It’s hard enough for us parents to find time to read, let alone to decide what to read. Head to the library and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stacks upon stacks of interesting-sounding titles (who can blame us for judging a book by its cover?). Just keeping up with book lists can seem like a chore. That’s why we here at LiveMom are introducing you to local authors, who will be giving you the skinny on what’s on their reading lists…because who better than a writer to turn you on to new and interesting books?!
Catherine Avril Morris is a romance novelist and freelance writer as well as mama to three beloved children: August, who died unexpectedly at birth in January 2010; three-year-old Pearl, who happens to be rockin’ an extra chromosome; and fifteen-month-old Zephyr, who tries his best to keep up with his big sister. (You can learn more about August and Pearl in this LiveMom essay from 2012, or in this video of Catherine reading her work in the 2012 Austin Listen to Your Mother Show.)
Catherine’s first two contemporary romance novels, Marry Me Twice and Cassidy’s Daddy, are available on Amazon.com. Catherine is also a freelance Web content writer, a regular contributor to Free Fun in Austin, and the Communication and Media Chair for Ruby’s Rainbow, a local nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to adult students with Down syndrome. Another fun fact about Catherine: A long time ago, she had a role in a little film called Dazed and Confused that became a cult classic. Visit her on the Web at www.CatherineAvrilMorris.com, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter. Here are Catherine’s recommendations:
Since I write romance, I have to include two of my all-time favorite romance novels on this list:
1.Beast by Judith Ivory — Flat-out one of the best novels I’ve ever read, and probably the best romance. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this historical romance is set on a cruise ship in the early 1900s, and the heroine is a young American heiress. Both these elements set this book apart from other historical romances, since the vast majority of historicals are set in Regency England, and American heroines are relatively unusual in this genre. Ivory’s writing is sensual, lyrical and just impeccable, and the story is gripping and compelling. This is one I’ve reread many times, and every time I just want to linger over it and savor every word.
2. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas — Since I am a sucker for incredible writing and unusual settings and characters, here is another historical romance you should go buy today (seriously, today!) and read. Set in India’s Rumbur Valley (today’s Pakistan) during the Swat Valley Uprising of 1897, this novel’s unique setting is a big part of what makes the book so riveting and memorable. Another element that makes this book so distinctive is its heroine, a female physician (who breaks the romance mold by proposing to her husband!). Furthermore, author Sherry Thomas (an Austin writer and mama, herself!) is originally from China. She did not learn English until she moved to the U.S. as a young teenager, which makes her gorgeous writing that much more incredible to me. Like Judith Ivory’s books, you don’t want Thomas’s books to end, not just because the story is so captivating, but because the writing itself is so very edible. (On that note, be sure to read Delicious, Private Arrangements and Thomas’s other romances, and then try out her excellent young-adult novels, too.)
3. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Omnibus (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass)— Man. I don’t even know what to say about these books. The Golden Compass was previously listed in Jodi Egerton’s Austin Reading Mama recommendations, but I have to re-recommend it (is that a thing?!) along with the second and third books in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Supposedly YA novels, these books’ themes and plots would challenge and satisfy readers of any age. The whole series is strange, powerful, devastating, hopeful and incredible all at once. It’s simultaneously spiritual and atheistic, anarchistic and revolutionary. Writing this makes me want to go reread them again, for the fourth time.
4. Woody Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein — So, the heroes in romance novels generally have “flaws” that are often things like a scar, an overly large nose or a tendency toward brooding isolation — things that are ultimately easy to look past, move beyond or actually resolve. Maybe this is part of why I love Woody Guthrie so very much. Yes, he was a real person, but he was also a folk hero, a larger-than-life figure who will forever be rooted in American consciousness. (Public school kids still sing “This Land Is Your Land” to this day, as we did when I was a kid — and I had no idea, as a kid, how intensely political that song was.) Guthrie as folk hero might arguably have been flawless, but as a human being, he had some very real and serious problems, and Joe Klein’s biography is fascinating in its study of this complicated man. Guthrie had Huntington’s chorea, a disease he inherited from his mother that eventually killed him. Klein theorizes that Guthrie’s extreme sexuality and his extreme prolificacy as a writer both likely came from his illness. His neglectful parenting, his wandering, disconnected nature, his inability to be faithful to or even present with his wife and family — who knows where these came from. As much as I admire Guthrie and love his music, I really don’t know if I would have liked him in person. But his contribution to American music, culture and politics is bigger than we probably realize. And he was really intriguing as a person, flaws and all, which makes this biography very absorbing.
5. The Boyfriend School (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) by Sarah Bird — Okay, I’m going to wrap up this list with another Austin author, who started out as a romance novelist before going on to write literary fiction, and her novel that is very meta — though The Boyfriend School is literary fiction, it’s really a classic romance about an Austin journalist who becomes a romance writer (and falls in love). Bird’s first novels were romances written under the pen name Tory Cates, released in the early 1980s (and which have recently been rereleased). Then she wrote Alamo House, her first literary novel, which is set on the UT campus right here in Austin. It changed my life when I read it as a young teenager — it was so hilarious and irreverent but deep at the same time, and it focused on women’s friendships, even as those women explored (often frivolous) relationships with men. Then came The Boyfriend School, and I was absolutely hooked — in fact, I think this novel is the reason I became a romance novelist, myself. I won’t say any more about it, except that you should go read it, now!
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