Big Kids’ Table: 2014 Reflections

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Another year almost done. Are they all going to go as fast as this one? I sure hope not because I think part of my brain is still hanging out in the spring. Ha! It’s been another interesting year of Big Kids’ Table feature. Unlike many other blog features I see, I still haven’t been able to get my rhythm done with this one. No two posts are ever the same, and while I should be proud of that, sometimes it makes me feel like this feature was never full realized.

But, hey, I’m recommending readers non-YA books, right? So part of it is working. In fact, there are a few posts I totally loved this year…

And now, a rundown of the most memorable non-YA books I’ve gobbled up this year… hopefully in time for your holiday shopping:

What took me so long?

Big Kids Table 2014 Overview What Took Me So Long

The world told me and I listened. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes = total wins. Emotional but also with such humor folded in. DON’T FORGET THE HUMOR.

Let’s fall in love.

It’s not a reading year if there isn’t romance. Am I right? What do I need to recommend a romance from the highest mountain? Chemistry, a great story, and some fantastic dialogue. Hope you’ll give these a whirl!

Big Kids Table 2014 Overview Romance Novels

Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl | A Passionate Love Affair with a Perfect Stranger by Lucy Robinson | Her Holiday Man by Stacey Shannon

Sah-prise!

Big Kids' Table Most Surprising of 2014

Two VERY different titles that were almost a shock to my own reading system. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, a fantastic debut, about a woman who is kidnapped.  The story is told from alternate POVs and positively creepy, emotional and yet understandable. And then to change things up completely, Charlie’s Glass Slippers: a makeover, career confidence, and romance drama. Guys, this book might be long but it is so so much fun. (The cover is pretty sweet too!)

No one hit wonder.

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Forever Interrupted still tops my list as one of the most realistic, perfect books for someone in their mid-20s. Her follow-up about a young couple that decides to separate and not speak for a year was full of so many moments that made me thinking about how we can easily start to take people for granted in our lives, and also easily fall into habit and lose something so valuable. I can’t recommend Taylor’s work enough.

Runner-up: The Fragile World by Paula Treick DeBoard: a family torn apart after a tragedy and revenge.

A recommendation that hit the spot.

Steal the North by Heather Bergstrom

Steal the North freaking knocked my socks off. For regular YA readers, this is the perfect pick for crossover because the main character is a teen going through a ton of changes with family, boys, and herself. The writing is beyond spectacular. Big thanks to Leah at The Pretty Good Gatsby for putting it on my radar.

Runner up: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I’m not one to usually pick up historical romances but I’m glad I read this one. It’s so emotional and well-done. (A review at So Obsessed Blog to get you inspired to read Burial Rites!)

The in-betweeners.

Yep. I’m adding some New Adult picks in this time. Guys, they were great and you have to read them. If you are worried about being overwhelmed by the sex, don’t me… these are all a combination of super sexy and well-developed.

Big Kids Table New Adult Book Recommendations 2014

Make It Count by Megan Erickson | Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler | Unraveled by Jen Frederick

A hopeful wish.

Well, being that I didn’t read any of the books I thought I would in 2014 per this post, I’m going to try again with better results. I swear! At the end of next year, I will most certainly be patting myself on the back for following through on this very short list. Right? Right?! I need you all to cheer me on.

Big Kids Table 2014 Overview What to Read in 2015

 Girl Before Mirror by Liza Palmer | A Little Princess by Frances H. Burnett | My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenberg


A quick announcement: I’m changing up Big Kids’ Table again in 2015 (I hinted to it slightly in last month’s post) and if you want to share your non-YA recs in this capacity, I would love to hear from you. Email me anytime: estelle AT ratherbereadingblog DOT com. I swear it will be oodles of fun, and I’d love to have you.

Until the next Big Kids’ Table, happy holidays, happy reading, and enjoy the rest of the year.

And remember: don’t be afraid to read outside of your genre. 🙂

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Interview + Giveaway)

The Good Girl by Mary KubicaThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 352
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: thriller, kidnapping, family secrets, love
Format read: Finished copy sent to me by the Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Mia, a school teacher, disappears one night in a bar. In a series of flashbacks from the perspectives of some of the most important people in her life, readers experience the kidnapping, the search to find her, and the aftermath.

First things first, The Good Girl has been compared to Gone Girl a ton. I haven’t read Gone Girl yet so I can’t supply a comparison. But let me say this… on its own, The Good Girl may be a labeled as a thriller but it’s possibly one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve read all year.

In a very sneaky, I can’t believe I’m falling for this type of way.

Debut writer Mary Kubica challenges her readers to believe the unbelievable in this scary tale of a young teacher who goes missing from a bar. Her captor,  actually assigned to deliver her to someone else, “saves” her from what was promised to be a terrible fate and hides her away in a cabin. I know what you are thinking. Does this mean her captor has a conscience of some kind? How benevolent is this move really if she is still technically stolen?

I was seesawing between these two questions (and many more) as I read deeper into the story. In addition to the perspective of the kidnapper, we also meet Mia’s mom, heartbroken over her daughter and the way she has handled motherhood. It’s obvious that a dire situation like this is going to change many people, but Kubica did a fantastic job of pacing how the characters evolved and moved forward since Mia’s kidnapping. Continually, I would go back and forth, sympathizing with some characters and really disliking them. It was that kind of story: everyone’s flaws are on display.

If you are looking for a book to keep you planted in one place and totally test how you feel about everything, The Good Girl is your answer. Kubica has created a well-written and engrossing story, full of twists and turns not only limited to action-packed scenes but emotional ones too.

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A chat with Mary Kubica!

Mary Kubica, author "The Good Girl"First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Mary! I thought The Good Girl was fantastic and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with others! Now that it’s been a few weeks since the release, how are you feeling? Is it still unbelievable to see your debut out in stores?

Thank you for having me!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being a guest here at Rather Be Reading, and thanks so much for your kind words about The Good Girl.

Yes, it is still unbelievable to see my book at stores!  I’m not entirely sure if or when I’ll stop being surprised to see the image of Mia on store displays – or my name on the cover of a book for that matter.  It’s been such a thrill.  There was such a great build up for The Good Girl’s release, and so much time spent waiting and wondering what would happen when my novel was finally shared with the world – and then suddenly it was off and running, and between a small bookstore tour and other promotional activities, it’s been a whirlwind – in the very best sense of the word.  It’s been so much fun.  The best part is that I’m just finishing up my second novel and am looking forward to reliving the whole process all over again – though this time I’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

You’ve created a very calculated mystery in The Good Girl, what was the biggest challenge in keeping your reader on their toes but not giving away too much?

It takes a bit of work to set the stage for a big reveal that with both catch the reader off guard and seem entirely plausible to the reader once they’ve reached the end of the book.  You don’t want to divulge too much that the reader sees the ending coming, and yet as an author, you need to lay the groundwork so that later on the reader can look back through the novel and connect the dots.  This can be tricky, and certainly required a few rounds of edits while writing The Good Girl.  But I was thrilled when it all finally came together.

I was shocked at how utterly heartbreaking this book was. I think we expect thrillers to be scary but there is also a lot loss in this book. But from the very beginning you know it’s going to be a very unconventional kind of story. What perspective was the hardest to write?

I would say Colin’s was the hardest character to write because he was the character I could relate to the least.  He’s a rough man with a troublesome past, something I don’t have a lot of experience with.  I definitely had to search outside of my comfort zone to find Colin, but once I did, his story became easier to write.  For the same reasons, Mia’s mother Eve was the easiest to write because she was the character I found I had the most in common with.

One character who is surprisingly sticking with me is Mia’s sister. She was so dismissive and detached from Mia throughout the story. Did you start out with creating a fractured relationship between the two or was it something that developed over time?

Mia is portrayed as the black sheep of the Dennett family, and as such, she needed to have a fractured relationship with ever member of her family.  Her sister, Grace, though a minor role, is certainly at odds with Mia.  If Mia is the black sheep, then Grace is the pride and joy of the family.  She is everything Mia is not, and everything Mia’s father wishes she could be.  Their relationship was that way from the get go, though if anything I softened it ever so slightly while writing the novel to give Grace a bit of dimension.

I read in an interview that you were a huge fan of the Baby-Sitters Club when you were younger. Me too! Who is your favorite character and which of the baby-sitters do you think is most like Mia, your main character?

I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books!  My sister and I actually formed our own babysitters club with a handful of neighborhood girls when I was younger, and passed out fliers around the neighborhood and earned ourselves quite a few babysitting gigs!  It was great.  I have to admit that I’ve forgotten many of the details of the books over the years, but I’m looking forward to the day my daughter is old enough that we can share them together.  For the characters, I’d say that Mia is most like Claudia for her artsy, individualistic nature, and for myself I’d pick Kristy because growing up I was the one most likely to start my own club – also the one who could be a bit bossy at times when I didn’t get my way!

For a final fun question: which actors would you cast in a film version of The Good Girl? (Don’t forget Mia’s mom because, despite her flaws, I think she was my favorite character.)

I love this question and, trust me, it’s once I’ve considered many times!  For James and Eve Dennett, Mia’s father and mother, I’d choose Victor Garber and Helen Mirren.  These were, by far, the easiest to decide.  For Gabe Hoffman, the lead detective on the case of the missing Mia Dennett, I’d choose Dylan McDermott, and for Mia’s abductor, Colin, either Jeremy Sisto or James Franco.  And finally, for Mia herself, I’d cast Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence as the starring role in the film.

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Thanks so much to Mary for the extra insight into her writing and The Good Girl! I can’t wait for your next book.

Bonus! The awesome, generous people at Harlequin have supplied us with a copy of The Good Girl for a lucky winner.
Go play! (Open to U.S. and Canadian residents!)

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Big Kids Table: More than Just Romance

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

Welcome! How is it the last day of April already? Didn’t I just take my Christmas decorations down? I’m flabbergasted by how fast this year is flying so far. But the end of the month does mean BIG KIDS’ TABLE and I do love working on this feature. Big thanks to those of you who gave me positive feedback on last month’s Receipt Recommendations; I will hopefully be doing another one sometime in the future. (But I really must take a break from buying book so sit tight.)

Today, though, today I am focusing on Harlequin. Yep. You read that right. Now raise your hand if you hear Harlequin and think of romances. It’s okay. No one will throw tomatoes or hardcovers at you, I promise! Because, for a long time, I didn’t know there was more to Harlequin than romance either. Don’t get me wrong — I love Harlequin romance writers like Kristan Higgins and Susan Mallery but last year I was psyched to discover writers like Jason Mott (The Returned) and Paula Treick DeBoard (The Mourning Hours) — a supernatural and thriller, respectively — from the MIRA imprint.

So this year, I’m anxiously looking forward to the non-romance titles being released from Harlequin in hopes I have similar reading luck! Here are a few that have caught my eye…

Where Earth Meets Water by Pia Padunke (paperback release date: April 29, 2014)

Where the Earth Meets Water

Karom Seth should have been in the Twin Towers on the morning of 9/11, and on the Indian shores in 2004, when the tsunami swept his entire family into the ocean. Whether it’s a curse or a blessing, Karom can’t be sure, but his absence from these disasters has left him with crushing guilt—and a belief that fate has singled him out for invincibility.

Karom’s affliction consumes everyone around him, from his best friend, Lloyd, to his girlfriend, Gita, who hopes that a trip to India will help him find peace. It is in Delhi that he meets Gita’s grandmother, Kamini—a quirky but wise woman with secrets of her own. At first Karom dismisses Kamini, but little does he realize that she will ultimately lead him to the clarity he’s been looking for. 

Estelle notes: It’s so rare for me to read a book that includes a trip to India. (My mind always moves toward The Namesake, which I loved.) Definitely want to check out another.

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes + Loretta Nyhan (release date: May 14, 2014)

Empire Girls

Ivy and Rose Adams may be sisters, but they’re nothing alike. Rose, the eldest, is the responsible one, while Ivy is spirited and brazen. After the unexpected death of their father, the women are left to reconcile the estate, when they make a shocking discovery: not only has their father left them in financial ruin, but he has also bequeathed their beloved family house to a brother they never knew existed. With only a photograph to guide the way, Ivy and Rose embark to New York City, determined to find this mysterious man and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

Once in New York, temptations abound at every turn, and soon the sisters are drawn into the glitzy underbelly of Manhattan, where they must overcome their differences and learn to trust each other if they’re going to survive in the big city and find their brother. Filled with unforgettable characters and charm, Empire Girls is a love letter to 1920s New York, and a captivating story of the unspoken bond between sisters.

Estelle notes: NEW YORK + THE 1920s? Sign me up.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (release date: July 29, 2014)

The Good Girl

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life. 

Colin’s job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter. 

Estelle Notes: Thrillerrrrr. If this book is anything like The Mourning Hours, I will be reading it under my desk at work. (Um, no. Just kidding. I did not do that. Okay fine… I did but it was a Friday afternoon in the summer!)

And, two of my most anticipated this year, bring us right back to the beginning of this post. Jason Mott is releasing a new book in September called The Wonder of All Things:

The Wonder of All Things

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators, killing and injuring dozens. But when the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds miraculously disappear.

Ava has a unique gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. But now the whole world knows, and suddenly Ava is thrust into the spotlight. People from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to glimpse the wonder of a miracle. But Ava’s unusual ability comes at a great cost—her own health—and as she grows weaker with each healing, Ava begins searching for an escape. Wash agrees to help Ava, but little does she know he has his own secret he’s been harboring, and soon Ava finds herself having to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save the one she loves most.

And so does Paula Treick DeBoard with The Fragile World (October 2014):

The Fragile World

The Kaufmans have always considered themselves a normal, happy family. Curtis is a physics teacher at a local high school. His wife, Kathleen, restores furniture for upscale boutiques. Daniel is away at college on a prestigious music scholarship, and twelve-year-old Olivia is a happy-go-lucky kid whose biggest concern is passing her next math test.

And then comes the middle-of-the-night phone call that changes everything.Daniel has been killed in what the police are calling a freak accident, and the remaining Kaufmans are left to flounder in their grief. The anguish of Daniel’s death is isolating, and it’s not long before this once perfect family find themselves falling apart. As time passes and the wound refuses to heal, Curtis becomes obsessed with the idea of revenge, a growing mania that leads him to pack up his life and his anxious teenage daughter and set out on a collision course to right a wrong.

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So there ya go — five new books for the price of one post. Hope there’s something here that floats your boat!
As you can probably tell my boat is pretty much forever floating. 😉

Happy reading!

P.S. If you read any non-YA titles this month, definitely let me know! It’s only fair 😉