Jennifer

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (2018)

In this lyrical and leisurely novel, debut author Fatima Farheen Mirza introduces us to a Muslim Indian family gathering for a wedding. The story is nonlinear, jumping forward and backward, giving us glimpses of the siblings' childhood, their parents' initial meetings, and their post-wedding relationships.

A Place for Us is a moving story shared from multiple perspectives. This interesting narrative structure might sound challenging, but the story is not difficult to follow. Read this book when you have a chance to delve deep into a story and emotionally invest in characters.

A great pick for book clubs: discuss familial relationships and expectations, cultural heritage and traditions, and characters and their choices. 


Jennifer

Pitch Perfect Trilogy

For lighthearted movies featuring a charming mix of comedy, music, and girl power, try Pitch Perfect (2012) and its sequels Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).  In the first film, freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins a collegiate acapella group.  Heartwarming hilarity ensues. The performances feature catchy music, a range of voices, and a variety of styles.

Each sequel gets more ridiculous, but it is worth going along for the ride.  Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson star in all three with Hailee Steinfeld added in the second film.  The first two films also feature a pre-Dear Evan Hansen Ben Platt.

If you enjoy the music featured in the films, check out the soundtracks on Hoopla.


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Jennifer

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2019)

This uplifting novel got me out of my reading slump! The Flatshare features a perfect blend of delightfully quirky humor and lovable characters. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Leon and Tiffy, who share an apartment but haven't met (Leon works overnight and is home from 9am to 6pm; Tiffy has an opposite schedule). The pair begin a correspondence via post-it notes and slowly are drawn into each other's lives.

Beth O'Leary's charming debut is my favorite read of 2019. It's perfect for fans of romantic comedies, Sophie Kinsella, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.

Jennifer

The Vienna Berlin Music Club by Philharmonix (2018)

I recently had the chance to see Philharmonix live—and what an experience!  Listening to the album is the next best thing—and you can do so via Hoopla.  The Vienna Berlin Music Club is an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and pop music.

The ensemble features two violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a clarinet, and a piano (from the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics).  Primarily instrumental, the album also features a singing violinist (in German).  Songs I particularly enjoyed include "Russian Overture," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "A New Satisfaction."  Watch the YouTube video to get a behind the scenes look from the group (and samples of their music).



Jennifer

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter (2014)

Set in 1974 Atlanta, Cop Town follows rookie police officer Kate Murphy and her partner Maggie Lawson. In this gritty suspense, the women investigate The Shooter—a marksman picking off police officers—despite not being detectives because of their gender. Karin Slaughter's standalone novel is not for the faint of heart, featuring derogatory language and violence (along with racism, sexism, and homophobia). With flawed yet sympathetic main characters and a compelling story, you'll keep reading to solve the case alongside Kate and Maggie.

The novel won the 2015 Ian Fleming Steel Award from the British Crime Writers' Association.



Jennifer

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (2019)

No sophomore slump here! Following The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang delivers another sparkling gem of a romance. Khai is autistic, doesn't think he can love, and avoids relationships. So his mom returns to Vietnam and finds Esme: a hardworking single mother with a limited education and fewer opportunities. I loved watching this nuanced pair grow as individuals and as a couple--and learning about Vietnamese culture. The Bride Test presents a modern twist on the arranged marriage trope.



Jennifer

Fumbled by Alexa Martin (2019)

Another smart sports romance from newcomer Alexa Martin. This second chance romance is filled with sparkling wit and vivid characters (along with serious discussions of brain injuries in football). Fumbled is engaging and memorable. For fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jasmine Guillory, and Rachel Gibson.




Jennifer

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren (2018)

onesDon’t be alarmed by the premise: this second-chance romance is a story worth reading. The protagonists of The Ones Who Got Away survived a school shooting twelve years ago. Finn and Liv reconnect after participating in a documentary about the tragedy. Yes, there’s grief—but there’s also hope and healing in this moody and engaging novel.

Named a best romance of 2018 by Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus, this is book one in the series by Roni Loren. If you enjoy reading about strong groups of friends, continue with the subsequent titles: The One You Can’t Forget and The One You Fight For.
Jennifer

The Greatest Showman: Reimagined (Deluxe) (2018)

81hhv8sdrql-_sl1200_I enjoyed the movie The Greatest Showman, but I LOVED the music.  And to my delight, The Greatest Showman: Reimagined has been released.  Along with the original cast recordings, the soundtrack has been enhanced with artists including Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Sara Bareilles, and Panic at the Disco! performing songs.

My favorites include Zac Brown Band’s rendition of “From Now On” and Kesha’s take of “This is Me.” Let this rousing album lift your spirits (listen instantly on Hoopla). And check out a Billboard article for how these artists joined forces.

 
Jennifer

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jonny Sun (2018)

gmorninggnightThis delightful gem is the perfect way to kick off a new year. Gmorning, Gnight is comprised of brief motivational reminders that Lin-Manuel Miranda shared on Twitter at the beginning and end of the day. Paired with illustrations by Jonny Sun, this short book can be read cover to cover, or flipped through at leisure. Find the uplifting words that you need to improve your outlook that day.

The longest part of the book is the introduction, which you can read courtesy of Vulture. Below, I’ve shared one of the most memorable affirmations:
Gmorning.
YOU ARE SO LOVED AND WE LIKE HAVING YOU AROUND.
*ties one end of this sentence to your heart, the other end to everyone who loves you, even the ones you haven’t heard from for a while*
*checks knots*
THERE. STAY PUT, YOU. 
Gnight.
YOU ARE SO LOVED AND WE LIKE HAVING YOU AROUND.
*ties one end of this sentence to your heart, the other end to everyone who loves you in this life, even if clouds obscure your view*
*checks knots*
THERE. STAY PUT, YOU.
TUG IF YOU NEED ANYTHING.
Jennifer

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home by Denise Kiernan (2017)

jacketI adored Denise Kiernan’s first book (The Girls of Atomic City) on a little known piece of history. Now, she turns her attention to the creation of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

In The Last Castle, Kiernan details the lives of Edith and George Vanderbilt (grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt) along with the construction of the massive house and the development (and protection) of the surrounding forests and land. The author effortlessly weaves the threads of the stories of people, places, and events in American history from the Gilded Age to WWII. An engaging and fascinating slice of history.

 
 
 
 
Jennifer

Intercepted by Alexa Martin (2018)

interceptedA modern romance featuring a delightfully snarky heroine. In Intercepted, Marlee vows not to date another athlete after her 10-year relationship with an NFL player goes south. Then she meets quarterback Gavin, and you can guess what happens next. What makes this story shine is Marlee's independence and individual growth, her witty inner dialogue (coupled with hilarious hashtags), and her fabulous support system.

Alexa Martin is a new author perfect for fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jasmine Guillory, and Julie James.

 
 
 
 
Jennifer

Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce (2018)

dearmrsbirdIn 1940 London, 22-year-old Emmy Lake dreams of becoming a journalist to contribute to the war effort. Quite by accident, she accepts a job as a typist for a women's magazine... that soon has Emmy secretly answering letters written to an advice column. Debut author A. J. Pearce creates strong, charming characters and friendships along with a solid sense of place with London under frequent raids during the Blitz.

Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Dear Mrs. Bird is a cheerful, bittersweet, and heartwarming tale of making a difference in the world in the midst of war. We’ve created a list of novels that take place on the home front during World War II.
Jennifer

1356 by Bernard Cornwell (2013)

1356A gripping historical adventure filled with compelling characters, 1356 details another segment of the fight for supremacy among England, France, and the church. While this is Bernard Cornwell’s fourth novel featuring Thomas of Hookton, you can jump right in to this standalone story.

1356 is an action-packed tale of intrigue, political machinations, and a quest culminating with the Battle of Poitiers during the Hundred Years’ War. Thomas and his band of mercenaries adhere to strong moral code, often putting them at odds with others in medieval France.

For fans of history and historical fiction, military and war stories, quests, and compelling characters. Just a warning: this novel features several battles, so includes some graphic (though not gory) violence.

Pro tip: Listen to the dramatic narration by Jack Hawkins for distinctly voiced characters, gritty battle scenes, and intense adventure.

 
Jennifer

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole (2018)

dukebydefaultAnother unique and delightful romance from Alyssa Cole featuring realistic, sympathetic, and charming characters. In contemporary Scotland, Tavish is a traditional swordmaker struggling to keep his business afloat. American socialite Phoebe sees this apprenticeship as a chance to turn her life around. Sparks fly. You'll root for this pair as they navigate social issues, family challenges, and an unexpected dukedom in A Duke by Default.