4 Fictional Book Characters You’d Want to Be Best Friends With (And The Ones to Avoid)

If you could be best pals with a fictional character, who would it be?

We love exploring the world of the fiction books. And if you’re a fellow bookworm, you know what it’s like to get attached to your favorite characters.

Naturally, we’re drawn to the characters we can relate to the most. Their stories comfort us. We get a glimpse into their innermost thoughts—which is something we could only dream of in real life.

Today, we’re sharing the fictional characters you’d want to be best friends with (plus, one group of people you’d definitely want to avoid). Let’s dig in.

Circle of Friends by Maeve Blinchy

Benny Hogan from Circle of Friends is our favorite fictional bestie. Circle of Friends begins with Benny and Eve’s friendship as schoolgirls, and follows them through university.

Through new friends, first love and family tragedy, the two remain devoted to each other—cracking each other up under pressure. Honestly, certain parts of the novel are slightly dated now because it’s set in 1950’s Ireland. For example, teenage Benny is courted by her father’s sketchy, much-older apprentice. And while he’s definitely meant to be a creep in the book, a grown man planning to marry a teenage girl is gross on another level (sixty years later).

Still, lasting, supportive friendship is never dated. The movie version is a pretty pale imitation of the novel, but we’d still be friends with film Benny too.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman tells the story of large and small dramas in a tiny neighborhood of interlocking families and friends. There are a lot of awesome friendships in this ensemble novel, but Frances Bloom is the one we’d choose for our bestie.

Calm without ever being unsupportive, reliable, and so comfortable in herself, Frances would be a perfect friend. We would absolutely invite ourselves over for tea with Frances. (But we’d ring the bell and wait to be invited in… we learned that much from reading the book.)

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Author Jojo Moyes is most famous for Me Before You… but her earlier novel, The Ship of Brides is a hidden gem. At the end of World War II, Australian brides are being shipped to the UK where their new British husbands await them. Four very different girls are assigned to share a room on an aircraft carrier-turned-women-carrier, and most of the novel takes place on their
journey.

And let’s be honest, it’s not even really Maggie’s story. Her roommates Avis, Jo, and Frances have much wilder arcs and much more shocking reversals than staid Mags. An Outback girl, Maggie struggles to adjust to the separation from everything she’s known, limited quarters after open spaces, and the new constraints of her growing pregnancy.

Still, Maggie’s the one we want to befriend. With her good humor and hard work, we just know she’s going to manage post-war rationing and new British in-laws just fine.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice would definitely make an A+ pal. Jane is just too nice, right? It would be nearly impossible to be friends with someone so determined to see the good in everyone and everything.

But one thing’s for sure—sensible and snarky Lizzie would keep us entertained at boring events. Not to mention, we’re pretty sure she’d be great at deconstructing the evening in carriage home too. Lizzie doesn’t use her wit cruelly, even if she could definitely say some things about Charlotte’s choice of husband. Or Lydia’s disaster romance.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Finally, the fictional characters we’d NEVER want to be friends with: literally any of the college pals from Lucy Foley’s mystery novel The Hunting Party.

This crowd of former friends should limit their interactions to the occasional Facebook like, not pretend they’re still super-close and take trips to the deserted highlands together. Okay, fine, so this is a murder mystery… but let’s not let that one person’s murderous impulses distract from the fact that all of these “friends” are awful humans.

What do you think? Which fictional characters would you want to hang out with?

6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers in 2019

Image of girl reading book outside: 13 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

If you love character-driven fiction as much as we do, this is a great time for new releases! Here are some of our favorite new books in 2019.

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

Cover of The Swallows: 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

The Swallows, by Lisa Lutz, takes place at an elite academy, where in between college apps, varsity sports and SAT prep, the prep school boys keep a secret list, ranking their female classmates sexually.

The secret list and the Dulcinea Award for the girl with the best, uh, special skills, has been going on for years, but at long last, the girls begin to seek their revenge. This story of teachers, staff, and students at the prep school is raw and vicious by turns.

(Without revealing the ending, I’ll admit to gasping aloud when I discovered one of the masterminds behind the Dulcinea Award!)

 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Abstract Cover for The Farm: 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers
In Joanne Ramos’ new novel, The Farm, dozens of beautiful, healthy, young women are
surrogates for women who want to be mothers. The pregnant surrogates are well-paid, provided with meals, housing, and top-class medical care, but forbidden from leaving the Golden Oaks medical retreat (known as The Farm to residents).

The surrogacy payments are life-changing for  the girls, who are willing to sign over their most basic privacy rights for them. Meanwhile, the mothers have paid top dollar for their new babies, because they’re unable or unwilling to carry their own children.

What makes this story compelling, readable fiction? The topics explored include race, class, and the meaning of motherhood, without ever losing touch with the characters or storyline.

 

Mistress of The Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Image of Book Cover: Woman Standing in Front of the Eiffel Tower - 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers
Mistress of The Ritz is about sticking it to the Nazis, while wearing gorgeous clothes and drinking cocktails. Blanche Auzello, American wife of the French director of the Ritz hotel, finds herself hosting Nazi officers at the famous hotel.

While she and her husband pretend to perform the Ritz’ famous hospitality, Blanche finds that being so close to the Nazi higher-ups, with access to their conversations and knowledge of their daily habits, gives her a unique advantage for the French Resistance.

The result is a thrilling novel, full of suspense and intrigue. But be prepared for tragedy as well, because this is based on historical events.

 

American Princess by Stephanie Marie

Image of Book Cover: Car Rides off with a Scarf Trailing - 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

Another recent historical novel, American Princess, tells the story of the outrageous First Daughter Alice Roosevelt. Novelist Stephanie Marie Thornton describes Alice’s adventures and romances in this page-turning novel.

Although some of Alice’s antics, like driving a car or going out unchaperoned, may seem tame now, there’s a wonderful contrast between Alice and the Washingtonian establishment around her. Readers can’t help but be drawn in by the force of her rebellious, hedonistic personality, and root for her when she’s down. (I particularly enjoyed Alice’s remarks on her dowdy do-gooder cousin Eleanor.)

 

Park Avenue Summer by Helen Gurley Brown

Image of Book Cover: Woman in New York City -6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

In Park Avenue Summer, Midwestern transplant Alice lands an assistant job at Cosmo, under the famous author and editor Helen Gurley Brown. Helen is trying to revamp the magazine, despite all the obstacles thrown in her path, and Alice is caught in office conflicts, between the forceful personality of her new boss and the forces that want the female editor-in-chief to fail disastrously.

Alice’s goals in photography and independence make her a compelling protagonist, even when her Midwestern naivety seems a bit much at times.

 

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

Image of Book Cover: Close of Woman Wearing Hat - 6 New Fiction Releases for Character-Driven Readers

If history is your thing, get ready for this one. A brand new story with intense and developed characters will be out next year. Karin Tanabe’s upcoming novel, A Hundred Suns, reveals secrets upon secrets among expats and citizens in French Indochina, into the 1930s.

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults

Girl Reading Book: 5 Must-Read Fiction Series

If you’re a dedicated reader, you already know the pain of finishing a great novel.

And when you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to your favorite characters or leave your favorite world, a series might ease the pain. Want to dive deep into an epic series of novels?

Keep reading on to find out our must-read fiction book series (for adults).

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults: A Game of Thrones Set

If you haven’t read the Game of Thrones novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, you’re missing out!

If you’re already a fan of the show, keep in mind the books have diverged from the show. (Or has the show diverged from the books?) So it’s not the same story in every way.

But the central conflict, strong characters, and shifting allegiances are still there. If you love the backstabbing and reversals of Sunday night GoT, you need to check out the novels. There are five books out now and two more in the works—although George R R Martin has pushed back the release date a few times already—but his series will keep you busy for awhile.

 

The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults: The Lady in the River book cover

Do you enjoy geeking out on fantasy novels or historical fiction? This series is for you.

Phillippa Gregory’s historical novels about royal women begin with The Lady of the Rivers, where we meet young Jacquetta of Bedford. They live in the time of the War of the Roses.

(Fantasy fans take note: Parts of the story of the Starks and Lannisters were inspired by a historical rivalry between the Yorks and Lancasters in the War of the Rose.)

Jacquetta will eventually become the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, and the grandmother to the king of England. Gregory’s series of novels continues through Henry VIII, with novels about his wives, and finally Elizabeth I. She always focuses on women near the throne and the constant struggle for power.

This is a particularly solid series. How so? Because each one can be read as a standalone novel, but reading them in historical order adds tons of depth to the characters and shows how closely related these political rivals were.

 

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults

We’re currently two books into the Impossible Times trilogy by Mark Lawrence… and anxiously waiting for the third book to be released!

These compelling sci-fi stories focus on the friendships in a tabletop gaming party. Not only that, Laurence throws in a dash of time travel and pairs it with the realization that our small choices could affect the entire universe.

Also, there’s a teen romance that won’t make you cringe! Impossible Times is a trilogy, not a long series, so the upcoming third book should resolve everything left unfinished.

 

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series: A Lady's Guide to Etiquette book cover

Dianne Freeman’s new series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, blends a manners novel with a mystery.

Frances, the recently widowed Countess of Harleigh, is one of the dollar princesses. She’s an American heiress married to an impoverished British title—a bit like Lady Jennie Jerome Churchill, or Lady Cora on Downton Abbey.

Frances’ first mystery to solve is getting her own resources back from greedy in-laws, but that soon gives way to a more dramatic mystery. The blend of formalized manners and dangerous investigation makes a great series.

The second one, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, develops the secondary characters, and sets up a strong possibility of recurring mysteries for Frances and her friends to solve.

 

Ovid (Marcus Corvinus Book 1) by David Wishart

5 Must-Read Fiction Book Series for Adults: Ovid Novel Cover

David Wishart’s Marcus Corvinus series of Roman historical mysteries leads us through some of the dramatic historical events of the early Empire. Beginning with Ovid, accidental detective Marcus Corvinus finds himself doing a small favor that turns into a huge investigation.

You’ll notice this pattern repeats in the following novels, until Marcus gives up and just accepts that he’s a criminal investigator now. The Julio-Claudians and other historical figures appear as minor characters, but it’s the slacker/detective Marcus Corvinus himself who really pulls you in.

The author shows Roman social classes by having the Roman patricians speak like they attended Eton, while the plebs all sound like they’re from council flats in the East End. The author has also written another novel set in ancient Rome, called I,Virgil.

This isn’t a mystery and doesn’t star Marcus Corvinus, but offers the same well-researched historical setting as the mystery series.

Now it’s your turn. What series are you reading? What books are you anxiously awaiting?

8 Funny Books That Are Guaranteed to Make You Smile

Of course, we have room for sweeping epics and heart-wrenching dramas. But we also love books that just make us smile. Need a laugh? Keep reading to discover some of our favorite funny books:

1. Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

Books to Make You Smile: Yellow Cover of Dear Mrs. Bird with a Retro Lady Walking

In A J Pearce’s novel, Dear Mrs. Bird, the plot gets rolling with a goofy misunderstanding. Young Emmy Lake tries to become a war correspondent in WWII London, but ends up getting a job assisting on an advice column.

Assisting Mrs. Bird means opening her mail, and throwing away anything with “inappropriate” content. This ensues that only the blandest, mildest queries are read by Mrs. Bird and publicly answered in the women’s magazine. As Emmy starts to read–and secretly answer some of the rejected letters–warm laughs will follow.

 

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by FC Yee

Book to Make You Smile: Blue Cover of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

In the Chinese-American YA adventure, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, author FC Yee blends college prep, teen angst, overbearing relatives, and mythological battles for a rollicking adventure.

High-school student Genie and her annoying new classmate Quentin find themselves with surprising alternate identities. Suddenly, they’re battling ancient supernatural enemies. The blend of myth and high school makes for a funny, entertaining read.

 

A Short History of Drunkenness by Mark Forsyth

Book to Make You Smile: A Short History of Drunkenness book cover

Want a non-fiction laugh? This one’s for you. A Short History of Drunkenness will take readers through alcohol enjoyment, use, and overuse in different civilizations throughout the world.

Not only will you connect with drinkers from all walks of life… you’ll get a kick out of the history behind many drinking customs in this readable, hilarious drunken history.

 

My Not-So-Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Books to Make You Smile: Green Cover of My Not-so-Perfect Life

For likeable heroines falling into and out of ridiculous situations, try a Sophie Kinsella novel. Everyone knows the Shopaholic series, but have you tried My Not-So-Perfect Life?

In this novel, our protagonist Emily’s main hobby is cleverly faking Instagram photos to seem more successful and stylish online. And in Twenties Girl, our heroine finds herself hearing from the spirit of her great-aunt, who gives fashion advice and makes ghostly demands.

Surprise Me, a newer novel about a long-married couple trying to inject more passion and spontaneity into their lives, has plenty of silly situations. Sure, the road to the neat happily-ever-afters can feel a bit predictable, but sometimes an uplifting ending can be another reason to smile.

 

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman’s ensemble novel Other People’s Houses tells the story of four interconnected neighboring families. Blending big and small secrets with daily family life, the story gets moving when an affair (and the accidental, ridiculous discovery of that affair) causes ripples through the neighborhood.

With laugh-inducing interior monologues, silly situations, and messy relationships–there are plenty of giggles. But there are also moving moments of friendship and family.

 

Evergreen Tidings From The Baumgarnters by Gretchen Anthony

It may be a bit early for the Christmas themes in Evergreen Tidings From The Baumgarnters, but there are some real laughs in this family drama about keeping up appearances in a decidedly imperfect family.

Self-important, appearance-obsessed, well-meaning meddler Violet Baumgartner is a hilarious character, and at times it’s hard to tell if we’re laughing at or laughing with her.

What about you? What books always make you laugh? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

7 Best Summer Beach Reads to Take on Your Next Vacation

Man reading a book in water: 6 Best Summer Beach Reads to Take on Your Next Vacation

It’s time for a break, right?

Summer is finally here. Whether you’re headed to the beach, relaxing by the poolside, or hanging out in your background—nothing beats relaxing with a captivating beach read.

Stay tuned to find your next beach read, as we share our favorite summer fiction novels of 2019!

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

A wild adventure or engrossing family saga is just what we want in a summer read, isn’t it? Alan Brennert’s Honolulu blends both with the story of Korean picture-bride Jin’s life in Hawaii.

The ups and down of her years in Hawaii—combined with the lush setting of old Honolulu—make this novel perfect escapism for your summer reading list. Plus, if your summer vacation is more kiddie pool than tropical island? You’ll enjoy the scenes of Hawaiian life.

 

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah’s absorbing tales of female friendship are perfect for relaxing summer days. Firefly Lane spans years of friendship between Tully and Kate, and shows how their friendship evolves as they take very different paths.

Between Sisters is another engrossing, character driven story from this author. Both novels invite readers to meet realistic and complex characters.

And the best part?

They deliver satisfying conclusions to make them solid beach reads.

 

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, Mrs. Everything, introduces two very different sisters and develops both of them as full, complex characters.

The story follows Bethie and Jo from when they’re teenagers in Detroit in the fifties through grandchildren today. It’s almost a family saga, with scenes showing the sisters’ mom and grandmother, and setting the girls on their paths.

But it’s also a slice-of-life novel, covering decades. Experience another time with these vibrant, multi-faceted characters.

 

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

The girls in Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls make plans to land rich, foreign husbands, before they’re on the shelf by their late twenties.

Narrator Jazeline will pull you in with her Singlish banter as she describes nights out, friendships, and schemes… but she also reveals the a darker side of life for Singaporean women.

This novel is great fun, with a distant, lively setting and an unforgettable heroine, but also points to dark systems of privilege and entitlement. You’ll think about Jazzy and her friends long after finishing the book!

 

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Another memorable heroine for your summer reading list is Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams.

When we first meet her, Jamaican-British Queenie is facing a breakup, work stress, an overbearing (but well meaning) family. Not to mention, the depressing gentrification of the old neighborhood.

The novel pops with clever—but realistic—dialogue, including some scenes of group texts (which usually feel like lazy writing, but work so well here to develop relationships and advance the storyline).

Carty-Williams brings readers to care for Queenie even when she does self-destructive things, and we can’t help but cheer her on.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Sometimes a chilling suspense novel pairs well with summer sun. So, try Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game. In this novel, old school friends revisit decades-old secrets, with layers of lies, half-truths and suspicions.

We know The Woman In Cabin 10 is getting more spotlight, but personally thought The Lying Game had the same brilliant suspense. Not only that, The Lying Game had more developed characters, fuller interpersonal relationships, and an even twistier story.

What Newly Released Books Are Trending in 2019? Don’t Miss This Must-Read Novel!

Lining up your next summer read? Lisa See’s newest novel, The Island of Sea Women, is a sweeping saga of friendship and family loyalty. Not to mention, it’s one of our favorite new releases.

So what’s it all about?

If you’re familiar with the bestselling New York Times author, See’s previous novels take place in China or in Chinese communities in the US. But The Island of Sea Women is set on Korea’s Jeju Island.

Like her other novels, though, See explores complex connections and loyalties between friends—and the bond between mothers and daughters.

On Jeju Island, women divers, called haenyeo, were their families’ primary earners. Older haenyeo teach the young girls to freedive, harvest shellfish, catch sealife, and survive in the changeable ocean.

The imaginative setting here is completely engaging. As a reader, you’ll be introduced to a unique Jeju lifestyle of specific skills and customs… and a dangerously appealing undersea world. The haenyeo survive in difficult times by relying on their community, their skills, and the sea’s resources.

Throughout the book, we return to this theme of hardworking women, gaining personal agency, and family security in challenging times.

Let’s talk about the characters. When the story begins, Young-sook, and her friend Mi-ja, are some of the youngest trainees. Beyond that, the story follows their relationship for decades.

Young-sook is the daughter of a skilled diver. When her mother agrees to take Mi-Ja into their collective and train her as well, it seems like they’ll work side-by-side. Just as previous generations of Jeju women have done.

But the Japanese occupation of Korea disrupts their lives and relationships on Jeju. As Japanese-Korean relationships twist and turn, having family connections to the occupiers is alternately a blessing and a curse.

The novel shows how Mi-ja tries to navigate her family background and then her husband’s background in a shifting political situation.

Without giving any spoilers, the novel tells of historically accurate, but brutal exploitation.

What’s more, you’ll learn about a horrific conflict between Japanese soldiers and starving Korean civilians. The war changes the patterns of Korean life—for both women—long after the conflict is over.

As always, Lisa See introduces vibrant, complex characters, with ties of loyalty and friends. What makes this novel such a page-turner is how See’s story introduces them into situations without clear solutions.

All in all, readers will enjoy seeing Mi-ja and Young-sook evolve over decades and generations. Click here to check out the book!

Interview with Sara Crawford

Sara Crawford is an accomplished musician, poet, play-write, and the author of many books including The Muse Chronicles. Her trilogy, The Muse Chronicles, follows the protagonist Sylvia Baker and her evolving relationship with her muse Vincent. The final entry in the saga, You and the Night will be released on April 30th; and Textbook Nova had the exciting opportunity to interview Sara to learn more about her and her final chapter to her story.

 

Textbook Nova: On your Youtube channel you often talk about your favorite songs and cover some that have a lot of meaning to you… If you had to pick one musician or band that has made the biggest impact on you, who would it be and why?

Sara Crawford: This is a very hard question! My favorite albums/musicians/songs change so much. If you would have asked me this question when I was younger, I definitely would have said Radiohead, Morrissey/The Smiths, or the Smashing Pumpkins. At the moment, I think I am inspired the most by M83 and Beach House. M83 is the number one inspiration for my Muse Chronicles books, and I’ve just been in that world for so much of the past five or six years. And Beach House is a band I feel like I can listen to at any time, no matter what’s going on or what mood I’m in.

 

TBN: You are a talented guitarist, vocalist and pianist; have you played any other instruments? What was the first instrument you learned to play?

SC: Thank you! I actually went about two or three years where I hardly played guitar or keys at all. I’ve been picking them both up again, though. As far as other instruments, I did get to play bass on “Sleepwalking” in Pocket the Moon. My bass part was extremely simple, but I loved the way it felt to hold the bass. The first instrument I learned was guitar. I’ve always been a singer, and I wanted to be able to write my own songs.

 

TBN: You played in a small indie band called Pocket the Moon, what do you remember most fondly from this time? Are there any specific shows that stand out to you from this time?

SC: It was great to play venues like The Earl (where Beach House actually played once!) and the Star Bar where I saw so many Atlanta bands that I loved, but I think my favorite shows we played were at the Drunken Unicorn, especially the first show we played there as Pocket the Moon and our album release show. I have great memories of every song we played, but the one that sticks out the most was “Rooftops.” There was always a moment when I stopped singing but kept playing my acoustic, and Geoff was doing his guitar solo, and I was so grateful to be where I was and to be a part of something so magical.

 

TBN: You graduated from University of New Orleans with an M.F.A in Creative Writing and an emphasis in Playwriting… what drew you towards playwriting above the other forms? Do you think your background in playwriting influences your current writing style?

SC: I have always loved theatre and playwriting. When I was 7 or 8 years old, I used to write little plays and get the neighbors to perform them on the driveway. I also did a lot of theatre when I was in high school. There is a kind of magic that only happens in a theatrical production, and I wanted to be involved with that. There is also nothing like seeing your characters come to life. Although I mainly focus on fiction now, you can definitely tell I have that playwriting background. All of my books are very dialogue heavy.

 

TBN: You’ve talked a lot about your writing style and influencers on your youtube channel, but what is you favorite fiction book or series?

SC: Another hard one! Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles will always have a special place in my heart. I remember checking out Interview With a Vampire from the library when I was 15. I always loved reading and books, but that was the first time I really fell in love with characters and a series. I pay tribute to that series in my latest vampire book, Into the Shadows.

 

TBN: In The Muse Chronicles the 16-year old protagonist Sylvia Baker shares a lot of similarities with you between being a musician and having similar tastes in music… What quality do you relate to most in her? What about least?

SC: Sylvia is a lot like me in many ways. Like Sylvia, I’ve struggled with depression and “feeling too much.” She’s also as obsessive about music as I am. In many ways, the love story between Sylvia and Vincent is a metaphor of my relationship with music. I’ve gotten some criticism for their relationship not being the healthiest, but I think that really fits with Vincent being a metaphor for art. What artist has a healthy relationship with her art?

 

TBN: The third book in The Muse Chronicles will be released on April 30th, can you tell us how the main character Sylvia has evolved over the course of the saga?

SC: Sylvia has really grown a lot throughout the trilogy. At the beginning of the first book, she’s kind of a loner. She’s very unsure of herself, and she’s not honest about what she really wants. I think Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was the book where Sylvia changed the most. There’s a climactic scene at the end of that book where she surprises herself with what she’s able to achieve. After the second book, she’s really come to accept who she is and her unique relationship with Vincent. In You and the Night, she tries to find her place in the world with this newfound acceptance.

 

TBN: You’ve talked about how this book was unusually difficult to write, specifically the first 100 pages. What made you feel like you needed to rewrite the beginning?

SC: This is pretty much how it’s gone with all three books in this trilogy, and I think it’s because I start editing before I get a full draft out. I definitely do not recommend doing like this! But I’m a pantser (a writer who flies by the seat of her pants). I really discovered what story I was telling in the first 100 pages which is why I rewrote them so many times.

 

TBN: Will you be sad to leave this world behind after the release of this final book? Do you ever expect to return to the universe you created?

SC: This might have been why I was having so much trouble with this. Perhaps I was a little sad to say goodbye to these characters. The Muse characters of Vincent and Izabella came from a play I wrote in 2006 so some of these characters have been with me for over a decade.

 

TBN: You are currently a creative writing professor in graduate program… What is one important thing you would want a prospective student to know before taking your class?

SC: I think the most important thing any writer can learn is how important it is to sit down and do the work. Some people are naturally talented, but I’ll take dedication over talent any day. If you’re willing to actually do the work of writing, and you’re able to listen to feedback, you will do well. Not just in my class, but as a writer in general.

 

 

5 Captivating Historical Mystery Books That Will Thrill You

5 Captivating Historical Mystery Books That Will Thrill You

Don’t you love reading a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat?

A well-executed historical mystery blends a colorful, distant setting with page-turning suspense for some of the ultimate escapist reads. Here are some of our favorite historical mysteries.

The Cadfael Chronicles

A Morbid Taste for Bones - Book Cover with a Cross

The Cadfael Chronicles, by Ellis Peters, tells the story of medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, at Shrewsbury Abbey, in Wales.

The first novel, A Morbid Taste for Bones, shows Brother Cadfael leaving his herb garden and apothecary to solve a complicated mystery. In each story, the monk’s attention to detail, knowledge of herbs, and understanding of human nature lead him to the correct solutions.

To be honest, there’s a bit of gore in these novels. But the accounts of saints’ relics and wound examination were so interesting that I didn’t much mind it. Peters, a pen name of Edith Pargeter, wrote twenty novels about Brother Cadfael in all.

(And if you like seeing a book come to life on-screen, there’s a charming British TV series based on the books that stars Derek Jacobi!)

 

Murder At The Fitzwilliam

Murder at the Fitzwilliam - Book Cover - Man Standing on Stairs

Murder At The Fitzwilliam by Jim Eldridge begins when former inspector Daniel Wilson is summoned to investigate a corpse found in an ancient Egyptian coffin. A recent corpse, that is.

And when a second one appears soon after, also in the Egyptian wing, supernatural theories abound. The descriptions of academic rivalries, the Egyptian craze, and Cambridge geography were perfect (even if a minor romantic subplot is a bit underwhelming).

Right now, this is a standalone mystery… but stay tuned. The sequel is due out this year.

SQQR  I: The Kings Gambit

SQPR Book Cover - The King's Gambit

In John Maddox Roberts’ SPQR series, Roman sleuth Decius Metellus finds himself caught up in murder mysteries no matter where he goes. Trouble always finds him. Whether he’s being summoned to the Palatine by the ruling Julio-Claudians… or hiding out in exile after getting mixed up in an unsavory mystery.

The intricacies of Roman customs and politics make up the background of these stories. They’re set in some of the most dramatic years of Roman history.

Not to mention, the thirteen novels in this series span Decius Metellus’ life. So there’s time for a lot of character development in these novels — you’ll enjoy meeting minor characters again in later novels.

 

Murder on the Orient Express

Sure, Murder on the Orient Express wasn’t written as historical fiction, but the accounts of international travel on an overnight train are sure to pull you back in time.

This classic novel plays with some of the conventions of the locked-door mystery, making it even more fun for mystery fans. As always, Poirot uses his careful powers of observation and deductive reasoning to see through lies and misdirection.

Also, this novel has some of the most memorable characters in an Agatha Christie mystery.

 

The Chef’s Secret

The Chef's Secret Book Cover with Plate of Produce

In The Chef’s Secret, by Crystal King, a chef’s apprentice is left with his Uncle Bartolomeo’s recipes and his diary. Including the instructions that he burn the diary unread.

Naturally, nephew Giovanni does no such thing. I mean, would you?

Giovanni starts to investigate his uncle’s past and his secret love, unlocking a story of murder, vendetta, secret babies, theft, revenge, and more murder. It’s not a typical whodunit, with one murder to wrap up.

Instead, readers are pulled along as Giovanni unravels a lifetime of secrets. This is also a wonderful foodie tour of renaissance Italy, as both uncle and nephew are skilled chefs.

Do you have a favorite historical mystery? Let us know!

Netflix Novels: 7 Books That Inspired TV Shows We Love

Netflix Novels: 7 Books Based on Popular TV Shows

Prefer reading to watching TV?

Or maybe you love them both, but you need something to tide you over while you wait for the next season of your favorite show.

Stories continue to inspire Hollywood on the big screen, but they’re also the source of many famous TV programs. Note that not all of these shows on currently running on Netflix, but it’s become the biggest library of TV series.

For more, check out these books that inspired popular TV shows:

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Netflix Novels: Game of Thrones book cover with sword

Everyone knows that the hit TV show Game of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels. There are five fantasy novels out, and Martin is currently at work on the sixth, The Winds of Winter.

The books cover the battle for control of Westeros, and even readers who don’t think they like fantasy have fallen into this dramatic saga.  But the TV show diverges from the novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, in some pretty major ways. (Without spoiling either one, let’s just say certain characters are alive in one, and dead in the other.)

 

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Netflix Novels: Call the Midwife cover image of four children walking down the street in the 1950s

The BBC hit Call the Midwife was inspired by Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of working as a midwife in London’s East End in the fifties. The first season is directly inspired by the challenges of her job, with familiar characters from her memoirs.

By the current season, the TV show has long passed Worth’s memoirs and is now an independent story about the mothers, midwives, nuns, and newborns of Poplar.  If you can’t wait for season 8 to make it to the US, check out Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End.

The real-life nurse Jenny eventually left midwifery for end-of-life care, and wrote the fourth memoir, In The Midst of Life, about this stage of her career. Her fourth book has the same no-nonsense style and sharp observations, but with far fewer adorable babies.

 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Netflix Novels: Big Little Lies abstract book cover

Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies is full of snark and secrets. If you enjoy the way one small event at school drop-off sets so many others into motion — and you like the dark secrets simmering in a quiet, suburban town, you’ll also like The Husband’s Secret by the same author.

There’s a second of the TV show in the works, but it’ll need to depart pretty significantly from the book since the first season ended at the conclusion of the novel.

 

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Netflix Novels: Cover image from Pretty Little Liars of 4 stylish female dolls

For more page-turning revelations, Pretty Little Liars, now an entire series by Sara Shepard, begins with the mysterious A, who seems to know everyone’s darkest secrets.

The books take readers through endless lies, blackmail, twists, and reversals. Pretty much everyone in Rosewood has something to hide. Because the high-school friends (or frenemies…) at the heart of the story are developed, readers will easily find a favorite character and be pulled into the drama.

 

Stephen King and J.J. Abrams

Promotional image for Castle Rock from Hulu: Castle in Dark Clouds

Castle Rock, on Hulu, is inspired by the work of horror novelist Stephen King. The TV show isn’t directly based on one novel, although there are elements found in his work. Dedicated King readers may find the TV show feels more than a pastiche than an addition to the King library.

That’s because it retreads King’s familiar themes of secrets in a silent Maine town, isolation, the moral ambiguity of prison guards, and dark supernatural others. (Conversely, if you enjoyed Castle Rock, you’ll like pretty much any Stephen King novel.)

 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Netflix Novels: Sweetbitter cover with a broken wine glass

Stephanie Danler’s coming-of-age novel Sweetbitter is about young Tess’ first year in New York. Tess grabs restaurant life with both hands, discovering gourmet tastes, fine wines, emotional encounters with her coworkers, and drama with customers.

There’s a romantic entanglement with unique complications, but it’s the scenes of backwater and kitchen life that really sparkle. The book inspired a Starz TV show, with the same name.

 

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

Netflix Novels: Gossip Girl #1 Cover Images of 3 teenage girls gossiping

Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl novels inspired the TV series, and it may be a rare time when the TV version is even better than the books. Yeah, the books have Manhattan snobbery, high fashion, backstabbing…

And of course, the secretive Gossip Girl blog, creating a frothy, gossipy read, but the TV show has a bit more character development. In the show, Blaire and Serena have a complicated friendship, while in the books, I had no idea why B and S even spoke to each other.

There’s also a Korean-style graphic novel version of the Gossip Girl storyline (with all-new outfits to enjoy).

 

The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons

Netflix Novels: The Deceiver Cover of 3 Young Women

It’s not a TV show yet, but Kristin Simmons’ YA pageturner The Deceivers has all the makings of a television version. Double-crossings and surprises abound in this story about a secret academy for teens with talents for theft and deception.

What else are you reading that would be perfect for TV? 

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Young Lady Standing in Front of a Bookshelf

Black History Month honors the diversity and history of African-American culture. This selection of books is a mix of historical fiction, literary fiction, and biographies to kick off a month of celebration and legacy. Let’s dive into the titles.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month

If you haven’t had a chance to read this bestselling YA novel yet, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy. This novel is packed with heartbreaking references that feel thoughtful and strangely familiar. In fact, The Hate U Give was just made into a movie that was released in October 2018 to critical acclaim.

The Hate U Give is a fiction story — but it’s a timely one and the book feels like was based on real events. The story follows a 16-year-old named Starr Carter, who becomes a young activist after witnessing a cop murder her childhood friend, Kahlil.

 

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Roots by Alex Haley Cover

Roots was first published in the 1970s, and the wildly successful novel soon transformed into a very famous television miniseries in 1977. Beyond that, the final episode of the miniseries still holds the record for the third-highest-rated episode in TV history.

Why did it become such a phenomenon? Well, Roots was not only popular, but it was a monumental story.

Alex Haley grew up in Tennessee, where his grandmother told him stories about his family. In this case, her stories went back generations, all the way to Colonial America when Haley’s family was captured and forced over here from West Africa on a slave ship.

So Haley decided to embark on a decade-long detective search to trace the origin of his heritage, and this is the haunting story of his family.

 

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America by Ibi Zoboi

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Cover of Black Enough

This anthology is a collection of short stories about black teenagers growing up in the US, but everyone can gain something out of reading it. These incredible stories share events that were shaped by many different upbringings and experiences growing up black.

You’ll find tales from the perspective of being biracial, gay, wealthy, and creative. There are struggles with mental health. Some are difficult to read because of the subject matter, while other stories are heartwarming. All of them are important.

 

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Hidden Figures Cover

I saw the movie before I read the book, but I was eager to read this one and learn more about the untold stories of these women. If you haven’t heard of it yet, Hidden Figures is the true story of four black female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the Space Race and WWII.

These women did their calculations by hand as they were segregated from their white coworkers. And their contributions were largely ignored for over fifty years, until the release of this book.

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Born a Crime Cover

Are you a fan of Trevor Noah from The Daily Show? This New York Times bestseller is a collection of eighteen personal essays that share his upbringing in apartheid South Africa to how he landed his role on The Daily Show today.

Born to a white father and a black mother in the midst of apartheid, Trevor Noah was considered a criminal act in South Africa. And his powerful memoir is a story you just can’t put down. It’s funny, moving, and surprising. There are moments that will horrify you… and moments that will touch your heart.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

6 Must-Read Books to Celebrate Black History Month: Sing, Unburied, Sing Cover

This haunting fiction novel takes place in the soul of Mississippi, where 13-year-old Jojo and his little sister have been raised by their grandparents.

Their mother, Leonie, weaves in and out of their lives due to her drug addiction. She’s haunted by the ghost of her brother who was murdered 15 years earlier — he appears when she uses. You get a glimpse into both of their minds, as the book shifts back and forth between the perspective of both Leonie and Jojo during a particular road trip.