JessicaselfieWhen I was a little girl, I used to watch West Side Story over and over. I had a strong sense of justice, and loved getting swept up in Maria and Tony’s rebellious romance, not to mention worked up over their communities’ totally lame and unfair objections to it. Later, as a teen, I was consistently attracted to boys for whom my parents harbored built-in disapproval: usually boys in bands, and boys who had been expelled from one or more high schools. Most nights were filled with hushed, flirtatious phone calls followed by blood-vessel bursting screaming matches with my mom, who just didn’t understand. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized parents’ disapproval of their teenage daughters’ romantic choices isn’t always about blind prejudice. More often then we’d like to think, it’s about the fact that teenage love is intense, and it tends not to end well.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche is a forbidden love story not unlike Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, or West Side Story, for that matter: It begins when Devorah, a Hasidic Jewish girl, meets Jaxon, a second generation Caribbean-American boy, when the two are stuck in an elevator during a hurricane power outage. Now if you don’t know about the Hasidic faith, it’s an incredibly closed community and it is beyond taboo for an unmarried Hasidic girl to be alone with any boys, much less a boy outside her faith and race. Despite the fact that they wouldn’t speak to each other under normal circumstances, Devorah and Jaxon make an undeniable connection during their time in that elevator that changes their lives forever–embarking on a forbidden friendship that will soon blossom into first love, risking everything–family, faith, and friends–to be together.

Yes, this book has all the swoon-worthy, drama-filled, heart-pounding romance I couldn’t get enough of growing up, but it also has perspective. It shows the powers and the pitfalls of family, tradition and faith. It shows the highs and lows of first love. But most remarkably, it cracks open a door of possibility beyond first love (I mean, it’s called first love for a reason), reminding readers that the future is out there, it’s longer than you think, and it’s all yours.

Sometimes I look back on my teen love interests and wonder if my parents were right. They were right to worry about my heart. All good parents should. They were wrong to think they could stop it from loving boys in bands. (I’m marrying one next month.) First love is not the be-all-end-all that it feels like in the moment, but it is the start of something exquisite that never really does go away.

Thank you, Una LaMarche, for capturing this and reminding me.

Read More Posts From the Editor’s Desk.




JTM

John Mercun works as the Consumer Engagement Manager for Penguin Random House’s Consumer Marketing Group and is known as “the funniest guy in the office”, mainly because no one else is editing this bio.  In his spare time, John is a police dispatcher, volunteer EMT, fantasy football fanatic and, when time permits, an avid reader.

 

 

 

taken

Taken, by Robert Crais

One of the great pleasures of working in publishing is being able to watch an author get more and more popular every year that they publish.  This is no truer than in the case of Robert Crais, who has made a name for himself as a terrific mystery writer.  Elvis Cole is easily one of my favorite literary characters, mainly because he always has a glib comment in the best or worst of times. Partnered with the strong but silent Joe Pike, together they take on a missing persons case that puts both of them up against more than they bargained for.

 

 

 

Cold Dish

The Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson

If you’ve never seen A&E’s hit show LONGMIRE, you should first pick up The Cold Dish, the first novel in the series. We meet Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire for the first time as he is looking back on twenty-five years as sheriff and hoping to finish his tenure in peace.  When a high school boy is found dead, however, Walt’s hopes for a quiet finish to his career are dashed. Capturing the American West with great feel and authenticity, author Craig Johnson gives readers a mystery that they will keep reading well into the night.

 

 

 

Terminal City

Terminal City, by Linda Fairstein

In the two decades as the chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office of Manhattan, Linda Fairstein spent most of her time solving crimes.  Now she spends most of her time writing about people who solve crimes. Terminal City reunites readers with Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper who find themselves hunting for an elusive killer whose only signature is carving a carefully drawn symbol into his victims’ bodies. This thrill ride takes readers into the darkest heart of one of New York’s most iconic structures – Grand Central Terminal.

 

 

MarcoEffect

The Marco Effect, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I’ve always appreciated the smart and surly police detective who walks to the beat of his own drum while getting the job done.  And no one fits that bill more than Carl Mørck, the deeply flawed head of Copenhagen’s unsolved crime unit known as “Department Q”.  With a few years left until retirement,  Mørck hopes to quietly whittle the time away in the basement of police headquarters. Unfortunately, that plan has yet to work out. This time, he’s chasing down a fifteen year old gypsy boy on the run and a mystery that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups. Coming this September!

 

 

Missing YouMissing You, by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is no stranger to the mystery and suspense world.  NYPD Detective Kat Donovan has become an old friend to his readers and, with each book, the friendship grows a little deeper.  Against her will, Kat is placed on an online dating site that at first she thinks is a waste of time.  But when she looks at the accompanying photo to one profile, her world comes crashing down.  Staring back her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, who broke her heart over 18 years ago.  Things are not what they seem, however, and when Kat reaches out to him an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light that Kat is forced to confront and stop.

 

 

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Paul

Paul Wargelin is a mild-mannered Web Copy Manager for the great metropolitan Penguin Random House’s Berkley and NAL imprints, who also writes and edits cover copy for the Ace, Roc, and InkLit imprints. Despite a lifetime exposed to a variety of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and superhero fiction, he has yet to develop any superpowers of his own.

 

 

TomorrowTomorrow and Tomorrow, by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Easily the best debut novel I have ever read, science fiction or otherwise. We already live in a world where cameras on every street corner, and in everyone’s hands, record everything we do 24/7. Now, imagine collating all of that recorded footage into a virtual environment, recreated precisely from every conceivable angle, its historical events preserved for people to experience and interact with again and again. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is the poignant story of one man’s addiction to reliving his virtual past, an intriguing murder mystery that unfolds both online and off, and a thought-provoking near-future vision that takes our technological social connected society to its logical, plausible, and increasingly isolating conclusion. My favorite book Penguin has published since I started my career here.

 

LexiconLexicon, by Max Barry

A mesmerizing science fiction mystery featuring the most exciting first chapter I’ve read in recent memory, Lexicon hits the ground running with an amnesiac desperately trying to regain his lost memories and doesn’t stop until his final confrontation against a woman capable of destroying the world with a single word. A riveting story of how ambition, power, and ultimately love, alters our very essence.

 

 

 

 

Terminal

Terminal World, by Alastair Reynolds

A fallen angel. A city comprised of dirigibles. Cybernetic cannibals called carnivorgs. These are just a few of the elements found in Terminal World’s post-apocalyptic far future setting. An incredible adventure from one of science fiction’s most imaginative practitioners, Alastair Reynolds’s novel is a must read for Steampunk aficionados willing to expand their horizons beyond the genre’s basic tropes.

 

 

 

 

Resus Chart

The Rhesus Chart: A Laundry Files Novel, by Charles Stross

Since I was introduced to Bob Howard in The Atrocity Archives, I’ve faithfully followed the adventures of this tech nerd/cubicle jockey turned “computational demonologist” as he reluctantly fights the forces of Lovecraftian darkness on behalf of Her Majesty’s anti-occult organization known as the Laundry. Bob’s role as an everyman office drone separates him from the destined supernatural warriors chronicled in most urban fantasies, making him one of the most relatable protagonists in the genre. The Rhesus Chart pits Bob against vampire financiers employed by a literal blood bank as Charles Stross once again demonstrates just how bureaucratic office politics can lead to Armageddon in both humorous and horrific style.

 

Vampires

Vampires, by John Steakley

The late John Steakley’s contribution to vampire mythology is an action-packed thrill-ride featuring the hunters of Vampire$, Inc., secretly bankrolled by the Catholic Church, exterminating bloodsuckers with extreme prejudice. But the endless cycle of violence against near-immortal demons takes its toll as Jack Crow and his team begin to lose their capacity for compassion—and their very humanity—after every battle. Cynical and daring, Steakley’s focus on Crow’s crew as soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome while leaving the vampires in the shadows made this novel one of my most emotionally invested reads.

 

 

Ruled Britannia

Ruled Britannia, by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove proves the pen is mightier than the sword as William Shakespeare writes a play to galvanize a conquered populace to turn against their occupiers in this alternate history about the Spanish Armada’s successful invasion of Elizabethan England. Immersing himself in the literary language of the era, Turtledove has crafted an inspired novel in true Shakespearean fashion with his intriguing cat and mouse game between the Bard and Spanish playwright/soldier Lope de Vega, depicted as mutually respectful adversaries loyal to opposing regimes. What I love about Turtledove’s historical novels is that you don’t have to be a scholar to enjoy them, and I find myself educated as well as entertained.

 

The Long Walk

The Long Walk, by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman

One hundred teenage boys volunteer to trek down the east coast of the United States as contestants in a brutal game of endurance, marching non-stop until only one remains. Reading this in one day, King’s relentless narrative had me just as fatigued as the walkers, feeling their psychological and physical stress as they faltered and fell one-by-one. Taut and tight characterizations put you inside the head and heart of each featured walker, learning the dreams, fears, and agendas that drive them to win. It may have originally been published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, but in my estimation The Long Walk ranks among the best novels of King’s career—and is also a frightening vision of the potential direction “Reality TV” could take in the future.

 

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photo

Alaina Mauro is Publishing Manager for the Adult imprints at Penguin Group. She is a well-known romance-phile, and has been known to discuss the literary merits of her favorite romances with pretty much anyone who will listen. She thanks the Penguin blog for giving her the opportunity to proselytize to a wider audience.

 

 

 

 

It Happened One Wedding

It Happened One Wedding, byJulie James

Julie James is my go-to for an absorbing, funny, contemporary romance novel. She’s always the first I recommend to friends interested in reading romance. Her novels are full of wonderfully drawn characters who feel like real people, and by the end, real friends. It Happened One Wedding is no exception, and the story of Vaughn Roberts, Special Agent, and Sidney Sinclair, investment banker, is engaging from their first funny coffee shop not-meet-cute, in which both decides the other is not for them. Circumstances draw them together, and their gradual friendship that turns into something more is delightful to read. This is one of those book’s that I like to have more than one copy of—one to keep, and one to loan—it’s that good.

 

Then Came You, by Jill ShalvisThen Came You

The fourth book in Jill Shalvis’s Animal Magnetism series is about veterinarians in rural Idaho. Dr. Emily Stevens is about to start a new internship far from her Los Angeles life at an animal clinic in rural Idaho, working for Drs. Dell and Adam Connelly. She has a plan. It involves spending the least amount of time in Idaho as possible to get a permanent position in LA, and marrying someone whose goals line up with hers. Not on the plan is Dr. Wyatt Stone, her new boss. She had a one-night stand with Wyatt months earlier at a veterinarian conference and expected to never see him again. Then Came You is a great contemporary romance about two people trying to reconcile life’s plans with life’s reality. Wyatt, in particular, is an excellent hero, and it was great to see him get his Happily Ever After. Though this is the fourth book in the series, it can easily be read without having read the others, but also, the others are great and you should totally read them!

Ravishing The HeiressRavishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas

Historical romance is my favorite romance subgenre, and Sherry Thomas is one of the best writing currently. Her stories are emotionally engaging in a way that is really rewarding for the reader. Ravishing the Heiress is the second book in a series set in Edwardian England about the Fizhugh siblings. It’s my favorite of the series and can be read without having read the others. It is that most-common historical trope, an arranged marriage, which starts with the main characters, Millicent and Fitzhugh, both having had their hearts broken with their true loves through circumstance, agreeing to marry each other, but that if either’s true love were to become available, to part ways with no hard feelings. When Fitz’s love, Isabelle returns to London, their agreement is put to the test. This story is one where the HEA is far from secure. Will Fitz end up with Isabelle? Will Millie find her own love? Has there been more between Fitz and Millie than either was willing to admit? Finding out, and the way the Thomas resolves these issues, is what make this book really stand out.

Secret lifeThe Secret Life of Violet Grant, by Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams writes engrossing novels with strong, well-drawn, female characters who don’t always act the way romantic heroines “should” and her books are all the better for it. The Secret Life of Violet Grant is set in 1914 Berlin and 1964 New York City, and follows Violet and Vivian Schuyler. Vivian has just graduated from Bryn Mawr and has defied her wealthy Manhattan family to get a job! And live on her own! And to actually do it successfully! The horror! She receives a parcel in the mail, a suitcase, which belonged to Violet. Violet is a hushed-up family secret, and Vivian becomes determined to find out what happened to her. The story is told from both Violet’s and Vivian’s point of view, and both women are smart, compelling characters. Of course, this wouldn’t be here if there weren’t two excellent heroes to help both women with their mysteries. Both romances are deliciously complicated, and the resolutions are extremely satisfying.

Romance Is My Day JobRomance is My Day Job, by Patience Bloom

Romance is My Day Job is actually a memoir by Patience Bloom, an editor at Harlequin. And yet, it is my favorite romantic story of the year. Patience, like some other people I know, grew up devouring romance novels, and expected that she too would find her hero, her happily ever after, her grand love. Then she moved to New York City, got her dream job at Harlequin editing romance, and…nothing happened. No hero, although many near-heroes. The book opens with a single, happy Patience in her early forties, living her life, when she receives an out-of-the-blue message from an old friend. All of a sudden it seems as if maybe her grand love might be a real possibility. Patience is an hilarious narrator, and anyone who has read and loved even one romance novel, will love her. Her actual romance is as compelling as any of the others here, if not more so, because it’s real.

Happy Reading!

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Alexis

Alexis works with books, and is a lover of the following, in no particular order: stories, believing in making a difference, London, San Francisco, New York City, traveling, banter, Converse, coffee, and Keds.

 

 

 

 

 

Like No Other

Like No Other, by Una LaMarche

Set in Crown Heights Brooklyn this is the story of a second generation West-Indie boy and a Hassidic girl who meet and fall in love when they are trapped in an elevator. It’s a modern, real, star-crossed lover story that is a bit West Side Story and a bit Romeo and Juliet but with less violence and a strong, thoughtful, female lead. With countless romances in literature painting the story of girls giving away their souls (cough-Twilight – cough), it’s nice to find a story that shows you how to stay true to your first love, and to yourself.

 

 

 

Inland

Inland, by Kat Rosenfield

With undertones of Siren Lore, a feisty female lead, and a story that leaves you wondering what exactly is real, what isn’t, and if something mystical exists, this is a summer read not to be missed. As soon as I opened this book I couldn’t put it down. Bring it to the beach and enjoy in the wet hot humidity where most of its story takes place. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

Nightingale's Nest

Nightingale’s Nest, by Nikki Loftin

This book is something so special. Magical realism is the term everyone’s using. It’s a story that is told vividly, and has musical undertones. It deals with loss, self-discovery, class, and belonging through the story of a young man, a little girl, and the summer that changed everything. I can’t urge you enough to read this one. Just do it.

 

 

 

 

Fault in our stars

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

Now, as a publishing professional, I secretly LOVE when books are made into movies, but, I always ALWAYS believe that a person should read the book first. It helps you make up your own mind and then approach the movie with a bit of intelligence, and, having had experienced the story without anyone else’s images clouding your imagination. Which is why I am recommending this book this month. If you haven’t read it, and if you are looking at trailers of the movie – DON’T GO UNTIL YOU READ IT. This story of love, life, and death should be experienced in your own head and heart first. Trust me.

 

 

Half Bad

Half Bad, by Sally Green

I always say this when people ask me about this book, but I mean it: this is not another witch book. This book is amazing. Told from the perspective of a young man (Nathan) who is a witch, born of an evil father (who just happens to be the world’s powerful and cruel Black witch) and of good mother. This is the beginning of a trilogy where we journey with Nathan as he tries to figure out where he belongs. It’s thrilling and set in modern day England. Read it quickly before the next one comes out!

 

 

 

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Erica

Erica Martirano is the associate director of marketing for Berkley, Celebra, DAW Books, and InterMix. In her spare time she harasses the editors for early manuscripts on her favorite books (a publishing perk!) and has been known to pester the NAL publisher in particular for JR Ward. To date the publisher has not acquiesced.

 

 

Lover Awakened

Lover Awakened, by JR Ward 

I’ll admit it—I’m a JR Ward junkie and basically love everything she does—but this is a standout favorite of mine throughout the entire BDB series. Zsadist’s story never fails to literally bring me to tears (something my husband will never stop making fun of me about), and is really where I got hooked on the story of the brothers.  Of all the brothers, he’s the most damaged, and before you know it, you’re rooting for Bella to help try to repair him. The series as a whole really just rocks, but if you read nothing else JR Ward you have to read this one!

 

 

 

Dragon Bound

Dragon Bound, by Thea Harrison

This book is unfairly good.  Like, slap-the-person-who-wants-to-talk-while-you’re-reading good. Pia Giovanni is blackmailed into stealing a relic from one of the most powerful members of the Elder Races, Dragos Cuelebre, and the romance that develops between the two of them basically sets the pages on fire.  This is an outstanding start to a series and somehow manages to make DRAGONS sexy!

 

 

 

 

Blood Games

Blood Games, by Chloe Neill

Before everyone starting thinking I only do the romances…the Chicagoland Vampires series is AMAZING, and Blood Games is no exception.  Merit is a vampire, Sentinel of Cadogan House in Chicago, and she basically kicks all sorts of ass, humans and paranormal creatures alike.  In this installment, a killer is going after the human population in Chicago and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs.

And okay, she also has a super hot boyfriend, Ethan, who’s the head vampire of the house.  But these are completely urban fantasy books, so if you like your heroines bold and with a sword, Chicagoland is for you!

 

Night Broken

Night Broken, by Patricia Briggs

The Mercy Thompson novels are like chips—you can’t have just one!  I just started reading this series this year and zipped through the eight of them in what felt like a week.  Mercy’s another badass heroine, a shapeshifting VW mechanic who somehow manages to find herself in sticky situations.  Here, her mate’s ex is being stalked by a paranormal creature leaving bodies all over the Tri-Cities of Washington state, and Mercy needs to put aside her personal feelings in order to stop him.  It also doesn’t hurt that the cover art on these books is absolutely fantastic—Dan Dos Santos is a master!

 

 

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