My top 5 books of 2013

Happy New Year! Here are my five (well, six) favorite books that I read in the past year. (They were not all published in 2013, although some were).

5. STILL LIFE WITH HUSBAND by Lauren Fox & HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by John Searles (tie)

I discovered STILL LIFE by accident in a bookstore. Fox does an excellent job of rendering the protagonist’s struggle in developing feelings for someone other than her spouse. This was a great example of a not necessarily likable or relatable character who’s still interesting to read about.



I wrote about wanting to read HELP FOR THE HAUNTED before, and it lived up to my expectations. The book has been categorized as horror by some publications, but for me it was mainstream or literary fiction with strong undertones of creepiness, and sometimes that’s even scarier than overt horror.


4. THE ENGAGEMENTS by J. Courtney Sullivan

Another one I was looking forward to and ending up loving. Sullivan jumps around in time to different characters and story lines, yet nothing feels disjointed. One of her strengths as a writer, in my opinion, is enriching the plot through detailed descriptions of her characters’ pasts.


3. GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES by Jennifer Close

Though billed as a novel, this reads more as a book of connected short stories about the lives of twenty-something, white urban women. Everything about Close’s portrayal was spot-on, from the tangled relationships to drinking to weddings. One of my favorite chapters was “The Candidate,” about a woman dating a man obsessed with electing a politician who is obviously Barack Obama, though his name is never mentioned, which makes it feel even more universal. The book is darker than the cover lets on, which for me was a plus.


2. ME BEFORE YOU by JoJo Moyes

I don’t know how to describe this novel other than saying that I laughed out loud and at times cried so hard I had to put down the book. It’s visceral and unpredictable and surprisingly not depressing. I loved it. The cover design is great too.



1. THREE WISHES by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty is my favorite author of the year; I read all 5 of her novels, and any one of them could easily be my favorite book of the year. Three Wishes, her first, stands out because her depiction of the relationship of triplets was so relatable to my own life. I can’t wait for Moriarty to write another novel.

Happy reading in 2014!

Books releases I’m looking forward to

I don’t know any writer who doesn’t love to read as well. In addition to being one of the best ways to stay in a creative mindset and fuel my own writing and ideas, reading, for me, is just a pleasure. I don’t always have a great deal of time to read for fun during the semester (although I love most of the books and stories that students read in my class), so summer is a great time to catch up on my reading. Luckily for me, three of my favorite authors have books coming out this summer. Here are the top 3 reads I’m anticipating loving in the next few months:

1. THE ENGAGEMENTS by J. Courtney Sullivan. A few summers ago, I was in Barnes and Noble trying to pick out one book to buy. I was between Courtney Sullivan’s Commencement and one other novel. I ended up choosing COMMENCEMENT, and I’m so glad that I did. Sullivan writes beautifully and believably about women and families, and she has a real gift for including detail in her novels: in MAINE, one of the characters reflects how she grew up being told to say a Hail Mary prayer whenever she hears an ambulance siren. This resonated with me deeply. Best of all, I had the privilege of meeting Courtney and being a sort of “opening act” reader for her a few years ago, and not only is she a gifted writer, she is a friendly, vibrant, and sweet person.

THE ENGAGEMENTS comes out in hardcover on June 11.


2. ALWAYS WATCHING by Chevy Stevens. I read Chevy Stevens’s first book, STILL MISSING, when I should have been reading a 900-page novel in preparation for my master’s degree comprehensive exam. Needless to say, Stevens’s book was more fun. I don’t normally read thrillers, but my aunt bought this book and lent it to me, and this may be the ultimate cliche, but I could not put this book down. It was a welcome and delightful distraction from the stress of everyday life, and easy to get caught up in the story of a woman who escaped a long captivity at the hands of a kidnapper. This book, and her next, NEVER KNOWING, involve characters confiding in a mostly-unseen psychiatrist. ALWAYS WATCHING will show us that psychiatrist’s point of view. I can’t wait!

ALWAYS WATCHING comes out in hardcover on June 18.

always watching

3. HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by JOHN SEARLES. Like the two authors I mentioned above, I read John Searles’s first two books, BOY STILL MISSING and STRANGE BUT TRUE and absolutely loved them. The only difference is, if I’m not mistaken, it’s been close to 7 years since we’ve seen a new release from Searles, and 7 years of my checking every bookstore shelf and searching for information online. I think this new book will be worth the wait. Searles writes eerie, haunting, and lovely novels that all contain elements of suspense, but not at the expense of character interiority and depth. In STRANGE BUT TRUE, for example, there is a central mystery involving the girlfriend of protagonist Philip’s deceased brother, but in addition to that, Phillip is a deeply developed, nuanced, and at times heartbreaking character.

HELP FOR THE HAUNTED comes out in hardcover on September 17.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Which upcoming book releases are you looking forward to? I’d love some more suggestions!