Readerly

When I want to lose myself in someone else’s story, I usually cozy up with a book from one of the following authors:

I harbor deep appreciation for all things Barbara Kingsolver. I’ve had one of her books on my bedside table during every pivotal point in my life, and although it was purely coincidental each and every time, the journey her characters traveled mirrored my own and left me feeling rather…elevated by the joint struggle. Beyond that, she writes gorgeous, thick-with-meaning stories that stay with me long after I close the book and sigh a quiet incantation to the Writing Deities.

I just finished the beautiful, funny, and enlightening Fragile Beasts by Tawni O’Dell, and I can’t wait to read her other books.

I’ve been reading a lot of New Adult fiction lately. I love the humor and depth of Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase, and the moving personal journey main character Avery travels in Wait for You by  J. Lynn. Young Adult author Rebecca Donovan stunned me with her Breathing series, and my inner geek girl — who of course loves all things Veronica Mars-esque — couldn’t put down Talia Vance’s Spies & Prejudice.

Diana Gabaldon has an amazing ability to bring Scottish history to life. If you want to hear the clamor of battle, smell the heather, and feel the chill of a Highland morning, join the Outlander series’ characters Claire and Jamie on their journeys through time.

Neil Gaiman doesn’t write any form of Women’s Fiction, but he *is* a master storyteller who creates incredible characters and dynamic dialog. American Gods and Anansi Boys are both on my list of All-Time Favorite Books.

When I’m worried about plotting, I revisit Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, because seriously, no plot element I cook up could be harder to work through than the tangled web of Chrono-Impairment that Henry and Clare navigate. Besides that, Niffenegger’s prose is so rich and compelling, I get lost before I can even say, “Marni, you have a word count goal to meet!”

Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series is absolutely fabulous. I like it most because the romantic elements aren’t confined to Girl Gets Boy and lives Happily Ever After. Lady Julia and her man Nicholas continue struggling and growing together in the years following their marriage. Besides all that goodness, Gothic mystery just doesn’t get better than Raybourn’s The Dead Travel Fast.

Now that I have a couple rug rats under foot, it’s harder to keep up with Nora Roberts’ prolific releases, but I persevere. After all, if she can write them that quickly, I should be able to read them as they appear on my shelves, and I am never disappointed by the take-me-away-from-it-all quality of Miss Nora’s storytelling.

Marjorie M. Liu seems to do it all. Her paranormal romance, Urban Fantasy, and Graphic Novels are each wonderful, but I have a special spot on my bookshelves for the Dirk & Steele series.

My friend Kira Brady‘s Deadglass Trilogy — set in a gritty, alternate version of Seattle that I love, love, love! — is spectacular. Dragons, shape shifters, and an apocalypse, oh my! Publisher’s Weekly called Hearts of Darkness “Dazzling…thrilling…irresistible” in a starred review and named it one of the Best Summer Reads of 2012. Woohoo! Book 2 in the Trilogy, Hearts of Shadow, is now available, and Hearts of Chaos will be available in February 2014.

My critique partner, Joy Adare, writes contemporary romance novels set in glittering cities. Her manuscript Strictly Passion was a quarterfinalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. Publishers Weekly says “This tightly written New York City romance is a page-turner about family and loyalty in the corporate world.” I envision great things for Joy’s writing career!

My fellow finalists in the 2012 Golden Heart® Contest — we call ourselves the Firebirds — are up to tremendous things in their own writerly worlds. You can find them, and many other authors who pop in to visit, on the Firebirds group blog.