The answer to that question is always an emphatic YES! There are so many great books out there, some from bestselling authors, some from lesser-known authors. I'm always thrilled to accidentally "discover" a new-to-me writer.
I'm just going to list some of my all-time favorites here. As you can see, I like a little bit of everything.
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Jeez, I'd give a limb for one-eighth of this woman's talent. This book is different, explosive, filled with color. One of the few books I've re-read multiple times. Yes, I'm rambling and gushing, but you have to experience this book for yourself to know what I mean.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Blew me away. The author can make a humid, lazy summer day by the swimming hole crackle with tension. Tragic and haunting.
Easy by Tammara Webber
The first "new-adult" title that I ever picked up. Years before the #MeToo movement, the author gave voice to what young women endure in a way that wasn't sensationalized, while giving us (hooray!) a male lead who is strong, moral and supportive. The sequel, Breakable, is fantastic.
Kyland by Mia Sheridan
I'd describe this as a moving modern-day retelling of The Gift of the Magi. Set in Appalachia, the author depicts poverty, desperation and personal struggle in a realistic and impactful way. And the love story is so gorgeous. I mean, I read this years ago and still experience physical pain thinking back on some particularly moving scenes.
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Another book that gutted me. A story of abuse, poverty, family loyalty, and the profound disappointment we experience when those who are supposed to protect us fail.
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
I enjoy his style of writing. In this book the pace is frenzied, much like our alcoholic, misguided party-boy protagonist. Contrast that to Tharp's Knights of the Hill Country, where the pace is much slower. Doesn't seem like much is happening but so much is happening. You cannot stop turning the pages.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I'm not a paranormal or fantasy person (for the most part) but this book swayed me. Just the right mix of history, sex and suspense.
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
A picture-perfect family's fall from grace following an assault on one of the children. Every member of this dysfunctional family comes to life for the reader as we experience their reaction to the event and how it shapes them over the years. You know a book is great when you feel pained just thinking about it years later.
That Was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton
I was never a big fan of The Outsiders (blasphemy, I know...), but I loved this book. A coming of age classic. Some of the closest bonds we share in childhood shift and change as we grow, and some friendships aren't meant to last.
The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon
Harmon is a wonderful writer, creating unique characters and plots that don't follow any of the standard tropes. Making Faces is another favorite by this author.
Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino
This is another one of Carlino's terrific second-chance romances. She's an author who consistently puts out high-quality, unique and refreshing work. I never miss her new-releases.
The Deal by Elle Kennedy
Her books are like candy. Every book in the series is well-written, witty, sexy, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Him, her book co-written with another favorite author, Sarina Bowen, is a sexy love story that managed to move me to happy tears. I'm also a fan of Sarina Bowen's True North series, starting with Bittersweet.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This book reminds you that reading is not only entertaining and educational, but that books have the power to transport you to a different time and place, and in turn, to open your mind and heart to different cultures. The story is engrossing, one of the best I've read, but what I remember most about this book is that it gave me a greater understanding of the people of Afghanistan and the Middle East as a whole. It served as another reminder to be kind and accepting to all, and not to judge until I've walked a mile in another's shoes.
I just finished my latest book. The working title? I'm not sure yet...Maybe Your Hand in Mine, maybe Call it Dreaming. I'm in the middle of rewrites/proofreading right now. This one took a while. I'd start, write like a banshee, then leave it to sit for a month or so while I stewed over it. I am LOVING the semi-finished product, and I can't wait to post a teaser for Charlotte and Simon's story soon.
Sometimes, but I'm at my best when I'm completely in the zone. When music is playing in the background I start to daydream. Yes, I can start watching music videos on YouTube for endless periods of time, getting all nostalgic and wistful and ridiculous. It can be a good thing, as ideas and plot points come to me that way, but it's a major distraction when I'm actually trying to get words on the page.
Having said that, I love music. I see live shows as often as possible, make play lists my kids scoff at, and pretty much always have my radio tuned to WFUV (90.7FM in New York).
Favorite bands (this month): Aslan, Cage the Elephant, Vampire Weekend, The Shins, The War on Drugs, The Avett Brothers, Dawes, Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists and Lord Huron.
The Beatles and Dire Straits are in a different category entirely...Those are my always and forevers.
Lately I seem to have This Life (Vampire Weekend), Wait by the River (Lord Huron), New Birth in New England (Phosphorescent), Cigarette Daydreams (Cage the Elephant), Call it Dreaming (Iron & Wine) and It's Hard to be a Saint in the City (Bruce Springsteen) playing on repeat.
Not in my opinion. Each book truly stands on its own. I purposely steer away from rehashing plot points from prior books as the series progresses, simply because it's a pet peeve of mine when I'm reading.
So you can read Let Me Fall (book 5), get a brief introduction to Anna Clarke, then go back to read her story in Book 4. The final book in the series, When I Let You Go, is a resolution of sorts for Dylan Cole, who was introduced in Book 3. You may want to read those in order, but the reviews I've read indicate that people do not feel as if they're confused or missing out when they read them in reverse.
So read in order if you're a rule follower by nature (like yours truly), or go hog wild and read them in any order you please.