• Cara Cilento


Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Everyone has a few books they consider their favorite. Oddly enough, I don't have one book but a few from different book genres, which I am constantly changing my mind about. Why? Because as book authors emerge, there is more for me to choose from. As book authors develop, so does the craft. As society changes, so does content. It's fluid. I do, however, have a few standouts that will always be close by. They are from the book genres of LGBTQ Romance, Mystery, Literary Fiction, Thriller, and Fantasy.

LGBTQ Romance Novels

My first pick is Satisfaction, Guaranteed by book author Karelia Stetz-Waters. Rated Best Books Of 2021 So Far on Amazon, the LGBTQ Romance follows Cade Elgin as she inherits a sex toy store. Cade is torn between the need to keep the business running and packed with the all-encompassing supply of pleasurable things and the infuriatingly reckless and sensually irresistible new owner.

I felt this book was a delight to read but, if you do not like graphic sex scenes, you may want to skip those parts. They are non-gratuitous and essential to the humanistic qualities of the protagonists. However, since both women struggle with sex, the scenes are tender, kind, insightful, psychologically accurate, and thoughtful towards another person's well-being.

Satisfaction, Guaranteed made me laugh out loud as well as made me gush, which is why it is one of my favorites.

The Classics

As far back as I can remember, I have adored the classics. I became a Sherlock Holmes fan when I read Hound of the Baskervilles in grade school, and I never stopped reading mysteries. Even my dog is named Mystery (no joke...she is). My second pick, therefore, is The Detectivists: Dragon Ripper by Melanie Bacon.

In the vein of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books, Dragon Ripper is a thrilling murder mystery set in the Whitechapel district of East London. Maddie Barquist is a horse veterinarian who narrates the novel. She crosses paths with Astraia Holmes, a clairvoyant who has witnessed a brutal and unique murder in an alley near an opium den.

One thing I liked best about the first installment of The Detectivists book series is that the protagonists are working outside of the societal norm for women in the 1800s. It is a riveting, page-turning delight and book one of a forthcoming book series. Expertly reviewed by Kirkus, I can't wait for more additions to The Detectivists book series and see what else Melanie Bacon brings to the mystery book genre table.

The Homemage Genre

I would be remiss if I did not mention my third pick, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. First published in 2017, Homegoing continues to sit within the top ten books on Amazon’s Black and African American Historical fiction books and is Amazon’s Editor’s Pick for Best Literature and Fiction.

Homegoing is the story of two half-sisters who were born into different communities in eighteenth-century Ghana. Unaware of each other's existence, one will be a future bride of an Englishman. The other will be caught in a raid on her village and thrown into the castle dungeon, where she is bought and sold into slavery. The readers follow the sisters and their descendants as they travel parallel then intersecting pathways that range from the Gold Coast of Ghana through plantations in Mississippi during the American Civil War to Harlem during the 1920s.

Homegoing combines a wealth of symbolism and probes black identity throughout the novel. It can be challenging to read because of the brutality and inhumanity of slavery which is graphically depicted. I will say, too, there are a lot of characters through many generations, so it may help to track the character's lineage. The extra step of a genealogical chart is well worth it. I know it elevated my experience from a passive reader to one engaged in the character's traumas and journeys.

Should I tell you more? Why not? They Never Learn by Layne Fargo is a thriller with a twist. Scarlett Clark is an English professor and a vigilante serial killer who makes the worst man on campus her target. They Never Learn delivers everything a thriller is supposed to be. I would never have expected myself to support a killer, but Scarlett is such a kick-ass feminist protagonist I couldn't help myself. She is smart, sexy, witty, and I can't tell you more without revealing the surprise ending. I guarantee it is an OH EM GEE (OMG) moment. They Never Learn draws you in and doesn’t let you go.

Last but not least Thorn, a fantasy fiction by Anna Burke. Winner of the 2020 IPPY Award, 2019 Forward Indies Award, 2020 GCLS Award, and named to the American Library Association's 2020 Over the Rainbow Fiction Longlist, Thorn follows the story of Rowan, who, on a futile hunting expedition, unwittingly receives a cursed rose. The Huntress, the keeper of the rose, becomes enraged with Rowan's father for killing her wolves and taking the rose with him. She invades his house to reclaim the rose and Rowan. A beautiful retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Thorn is written with exquisite metaphor and poetic description. But for all of its majestic imagery, Thorn reveals a melancholy that will cut you to your heart and leave you breathless.

So there you have it. My nightstand hidden gems. I know finding decent novels to read might seem like a difficult challenge. We are all creatures of habit and like to read what we know we will enjoy. But like my grandmother used to say, "How do you know you don't like it if you don't try it?" I think she was talking about lentil soup and not books, but the same rule applies. I'm not saying that my taste in books will match yours, nor will my reasons for choosing these books match your criteria for picking your next read. But I do hope these picks can lead you to a new novel, new author, or genre to explore. It could be as simple as going to your local book store and asking for an opinion or sitting for an author talk who writes in a genre you're unfamiliar with. Whatever the case, get out there and read.

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