Your favourite authors share their best read from this year's releases.
My favorite chick lit/women's fiction read so far this year is definitely Megan Crane's Names My Sisters Call Me. When Courtney Cassel's boyfriend proposes, she decides it's time to put an end to the feuding that has gone on between her two sisters and get them together for her engagement party. But that's easier said than done. Her oldest sister Norah is a control freak who still hasn't forgiven middle sister Raine, the free-spirit, from ruining her wedding and then running off to California (six years ago and hasn't been seen since) and despite being the youngest of the family, Courtney somehow ends up right in the middle. Until pretty soon she finds herself not just facing the skeletons in her sisters' closets, but also a skeleton of her own - Matt Cheney to be exact. He's the guy who broke her heart, and when she meets him and the wayward Raine again, Courtney starts to question everything. Even her relationship with her fiancé, the adorable and rock-solid Lucas. The rivalry between the three sisters is complex, genuine and utterly compelling and I think it's because Megan Crane is never afraid to push her characters further and really let them open up. As for how Courtney meets up with her ex, I think most women have had a Matt Cheney in their life: the guy who leaves them breathless, insecure and not quite sure if you'll ever recover from him and so watching Courtney battle through her confused feelings of what was in the past and what's in her future was very moving. Especially since her life with the gorgeous Lucas was at stake (and I'm not afraid to admit that I might've developed a wee bit of a crush on him). What I loved best about this book is quite simply that Megan Crane is an incredible writer (and I swear that if she wasn't so darn nice I'd be wildly jealous of her). I love her humour and her characters and she has the ability to make her settings come alive. These days I don't have that many autobuy authors but Megan is definitely one of them.
My choice is No One You Know, by Michelle Richmond. I'd heard some readers say that while this book was good, it wasn't as good as the author's previous book, The Year of Fog. So, having loved TYOF, I opened this new novel with trepidation. I'm pleased to report that it's not just good, it's great, a knockout about a woman who tries to solve the murder of her mathematician sister 20 years after the fact. In trying to analyze why some readers said it was not as good as TYOF, the only thing I could come up with - since the writing here is just as 'gripping' and 'captivating' and 'richly imagined'; all phrases used by reviewers to describe the earlier book - is that in this one the stakes simply are not as high. For while the stakes of solving a sibling's murder would be considered very high in most worlds, how do you top TYOF's stakes in which a woman searches to find a small child, the daughter of her boyfriend, who's gone missing while under her care? Still, I loved this book. Another smart offering from a smart author.
If you've ever felt like you should "fake it till you make it," then Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh is a book you'll love. Maizy Grace Stewart has just lost her dream job as an investigative journalist, and to make matters worse, her dream man wasn't who she thought he was, either. She decides to hit the road, leaving hometown Seattle for the warm southern embrace of Nashville where her good friend and mentor live. She just might score another job, though several steps down on the career ladder. And, oh yeah, you have to be a committed Christian to work there. Committed? As in, insane? She agrees to the job, with the tiniest little lie, and soon she finds out that Jim Davis' quote is true: The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable. I loved Maizy's honesty with herself, the natural feel of her friendship with Tessie and Jem, and the heart-stopping romantic tension between Maizy and Jack. Maizy's yielding to God feels unforced and believable. While there IS a happily ever after, it's one she has to work for. Just like real life!
The most entertaining romantic comedy I've read this year has to be Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me. (If we were talking about last year, I'd say Catherine Alliott's A Crowded Marriage - I still smile when I remember the false foot-and-mouth emergency!) In Remember Me, our heroine Lexi Smart (aka Snaggletooth) wakes up in a hospital bed with amnesia, and nearly has a heart attack when she looks into the mirror at a reflection she barely recognizes. Her crooked teeth are straight, her lips look fuller, her hair is no longer frizzy; heck, her entire body is different. And those are just the first of the surprises. When she finds that instead of dating commitment-phobic Loser Dave (his name speaks volumes), she's married to a gorgeous specimen of manhood who is not only out of her league in looks, but also a millionaire, she begins to think that maybe she's lost her grip on reality altogether. Of course, her perfect new life is only perfect on the outside. Her hunky husband seems to have missed out on that vital sense-of-humour gene. Her cute little sister has morphed overnight into an obnoxious teenager. And Lexi herself has gone from being a lowly worker to the bitch boss from hell who lords it over her former buddies and co-workers. The novel chronicles Lexi's attempts to reconcile herself to her new life, despite the fact that so many things seem to go against the grain. She diligently reads her husband Eric's unintentionally hilarious marriage manual, but can't quite bring herself to sleep with him. She tries to enjoy living in a luxurious penthouse, but misses her messy flat. She has a shot at taking up the reins of her managerial position at the flooring company she still works for, but can't quite remember what she's supposed to be managing. She does everything she can to repulse the advances of some stranger who claims she's been cheating on Eric with him, but can't help finding him quite attractive. All in all, we sense that Lexi's perfect new life is a really, really, really bad fit for her. Like Lexi, we want to know what on earth happened to change things so radically. The suspense works brilliantly, but I must say I found the denouement just a little bit of a let-down. I always enjoy Kinsella's books because they're such a light-heated, hilarious break from reality, and her characters are so likeable, despite being a bit over-the-top. I hope she's working flat-out on her next one.
Return of the Stardust Cowgirl by Marsha Moyer is a bittersweet end to the Lucy Hatch series that began in 2002 with The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch. If you love stories set in small towns, troubled romance and intelligent, electrifying prose, then check out Marsha's books because she delivers the goods. In this final book, Lucy Hatch struggles to keep her family together and watches her colorful hometown of Mooney, Texas, get swallowed up by the larger, almost identifical planned communities. Lucy is now an older and not necessarily wiser woman. If anything, she's learning as she goes along, which made her such a poignant chick lit heroine. Speaking personally, I feel that Lucy and I have grown up together. We both experienced the wild rush of first love - Ash Farrell is a man that will make any reader a little weak in the knees - and the uncertainty of motherhood. I'm really going to miss her but I look forward to whatever magic Marsha Moyer will conjure for us next.
My fave chick-lit/women's fiction book of the year is a tough one, but I'd go for The Birds and The Bees by Milly Johnson which I absolutely loved. The heroine is Stevie, a romance writer and mum who's all set to marry her fiance Matthew . . . until he runs off with glamour-puss Jo, that is. Stevie is devastated - but she's not the only one. Jo's ex, Adam, isn't too happy about it either and is hellbent on splitting up Matthew and Jo. He asks Stevie to help him get back at the cheating pair and at first she's not convinced it's a good idea, before deciding that if it means winning back Matthew, then maybe it's worth a try. Stevie and Adam start plotting with hilarious results . . . until Stevie starts to wonder if Matthew really is her perfect happy ending after all. I thought this was such a warm, funny and well-written book, with a great cast of characters. I especially loved the chemistry between Stevie and Adam, and the way they changed from really disliking each other at the beginning, to a mutual grudging respect, before finally admitting they liked each other. I'd recommend this book to anyone!
My favorite 2008 release is A Little Ray of Sunshine by Lani Diane Rich. The book is trademark Rich - you're so busy laughing, you hardly notice you've started to cry. The story follows Emmy James, who has been living the life of a vagabond in her silver Airstream trailer for six years. Then one night a childhood friend tracks her down to deliver some startling news: Emmy's estranged mother, Lilly, is getting married . . . to the father of Emmy's ex-boyfriend. Nothing in the world could convince Emmy to return home for the wedding. Then a woman named Jess, who claims to be an angel sent by the universe to help, kidnaps Emmy and drives her home for the wedding. Emmy expects to find her mother as unrepentantly narcissist as she left her. But in Emmy's absence, Lilly appears to have morphed into the sort of warm and nurturing mother Emmy always craved growing up. Emmy's just not sure that she can - or wants to - trust this transformation. Even worse, Emmy has to face Luke, the man she walked out on six years ago. A Little Ray of Sunshine is funny and romantic, but most of all it's a story about forgiveness. I highly recommend it.
My pick of the year so far is The Gap Year for Grown-ups by Annie Sanders (actually two writers, Annie Ashworth and Meg Sanders). Their novels always have a lovely mix of flesh-and-blood characters, humour and intriguing titles. In this one, heroine Sarah has had enough of domestic life, which seems less blissful by the day. So she heads for France, where romance and adventure are on the cards . . . The real strength of this book for me was Sarah's journey - the feelings that there must be more to life than being taken for granted as a housekeeper and mum will be shared by so many readers. I loved the French scenes and I was carried along by Sarah's triumphs and trials. But does she make the right decision in the end? I'm still not sure myself but I like a book that keeps you thinking after you turn the last page. But there's also stiff competition ahead before the end of the year: I am counting the days till the release of Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, and to Anthony Capella's The Various Flavours of Coffee - both coming in November.
In Emily Giffin's fourth novel, Love the One You're With, Ellen has a wonderful life with her husband Andy. She has a successful career as a photographer and she truly believes her life to be perfect. But after a chance encounter with her ex, Leo, Ellen's life goes into a tailspin. For Ellen, Leo was 'the one who got away', and his reappearance in her life makes Ellen question everything about the life she's chosen. What makes Love the One You're With stand out for me is the writing. Emily's writing never disappoints - she has a way of infusing so much feeling into every scene. She's not afraid to make her characters unlikeable and is able to make her readers fall in love with them, despite their flaws or bad decisions. Most of all, this book will make you think about your life and the decisions that you've made. I read Love the One You're With in two days (okay, so I've read all of Emily's novels in two days!). Whether you like Ellen or not, whether you respect her choices or begin yelling at the book because of what she's done, you'll find this book to be utterly un-put-downable.
My pick for 2008 would easily have to be Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me. I've always been in awe of her writing and her fantastic characters, ever since picking up her first Becky Bloomwood novel - I was astounded at the way she could actually make me empathise with a ditzy financial journalist who had a nasty little spending habit! I've bought all of Kinsella's books since then and have to say I've loved some of them more than others, but enjoyed them all. About a month before Remember Me was released in Australia, I read the book's blurb with excitement . . which quickly turned to horror. This wasn't a book I was sure I was going to buy. I mean, come on . . . a heroine with amnesia? How old and tired is that? When it was finally released, I walked by it in the shops for several weeks, giving the book sneery looks as I passed by the bookstore windows. Amnesia . . . I would roll my eyes every time. Sometimes I would even tut. Until, one day, I needed something to read and, still rolling my eyes, walked into a bookstore and bought the book. Well, I read it in two sittings (it would have been one, but I need some sleep these days - small children are merciless). And my eyes rolled again when I was finished - back into my head with pleasure, that is. She'd done the impossible. Any writer who can take something as old and tired as amnesia and make it fresh and full of life is worth putting my trust in. And I'll be trusting her 100 per cent from now on. Even if her next book is about a secret baby.
My favourite 2008 release would have to be This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. It's her ninth novel I think and it shows - it's just incredibly accomplished writing. The book tells the story of four women; stylist Lola, journalist Grace, Grace's married, troubled sister Marnie and Alicia, who is soon to be married to Irish politician Paddy de Courcy - who is the link between all four women. The theme of the book is domestic violence and it's quite dark in places but the brilliant thing about Marian Keyes is that the book is also funny without ever once trivialising her subject matter. She's one of the very few authors who makes me laugh out loud. One of the things that I loved about it was her ability to move from one voice to another - there are four main female characters in the novel and she quickly establishes their stories and then moves between them as the novel progresses. Done badly this could result in a lot of confusion for the reader and a straggly, overly complex plot. But Marian does it so deftly that, even though it's an enormous book, I never once lost interest - quite the opposite - I couldn't stop reading.
My pick is I'm In No Mood For Love by Rachel Gibson. When Claire Wingate finds out that the love of her life and fiancé, Lonny, is gay she copes by getting outrageously drunk at a friend's wedding and going to bed with Sebastian - someone she has known since her childhood, and who is now a hugely successful journalist. As a start point for a novel, this was great although I did wonder how Rachel Gibson would keep the pace going through the 80,000 words of her latest book for Little Black Dress. Of course I needn't have worried. Rachel's easy, chatty style and great sense of humour meant that it was a dead cert that I was in safe hands and that I was going to be completely entertained from page 1 to page 278. It isn't just that Rachel makes her heroines so delightfully engaging that you just have to turn the pages to make absolutely certain they get the happy-ever-after ending they deserve, she is also fab at creating such sexy heroes they make me contemplate infidelity despite my 30 years of marriage and monsters like Claire's rich, socialite mother. The emotions are real, the settings richly described and the story utterly plausible. What more do I want from a book? On a completely personal level I did so empathise with Claire; a writer of romance novels whose craft isn't really appreciated by either her snobby mother or her mother's equally snobby friends. Obviously it would be just so much more socially acceptable to have a daughter who writes prize-winning literature. And then there is the tricky matter of the rampant sex scenes Claire writes. Just how does a romance novelist research the red-hot bonking? And how often? And who with? Claire's response to the question - which I suspect may reflect Ms Gibson's attitude - struck a chord of total truth with me too! OK, Rachel's books aren't high art but if I want to be entertained then I can be sure that she will deliver every time and that does it for me.
My number one chick lit read of 2008 is Gold Diggers by Tasmina Perry. Former lawyer turned journalist Tasmina hit the jackpot when she switched to writing glitzy blockbusters. I read her first novel, Daddy's Girls, in one delicious go when I was recuperating from a spell in hospital. Her second book, Gold Diggers, is even more addictive. It tells the tale of sexy New York billionaire Adam Gold, who's arrived in London to build up his mega-bucks property empire. A hero in the mould of Jilly Cooper's devastating Rupert Campbell-Black, he takes the capital, and its women, by storm. Competing for his attention are jet-setting fashion entrepreneur Karin; Molly, a ruthless former supermodel with an expensive drug habit; Summer, Molly's sweet, beautiful daughter; and naive Erin, who becomes Adam's PA. Fast and furious, this book lifts the lid on a tantalising world of glamour, intrigue, lust and betrayal. It's totally escapist and I loved the way it transported me from my everyday life of work deadlines and trying to persuade my teenage children to do their homework to jet-set London, where the women are all kitted out in designer outfits and killer heels and don't have to worry about dashing to the supermarket before it closes to buy supper. I can't wait to read Tasmina's third novel, Guilty Pleasures, which comes out in paperback next year.
As a novelist, I like to read as many other novels as possible. I call it research, rationalizing that I need to keep up with current trends in prose and plot. I also buy the books of authors I know, justifying the expense as personal loyalty to peers as well as a public loyalty to the industry. According to my debt at the end of the month, I am loyal to a fault, but I already knew that, after staying in my 20-year marriage 15 years too long. I excuse that by pointing out how it inspired my latest novel, Wife Goes On, but I digress. The real reason I read so many novels is that I love to escape into other worlds. That is why my favorite novel of 2008 is Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. I am not, in fact, a Jane Austen addict. I didn't know the author, Laurie Viera Rigler, until I had the pleasure of sitting next to her on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this past spring. I was not influenced by the fact that my daughter, whose school English teacher is the president of the Jane Austen Fan Club, bribed me to sit through every adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in exchange for the pleasure of her company - and again the tearful night before she left for college. My inclination to read this book, bought out of loyalty to my fellow panelist, may have a tiny bit to do with the goose bumps I get at the very thought of Colin Firth in those big billowy sleeves, but the story paid off beyond my wildest dreams. In fact, it explores the wild dream of what would it be like to live in another time. In this case, the time is Regency England, which many of us are already familiar with thanks to Jane. And, by sinking a modern day woman into those times and forcing her to live just like Jane Austen's characters would have in real life, it allows us to live through her. I only wish I had thought of it first. Rigler writes with the clear modern prose that makes for a reading experience far easier than that of one of Jane Austen's books. This is unfortunate in a way, because the pleasure was over far too soon. It is fortunate, however, because it proved to be worthy of all those weeks I spent searching my daughter's room to see where she had hidden it - so that I could stay up all night and read it again. Rigler has created a current day protagonist - let's call her Jane, shall we - who reaches a crisis in her life and wakes up to be a beautiful young woman torn between two loves in Regency England. This is no ordinary dream but a sort of slip of reality where Jane must deal with flights of both fancy and feminism with her modern brain in her old-fashioned family. And true to the Austen style, the lessons Jane learns help solve her real-life romantic dilemma - and just in the nick of time. One final confession; part of the fun of this book is that it feels like such a guilty pleasure even while being such an obvious sociological experiment with history and culture and all those smarty-pants types of things. The title makes it sound like I have read something both important and profound. Best of all, there is no need to use any excuse of research or loyalty. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is my pick for 2008. Happy reading!
In The French Gardener, by Santa Montefiore, Miranda and David and their children relocate from London to the country, to the very beautiful Hartington House, with its inspirational garden. It's all right for David, as he still works in the city and only comes home on weekends to play at being a lover and a father, while his heart just clearly isn't in it and his mind is always elsewhere. But Miranda, a freelance journalist, who dreams of writing a novel while she lunches at Harvey Nic's in her Jimmy Choos, isn't sure what she's got herself into, now that she's faced with the grim possibility of coffee mornings at the town hall and the pressure to appear less snobby for the strange woman who owns the cake shop. What's clear is that the Lightlys, the previous owners of Hartington House, didn't suffer the kind of doubts and angst that she does; the house has a warm loved-in and lived-in vibe, and the sumptuous garden has clearly been tended to with a rare brand of devotion. But rural life is all getting rather teeth-grinding for Miranda, who just doesn't fit, that is, until two seemingly unconnected events happen: the timely arrival of a handsome French gardener who looks like he just might want a job, and Miranda coming across a faded green scrapbook containing the writings of Ava Lightly, the previous owner of Hartington. As she starts to read about a love and a life that blossomed in her very own cottage garden, Miranda's writerly imagination is so captivated that she delves deeper into Ava's story, and into her own garden, with the help of her new enigmatic employee, looking for some answers about her own life and that of a woman she has never met. When I first read the back of this book I thought it was going to be a modern-day Lady Chatterley's Lover, or, rather, something that was going to feel like a story I had read before. Perhaps a little romp and redemption among the rosebushes for a bored married lady? That would surely keep me entertained on my flight from Spain to Canada, plus it had a stunning cover and I'm a sucker for a lovely cover. But I was wrong. The French Gardener is a far more fresh and deeply compelling story than I'd prepared myself for, and has more layers than a delicious vanilla mille-feuille. In fact, it's two stories that somehow tangle effortlessly and beautifully into one: that of Miranda who is missing something vital inside herself, and Ava Lightly, an unlikely candidate for a life-long love affair. Unlike many books that switch between past and present, and sometimes jar or frustrate, I just got carried along with this one, as though I was bobbing along on a dinghy out at sea, with my face held up to the sun, enjoying the two converging plot-lines equally, never favoring one enough to skip over the other, which I usually end up doing. For me, that's the work of a very skilled story-teller, and Santa Montefiore is definitely that, and you can tell her heart is really in this book and she probably had a good time writing it. Because the writing is as charming as the story: it's never over-written, nor is the story ever over-told. And the characters could easily have been those lovely upper-middle class stereotypes who lead the kind of glamorous messed-up lives we love to read about but can never fully believe or relate to, but they're so not that! They're extremely human and multi-dimensional, and just glamorous enough to fit in a very escapist novel. As for the ending... well, I am great at predicting them, and I was pretty sure I knew where this one was going! But I was wrong about that too.
Verdict: If you want several hours of just sitting down and shutting out the world, and getting lost in a heartwarming tale, that in some ways you wish might have happened to you, this is definitely one that's going to go down a treat.
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos deals with love in all its many forms - drop dead romantic, maternal, sisterly - and the surprising things love can make us do. Protagonist Cornelia is a Philadelphia cafe manager in her early 30s, way overqualified for her job, and drifting aimlessly, often comparing her life to romantic scenes in classic movies. When love walks in in the guise of Cary Grant lookalike Martin, Cornelia's life changes, but not in the exact way readers might think. Love also walks in with the appearance of 11-year-old Clare, a child of divorce, whose mother is experiencing an increasing difficulty in caring for her and seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Told in alternating chapters of the first-person point-of-view of Cornelia and the third-person point-of-view of Clare, poet de los Santos offers an often poignant yet humorous novel with lots of elegant but accessible prose in the mix. While there may be a few too many contrived episodes for some readers, the book is an enjoyable read and will please those who like tidy, happy endings. Love Walked In has been a huge seller, and will become a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker who will be co-producing with the producer of Sideways. The book's sequel, Belong to Me, is out now, and offers more of the adventures of Cornelia and Clare.
In Liza Palmer's Seeing Me Naked, Elisabeth Page comes from a family of famous people. Her father is the renowned novelist, Ben Page, and her brother, Rascal, a literary genius. The pressure to succeed and be someone fantastic is great but much to her family's dismay, Elisabeth is a pastry chef whose five-year business plan is on a fast track to nowhere. Never mind that she's a really good pastry chef or the fact that she works at one of the best restaurants in LA! Worse still, her family-approved boyfriend spends more time jetting around the world than he does with her and it's not long before she's left broken-hearted. Elisabeth's personal life hasn't exactly turned out as expected either and she feels trapped in a life where she fears her father's disapproval and yet craves for his attention too. But then she meets Daniel Sullivan, a basketball coach who's definitely not the kind of guy her father would approve of and yet he seems to be just the right man for her. Suddenly her stagnating life is very new, especially once she agrees to do a new cooking show. With a new man in her life and a new lease on her career, everything's looking great! But can Elisabeth shed her insecurities and embrace the happiness in her life for good? I loved this book! It's one of my favorite books I read this year. Funny, poignant with larger-than-life characters that jump off the page. Liza's clever prose also delights and she's my new must-read author.
In My Sister's Shoes by the Irish author Sinead Moriarty is a very funny, but also very heart-warming novel - I enjoyed it enormously. It's the story of two Irish sisters: Kate, who's moved away from her family home in Dublin to pursue her career and her dreams in London; and Fiona, who's stayed close to the family, and is married with twin five-year-old boys. The sisters' lifestyles couldn't be more different. Kate's hectic London life means that her visits home to Dublin are far less frequent than her family would like. She knows next to nothing about her little nephews. But when Fiona has a desperate crisis, and calls on Kate to help, what can she do? Catapulted against her wishes back to the family life she so cheerfully abandoned, she steps in valiantly to take over, looking after Fiona's home, difficult husband and mischievous children. It's a challenging and scary life change for her - with often hilarious and sometimes tear-jerking results. I loved the characterisation in this book: the likeable heroine, warmly drawn family, and especially the crazy brother who's a frustrated rap-artiste! And of course, there's a nice bit of romance thrown in for good measure!
Some Assembly Required, a debut by Lynn Kiele Bonasia, is my favourite women's fiction novel of 2008. As a reader, I had to put this book down about four or five times due to the wow-factor, when a sentence or passage I just read knocked my socks off and/or touched me deeply. As a writer, I was blown away by the author's guts and ingenuity, how she decided to tell this story, introduce the main characters, flaws and all. In a nutshell, Some Assembly Required is the oftentimes funny, oftentimes sad story of a woman who moves to Cape Cod to start anew when her boyfriend/fiance cheats. Sounds like the start of a gazillion chick lit novels, but trust me, it's one of the most original novels I've read! She trades her job as a technical writer of instructional manuals to become a reporter, and gets involved in the lives of her neighbors, including an autistic savant young man and his estranged uncle (what a character!) and all the juicy secrets of the island and its inhabitants. What I especially love about this book is that it's everything in one wonderful book: it's literary fiction, it's women's fiction, it's chick lit. It's just itself. There are also two upcoming books I'm dying to read: Valerie Frankel's body image memoir: Thin Is The New Happy, and also Claire LaZebnik's new novel The Smart One and The Pretty One. Hmmm, must get to bookstore.
In The Fruit of My Lipstick, by Shelley Adina, high school student Gillian Chang is brilliant and talented. And the boy she likes is also brilliant and studying to win a spot on the Physics Olympiad, and aiming for a PhD in Physics at Stanford. So when he's suddenly interested in her, she's over the moon . . . except that being with him is starting to make her hide who she really is in order to be the girlfriend he wants her to be. Her friends are concerned. Why does a girl have to decide between her friends or her boyfriend? This was a fun book because it's a perfect beach read - light, funny, with a subtle message that doesn't beat you over the head. Gillian is as smart as I wish I was, and as disciplined as I know I'll never be, but it's entertaining to follow her through her dating mishaps and eventually discover her own identity as a young woman of integrity. This book is a Christian YA novel, but the religious aspects are very light and seamlessly woven into the characters and story. It's a great choice for mothers who want something entertaining but 'safe' for their teen and pre-teen daughters.
I'd like to nominate Nancy Martin's Murder Melts in Your Mouth. This book grabbed my attention from the opening sentence: "While yakking into her cell phone with her massage therapist, my sister Libby walked out into traffic and got herself hit by a Rolls-Royce." The accident is the epitome of the Blackbird sisters - classy, wacky and expensive. Libby would never be hit by a beer truck or a lowly Buick. Nora, Libby and Emma are three heiresses who've lost all their money. The books are seriously funny and I've followed their adventures through seven books. Nancy Martin's series started in paperback with How to Murder a Millionaire, but the Blackbird sisters were so popular Nancy's publisher tried the risky business of taking the Blackbird sisters into hardcover - and succeeded. The Blackbird Sister are the ultimate chick lit fun. They're by a woman, for women, with issues that entertain and enlighten us.