Popular Reads (pssst -- it's okay!)

I haven’t gotten to write anything much lately other than shopping lists. Shopping lists do not count no matter how creative they get! I have been able to keep up with reading some of my favorite blogs and some fabulous books in the past few weeks. A recent blog post has had me thinking these past few days about the books we enjoy—particularly those novels which are not considered literary gems but are widely popular.

Of course, to enjoy a story it must resonate with us on some level. We all have heard and possibly participated in conversations about books that we felt were not particularly well written but somehow became a sensation, selling millions of copies and eventually movie rights. (The Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight series come to mind immediately.) There is much literary disdain for the quality of the writing in these books, but having read both series and enjoyed them as well, I cannot discount their popularity. What about them made me want to keep reading? It was the fact that they somehow resonated with me and millions of other readers.

With that in mind, I often read very popular formulaic books. Why? Because I enjoy the characters and the continuing plot line. Something about them resonates with me. Are they great literary works? Heck, NO! But they are fine entertainment and pull me away from mundane to-do lists for a little while! (And we can’t discount the writing skill it takes to keep a series alive and well through the course of so many volumes.)

I love both the JD Robb series and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. JD Robb is at #43 in this pseudonym of Nora Roberts’ series which follows homicide detective Eve Dallas and a lovely cast of characters through a new murder investigation in each book. Apprentice in Death did not disappoint, and, in fact, I think it was one of the better ones in the past couple of years. If you’ve never read this series by Roberts’ alter ego, you could have a heck of a good time binge-reading with 43 novels at your disposal! 

Slightly less serious but at times equally murderous, the plots in Janet Evanovich’s series follow mishap-prone bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. She truly is one of my favorite characters and Turbo Twenty-Three was another fun read in this long-running series.

Leaving my comfort-reads, I did branch out in the past few weeks. One of the best books I’ve read this fall was My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. This author crafts the most beautiful lines, pulling you into the life of a woman who is convalescing and receives an unexpected visit from her estranged mother. The whole story takes place inside that hospital room, but we are regularly transported elsewhere through the stories told by the mother as she keeps her daughter company. Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer for a different novel, Olive Kitteridge. I will definitely read more from this spectacular storyteller.

June by Amanda Beverly-Whittemore was another excellent tale that hovers between past and present. The past story focuses on a small town and the people in it who are impacted when they become the location for a movie. The present-day story deals with finding the truth about what happened between one of the town’s young women and the leading man in the movie. Lots of twists and turns in this one made for a great read.

I switched gears and picked up a copy of the teen novel Unfriended by Rachel Vail. I met this author when we were both guests at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival. She was great fun to meet! I was intrigued by this story, which focuses on the cruelty and misunderstandings of middle school with the added twist of the anonymity of social media. If this doesn’t remind you of being in middle school, nothing will! Rachel Vail has penned many, many books for teens and pre-teens. If you’re looking for something to read with your reader in this age bracket, you couldn’t go wrong in picking up one of her stories.

I also picked up a copy of Ann Garvin’s novel I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around. Garvin is a Wisconsin author who I have had the pleasure of hearing speak at conferences. Her humor is evident in both her presentations and in the pages of this novel. The main character is pulled in so many directions as she juggles being a therapist, caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, attempting to save her relationship with her significant other, and reconciling with her sister who returns pregnant and needing a place to stay. If that sounds like it might not be a fun read, you’re completely wrong. Finding humor in life’s toughest days is what Garvin does best.

And, I’m in the middle of reading the Aftermath series by Wisconsin author Sandy Goldsworthy. I am so engrossed in this story and will have more on this before the end of the year with a feature interview with the author!

Happy reading everyone . . . if you’re not too shy, let me know in the comment field if you’ve read either Fifty Shades of Grey and/or Twilight and whether you enjoyed reading them or not. No judging!


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