Books I’ve Read, So Far

This post is brought to you by The Smiths.

(Once again, I can’t post streaming video on this blog. Stupid Blogger and YouTube won’t get their acts together.)

I have been on a reading spree these last few months, thanks to Kindle for iOS and alerts on book discounts from several book blogs. While I may have started out downloading books left and right, I have since become quite picky about the books I’ve been reading; why waste time on a book I’m bound to hate, after all? So it took a while for me to winnow down this list of books to ones I actually like, and would be more than happy to recommend to other people.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m picky about the books I choose to read, so my recommendations meet the following criteria:

– No cliffhangers. I don’t have enough money to spend on books, and I don’t have time to wait on installments. How do you expect me to enjoy your book when you haven’t bothered to finish the story? That’s unfair to me, as a reader, because waiting would mean that you’re being clever, and I don’t like writers who try too hard to be clever.

– In a similar vein: No love triangles. Now, I know that a few of my writer friends have written books with love triangles in them, and I don’t have any complaints because I understand where they were coming from. But I don’t like love triangles where writers actually want you to choose and build “teams,” because I think it’s a lose-lose situation for both readers and writers. I’m a grown-up now; I want my heroines to be mature enough to live with their choices, and I want the people who care about them to feel the same way.

– The protagonists must be adults who don’t draw out their dramas for the sake of the plot. You’ll hear more about this when I discuss the “billionaire bachelor” trope later in this entry.

– The protagonists must live to see the very end. That’s part of the reason why I still haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars.

– No editing problems. Working on my current editing job has taught me that even the best stories can be brought down by poor grammar and flawed internal logic. And yes, I should talk.

– “Happily ever after,” or at least “happy for now.” Again, I want a guarantee that the characters have made the right choices, and that they’re willing to live with those choices once I close the book.

And now that we’ve gone through the criteria, let’s get right to the recommendations…

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I picked this up at the airport bookstore in Singapore, and it took me a month to start it because I got a lot of feels from the subject matter. (The bus scenes alone triggered a lot of memories, and not all of them were good.) But once I got started, I couldn’t stop myself from finding out how these two crazy kids are going to make it work. I have to hand this one to Rowell: she knows how to write loving portraits of true-to-life teenagers who don’t steep themselves too deeply in their own drama. Highly recommended.

Pushing the Limits, by Katie McGarry. Before E&P came into my life, however, there was this story about two high school misfits trying to work their way through their angsty existence. The plot may touch on some heavy subjects – depression, amnesia, juvenile delinquency, parental neglect – but it’s all done with healthy doses of humor and grace.

Painted Faces, by L.H. Cosway. This is probably one of the books – if not the book – that practically ruined me for other books in the last month or so. Not because the love interest is a heterosexual drag queen who’s all alpha-male underneath his glittery trappings, or because the heroine is a curvy cupcake baker, though both of these characters endeared themselves to me in a special way. I love this book because I loved the universe that Cosway has created around the group of friends that surround our couple, and the realities that these characters face as they make their way through the world. I got this one as a free download, but it’s worth every penny no matter how much you pay for it. (And if you’re not convinced, then maybe this review from Smexy Books should help.)

After This Night, by Lauren Blakely. Yes, I know, I should’ve read the previous books, and I should’ve thought twice when I found out that this was going to have a sequel. What I like about this book, though, was the fact that the plot conflicts aren’t contrived for maximum drama. Usually, with the “billionaire bachelor”* trope, you get a lot of push-and-pull between the H/h because of the socio-economic power dynamics (phew!), but this has characters who are mature enough not to put each other through mind games to get what they want in their relatonship. You could actually imagine people like Julia and Clay in real life, going through their respective situations as best as they could. The plot is also engaging, and there are moments of levity in between the sexytimes.

(EDITED because Clay is an entertainment lawyer, not a billionaire. But the power dynamics are there between him and Julia, even as their approach to their relationship remains mature and level-headed. I could not love those two enough if I tried.)

Ride with Me, by Ruthie Knox. Knox has an engaging way of creating stories about characters who go about their relationships like they’re an integral part of life: they fight, they make love, but ultimately they choose to stay together, no matter what comes their way. This should tide a lot of readers over before the official release of Truly in August, nearly one year after it was first serialized on Wattpad.

Frenched, by Melanie Harlow. The book’s epilogue (Yanked) was what got me to stalk the author – because I demanded so many answers – but Frenched is a lyrical ode to falling in love: with Paris, with life, with possibilities. Did I mention that it’s also very, very sexy?

– Archer’s Voice, by Mia SheridanUsually I’m highly resistant to “New Adult” books because I feel like a crotchety old person whenever I read them, but this book changed my mind about the genre in an unexpected way. Sure, it’s angsty and dramatic – and reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast in a way – but it’s also funny, and sexy, and the supporting characters bring the story to life.

– Making Faces, by Amy HarmonThis is Archer’s Voice for readers who like their small-town New Adult romances to be intimate and sweet at the same time. The angst isn’t overwhelming, but the characters are beautifully developed, and the plot moves at a steady pace.

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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