Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light and Fun

Top Ten Tuesday2

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is such a good one. I love light and fun reads because I feel like they come in handy whenever I feel like a book slump is about to occur. Or when I want to cleanse my reading palate after reading a dense fantasy novel or an emotionally heavy book. I don’t have to be in a certain mood to read books like the ones I’ve included here, I can just pick them up whenever I want to read something that’s easy to get into. In no particular order, here are my top ten light reads:

I Do and At First Sight by Elizabeth Chandler – Bantam’s Love Stories series was the YA series to follow back when I was a teen. These two by Elizabeth Chandler are my favorites. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve reread these.

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra – I feel like I’m a broken record because I keep saying this but Mina is my favorite Filipino chick lit author. I could relate to her novels because they’re about young Filipino women and her books are set in the Philippines.

Something About You by Julie James – All of Julie James’ romances are filled with a healthy dose of humor, which is why I enjoy reading them. Something About You is the first in her FBI/US Attorney series and my favorite so far. There’s just something about main characters who keep bickering to hide their attraction.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – Such a swoon-worthy novel set in one of the most romantic cities in the world. Really enjoyed the tension between Anna and Etienne.

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand – Another novel set in Paris! But adult contemporary romance instead of YA. Couldn’t help but feel good whenever I read Laura Florand’s novels – I’m a fan of how she combines romance with delicious food.

Laduree macarons

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – This one might not be considered light because the main characters have to deal with some pretty serious issues but there’s something magical about the writing that makes it so much fun to read.

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson – The first Eva Ibbotson novel that I ever read and it’s still one of my favorites. I love the fairy tale feel of this historical fiction novel.

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews – I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this since I’m not a sci-fi girl. I didn’t get confused by the details of the sci-fi setting and I really liked the romance

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – I could relate to Harry’s thirst for adventure and I loved living vicariously through her (and all other strong female characters I admire).

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner – I know, I know. A book riddled with political intrigue isn’t usually considered light fare but I’ve reread this book so many times that it has just become a comfort read. Plus, Gen is always good for some laughs.

I’ve noticed that most of my picks for light reads are contemporary novels and that ALL of them have some kind of romance in them. It sure looks like I enjoy a well-written love story in my feel good reads. Do you agree with some of my choices? What are some of your own favorite light reads?

Shoot That Book: Garden Spells and Nail Polish

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

This is another Shoot That Book nail polish post because I was bored while waiting to meet up with friends for dinner last Friday so I decided to have my nails done. I wanted a color that’s bright and happy so it would be perfect for summer. I chose this frosted light green polish and was delighted when I found out that it matches the cover for one of my favorite books: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen:

I think Sarah Addison Allen’s books are comfort reads and I love going through them. Garden Spells is my favorite, which is funny because I have a used paperback copy of it while I have hardcovers for the rest of her books. Hopefully, I can find a hardcover edition to match the rest. I think the Garden Spells cover is lovely, especially with the gold trim near the title:

I promise this will be the last nail polish post for a while! I need to think of more creative Shoot That Book pictures to show you guys. In the meantime, feel free to let me know what’s your favorite Sarah Addison Allen title and if you have any recommendations similar to her writing.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen is one of my anticipated releases in 2011. I have loved Sarah Addison Allen’s books ever since I read Garden Spells. Her books are my first foray into magic realism and I keep saying I should read more from the genre but I haven’t had the chance to do so. I couldn’t help but read The Peach Keeper as soon as I could get my grubby hands on it because I knew I was going to like this one just as much as her other novels.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam — built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home — has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate — socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood — of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones — those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago — are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families — and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Wow, look at that summary. Quite long, isn’t it? I think it provides enough background about the story and I don’t want to add anymore because I don’t want to give too much away. Going into the novel, I had a feeling it was going to be different from Sarah Addison Allen’s usual because of the mystery involved. It is a bit different in that sense and also because the subtle magic and the mouth-watering descriptions of food that has become Sarah Addison Allen’s signature was absent in this one. The usual themes of friendship and romance are still present though, which made me a very happy reader because those are what I love in her books. As with her other books, the perspective changes based on the two main characters, Willa and Paxton. Both of these women and even the men in their lives, Colin and Sebastian, went to the same high school together. It’s funny how they were never good friends when they were teenagers but their lives now intersect in ways that they never expected. All four of these characters went through big changes in their lives throughout the course of the book. My favorite chapter was the one called, “The Joker, The Stick Man, The Princess and The Freak”, when these four unexpectedly had a meal together and the fascinating conversation that ensued. I guess it’s not surprising that another favorite scene of mine was when there was a cameo from a Garden Spells character.

I’ve said this before and I’ll probably end up saying it again: there’s something about Sarah Addison Allen’s books that make them good comfort reads. I’ve seen some people classify her books as chick lit or contemporary romance and while that makes sense, I find that her characters have much more depth than other characters in that genre. Like in The Peach Keeper, there is romance in the story but it was never the focus. It was more about the characters learning more about themselves and developing relationships that let them grow as persons more than anything else. The Peach Keeper is a delightful read and it’s the kind of book that I feel like I could recommend to just about anyone. I was afraid I was going to experience a reading slump because I wasn’t feeling the books that I’ve picked up lately. The Peach Keeper got me out of that almost-slump. If you’ve never read a Sarah Addison Allen (her name is quite a mouthful and I keep repeating it in my review) book before then you could start with this one. If you have recommendations similar to her style of writing, please mention it in the comments. I’d love to read more books like this.

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The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

I enjoyed reading both Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen so I was looking forward to reading Sarah Addison Allen’s latest book. I have to admit that these books have made me more curious about magic realism.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew — a reclusive, real-life gentle giant — she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Sarah Addison Allen’s books usually focus on two main characters who are somehow connected. In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, these characters are Emily and her new neighbor, Julia. When her mother passes away, Emily moves to Mullaby to be with the maternal grandfather she never knew she had. Emily is surprised to discover that the small town doesn’t have a favorable impression of her beloved mother and she doesn’t understand why. While Emily, her mother’s troubled past and her forbidden friendship with mysterious Win Coffey are all interesting, I found Julia’s story much more compelling. I found Emily and Win’s relationship to be similar to most of the YA paranormal romances out there, including Win’s family secret. As a result, I was always eagerly anticipating the scenes that involved Julia. This would probably be a good introduction to YA fans who want to give SAA’s books a try because Emily is a teen.

Julia can’t wait to leave Mullaby. She keeps telling everyone (herself included) that she’s in town only until she could sell the barbecue restaurant that she inherited from her father. She doesn’t have a reason for staying, least of all, her high school love and golden boy of Mullaby, Sawyer. I found Sawyer, with his Southern manners and insatiable hunger for sweets, charming. I can imagine him going, “CAKE! Nom nom nom nom.” Be sure to have food beside you when you read this book because it’s bound to make you hungry. Good thing we had a lot of food at home because of the New Year festivities. Overall, The Girl Who Chased the Moon is just as enchanting as SAA’s other novels and I gobbled it up during the weekend. It’s a story about family, friendship and food (all good things, in my opinion). I love reading SAA’s books and I can’t wait for her latest, The Peach Keeper, to come out this March.

Click on the images below to see my reviews of Sarah Addison Allen’s other books:

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The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen was my Want Books pick a couple of months ago. I picked up Garden Spells first and enjoyed it so much that I decided to read this right after.

Here’s the summary from Sarah Addison Allen’s website:

Josey Cirinni is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and her passion for the man she loves is best kept a secret, even from him. Josey has grudgingly settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, but her one consolation is the secret stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she keeps in her closet. One morning, she opens her closet for a sweet, but finds Della Lee Baker hiding there instead. Della Lee is a local waitress on the run who is one part nemesis — and two parts fairy godmother. Under Della Lee’s guidance, Josey is soon living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion is so real it can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

When I first started reading this book, I only meant to read a couple of chapters. I ended up finishing it until 3am, leaving me with only two and a half hours of sleep. There’s something about Sarah Addison Allen’s writing that makes you just want to gobble up her words. Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is stuck living with her domineering mother who constantly reminds her that she will never be beautiful. Josey longs to leave her North Carolina town but stays out of a sense of obligation to her mother. Instead, she comforts herself with a secret stash of paperback romances, travel magazines and lots and lots of candy hidden in her closet. Can totally relate to Josey on this one because I LOVE sweets although my fondness extends to more than just candy. Obviously, I also love books but not exactly romances. Josey’s life takes a turn for the better when she finds rough and wild Della Lee in her closet. Della Lee encourages her to come out of her shell and befriend a heartbroken woman named Chloe. This book is a story of friendship between these women and it also deals with their unfortunate love lives. Della Lee accurately describes them when she says, “Girls like us, when we love, it takes everything we have.”

The Sugar Queen is just as enchanting as Sarah Addison Allen’s debut novel, Garden Spells although I found myself liking the latter more. Both Josey and Chloe slowly come to their own and become more independent as the story develops. I think I liked Garden Spells more mostly because I couldn’t get past what Jake did to Chloe. I know he’s really a good guy and he loves her but I really can’t understand why he was able to do that and I sympathized with Chloe and what she was going through. I think it’s a good thing that throughout her life, Chloe was comforted by books. Books would magically appear whenever she needed them. What an amazing kind of magic, isn’t it? I would love to have something like that. Here’s a lovely bit that I’d like to quote:

“Books can be possessive, can’t they? You’re walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what’s inside will change your life, but sometimes you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven’t even had their spines cracked. ‘Why do you buy books you don’t even read?’ our daughter asks us. That’s like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course.”

Sarah Addison Allen has been added to my auto-buy list after I finished reading Garden Spells and I really enjoyed reading this one even though I had some problems with it. I loved that this is set in autumn/winter and that Josey loves snow because I’ve never seen or experienced snow. The setting made the book a good read for December. Can’t wait to get my copy of The Girl Who Chased the Moon, I ordered it from the Book Depository two weeks ago and it still hasn’t arrived.

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Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen has been recommended by several people – namely Celina, Angie and Michelle. It’s a book that falls under the genre magic realism and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it.

Here’s the Summary from Sarah Addison Allen’s website:

Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where everyone has a story to tell about the Waverleys. There’s the house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, and the wild rumors of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Claire has always clung to the Waverleys’ roots, tending the enchanted soil in the family garden from which she makes her sought-after delicacies. She has everything she thinks she needs, until one day she wakes to find a stranger has moved in next door and a vine of ivy has crept into her garden… and Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.

What a lovely surprise Garden Spells turned out to be. I’ve had my copy for several months now and I only felt the urge to pick it up this weekend, when I felt like I could use a bit of magic in my reading. It looks like I’m going to become a fan of magic realism because I like that it’s mostly contemporary fiction with just enough magic sprinkled in to make things more intriguing. The Waverley women have always had a hint of magic in their blood. In Claire Waverley, this comes out in her cooking. She has the power to influence how other people feel by using flowers and plants from the Waverley garden. The apple tree in the garden is famous because when a person takes a bite from one of its apples, they see the biggest point of their life (good or bad). Claire embraced her Waverley roots early on but her younger sister Sydney feels the opposite. Sydney left town as a teenager, just like their mother did, but she’s realized that Bascom, North Carolina is still home. Out of the blue, she comes back home with her young daughter in tow. Claire welcomes them even though she’s afraid of change and that they’ll eventually leave her again.

This book was a delight to read. It’s the sort of book that will probably become a comfort read in the future. It’s also a perfect gift for female relatives and friends because it’s light and there’s a bit of everything in it – some romance, a little magic, small-town gossip and family issues. It will also make you hungry because there are a lot of references to food due to the nature of Claire’s work (she’s a caterer) and her Waverley magic. I like how both Claire and Sydney developed as characters throughout the book. Claire’s a shy, reserved person who’s afraid to let people in because she has abandonment issues. Slowly but surely, she learns to open herself up to the people who matter the most. While her sister Sydney starts putting down roots and learns that being a Waverley isn’t as bad as she remembered. The minor characters in the book are also well-developed and I like how they flesh out the story. Even the Waverley garden (the apple tree in particular) has a mind of its own. I highly recommend this book and if Sarah Addison Allen’s other books are just as good as this one, then I’d be more than happy to read them.

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