As any voracious reader knows, there are so many books out there, it can be hard to choose just what to read next. So what could be better than a hand-picked recommendation from someone in the know? Every Wednesday the XOXOAD team likes to find out what some of its favorite authors are reading. This week, we’ve asked Christina Lauren, the authors of the Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, what they recommend…
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
So I’m basically in love with the author (she’s adorable) and the main character, Calaena Sardothien (she’s a badass). I’m usually way way too hard on female characters, but I’m in awe of this one. Calaena is a prisoner, serving out her sentence in the salt mines when she’s ordered in front of the Prince and offered her freedom in exchange for becoming his champion in a royal competition. Because did I mention that Calaena’s not just some damsel in distress, she’s actually an assassin? That’s right. So we have asskicking, but we also have mystery when one of the contestants she’s supposed to kill ends up dead, and then another dies, leaving Calaena to figure out who the killer is before she’s next. And by the way? There’s also sexual tension in this thing that’s off the charts when we have not one Swoony Boy . . . er Man . . . but two. Will it be the Crown Prince who brought her there in the first place, or the Captain of the Guard? I DON’T KNOW! Read this one. The story is phenomenal and the writing is out of this world. I’ve been going back and forth between my Audible copy (it’s a fantastic audiobook, by the way) and my paperback, and I’m loving every minute.
Nuts by Alice Clayton
We happen to have a little insider information on this one because Alice is one of our favorite people in the world, and we’ve been lucky enough to get an advance copy of her next book, Nuts (Book 1 of the Hudson Valley series), out October 20th. If you know anything about Alice you’ll know that she loves to cook and she’s funny as hell. Both of these things will jump right off the pages at you. Roxie Callahan is a private chef who caters to the Hollywood elite and loses her job—and all her clients—after a mishap in the kitchen. Roxie’s mom is a hot mess and when she’s in need of help, calls on Roxie to return home and run the family’s little diner. Enter Leo (did I mention he’s an organic farmer specializing in NUTS?), and steam and hilarity follow. So far this book is a bit higher on the heat scale side than we’ve seen from Alice before—which we can certainly appreciate—and definitely just as funny. Will Roxie find what she’s been looking for in the place she couldn’t wait to escape? Or will she return to Hollywood to even the score? WE SHALL SEE.
Lauren is liking:
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
The Boys in the Boat is amazing—I just finished it this afternoon and I’m probably going to reread it immediately. [I’m not alone in my worship: This book has over FOURTEEN THOUSAND reviews on Amazon, and a 4.8 average. There is not a single one-star review.] When I am drafting I tend to read nonfiction—sometimes for research, and sometimes just so that I don’t end up confusing my character’s voice—but invariably I end up drawing from the characters in these books, and the portrayal of the men here is simply astounding.
This story is about the men’s rowing team from the University of Washington, made up of a group of salt-of-the-earth boys who join the team their freshman year, and their quest to reach the Olympic Games in Berlin. Many of these boys were raised in poverty and nearly all of them grew up in Seattle, which at that time was a tiny town. The rise of this team truly buoyed the entire region, and then the nation, and one of the things I loved about the story was the message about what a team can do together, even without money, sponsors, and lifelong coaching. The flip side of that was also often heart wrenching: when one person on the team suffered, they all did.
This period in history (1930’s) was brutal, and that element, layered with the stories of each of these young men, made for a book that I ended up reading until about three in the morning. I am telling you, that usually only happens with angsty romance or Breaking Bad, but nope, this book was totally gripping. I realize XOXO tends to rec romance, but there is so much of solid human nature here—give this one a try!
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I initially picked this up in the airport, thinking it would be a good, light nonfiction for a romance author to read: a funny book about the exploration of dating life in the modern age. It is so much more than that. This book includes an incredible amount of research, and the end result is part social-science (he co-wrote with Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at NYU), part memoir (his and others, via interview), and part Ansari stand-up, which—let’s be honest—I am always here for. Luckily for me and my short attention span on planes, the entire thing was completely engrossing.
At its core, this book is about the history of dating, and the current challenges inherent in finding someone in the present day. Ansari makes a pretty good case that the changes aren’t just driven by the internet, and the interviews and research feel—dare I say it?—a little groundbreaking? Of course his anecdotes are really f*cking funny, but what I really appreciated was how genuinely compassionate he was in everything he approached here. I would put it on the must-read list for every romance author, every romance lover, and every human who just finds other humans sort of fascinating.
Sustained, by Emma Chase
And here it is. This is, hands down, Emma’s best book to date. I am talking heart-dropping swoons and belly laughs. I’m not actually sure what I enjoyed more: the humor (OMG the dog and the vomit, I’m still laughing) or the swoons (JakeJakeJake). I love the honesty of his voice, the true development of his character over time, the two-steps-forward-one-step-back aspect to his feelings that felt completely genuine to me. This was one that I read in a single sitting (that’s my test for a five-star book). Sustained came out on August 25th and everyone and their mother and brother and best friend needs to read it. Come back when you’re done and tell me I was right.