I’m pretty miserly with vowels. Grading vowels, I mean. I use actual vowels in words with no problem, but when it comes to grading books, to earn a vowel, a couple of things have to happen. My socks have to blown off clear across the room and possibly into the back yard so my dogs can happily bury them. Sock-propelling books are rare. Foot coverings metaphorically and perhaps literally fly off only when a story gives me the good book emo-tingles, which is when I feel the emotions of the book, and empathize with the characters so much, my chest and arms tingle and twitch. I am totally one of those people who will gasp-sigh with her hand on her sternum when the emo-feels hit. I also cry at really sappy commercials, but that’s probably not news to anyone.
The other instances that generates a vowel grade for me—and I had a grand total of three this year out of all the books I read—vary depending on the genre. In a novella, I love the perfect balance of emotional development and a satisfying conflict resolution within a small word count. I love a story that goes by so easily, I don’t notice the plot twists or changes in conflict as exercises that continue the story. I don’t see the structure of the story; I see the story itself instead.
But the most noticeable part of an A-grade book is that I continue to think and talk about it. I may not make sense when I talk about it, and make a bunch of noises and wave my arms around trying to put a noun and a verb in the proper order instead of just making Good Book Noise, but I will always talk about those books. When someone says they read one on my recommendation and loved it, I get the happiest of happys, since they enjoyed it as much as I did, and so I know they are experiencing the same emotions I did. When the emotions from a story are as grade-A as the story itself, sharing the story makes those same feelings even bigger and more enjoyable. When I make Good Book Noise, and someone else reads the same story and also makes Good Book Noise, it’s just the best.
I gave A-grades to three books during all of 2013 at SBTB. Two of them I recommended in my last column about romances that make great gifts: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The third is a novella, and it’s just about perfect for everyone right now during the post holiday season, whether you like the holidays or are waiting for them to be over already.
This is a holiday-set novella, and it was so funny, I laughed hard enough I thought I was going to fall off the bed. I have witnesses for this. I’m not exaggerating.
The heroine, Hayley, narrates the story, and it begins when Hayley is trying to avoid breathing because she’s agreed to be a bridesmaid in her ex-boyfriend’s wedding, and the bride has chosen a tube dress that is not holding in Hayley for much longer. The best man, a person who Hayley believes dislikes and disapproves of her, rescues her when the inevitable happens, and the fun begins from there.
Hayley is smart and has learned to not be apologetic about that fact, as demonstrated in this quote, which is one of my favorites:
I had a degree in aeronautical engineering and was working on a supersecret project to do with satellites. I couldn't tell you more than that or I'd have to kill you and eat you and you didn't need a degree in engineering to know there was no room in this dress for two people.
This story is hilarious, emotional and just about perfect. I adored it. If you’re looking for something to make you feel happy and warm, this would be ideal.
What were your A books this year? What books have you recommended to people to share the Good Book Noise?
Happy New Year to you and yours. I wish you MUCH good reading!
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. She loves talking with romance readers, and hopes you'll share your new favorite romance reading recommendations. You can find her on Twitter @smartbitches, on Facebook, or on her couch, most likely with her eyeglasses turned toward a book.