Friday, June 25, 2010

SGW: Mommyland Summer Reading List

Kate and Lydia would like to extend our thanks to fabulous and brilliant Mrs. Darling, mom of Wendy, John and Michael, for writing this guest post for us and bringing just a little literary light into our Facebook-drenched lives. 
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Welcome to the Rants From MommyLand Summer Reading List.

Yes, I know - "READING? As in, you expect me to READ a book? Are you completely insane? I am the matriarch to clan of snarling wildebeests that cannot be tamed and will not be caged until school opens again in the fall. These beasts - who are also my most beloved and precious children for whom I will fight to the death anyone who says different- are at this moment slathered with sunblock and peanut butter and are now rolling on the astroturf outside the garden center and you think I'm going to take up your list and READ?"

To this, I offer you a "Please sit down" and a "Would you like a glass of adult refreshment?" and a "Your child is playing on the playground with nice friends and hasn't approached you for all of three minutes" or "Hey- your cousins' daughter- not the one with the tramp stamp, the other one, has offered to play with all of your kids in the pool for ten golden minutes" and "Look-you're the last car in the pick up line for camp- what to do?" You have the time- it may be brief but - fortheloveofMaude - it is your time so why don't you get some easy and quick entertainment right now in the form of a... book?

As with any book list, this is a specialized list. These are basically books that can be universally appreciated by mommies. Before anyone gets their literary hey-I-have-a-life-outside-the-domicile-that-doesn't-include-mommy-lit hackles up, let me say that I agree completely - to a point. I love all sorts of books but I must say that come mid July, when I've had all my kiddles with me with little break, I start to reach for the familiar with a twist . The Road or some other such wordy tome will still be around and waiting to impress and depress when I emerge from the sunny summer cocoon in September. Right now it’s time to break out the fun reads.

So go to your library (these are not new books- you will find them) or score the 'practically new' one on Amazon for 75 cents. Stick them in the side door pocket of your car, stuff them in your purse, and make sure there's at least two in the pool bag. Those five minutes while the kids splatter ice cream at one another in front of DQ are yours- use them wisely.

The categories, in no particular order, are as follows:

MAMACENTRIC
1) Kids book that you pick up at the library and think that this will be fun for read aloud time because it was a movie for kids a few years back, then you glance through it at home and think holy wow my progeny will not sleep for weeks if they hear one page of this and when you take it for your own bedtime reading you won't either: Coraline by Neil Gaimen. Scary story about a resourceful girl who has to save her parents and herself from the clutches of her spider-like "Other Mother". Spooky fanciful stuff that appeals to adults. In the end, it gives a huge shout out to imperfect parents- my favorite sort of ending.

2) Buffy is One of Us: OK, that's the quick and easy way to get around the fact that Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner is basically the wish fulfilment for any lovers of all things Joss Whedon. The book, the first in the series of "The Days and Nights of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom", chronicles the adventures of a typical suburban mommy, Kate, who comes out of retirement as a demon hunter when her family is threatened. Her family has no clue to her past and her only help is her best friend and her watcher, um sorry- her aliamentore and the knowledge that she is the chosen one, the slay-sorry- the hunter. The books are fun but with enough depth to so that you won't hate yourself for spending ten minutes locked in the bathroom reading the last chapter.

(Editor's note: Wait a second, why does KATE get to be vampire slayer?? Not even fair.  I'm the Buffy freak. - Lydia)
3) The hysterical mom in book form who is fun to hang with but would be physically exhausting if you had to deal with her more than one playdate a week: Mother on Fire by Sandra Tsing Loh. Let me start by saying I love her book but only in the tiny increments that mommy reading allows. I think that if I had to hang on tight and go for more than one hour with this true life tale of Loh trying to get her oldest daughter into a good kindergarten in LA, I would have been even less capable of coherent thought than I am already. This woman RANTS- and not in the fun Kate and Lydia way- it's more of a sustained shriek of funny that tackles being over forty, underemployed and suddenly realising that your kids might not get the best and it's all your fault. I can't say that I can completely relate to the whole my-kid-needs-best-school-in-the-world, but I was usually laughing too hard to care.

4) Food Flashback: Even if you've never seen Mad Men (which you really should- if only that you can be smug in the fact that Don Draper and all of his cronies are in for a nasty comeuppance around 1973) I'm sure you know the basic story on the home front side: frustrated June Cleavers trapped in big houses and pearls mourning the independence that they will never have etc. Now, instead of Betty Draper hooking up with some random guy in a posh bar during the Cuban missile crisis (really- it's that kind of twisted piece of history that I love) imagine that she reads The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken instead. Skies would open, drinks would flow freely, samba music would play, happiness would abound and Don- who likes his ladies quietly miserable- would be bereft.

This lovely time capsule, which first came out in 1960, is in a word, fabulous to read. Not for the food- which really leans heavily on the "condensed cream of celery and cheddar cheese can brighten any vegetable" school of culinary yuckiness, but for Peg Bracken's prose. "This is a book" she announces on the first page "for those of us who want to fold our big dishwater hands around a dry martini instead of a wet flounder come the end of a long day". With chapters such as "Potluck Suppers or How to Bring the Water for the Lemonade" and instructions to "let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink." you can finally get an idea what our grandmothers' might have really been doing half a century ago.

5) Book you may have already read or maybe not because Jennifer Weiner is always churning out a new book about feisty gals: Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. A mystery set in the posh suburbs of NYC. Outsider mommy Kate stumbles across a murdered supermom and the amateur sleuthing begins. The mystery is just ok, but the lavish life details will keep you reading: Her best friend is an heiress who loves to babysit! Despite her frumpy outsider mommy in plus size jeans status she attracts the handsome PI! Her husband takes her for granted and then realises what a jerk he has been and begs for forgiveness while she convalesces in a charming beach house! Her three kids under five are disturbingly well behaved! Wow- who wouldn't put up with a little carnage if it came with all those trappings? You may be concerned that the intricacies of the mystery story will be hard to follow if you keep picking up and dropping the book every few days. Although I admire Jennifer Weiner's writing immensely, I can confidently give you a hearty "don't worry about the plot" review. Sometimes, that can be bliss.

(Editor's Note: Again, Kate gets to solve crime and be awesome and there is no Lydia in sight.  Hardly fair.  Just saying. - Lydia)

BOOKS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO WITH MOMMYING BUT WE HAVE RICH INNER LIVES AND APPRECIATE ALL BOOKS, SO THERE.
6) Get your fancy book reading done- with zombies! This will be an interactive Jane Austen troika. Find a decent copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (cheaply found- and I think penguin classics has it for a dollar) and get Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from the library. Wrap the two books together with your daughter's scrunchie for easy handling. When time (even three minutes) allows read the zombie version and refer back to the original- or switch if you like. When you have finished you can be proud of the fact that you have read a book that everyone claims to love (but only half have read) while getting some zombie fighting ninja action on the side. Do it this summer before Natalie Portman ruins it with her movie version. For extra credit, get a modern book that is basically a fan letter to P&P (Brigid Jones' Diary, Austenland etc) and enjoy.

(Editor's note: How THE HELL did I not know about this?  On my way to Border's right now. Just. Try. And. Stop. Me. - Lydia)

7) Read this- don't watch that: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. Alright, full confession- I haven't seen the movie. Everyone who's told me about the film talks about the 'Julia Child movie' and how Amy Adams is 'so cute'. Excuse me? The real Julie Powell- whose year long blog is the basis for the book and movie- is many things but she is not cute. Powell was unhappy over the state of her life and decided to throw herself into cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking while chronicling her few successes and many failures. Her writing is fiercely funny and full of words and situations you can't tell your kids about- be warned. The cover of the book will probably be the one with Meryl Streep and cutie pie Amy Adams in halos of glowing good will- use that to your advantage. Nothing says "I am perfect wonder mommy hear me roar" than if your choice of reading material is a sweet story about cooking for those you love- no one needs to know the truth.

8) Eric and Bill, whenever you need them: The Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. Picture this- you have had an awe inspiringly awful day. No AC/husband out of town /pool closed/broken toe- just add on one of your favorites- but you finally have them settled down with their Lego warriors and have promised them dinner in ten minutes. On the way to the kitchen, you stop by the TV and realise that your True Blood disc is still in the player- maybe it's still at the point where you left it last night when Sookie and Bill where about to....Five minutes later you are in crumbled heap of happy on the rug watching the best show in the whole wide world when you hear "Mawmee- Ben told me that....AAAK! what at dey doing on da. TV? are dey hurting?".

This would have never happened if you had the book on hand. Yes, you lose a few of the best characters (like Tara) and parts can drag, but the books coupled with your own imagination can have an explosive effect on a story all your own. And therapy for your children will not be necessary.

DEEPLY DISTURBING BOOK ABOUT SUBURBAN PARENTS DURING ONE SPECIAL SUMMER
9) Guaranteed to put you in a funk although you will also love it: Little Children by Tom Perotta. Opening in the playground on a typical summer day, the novel finds Sarah, a deeply unhappy young mother making a radical change by.......Oh forget it- read it in October.

FANTASTICALLY WONDERFUL BOOK THAT ENRICHES YOUR READING LIFE
10) So? Have any favorites? You must have some.

(Editor's note: Does Judy Blume count? Because I am seriously considering re-reading Are You There God, Its Me Margaret this summer. - Lydia)

Please let Kate and Lydia know- maybe then Lydia will return my copy of Julie and Julia.

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So if you have a favorite summer read - let us know and we'll compile a kick-ass list of fun books that will make your summer even more awesome.

xo, Kate & Lydia


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urtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

51 comments:

  1. Anything by Jen Lancaster! She.is.awesome.

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  2. ANY of Celia Rivenbark's book----all Southern humor and right on the money. Having been raised in the South (but now living in Southern California...thanks Marine Corps!), this book lets you in on EVERYTHING that makes us Southern women tick. Plus, how can you NOT like a book called "Quit Dressing Your Six-year old Like A Skank"??

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  3. I went to Borders but I couldn't find Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, so I got the prequel (because technically it DOES come first!) Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. I freaking LOVED it. I'm dying to get P&P&Z. (Sidenote: They're also turning it into a movie with Natalie Portman playing Elizabeth. & Natalie is kind of my girlfriend so this is a REALLY big deal.)

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  4. Oh. "Little Children" is haunting and incredible and beautiful and so sad and so well written and so complex and so easy to read... I recommend this book more than any other book I've read. What's also great is that you can watch the movie afterwards, and Patrick Wilson look FAN-FRACKING-TASTIC in it.

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  5. I am due with my fourth in six weeks, so am reading fanatically, knowing I won't be able to focus on a printed sentence for weeks afterwords. If it looks slightly interesting, I'll grab it off the library shelf.
    So my picks - The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon. The books are big like rocks, but what an escape! Accidental time travel, nookie with hot Scottish guy, smart, swearing, ahead of her time (literally) heroine.
    I like to read the kids' books (Harry Potter, Little House, etc.) and tell them I'm "checking them out".
    Also, any Jane Austen, any time!

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  6. have you read the Mommy Track mysteries by Ayelet Waldman? They are well written, easy to read and pretty entertaining.

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  7. Oooh, second on the Outlander series.

    Also, Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series - hot faery folk & lots of lust. I've heard her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series is great, too, but haven't actually picked them up. Hmmm... I have a gift card to B&N...

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  8. Mmmm... Eric... Wait. What? Just the thought makes my brain all glamour-mushy. LOL My sis just lent me a series called House of Night. She says it's like Vampire College. Easy and fun to read. Here goes...

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  9. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series!! You will laugh out loud!!!

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  10. The Black Dagger brothergood series! (By JR Ward) They are written very well, have lotts and lotts of vampire smut along with good story lines and a lot of action! Love them!

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  11. I can hardly believe that Lydia hasn't discovered Christopher Moore. With titles like Bite Me, Bloodsucking Fiends, and You Suck, a Love Story, she should tap a t-box, put the kids in front of the electronic babysitter and ENJOY!!! He is 4 words hi.lar.i.ous, and smart enough to keep your brain from turning into Cream of Wheat.

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  12. I love anything by Christopher Moore, especially "Lamb", but he has a great, funny vampire series "Bloodsucking Fiends", "You Suck" and hmmm, I can't remember the last one, but they're perfect summer reads!

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  13. Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. It's a vamp series, but way better than Twilight. Definitely not PG rated. Something to read after the children are in bed.

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  14. love, love, love the Outlander series! Don't let the size of the books scare you - they are the perfect escape!

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  15. Judy Blume totally counts! Have you ever read "Summer Sisters"?? Grown up Judy Blume!!

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  16. I've got to agree the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is the best. Acident prone NJ bounty hunter with a whole slew of crazy characters and things exploding! All of them are funny, but once you get through the second book in the series they become hilarious.

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  17. As far as going back to books we loved as kids, I loved Harriet the Spy (never saw the movie). Judy Blume was great too.

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  18. I second Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum series!! especially to anyone who is a Jersey girl :)

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  19. Jennifer Crusie! "Bet Me" and "Faking It" are really fantastic.

    And, of course, anything Janet Evanovich has written, especially her re-released short, fun romance novels.

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  20. Even More Yesser for the Outlander series. They are awesome! I love Jennifer Weiner also, but in small doses.

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  21. Along the lines of teen fiction/magic/Harry Potter. I really love Tamora Pierce's books. The Terrier of Tortall series is great. Mercedes Lackey has a great series of books loosely based on fairy tales that are hilarious and sweet all at the same time.

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  22. Anything by Katie MacAlister or Angie Fox.

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  23. I fourth the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum Series! Sooooo funny, and they are pretty quick reads.

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  24. Yes, yes, yes! P&P&Z is available on the e-reader on my phone so I can start reading it immediately without having to be delayed by actually going to the bookstore.

    Next up: Carpe Diem, because I still miss Buffy and will happily read anything that even kinda reminds me of the glorious BtVS days.

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  25. If you go in for Pride and Prejudice era books, you'd looove Georgette Heyer. Her books are very, very like Austen's (spirited, witty, vulnerable, tough, AWESOME heroines and a-bit-too-masterful hero with twinkle-in-eye but a couple of character flaws he grows through with the help of the heroine and various misadventures). Heyer's are just much, MUCH funnier and easier to read. They were written in the 50's and 60's, so they're often to be found with torrid or boring covers, but they're a perfect mix of hilarious feminine power and wish-fulfillment-romantic. I've read some of them multiple times and there are lots of them to love! I've never passed one to an Austen fan without getting rave reviews.

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  26. The Aurora Teagarden series from Charlaine Harris. Not quite on par with the Sookie Stackhouse books but they are a good light read.

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  27. Loved Lamb (and LOVE LOVE LOVE Outlander). Thanks for the suggestions, will get right on them! :)

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  28. OK, I am way behind the times but my fall/winter reading is generally Henry James. In the summer though? The trashier the better. Occasionally I find that Danielle Steele is not trashy enough for me. What can I say? My mind wants popcorn too...

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  29. PS- My verification word was "Hodess". Is that what you would call a Goddess in Bratz clothes?

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  30. Just finished 'The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life' by Kathy L. Patrick. Couldn't put it down. Read it. Be a queen. I've been converted:)

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  31. Mission Accomplished! I knew that if I produced a book list I'd get some fabulous new reads of my own. Reading mothers rock.

    Blowing kisses at my laptop.

    Lady Madonna

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  32. Lydia, there is also Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!
    Ok, so, I am a librarian and I really am trying hard not to give a list of 100 great books!!!
    For a fun read try Undead and Unwed for a bit more serious read, but incredibly good try Water for Elephants or Time Travelers Wife (way better than the movie of course).
    For something that you will love and can share with the kids too try the Allie Finkle series or if you have tweens or teens try The Hunger Games trilogy (some of the best YA books in a long time! Blows Twilight out of the water.)

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  33. Dawn Marie CostorfJune 25, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    The first paragraph made me snort my WINE for gosh-sakes!! MISTS OF AVALON for medieval warrior people - THE STAND for the evil vs good people - THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for the geeky people and JITTERBUG PERFUME for the people that wish they were still tripping...in that way...

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  34. I agree with Lamb. I read it years ago and I still laugh when I think about Biff 'sinning' in a stall while he's trying to tell Jesus that yup its bad, but feels so good.
    Also JR Ward...totally addicting.
    I like to read teen girl books. I'm a big Meg Cabot fan. Everything but the princess books. I read way too much young adult books for a grown woman.

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  35. ERIC ERIC AND MORE ERIC! SEASON #3 ROCKS!!!!

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  36. Even yesser to Janet Evanovich. I always laugh out loud while reading her books; they're quick and easy reads and you can put them down for days and pick right back up when you open them again. Also, J.A. Jance's mysteries, particularly the Joanna Brady series. Not quite so easy-breezy, but interesting characters and definitely books you can put down and pick up at will.

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  37. agreed! the outlander books are an amazing escape and frightfully addictive!!!

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  38. Another plug for the Outlander books. Even my DAD liked them (he read them when my Mom did). Warning: they can make you unwittingly read MUCH too late at night! Mists of Avalon is fantastic, too.

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  39. I absolutely LOVE Something Borrowed and Something Blue (two separate books) by Emily Giffin. They are frothy enough to be good summer reads, but substantial enough that it keeps you turning the pages. Also, some parts are surprising relateable. I've read them like three times each!

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  40. One of the funniest books I have ever read is Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass,Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office. Need I say more? Jen Lancaster is the author. It is not new - I read it about 5 years ago. It is a quick and easy read and perfect for laying by the pool. It may not be found in a local library but I bet you could get it for a few bucks on Amazon. It is worth it!

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  41. Yay for reading Moms! I agree on the Diana Gabaldon books, they are big and beefy, but a nice escape. For romance and just nice story telling, I am a HUGE Nora Roberts fan. She just tells a great story, and her series books are super, particularly the Chesapeake Bay series, the Key series, and the new Bride series. Also, for history buffs, I think this series is out of print, but if you can track it down, more power to you. Celeste DiBlasis' Wild Swan trilogy. Beautiful history of the fictional Falconer family emmigrating from England to Maryland in the 1820s, follows the family through the civil war and nearly to 1900, going from grandparents to great grand children. The family is involved in horseracing, at the heart of the story, and these books are just wonderful. So, Nora Roberts and Celeste DiBlasis. Enjoy, and happy reading!

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  42. Megan said...
    Loved the YA book "Hunger Games" and its sequel "Cathing Fire." "Mockingjay" comes out in August and can't wait! Nora Roberts is always good for light reading--"In the Garden" trilogy is one of my faves. Okay, last pick (another YA book)--"A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray

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  43. Just check out the list on this blog.... They're ALL paranormal romance (vampires, weres, witches, faeries, oh my!) and urban fantasy (same types of characters, but more 'kid friendly' with no graphic sex scenes)
    http://darkxpriestess.wordpress.com

    I see a few of 'my' authors already suggested, and i think y'all would really enjoy them!

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  44. 'MY ORANGE DUFFEL BAG' by Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett
    It is a life-changing book. I read it twice, completely -- and now I read a little at a time, until something jumps out that is relevant to my day.
    It is compelling -- captivating -- inspiring, and an invaluable resource for affecting transformational change.
    It is also a visual masterpiece. The story conveyed by the visual layout -- which to me is part scrapbook, part collage -- is fascinating.
    It also comes with a dvd that is as rich an experience as the book.
    Available at www.myorangeduffelbag.com
    (and will become available on amazon.com later this summer/early fall)

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  45. I posted a good list on FB that included vampires and shifters. Yum.

    As for Sookie, all is transformed after the shower scene. *sighs*

    I watched the Julie & Julia movie before reading (something rarely done) and I loved Meryl Streep but found the Julie character wildly annoying and whiny. Which is why I haven't actually tried to read the book too much. ;)

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  46. I also recommend The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I just read them this weekend (totally glued to my side so I could read while stirring taco meat, on the toilet, at red lights, waaaay too late into the night). Kick ass female hero.

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  47. Anything Christopher Moore written. All hysterical, but child inappropriate.(There is swearing) Its how I retaught my man how to read...

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  48. I agree with the Outlander recommendation. My absolute FAVORITE books, I have read the entire series at least 3 times. Also, love the Harry Potter books, and also Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper). I did not care much for the Time Travelers Wife, but Water for Elephants was good, though a bit short

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  49. In the Austen genre - the best thing I have read in a long time was "Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife" by Linda Berdoll. A-mazing!!! Everything you love about Austen + everything you wish it was. If you've ever had a fantasy about Mr. Darcy-in-his-riding-boots-and-puffy-shirt-a-la-Colin-Firth (aka "Firthy") this is the book for you! Yum. That is all.

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  50. Terry Pratchett! On the surface, the Discworld series looks like mere science fiction, but sublimely contains deeper themes and it is oh-my-god-I-just-laughed-out-so-hard-I-need-to-go-change-my-slightly-wet-panties funny! :-)

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  51. Dark hunter series by sherrilyn kenyon lots of sexiness, with a surprisingly great plot. Also, lots of little tidbits about Greek mythology.

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