Contemporary Fiction
A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove

Marybeth Whalen says: "Apart from any surprises the audio version, narrated by George Newbern, is holding out as my favorite read this year. The way Newbern portrays Ove—I literally laughed and cried in the span of two pages. I'm listening to Every Fifteen Minutes narrated by him now. It is possible I've given myself a reading challenge of bingeing on a large number of books he's narrated. #narratorcrush"

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The Late Bloomers’ Club

The Late Bloomers’ Club

From the author of The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living. Pastry chef and author Miller takes her readers back to Guthrie, Vermont in her feel-good novel about following your dreams … after finally figuring out what it is you actually want. Nora Huckleberry (that name!) has lived in the same small town all her life, where she raised her baby sister and ran the family diner alongside her dad. When Peggy the cake maker unexpectedly dies, Nora and her sister inherit a house, land, and a host of complications——including the handsome man who wants to buy Peggy’s property to build a big-box store. Everyone in town has an opinion about what Nora should do. If you like the sound of two headstrong sisters, small town vibes, and plenty of food, this may be your perfect summer novel.

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Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes

I enjoyed this one from page 1: the storytelling is excellent, and the author explored so many interesting themes about relationships. (But I have complicated feelings about how those relationships resolve—which would make this a fantastic book club novel.) The story is set at a small family vineyard in Sonoma County; the title comes from the number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine. Add Audible narration for $11.49.

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A Window Opens: A Novel

A Window Opens: A Novel

$11.99$2.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

I almost abandoned this book, and thought hard about including it in Quick Lit because I found it underwhelming. Its heroine, Alice Pearse, is a sandwich generation wife and mother of three who takes on a new and demanding job when her husband loses his. The book had potential: I found the premise relatable and the characters likable. But instead of thoughtfully addressing the issues Alice faces, Egan fabricates silly problems (such as a big bad corporate employer reminiscent of The Circle) for her characters and simplistic solutions. Alice works in the world of publishing, and I did appreciate the novel's unabashed love for books and readers. If you decide to read this, please read it with your book club: at least you can enjoy tearing apart the ending together.

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Bear Necessity

Bear Necessity

Single father Danny was just fired from his construction job. In addition to struggling to pay his rent, he can't seem to connect with his son Will, who's been silent ever since his mother died a year ago. In a move of desperation, Danny spends his last few bucks on a panda costume to become a park performer. When he chases off some bullies in the park who were taunting his son, Will opens up to him—not knowing that it's his dad in the bear costume. Wanting to comfort his son, Danny continues the charade. Charming side characters round out this story of grief, love, and connection.

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The Summer of Good Intentions

The Summer of Good Intentions

$10.99$3.99Audiobook: 4.49 (Whispersync)

When a strained family reconvenes at their beach house for their annual summer vacation, the secrets they've been carrying start to slip out. This is a summery novel in a sense, thanks to its Cape Cod vacation setting, but it's filled with heavy issues: broken relationships, dementia, and serious diagnoses. Pack your beach bag accordingly. Add Audible narration for $4.49.

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After You: A Novel

After You: A Novel

Finally! The much-anticipated (and originally unplanned) follow-up to Moyes's word-of-mouth sensation Me Before You. The bad news: the sequel isn't as good as original. The good news: Moyes at least had the guts to take her characters in an altogether different direction, and if it's not perfect, at least it's interesting. Moyes also left the door wide open to a third novel, which I would welcome.

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The Canterbury Sisters
The Actor and the Housewife

The Actor and the Housewife

At 7 months pregnant, a Mormon housewife has a chance connection with her celebrity crush (think Colin Firth), and the two strike up an improbable friendship. They're drawn together by their quick wit and brilliant banter (which are wholly responsible for the book's enjoyable dialogue). Over the years, the relationship becomes more significant to them both, even though they have little in common on the surface. An exploration of family, stardom, and whether or not men and women can be friends. I didn't love reading this book (well, except for all the witty banter), but I did love talking it over with a friend after I finished it.

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The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

This international bestseller was originally published in Sweden in 2009. It's drawn comparisons to Forrest Gump, because the 100-year-old man of the title finds himself involved in key political moments throughout the course of his long life. Many of you have already read this as your book in translation. Not everyone loves it, but those who do have labeled it "clever," "quirky," and "un-put-down-able."

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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

The publisher describes this as You've Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake. A gruff British restaurant critic tanks a Milwaukee chef's career with a scathing review of her beloved French bistro. What he doesn't know is that he visited the restaurant on the worst day of her life. Of course, they later meet, and sparks fly, and then they both have a lot of explaining to do. The plot is utterly predictable, but anyone who knows anything about the Milwaukee food scene will forgive all.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

This 2016 novel is strongly reminiscent of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry in that its all about the power of books and the power of community. When young Swedish girl Sara arrives in small town Iowa to find things are NOT as she expected, she takes the logical next step: she opens a bookstore. The plot is a little thin, but the bookish moments make up for it.

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Someone Else’s Love Story

Someone Else’s Love Story

$10.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

Sweet 21-year-old Shandi "fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K” when he steps between a gunman who's high on drugs and her 3-year-old son. When the crisis is over, Shandi hurls herself into a new mission: getting him to love her back. Her blond god Thor that she fell in love with so quickly turns out to be a brilliant geneticist, whose genetic makeup contains some “specific duplications and deletions.” What Shandi doesn't realize is she's stepped into the middle of someone else's love story, not her own—but that story proves to be far more interesting than she ever could have dreamed.

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Delicious!: A Novel

Delicious!: A Novel

Food critic and author of memoirs <em>Tender at the Bone</em>, <em>Comfort Me with Apples</em>, and <em>Garlic and Sapphires</em> Ruth Reichl's first hand at fiction. From the publisher: "Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine's colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills. To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery."

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Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

Bustle calls this novel "anything but formulaic: it's unceasingly delightful, and Libby Miller is a sensitive, super-smart Everywoman hero you'll come to adore." I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of Camille’s books, and they have a few important things in common: they're all about love, loss, and navigating life's curve balls with humor and style. They go down like light-hearted, escapist reads, but they address issues that matter to us all. I read this one last fall.

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The Knockoff: A Novel

The Knockoff: A Novel

Imagine a mashup of The Devil Wears Prada and In Good Company . The story is heavily inspired by All About Eve (which you must watch immediately if you never have): when 42-year-old Glossy magazine editor Imogen Tate returns from a 6-month sabbatical, she finds that her fill-in, a twenty-something Harvard Business School grad, is actively trying to usurp her position—permanently. (And worse—turn the magazine into an app!) Not great literature, but tons of fun.

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Astonish Me

Astonish Me

This book, set in the rarefied world of professional ballet, is unlike anything I’ve never read in form and content. Spanning 30 years, told from four different viewpoints, this novel sweeps you into the world of classical ballet—a world you didn’t know you’d been longing to enter. Some of the flashbacks are wobblier than others, but the richly drawn characters and powerful storytelling keep you turning the pages, The Times hated it, but nevermind that. (A warning: check all your preconceptions about good girl ballerinas. There’s lots of language, and so much cocaine.)

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Gods in Alabama

Gods in Alabama

Part love story, part murder mystery, pure Southern fiction. After spending ten years in Chicago, hiding from her past, Arlene returns home to face a secret she's been hiding since she fled town after high school, and introduce her black boyfriend to her racist mother. Football, dysfunctional families, and colorful characters landed this one on the staff picks shelf.

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The Lost Sisterhood

The Lost Sisterhood

$11.99$1.99

Perfect summer reading for you ISFJ's. BookPagesays this is "a gorgeous journey from England to North Africa to Greece, thrilling readers with beautiful settings, courageous women and breathtaking adventure." Add Audible narration for $11.49.

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A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Irving is a masterful storyteller, and has a knack for drawing compelling characters. This novel, which gently addresses heavy themes of fate and faith, is widely believed to be his finest. Read it and see why it’s on so many readers’ desert island lists.

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My Mrs Brown

My Mrs Brown

If you've heard this little book described as a modern-day fairy tale, remember this: those traditional non-Disney fairy tales are often very sad. Mrs Brown is a staid, respectable woman: she's not prone to excess, she's not the sort to have a bucket list, she has the non-glamorous job of cleaning a beauty parlor. But the few who see past her plain exterior adore her. When a local great lady dies, Mrs. Brown is hired to help inventory her things before the estate sale, and it's there she encounters The Dress. It's a very specific Oscar de la Renta dress, in a very specific color, and Mrs. Brown immediately turns her life upside down so she can save the money to buy one. Mrs. Brown's dress isn't just a dress to her, and we don't find out why she needs it until the very end of the novel. I wasn't sure what to make of this one when I read it, but as my thoughts have circled back to it over the past couple of months I've found it increasingly satisfying.

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11/22/63: A Novel

11/22/63: A Novel

In King's beloved Maine, high school English teacher Jake Epping discovers a doorway into the past: into 1958, to be precise. Epping soon realizes he has the ability to change the past: any action he takes in 1958 inevitably changes the present day. Before long, Epping commits himself to a bold mission: to tinker with the past and prevent the Kennedy assassination. King's weird blend of history is decidedly creepy, but not scary, and I found it enthralling.

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The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds

This sweeping Australian saga tops many a reader's favorite books list, and its overall rating on Goodreads is an impressive 4.19. McCullough's modern classic tracks an Australian family across three generations. (It should be noted that for every two people who adore this book there's one who considers it a schmaltzy romance. Read it and decide for yourself.)

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Last Ride to Graceland

Last Ride to Graceland

$11.99$0.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

Talk about the ultimate road trip: when blues musician Corey Ainsworth stumbles upon a relic that makes her question her parentage, she hits the road in Elvis's car on a winding journey through the deep south and her own tangled family history. It's a little bit Elizabethtown, a little bit Walk the Line. If you (or your mother) have ever been obsessed with the king, this is for you. Recommended reading for Joshilyn Jackson fans. Publication date May 24 2016.

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Everyone Is Beautiful

Everyone Is Beautiful

Woman has kids, woman pours herself into kids, woman feels like she’s lost herself because her life feels like it’s all about the kids. It’s a story we usually encounter in real life, not fiction. But not this time. Book club highlight: how Center does (or doesn’t) do justice to the stay-at-home mom.

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Falling Together

Falling Together

Pen, Will, and Cat met ("met cute," in fact) during their first week of college and were inseparable during their years on campus. After graduation, they hated the thought of their amazing friendship slowly fading, so they decided to end it. Years go by with no contact, until Pen receives a strange email from Cat begging her to meet her at their college reunion. She can't help but say yes, and that's when their journey begins.

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The Forgetting Time

The Forgetting Time

Janie knows her 4-year-old son Noah is not like other children. He's terrified of water. He asks for his "other mother." And he always, always wants to go home—even when he's in his very own bed. But one night, thanks to a late-night bourbon-fueled internet session, Janie stumbles upon the work of an eccentric scientist, and begins to confront the possibility that her precious son not only lived a previous life, he'd been murdered in it. The plot resists simplistic solutions and easy answers which keeps you glued to the page. If you have a friend or loved one obsessed with reincarnation, this book is obviously for you—but you don't have to buy the premise to find this a satisfying read. Published February 2 2016.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary

At the dawn of another New Year, Bridget Jones is 32, single, and desperate to take control of her life—so she starts keeping a diary. And such a diary. Bridget is a free spirit, fond of witty banter, enthusiastic about everything, and her enthusiasm lives on every page, where she shares her never-lukewarm opinions about everything from diet to work her love life. She may seem flighty, but she's always searching for deeper meaning. She also has great people skills. This might not be obvious when she first meets straight-laced barrister Mark Darcy (INTJ), but the novel is based on Pride and Prejudice, so of course they get off to a bumpy start.

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First Frost

First Frost

$14.87

Allen wrote Garden Spells in 2007, and eight whole years later—in January 2015—she published this sequel because readers kept asking her what happened next? and she was eager to revisit the Waverly sisters. Not quite as enchanting as Garden Spells, but still worth reading.

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Rich and Pretty

Rich and Pretty

There's much to love about this book, and yet I've been very reluctant to talk about it here on the blog. It almost made the Summer Reading Guide. It almost made the list of 13 books everyone will be talking about this summer. And yet it's THE book that inspired the post the 8 uncomfortable lines I want to cut from the books I'm reading these days. You may LOVE it, but proceed with caution.

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