While I'm immersed in a writing project, I like to read outside my genre. Usually I don't stray too far; I am the hopeful romantic, after all. But what I read influences and inspires my writing - not in story lines, but in the strength and beauty of the writing and the storytelling abilities of the authors. If I'm not instantly wowed, I'm inclined to put it down, at least until my WIP is done. The mere fact that I not only finished but devoured these four books is saying something.
First up is the furthest from what I write - a Middle Grade novel. I'm an animal lover, and the cover of PAX by Sara Pennypacker (illustrated by Jon Klassen) was impossible to resist. I purchased the hardback edition. Its watercolor cover, deckled pages, and detailed illustrations are a reminder of why the best print books are an art form.
I tend to read reviews with one eye shut (I'm terrified of spoilers), so when I saw that someone likened PAX to Where the Red Fern Grows I was like, "NOooo," but thank goodness I read the Kindle sample in spite of that comment and had to read the rest. (Perhaps they meant to allude to the inevitable classic this book will become? I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly; otherwise, not at all.)
I was profoundly moved by this beautiful story. I laughed and cried and thought. It is appropriate for readers of any age who desire to become immersed while reading, including younger readers who read up and older readers who aren't afraid to be astounded by a novel meant for 11-year-olds. You will not forget Pax once you've met him. He will steal a little slice of your heart and bring it back to lay at your feet.
Next up - a lovely fantasy romance by Amy Harmon. This story weaves its way around the reader's heart like a fragile vine; you'll find yourself caught only because you want to be. The Bird and the Sword is unlike anything Ms. Harmon has written before; I should know because I've read most of her fabulous work. Still, this is my favorite of everything she's written, which is doubly astonishing considering I'm not much of a fantasy reader. Trust me, romance readers, you will not care. Ms. Harmon world-builds like a fantasy pro without ever getting so complicated that a map and character genealogy is needed. The tangled mystery set in motion in the opening paragraphs and exquisite, slow-building love story and will keep those pages turning hard and fast. Try the sample and be prepared to one-click.
This third recommendation is the first of a four-book Romantic Suspense series (Lost & Found, Inc.) - the fourth of which just released. Woot! Because if you're like me, you prefer to binge-read whole series rather than waiting for books to release one at a time. (Note: these are stand-alone stories, but they do build on each other, which is why I'm suggesting the first one.) This entire series is dark, gritty, and violent - Jerrie Alexander doesn't pull any punches. The heroines are full of sass and ready to take care of themselves, thank-you-very-much, something these alpha heroes have to learn to respect unless they want to be shown the door. Literally.
I've just finished reading this one and had to add it to the list. Nia Forrester has done something I've never seen before. She's used a New Adult heroine's mother - a secondary character in an earlier book - for a stand-alone spin-off. (I haven't yet read the daughter's book, Commitment, but I loaded it on my Kindle after reading The Fall.) For those of you who like a strong, complicated, intelligent (read: difficult) heroine, and a hero who is grounded enough to manage a relationship with her without trying to transform her into a less intense version of herself, this is your book. It's got equal elements of romance (lots of hot sexy-times) and women's fiction (focusing on the main character's thorny life issues apart from the relationship: professional life, parenting, repressed emotional wounds), which is tough to find in fiction and makes for an all-around satisfying read.