This novel is everything good and everything bad about so-called “chick lit.” Bet Me is a contemporary romance that follows an actuary, Minerva Dobbs, who falls in love with a businessman, Cal Morrisey. All the great things about chick lit are here: a comforting happy ending, a heroine who struggles with her weight (how relatable!), a sizzling romantic connection, and the kind of supportive female friendship that anyone would wish to be part of. But all the cliche chick lit negatives are here too: love at first sight and rapid-fire courtships, a heroine with a negative body image (how typical!), Krispy Kreme donuts used as a tool of seduction, overbearing and critical moms, boring B-stories, way too many descriptions of shoes, a poorly realized setting (neglected no doubt to give more text to the developing romance, which doesn’t need it), absurd coincidences, and a ridiculously neat happy ending.

It’s a pretty sharp novel overall; the characters aren’t deep or unique, but they’re not hateful or wooden either. The dialog is crisp and cute and the whole book reads really quickly, so it’s a great choice for light reading. If you’re picky, be warned: there are quite a few breaks with reality. There are only about a dozen characters in this book and they all interact very intimately, whether they’re lovers, ex-lovers, old friends, family, or strangers – it reads very high school even though these are all supposedly career-oriented individuals in their thirties. The wedding subplot with Min’s sister as a bride is hopelessly unrealistic (at one point, Min has to take over catering the rehearsal dinner, which is for only 14 people AND it doesn’t include an actual wedding rehearsal. what?!). Min lets a feral cat into her house and feeds and sleeps with it without even giving it a bath or a once-over with a comb, let alone taking a trip to the vet. This is another classic problem of chick lit: authors tend to steamroll over realism to achieve the symbolism or plot developments that they have planned, and it’s just plain distracting. You can’t tell me that Min is a smart woman and then show me her sleeping with a mangy wild cat in her bed; one of those two things is a lie. If that kind of light touch doesn’t bother you, Bet Me is as scrumptious and sweet as a Krispy Kreme – but like the fabled donut, it’s mostly hot air.

Good luck finding a copy of the sudden phenomenon known as Fifty Shades of Grey, a scintillating romance novel – the first in a trilogy – that’s stirred up a whirlwind of conversation lately. The novel started its life as an online-only Twilight fan fiction story; once it picked up some enthusiastic readers and momentum, Ms. James modified her main characters’ names, professions, and paranormal status and Fifty Shades was born. Since then, it’s found a major publisher and a movie deal in addition to a spot on the national scene. Find your reason for not reading this sexy novel below and read on for your next great read!

 

  • I like ‘romantica’ (romance novels with very erotic scenes), and I’ve already read (or I’m impatiently waiting for) this trilogy. What should I read next? If you’re a fan of the genre, try books by any of these authors, who mix plenty of sensual action into their happily-ever-afters: Shayla Black, Colette Gale, Kresley Cole, Zane, Janice Maynard, J.R. Ward, and Lora Leigh.
  • This book was too racy for me! For a gentler read with contemporary setting and a happily ever after, try any of these writers who focus on lighter romance: Lisa Kleypas, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, and Rachel Gibson.
  • I’m so sick of Twilight and all its spin offs – whatever is the opposite of that is what I want to read. Try out these realistic, literary, thought-provoking novels for a reading experience just as compelling as the-vampire-book-that-must-not-be-named but minus all the bloodsucking, romantic quivering, and hype: Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell; The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; Arcadia by Lauren Groff; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt; Swamplandia! by Karen Russell; Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. Nary a vampire in sight!
  • I want to read romance or erotica, but I’m embarrassed to let people see me with them. Don’t sweat it, a lot of us are in the same boat, and DPL has some awesome solutions! For the ultimate in anonymity, check out our WILBOR database of ebooks you can check out for free. You don’t have to own a smartphone, Nook, Kindle, or iPad – WILBOR offers tons of audiobooks that can be played from an mp3 player, and ebooks can frequently be read on your computer without transferring to an e-reader. Explore WILBOR’s help page or call the Reference desk if you need assistance. Also, don’t forget that all three branches have self-checkout counters, so you can pick out your favorites and none of the staff need to be any the wiser! Or take matters into your own hands with a Do-It-Yourself or inexpensive book cover. If anyone asks, just shrug and say, “oh, I’m finally trying to finish Middlemarch – the darn thing is just so long!” No one wants to talk about Middlemarch, so you’re free to read your salacious paperbacks in peace.

I have been wanting to read a book by Katie Fforde for a while now. Why?

A. Her book covers are so fresh & lovely
B. She is the cousin-in-law of one of my very favorite authors, Jasper Fforde.

Very good reasons, but not quite enough to jump to the top of my very long to-read list. Luckily, one of her books did the unthinkable and bypassed the list altogether! I found myself at work with no new US Weekly magazine to read for lunch and there was the pretty, hand-lettered cover of Love Letters staring up at me from an items-recently-returned book truck. After reading just a few pages I knew that I would spend my evening curled up on the front porch with this book.

Love Letters revolves around a bookish girl in her mid-twenties, Laura, who finds herself out of a job when her grandfatherly employer decides to retire and close their beloved bookshop. However, Laura has earned a bit of a reputation for her expert handling of authors at the shop’s popular book-signing events and she is quickly recruited to organize a country book festival. Of course nothing can be simple: the book festival’s sponsor will only supply the funds if Laura can guarantee the appearance of a certain reclusive, notoriously difficult, and incredibly handsome Irish author. So begins the delightful adventures of Laura as she travels across England and Ireland, staying in hip country estates and sleeping in wild authors’ beds. The whole story is very romantic, cozy and lovely–just like the book’s jacket design!

And speaking of the book design, I was super excited to find that the newest editions of Katie Fforde’s books provide information on the jacket’s designers, illustrator and calligrapher! (who are Head Design, Sophie Griotto and Jill Calder, respectively.) Kudos to you, St. Martin Press, for giving credit to the people responsible for me picking up Love Letters to begin with!

Kentucky native Emma Guthrie has just lost her film scholarship to a prestigous New York university and now she is in desperate need of work in Katie Lee’s fiction debut, Groundswell.    After sending out dozens of resumes for any and every job in the film industry, she receives a surprise email from a production company asking her to report to work in the morning as a temporary production assistant for the upcoming summer blockbuster.  Little does Emma know that this small event will completely change her life. 

As a jack of all trades on the set, one day her assigned task is to deliver lunch to the star of the movie, Garrett Walker.  From their first meeting, he is smitten.  After tentatively accepting a date with the known womanizer, Emma becomes the girlfriend of one of the biggest movie stars in the world.  She quickly becomes accustomed to the life of luxury, but after a quick engagement and secret, paparazzi-free wedding, she begins to long for a career of her own.  With some film experience under her belt from her college days, she writes a fictionalized story of her life, Fame Tax, which becomes the summer’s biggest romantic comedy. 

Without any warning, Emma is betrayed and her marriage is hanging by a thread.  Needing a break from the circus-like atmosphere revolving around her, she escapes to a small, sleepy village in Mexico where she meets, Ben, a surf instructor who teaches her both how to surf and how the smallest events in life can eventually lead to the greatest rewards.

 

The latest book by Emily Giffin, Heart of the Matter, delves into the dynamics of what can happen with a chance encounter and how seemingly small things can completely change lives.

Stay at home mom Tessa Russo’s days are spent with her two young children while her husband, Nick, a world renowned pediatric plastic surgeon, works long hours which keeps him away from his family much of the time.  While celebrating their anniversary at a five-star restaurant, Nick receives a call that will completely alter their future as a couple.  A five year old boy, Charlie Anderson, has been burned on his hands and face at a birthday party and Nick has been called to the hospital to treat him.

In the days and weeks to follow, Nick develops a strong bond with Charlie’s single mother, Valerie, and with the boy.  With the days, nights and weekends in which they spend together watching over him through surgeries and rehabilitation, their relationship slowly turns romantic.  Nick’s wife Tessa eventually learns of the affair after his admission that he has just ended his relationship with Valerie.  Tessa’s decision about her future is not easy or simple, and Giffin’s characters have true depth and thoughfulness in the decisions which they make.

Each chapter of Heart of the Matter alternates between Tessa’s and Valerie’s voices and this technique makes each of the two women multi-layered, complex and real. Giffin has a talent for creating empathetic female characters which the reader truly cares about.  Heart of the Matter is Giffin’s fifth book and each of her previous novels conquer similar themes – women at a juxtaposition in their lives as well as the complex choices which go with them.