Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel, Love & Gelato, is such a fun and summery read and reminded me a lot of Jennifer E. Smiths books, like This is What Happy Looks Like. I usually don’t buy books before I read them, but when I was only fifty pages into this book and had to return my library copy, I went out and got my own copy. And it’s been a long time since I stayed up late reading a book, but I stayed up finishing this one. I love contemporary YA romances, and Love & Gelato delivered.
The books is about Lina, a girl who is spending the summer in Florence because her mother’s dying wish was for her to live with the father she didn’t know about. And even though Italy is beautiful and has amazing gelato, Lina just wants to go home until she is given the journal her mother kept when she lived in Florence before Lina was born. As Lina learns about her mother’s past and befriends Ren, she learns a secret about her past that changes everything.
My favorite part about this book was of course the setting. I love books that can take you away to another place, and when I read Love & Gelato I felt like I was in Italy. Everything was beautifully described, and it made me really want some gelato. While I thought the mother’s journal entries lacked depth, Lina’s narrative was funny and engrossing. And though this book dealt with topics like death and domestic abuse, it was hopeful and for the most part light-hearted.
Last week I talked about the genres I don’t like to read, so this week I want to tell you the genres I do! There’s a few genres I don’t read because they don’t resonate with me and I don’t get a lot out of reading them. Because time is precious and I want to be spending my time on books that I get a lot out of, these are the genres I usually turn to:
Pretty much everything I read is YA. I don’t know if it’s because these books meant so much to me growing up or because I love a good coming-of-age story or because I make up stories for a living and don’t quite feel like an adult, but YA books have always been my favorites. When I go into a bookstore or library, you can find me heading straight to the teen section.
Science Fiction and Dystopian
I’ve always been fascinated with the future and with space, and so that’s why I’ve always loved science fiction books. I love the dystopian subgenre in particular because even though these stories depict negative futures, they’re usually full of so much hope.
I don’t read fantasy books as much because they’re usually so long and I have trouble sitting still long enough to read them, but I love fantasy books because of the amazing world building. Because I write a lot of stories set in the future, world building is a big part of my writing process. Fantasy books are a great addition to science fiction to read and be inspired about world building
My faith is the most important part of my life, and so I love reading Christian living books and devotionals. These books help me to focus on God and grow in my faith, which I always want to be doing.
I only recently got into the romance genre, but because I read a lot of heavy and dystopian books, romance novels are light and fun to take a break with.These are some of my favorite books in these genres.
These are some of my favorite books in these genres.
You can definitely see the influence of my favorite genres to read on what I write. I primarily write young adult contemporary and science fiction because those stories have always resonated with me the most. What are your favorite genres to read and write?
As a writer and a book-lover, I sometimes feel pressured to read and like all kinds of books. A while back I wrote a post on giving up on reading certain books, which is a way to respect your time a writer. It’s okay not to like everything. Everything was not meant for you to be read. And if you need to give up on reading a book that’s not resonating with you, you definitely should put it down and pick up something you’d enjoy more.
So today I wanted to admit what genres I don’t like and what books I almost never pick up. There are always exceptions, but for the most part these are the genres I avoid:
When I think of classics, I think of the books I was forced to read in high school that made me hate reading for a while. I just have so much trouble connecting to stories written so long ago. Plus the different styles of writing make most of these books a struggle for me to read. I much more enjoy contemporary stories, even though there are a couple exceptions on my favorites shelf.
I’m sorry, but I don’t like poetry. I prefer straight-forward writing, and so I find poetry extremely difficult to get into. I don’t hate all poems, but I usually won’t pick poetry up by choice.
Horror, Thrillers, and Westerns
I’m grouping these together because I don’t have much experience reading any of them. But none of these genres hold any appeal to me.
I’m honestly surprised I don’t like this genre because I enjoy that feeling of mixing past and present. Urban fantasy does this by setting magical elements (which you typically think of as belonging in fairy-tale-like settings) into a modern environment. But every book I’ve tried in this genre just hasn’t seemed to click with me. I think I just prefer fairy tales too much.
These books are a few of the exceptions in these genres that I actually do enjoy.
What are the genres that you don’t like? Next week I’ll be talking about my favorite genres, so look out for that!
On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. Because I have way more than only twelve favorites though, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorite’s shelf. Click here to check out part 1. Here’s the rest of my favorite books:
The Giver and its companion books by Lois Lowry
I was first introduced to this series in the fifth grade when my teacher read Gathering Blue to my class. We were all amazed by the book, so she also read Messenger to us. But I didn’t end up reading the first book of this series, The Giver, until I was in college, and it is hands-down my favorite dystopian story.
Twelve by Nick McDonell
Twelve is definitely not a book most people would like, and most people have never heard of it. But I found this book in my library when I was sixteen years old and it blew me away with its power. And when I saw that the author of the book had only been seventeen when he wrote it, this book became a major source of inspiration to young-writer me.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book is on my favorites shelf mainly because of how innovative it is and how impressed I am by it as a writer. Spanning centuries, this book tells six different but connected stories. My favorite of these are of course the ones that take place in the future, but each of them are beautifully told.
1984 by George Orwell
This is the only classic on my shelf besides Fahrenheit 451, and I love it for many of the same reasons. Plus I had a pretty eccentric high school English teacher who covered the room from floor to ceiling with “Big Brother is Watching You” posters, so it was quite a memorable experience when I read the book for the first time.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
This book is as beautiful as it is haunting. The Lovely Bones is narrated by Suzie Salmon, a girl who was brutally murdered but who watches the aftermath of her death from her new home in heaven. This book has been a huge source of inspiration for my writing.
Unwind and the rest of the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman
Like with [Everlost, Neal Shusterman blows my mind with everything he writes. This series takes place in the future after the second civil war was fought over abortion. Now children cannot be aborted, but from ages 13-18 they can be “unwound,” a process which results in 100% of their body being donated, so they’re not technically dead. These books are eerie and exciting and wonderful.
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
This is one of the books that made it’s way straight to my favorites shelf after reading it for the first time. This book is about a girl who was raped, and it’s a beautiful story about healing. Check out my What I’m Reading post about it here.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
I found Olive Kitteridge used and free, and I never would’ve picked it up otherwise, but my little beaten-up copy is one of my favorite books. A novel in stories, Strout tells the story of Olive and her Maine town. This book is beautiful and sad and just perfect.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of big books. I have trouble focusing for a long time, and so it took me a long time to read The Book Thief, but this is one of those books that stays with you. Told from the perspective of Death, this novel takes you through Nazi Germany and the story of a young girl who fell in love with words. This story will also always hold a special place in my heart because I watched the movie version while waiting to meet my boyfriend on the night he ended up proposing to me.
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Unlike The Book Thief, Zusak’s other novel is fast-paced, funny, and still deeply meaningful. I Am the Messenger is the story of Ed and his friends who live in Australia and are just trying to get by. But then Ed receives a playing card in the mail with addresses listed on it, and he realizes he’s been chosen to deliver something important.
I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my favorite book features! I’ve loved looking back at all the amazing books on my favorites shelf and telling you all about them. Check out the My Favorite Books page on my website to find links to all of my reviews, and let me know if we share any favorite books!
On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. But because I have way more than only twelve favorites, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorites shelf.
Lexicon by Max Barry
This thrilling novel combines science fiction and linguistics, which fascinates me. I’ve only read this book once, but it’s a smart novel that sticks with you. If you’re interested in linguistics you would love this book.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This eerie dystopian book is about books being banned in the future and being burned by firefighters. This book has had a huge influence on my writing, and it’s one of only a few of the classics that I enjoy. Fahrenheit 451 is also one of the stories that inspired my current work-in-progress.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is one of those books that I keep coming back to because of how heartbreaking and honest it is. Charlie’s story about growing up resonates in so many ways and makes me laugh and cry every time I read it. I also absolutely love the film version.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ready Player One is an incredibly original story about people living in a virtual world to avoid how terrible the real world has become. The world-building in this book is so detailed and inspiring to me as a writer. I can’t wait to see the movie version when it comes out this year.
Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge
This book is the only work of nonfiction on my shelf, and it’s a beautiful book about becoming who God intends you to be. I read through this book with a women’s group at my church, and it was amazing to share our stories and work on becoming ourselves together.
It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories by Erin Flanagan
This story collection is by my favorite college professor. I got to interview her on this collection for my university’s literary journal, and it’s a great book. The best part of this collection is the common theme of looking at how big events affect the characters’ everyday lives, my favorite of which is “Feather the Nest,” a story about 9/11.
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
This was the only fantasy on my shelf until I recently addedThe Reader. I love fairy tales, and this is a fantastic adventure story. However, I do like the movie more than the book.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This popular book about cancer and love is as beautiful as it is sad. I just love how honest this book is. Green doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics, and the result is an incredible story. Another great read is This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, which is a collection of work by and about the late Esther Earl, the girl to whom The Fault in Our Stars is dedicated.
Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Running Out of Time was my first favorite novel. This is the book that made me want to write. It’s a fascinating story about a girl who lives in a small town in the 1840s. But when the kids of the town start getting sick with diphtheria, she is sent outside only to find that it’s 1996 (the year the book was published). My favorite part about this book is the mix of past and present.
How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes
Holmes’ second novel solidified her as one of my absolute favorite authors. This is a book about a dancer with body image issues, but it’s not your typical ballerina with an eating disorder story. Instead, Holmes tells a incredible story about anxiety and overcoming insecurity.
I have ten more books on my favorites shelf to tell you about, so look for part 2 soon!
For December, I chose to feature The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a book I fell in love with in college and which had an influence on my novel Somewhere Only We Know.
The House on Mango Street is a short novel made up of vignettes (short scenes) about Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza has always wanted a house of her own where she could be free, but what she got was a small house on Mango Street. Despite her circumstances, Esperanza learns to write and hope for the future. The House on Mango Street is a beautiful story with poetic prose that features so many interesting characters and so much hope despite the pain in those character’s lives. Esperanza’s name even means “hope.”
The main reason I love this book is because of the language. It is incredible to read this book and see how Cisneros can take a page-long vignette and show you so much about a character. Cisneros’s language is spare and precise, and the lines feel like poems with how smooth they sound. One of my favorite paragraphs at the end of a vignette is this: “Marin, under the streetlight, dancing by herself, is singing the same song somewhere. I know. Is waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.” The fragments make the words seem like a song, and they are so beautiful.
This book will also hold a place in my heart like all of the books that influenced Somewhere Only We Know do. The House on Mango Street is one of the books Frankie reads in my novel. I included this book because I wanted Frankie to see how Esperanza was able to overcome her difficult situation and still find hope.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Favorite Book Features as much as I enjoyed rereading each of these great books! I plan on doing another post with short features on the books on my favorites shelf that I did not feature, so be looking out for that.
Sometimes I read a book for the first time and it instantly makes its way to my favorites shelf. That happened this month with The Reader by Traci Chee. I usually don’t read fantasy, but I picked up this book because I had read that it was about a world without a written language, so I thought it would help inspire me with my WIP. I came into this book expecting to get a few new ideas on how a world would function without a written language, but I was instantly blown away by this amazing, thrilling, and diverse story about magic, pirates, and a book that contains everything that’s happened and everything that will be.
Sefia has been on the run every since her father was brutally murdered. She survived in the wild with her aunt Nin, but after Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is on her own with the mysterious object her parents had her protect: a book. Sefia teaches herself to read and sets out to rescue her aunt, and along the way she befriends a mute boy, is helped by pirates, and discovers a magic she didn’t know existed.
This book instantly became one of my favorites for several reasons. First of all, I love how diverse The Reader is. The story is populated by people of every age and color, and men and women are complete equals in the fantasy world of Kelanna. I like that Chee doesn’t draw much attention to it—that’s just the way things are in Kelanna. It’s refreshing to read a story in which this is the norm.
I also love this book because of one of its main themes, which is how stories give life meaning. Several of the characters struggle with the idea of not being remembered. Captain Reed in particular worries that his life won’t mean anything if people don’t remember the stories of all the adventures he’s been on. He even tattoos his body with images of everything he’s done. By addressing this theme, Chee highlights just how important stories are.
But the main reason I love this book is because it’s clear that the author loves words. Her love and respect of language infuses every word of The Reader. Chee writes with such authority, and had me laughing, crying, and devouring the pages. Words have magic in the story, and I love this analogy. Stories are powerful, and it is fascinating to see how that works out in a fantasy setting.