy lover. This book, and series, does not disappoint.
Radiance by Grace Draven
Radiance is a story we’ve all read before: two people thrown together into an arranged marriage that come from different backgrounds and must learn to love one another. It’s a trope we’ve all read and secretly love. But this story packs a few deviations from it’s prescribed script.
These two would-be lovers are not only from different kingdoms and come from different cultures, they’re also not even of the same race. Ildiko is a human woman and Brishen is a Kai man and their races fear one another.
But what is unique about this tale is though their races fear one another and both have valid reasons for not getting close, Radiance doesn’t follow the cliche of the couple hating and distrusting one another at first glance.
Instead, it has them meeting within the first pages of the book, on the day of their wedding before the ceremony, and, not knowing who the other is, confiding their hang-ups and apprehensions about the match to one another, laughing together, reveling in each other’s honesty, and hoping that their new spouse will be like the person they’ve just met. When they do discover their identities, they make a bargain to be friends and agree about what they want out of the match. IT WAS SO REFRESHING TO READ!
That all happens within the first chapters, so not much of a spoiler, but rather something to tease you with. It blew me away so thoroughly that I just had to keep reading and the slow evolution of this romance is made sweeter because of it’s trope defying beginning.
The Trouble with Kings by Sherwood Smith
The Trouble with Kings tells the story of Princess Flian as she unwittingly traverses through kingdoms, survives many kidnappings, and finds love where she least expected to.
Flian and her love interest have very bad first impressions of one another. His impression poisoned by the lies of a villain, her impression incorrectly believing that he is the villain.
The story throws them together through various unfortunate circumstances and every time slowly whittles away their false assumptions about one another until their feelings for one another are so strong, the only person who can’t see it is the love interest’s younger sister, who is all about passion and romance, but is blind to the one unfolding before her.
It’s a book I find myself reading again and again, a more action/adventure romance that calls on the elements I love from my other favorite romances; bad first impressions and a slow understanding that turns into fascination and then fierce, quiet love.
That’s it for my top 5 favorite romances. There are hundreds more I could list, but these are ones that are dear to my heart and I hope you give them a shot and love them as much as I do.
Crow Queen Review
Hey all, it’s been a bit. But I’m here with exciting news! Letters from Emily by M.L. Pennock is coming out on October 2nd, and today is the day of the cover reveal!
On Oct. 2, Emily Long’s letters will finally be revealed. The story that began in To Have culminates with Emily’s side of the tale, a tale that is heartbreaking at times.
Letters from Emily by M.L. Pennock
When Emily Long agrees to be in her friend’s wedding, she doesn’t plan on backing out a few weeks before the ceremony and merely going as a guest.
Being charmed into a one-night stand with a flirty groomsman also wasn’t on her list of things to do. But the morning after the wedding, she finds herself hung over and wrapped up in Brian Stratford’s bedsheets.
Several weeks, a positive pregnancy test, and an ultrasound later, Emily finds herself on Brian’s doorstep questioning how her life ended up where it is.
As the new couple processes how to co-parent without loving one another, Emily’s fate takes a turn for the worst.
It isn’t until years later when Brian finds out what happened …
and that Emily left letters behind for the people she loves most.
Pre-order Letters from Emily
Universal Link: books2read.com/LettersFromEmily
Amazon US: http://bit.ly/LettersFromEmilyUS
Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/LettersFromEmilyUK
Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/LettersFromEmilyAU
Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/LettersFromEmilyCA
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/LettersFromEmilyBN
iBooks: coming soon!
Add it on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/LettersFromEmilyGoodreads
Haven’t signed up for the newsletter? You can do that here: http://eepurl.com/dkYbZ1
Join the discussion!
About the Author
M.L. Pennock is a former journalist turned author. She attended Alfred University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and communication studies, before going on to earn a Master of Arts in communications from SUNY College at Brockport. She lives in Central New York with her husband and three daughters.
M.L. Pennock is the author of the To Have series.
If you’re interested in the book or the cover caught your eye, feel free to check it out on any of the pre-order links listed above.
I’ll be back with more of my own thoughts on all things reading and writing related soon!
When I think about writer’s block, I think of the movie Stranger than Fiction when Emma Thompson’s character, the author of Harold Crick’s life, is completely incapable of coming up with anything to write about.
She’s suffering massive writer’s block and she can’t think of what her next book should be about. She’s drained. Her imagination can’t come up with any new material, old material, nothing. She can’t write.
Every writer has experienced this to some degree. Whether it be an inability to start a new writing project or reaching a stumbling block in the middle of one.
Whatever the point in my process that I get stumped, I treat it like Queen Latifah’s character did, and see it as something I can cure. It’s not this mystical block on a writer’s imagination, but rather a lack of new creative juice to run the imagination engine of a writer’s brain.
So what do I do when I hit a writing wall?
I expose myself to new creative stimuli.
I read a half dozen novels. I binge marathon a show on Netflix or do a movie marathon of either old favorites or new movies on my “to-watch” list. I listen to a new band or two, discover old music from a favorite band. If it’s an old project I’m working on, I write something small and new.
This refuels my imagination and allows me to move past the Creative Block I had stumbled upon.
Writers get stuck thinking writer’s block is this inevitable mountain they can’t scale they have to allow run it’s natural course and break itself down.
Emma Thompson’s character was able to go out into the world and expose herself to new stimuli to fuel her creativity. I’m able to do it by exposing myself to new media. And so can you.
So here are the steps to take when you hit a creative block:
Step 1: Get away from it. Put your laptop, notebook, desktop, stone slab aside and take a shower or go on a walk and observe the world around you. A nice walk or jog can also get those endorphins flowing and stop it all from feeling so hopeless.
Step 2: Consume the creativity of others. Whether it be a painting, a song, a television show, a movie, a book, or dozens of each, anything to get the imagination gears turning.
Step 3: If all else fails start a new project. Maybe you don’t have your current project in you right now. Maybe you just need a break. Either way starting fresh with a new novel or a new short story, a new poem, a new anything, can reignite your passion for writing and get you back on track.
Step 4: (And probably the most important) Don’t give up. The world needs your story, your creativity. And also most importantly, so do you.
Crow Queen Review
Throw out the old schedule, I never kept to it anyway.
I created this space to review novels and recommend books. That is still the primary purpose of this blog.
However, I think what has been bogging me down is my personal focus has been my writing and I haven’t felt like I should mix the two passions on my blog. But that is just silly. It’s mine. I can do whatever I want with it.
So from now on I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on writing as well as my book reviews and recommendations.
While I still want this to me more of a book club/reader’s space, I cant ignore the writing aspect of my life either. It exists and is a big part of my hopes/dreams/goals. Yes… I am aware those all basically mean the same thing, but I couldn’t pick just one!
What this means for you:
Basically, I’m going to have a “Writer’s Nest” section I post my thoughts on writing and the personal struggles and triumphs I have in my writer’s life. So if you want to just focus on the books and reader aspect you still can. You’ll just also see some writing content you can ignore it you wish.
I hope to continue on this crazy reading/writing/living journey with you!
Crow Queen Review
I’m not freaking out. You’re freaking out.
Okay, so maybe it’s just me.
But my short story, Bloodless, is one in a collection of eight short stories with the theme of survival published in the anthology Shards of Survival. The collection was put together by Writing Bad, an online writing community.
The Facebook community of Writing Bad has over seven thousand members and has bright, vibrant talent from all over the world.
Last year, a group of us participated in a contest and wrote themed stories. Before the winner of the contest was even announced, we all commented that we would love to read everyone else’s work. An offhand remark about how we should put it all together in anthology and a lot of hard work from one of our brilliant admins later, and it became real.
The contest winner Caton Easton’s story, Healers, is fantastic. We were all privileged to read it when the contest ended.
And of course, I’m partial to my own story, Bloodless, but there are a whole host of cool stories in here I can’t wait to read.
Bloodless is the story of a vampire named Sadie who finds herself relying on an unlikely ally when her family entrap her with one directive: kill or be killed.
Look forward to a short review of the work as a whole with more details to come!
And in the meantime, if you have $0.99 you’d like to drop and time to pass reading cool survival stories, that’s awesome too!
You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t been posting for a few weeks. The answer to that mystery is as follows: I’ve been overwhelmed with life. I struggle with a combination of depression and anxiety that usually rears its ugly head in the winter months, though it can strike at any time.
I’ve also been imposing a lot of writing related goals on myself lately with my multitude of writing works in progress and it has been bogging down my soul. I love to write. It’s my passion. But sometimes I need to unwind, unplug and get back to the core of why I love to write. Which is because I love to read. I love to explore new worlds and escape into literature and that drives me to create my own worlds and give my own characters life.
So I decided to unplug from my biggest social media drain, Facebook, and just read for a week.
It has already done wonders for my mental health. I even did work around the house and straightened things up so the place looks tidy and uncluttered like my mind from this social media sabbatical.
So my book challenge is a go and already part complete.
Sunday I read The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser. I really liked the beginning of this book when I started it weeks ago, but I finally read it all the way through and I was not impressed.
It’s a modern-day fairy tale who-dun-it that features characters that can literally jump into the literary world, and while that sounds good on paper, I wasn’t very impressed. Even though it is well-written, it was not my cup of tea. 3/5 Crows.
Amy Lennox doesn’t know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother’s childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.
Amy’s grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy’s new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever cost.
Monday I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore and, as always, she created a beautiful modern magical story about diverse characters that was lovely, well-executed, and everything I could have hoped for and more.
I will do a more thorough review of this one at a later time but suffice to say McLemore continues to be one of the best writers in the YA genre of this day and age and never disappoints. Her stories are works of art and her descriptions so beautiful they could be poetry. I recommend this novel and the author’s complete body of work. 5/5 Crows.
Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers was greeted with rave reviews, a YALSA Morris Award nomination, and spots on multiple “Best YA Novels” lists. Now, McLemore delivers a second stunning and utterly romantic novel, again tinged with magic.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
Atmospheric, dynamic, and packed with gorgeous prose, When the Moon was Ours is another winner from this talented author.
Today, Tuesday, I am reading Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. Cashore is one of my favorite authors and I’ve already talked about and recommended her novels at length on multiple posts here for a reason.
I am sucked in already but can’t say more at this time. But I’m definitely enjoying this read so far.
Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.
Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.
Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.
Wednesday I plan on reading Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst.
I was drawn to this book initially because I saw the cover and I was like… wait … is that princess holding a girl’s hand? So of course I had to buy it. I was at a bookseller and added it to the ever-growing pile in my husband’s arms, but such is the way of things, I’m just getting around to reading it this week. I’m excited for it though and can’t wait to check out this new author.
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms.
But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.
Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
Thursday I’ll be reading The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco.
This book was introduced to me at the same bookseller by my friend who saw the lovely purple and gold cover and the intriguing description and pointed it out to me. Though the cover is freaking gorgeous and the blurb is interesting, I might not have picked it up on my own. But with her encouragement, I bought it several months ago, and with another friend’s encouragement, who also saw it and thought it sounded rad on my bookshelf, it’s now near the top of my to-read pile.
Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
Friday I’ll be reading another gorgeous novel by Anna-Marie McLemore, Wild Beauty.
I’ve already discussed in many posts why this is near the top of my to-read list, namely because I can’t get enough of McLemore’s gorgeous writing style and the magical, moving tales she grows as naturally as flowers and uses to illuminate diverse cultures and points of view as brilliantly as stars.
Love grows such strange things.
Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When the Moon was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate—and pulled apart by reality.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Saturday I want to finish off this week of YA novels with Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by writer Carrie DiRisio and illustrator Linnea Gear.
I think a comedic self-help book will be a fun way to end my week of non-stop reading.
Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist?
Or maybe you’re just really confused about what “opal-tinted, luminous cerulean orbs” actually are?
Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero’s Guide to Achieving Main Character Status, a “self-help” guide (with activities–you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love.
As his nefarious ex, Blondie DeMeani, attempts to thwart him at every turn, Broody overcomes to detail, among other topics, how to choose your genre, how to keep your love interest engaged (while maintaining lead character status), his secret formula for guaranteed love triangle success, and how to make sure you secure that sequel, all while keeping his hair perfectly coiffed and never breaking a sweat.
If any of these books pique your interest, feel free to check them out and then look forward to seeing my reviews and book rants about them in the weeks to come!