Top 5 Under-the-radar Books

These are my favorite books to recommend because most people haven’t read them and they’re absolutely amazing.

  1. Darkling, I listen, Katherine Sutcliffe

This book is my all-time favorite suspense. It’s the reason why I believe in writing sexy love scenes rather than closing the door, and the reason why I’m not shy about adding a completely diabolic scene where appropriate. Sutcliffe taught me to make my villains terrifying and my bad-ass heroes vulnerable. Another thing I love about this book is that the Brandon is the one being stalked and Alyson is the one with the shady career. So good!

  1. Keeping Faith, Jodi Picoult

Although I loved My Sister’s Keeper, this is my favorite Picoult book, and it’s surprising that many of her readers haven’t heard of it. This story has more romantic elements than most of her books. The hero is a cynical reporter who is supposed be objective, which makes the push and pull of their relationship exciting. I really related to Mariah, who doesn’t practice any religion, although her mother is Jewish and truly believes God is speaking to her granddaughter. In interviews, Jodi Picoult has said that she grew up in a “non-practicing Jewish” household, which is how I describe mine. My mother was Jewish, but my father was a Catholic who converted to Judaism. They sent me to Sunday school each week without them, but that was the extent of our worship. I didn’t really feel like I fit in with Jewish kids or Christian kids. But, all types of religions are explored in this book in a way that many authors wouldn’t dare to attempt. Picoult makes me think, and that’s why I love her writing so much.

  1. Commitments, Barbara Delinsky

I absolutely loved Derek, the hero, in this book. He was so gentle with Sabrina’s handicapped son in their first scene together, that he won me over immediately. If you’re into Daya and Bennett’s romance in Orange is the New Black, wait until you read the scenes where Sabrina visits Derek in prison. Covertly touching the man you love with prison guards watching is challenging, yet extremely sexy.

  1. Crossroads Café, Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith has written many of my favorite books, but this one stands out because the heroin’s face is so beautiful, then scarred so horribly on one side. If you like Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books with screwed-up heroines who have a lot of growing to do, this will be right up your alley. The hero has a bunch of issues as well, for good reason, but with the backdrop of Southern cooking that will make your mouth water, they help each other overcome. It’s an uplifting read!

  1. Blind Curve, Annie Solomon

The premise of this suspense is perfect. The big, strong detective has to completely rely on a woman who believes she is unappealing to any man, especially Danny, the guy she crushed over in high school. He’s mean and verbally abusive to her because he’s afraid for both of them. But, he falls in love with her touch, her voice and her strength. Helping him become a man again makes Martha feel as beautiful as she’s always been. Wow, that was sappier than I intended, but that’s how the book made me feel. I met Annie Solomon right after this book came out, at a book fair, and she generously let me store all the books I bought under her table. Of course, that meant I felt compelled to buy hers, and I was so happy I did!

Book Review for Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel

Jessica Knoll’s debut novel, Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel, fascinated me so much from beginning to end that I constantly rattled off tidbits to my husband, Russ. That’s rare. I don’t think he followed my synopsis–I’m not very concise when I’m excited. But when I told him why I preferred the story over Gone Girl, his eyes lit up. Finally, he heard me say something that made sense: I disliked Ani when the book started, but quickly changed my opinion and loved her by the end. When I finished Gone Girl, I didn’t like Amy or Nick. Russ saw the Gone Girl movie and still talks about how he doesn’t care what happened to either character.

There were many twists in Luckiest Girl—some I saw coming, some I didn’t. I prefer a combination of both. I want to feel the suspense building, experience the challenge of trying to figure out what will happen (and sometimes get it right), but I also like to be blindsided. I got all three with this book.
Writing strength is important to me because I’m a writer. Knoll’s writing is exceptional. It will appeal to women who like snappy, chick-lit humor as well as women who want to wrap their minds around a good suspense. Authors sometimes try too hard to make descriptions relevant and I lose interest in their overly polished sentences. Knoll applied the perfect balance of relevance, humor and raw, relatable emotion.
The Hunger theme in this book intrigued me. Hunger, literally the starvation brides-to-be often subject themselves to, was woven throughout so well that I experienced hunger pangs as I read, no matter how much I’d eaten recently. And Ani’s Hunger to show off her success to all the people who were sure she’d never amount to anything—that part really resonated. I bet most of us have experienced the need to prove something, especially after high school or college, whether we were bullied or even popular. To  prove that we now have “it,” or prove we’ve still got “it.”
Don’t skip the Acknowledgements at the end of the book. Knoll’s career is very similar to Ani’s and you can even read some of the articles she wrote for Cosmopolitan.