A reading rut is a terrible place to be. The world turns gray as your once-humming TBR stacks begin to slump over. And you’re just waiting, huddled in your reading nook, for that spark of joy to light you up once more. We’ve all been there—and so much more frequently these days, with the current news cycles. Well, we’re here to lift you out of bookworm purgatory! Since this weekend is Valentine’s Day, we’re talking LOVE—specifically, what books made us believe in book love again when the rut had us feeling hopeless. These six reads gave us hope and had us snuggling between the covers once more!
Anne’s Pick: I know I can’t be the only one who blew off their reading goal for 2020, but back in the early winter, when it was perfect weather to curl up with a book, I couldn’t think of anything less appealing. Focus on a story for longer than the length of a TikTok? No thanks. But when one of my colleagues with perfect editorial taste passed me THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON, I decided to read a chapter—just a chapter—to see how it felt after my monthlong reading drought. From the first few pages of THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON, I could tell I was reading something special. Amy Ashton’s house is littered, cluttered; she’s spent the past twenty years hoarding vases, ceramic birds, newspapers, and mugs. But as you uncover the story behind each object and learn to appreciate its beauty, your heart will open for Amy more and more. And as Amy gets to know her unjudgmental neighbor Richard and his sons, you’ll be reminded to be gentle and patient with yourself. THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON (publishing as EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL in the UK) will remind you what it’s like to fall into a story and back in love with reading.
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things and Evvie Drake Starts Over comes a funny and tender debut about a reclusive artist whose collection has gotten out of control—but whose unexpected friendship with a pair of new neighbors might be just what she needs to start over.
Amy Ashton once dreamed of becoming an artist—of creating beautiful objects. But now she simply collects them. Aquamarine bottles, bright yellow crockery, deep Tuscan red pots (and the odd slow-cooker) take up every available inch of space in her house. Having suffered a terrible tragedy—one she staunchly refuses to let herself think about, thank you very much—she’s decided that it’s easier to love things than people. Things are safe. Things will never leave you.
But when a new family moves in next door with two young boys, one of whom has a collection of his own, Amy’s carefully managed life starts to unravel, prompting her to question why she began to close herself off in the first place. As Amy embarks on a journey back into her past, she has to contend with nosy neighbors, a meddlesome government worker, the inept police, and a little boy whose love of bulldozers might just let Amy open up her heart—and her home—again.
Quirky and charming, big-hearted and moving, The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton proves that it’s never too late to let go of the things that don’t matter...and welcome the people who do.
Sharon’s Pick: I was in one of my worst reading slumps at the beginning of this year and couldn’t seem to shake it until I picked up INFINITE COUNTRY. While fewer than two hundred pages long, Patricia Engel’s saga of a family divided between the United States and Colombia is breathtaking. The story shifts perspectives among parents Mauro and Elena and children Karina, Nando, and Talia, as each character honestly portrays the struggle of immigration and being able to call a place home. These unforgettable characters, along with Engel’s command of language and gorgeous prose filled with passages that feel like a punch to the gut, make INFINITE COUNTRY a can’t-miss read.
“Remarkable...this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one.” —Booklist (starred review)
For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?
Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
Courtney’s Pick: Recently I reread RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE to escape a reading slump. This time I convinced a friend to read it with me, and seeing this romantic, funny, and emotional story through his eyes made it a completely new experience. Henry, the Prince of Wales, and Alex, America’s First Son, are forced to overcome their rivalry and fake an international friendship for the press. What starts as a series of orchestrated events soon turns into texts and emails that blossom into a real friendship, and then even more. Can a prince and the First Son fall in love, or will their respective positions force them apart? Casey McQuiston’s storytelling reminded me why I love reading and gave me the push I needed to start tackling my TBR pile.
Sara’s Pick: I was in a big-time reading rut during the holidays. My TBR pile was massive, but I had no desire to pick up anything new—until I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance reader copy of THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave. I was immediately drawn in by the main character, Hannah Hall, who’s just so down-to-earth and no-frills, who gets thrown into this crazy situation. She’s been married for only a year when her husband, Owen, goes missing, leaving behind a note that says Protect her. It’s so vague; you feel just as confused and infuriated as Hannah does, which kept me reading and reading and reading. You accompany Hannah and Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey, on this incredible investigative journey as they push the limits to figure out where he is. The book comes out in May, so mark your calendars!
From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.
We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.
Nicole’s Pick: The stress of 2020 affected many aspects of my life, but one that I didn’t anticipate being influenced was my reading habits. All of a sudden I could barely focus on a book for longer than five minutes at a time. Enter WRITTEN IN THE STARS. Romance isn’t my usual genre of choice, but a friend gave it a very convincing “But it’s gay!” so I gave it a try. Reader, I devoured this book. It’s your classic fake-dating-to-real-dating romp. Elle is an astrologer who loves love and dreams of finding her soul mate. Darcy would have all but given up on dating if it wasn’t for her brother’s continuing to set her up on blind dates. He arranges one such date between Darcy and Elle, and to get her brother off her back, Darcy tells him that the date went well even though it was a disaster. The two decide to keep up the ruse through New Year’s Eve, since it’s not like they’ll develop real feelings for each other, right? This was the perfect combination of relatability, hilarity, and fluffiness that I needed to pull myself out of an unexpected reading rut.
Emily’s Pick: The books that can reliably get me out of reading ruts are those that feature many twists and turns and a curious character whose momentum pushes them through those turns with abandon—and that sums up Winter Santiaga’s story in THE COLDEST WINTER EVER. She may not be the most likable character, but Winter’s voice was so full of surprises, opinions, stubbornness, and hilarious observations that I couldn’t stop reading. I flew through the pages, following Winter as her prominent drug-dealing father gets arrested, ruining their family’s relationships, wealth, and views of one another. As Winter scrambles to keep control of her family’s reputation and her power on the streets of Brooklyn, this classic book examines what a young girl is willing and able to do to stay on top in a world that won’t stop spinning beneath her feet.
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