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5 Books I Wanted to Hug When I Finished Reading

by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)

Today is Valentine's Day. Instead of making a list of romance books, I thought I would do something a little different. You know that feeling you get after reading a book that is just so satisfying that you want to hug it at the end? (Maybe it's just me, but you get my point...) Well, today, my list is going to be five of those books for me. These books aren't necessarily romance books, but they are books that hit the spot and were everything I wanted them to be and more. Here they are, in no particular order:

Book cover for The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies

Why it made the list: If you listen to the pod, you know this is one of my favorites of all time. I bring it up any chance I get. This book is a beautiful story of a life. It has humor and heartache, failure and triumph and it is just phenomenal. I literally hugged this one when I was finished. It was just such a satisfying, poignant read.

From the publisher:

"Cyril Avery is not a real Avery -- or at least, that's what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn't a real Avery, then who is he?

"Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from - and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

"In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart's Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit."

Book Cover of Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Kelly Yang's Front Desk

Why it made the list: When we read Front Desk for the pod, I knew absolutely nothing about. However, excellent middle-grade literature is near and dear to my heart, so I was excited to read it because I knew it had been highly praised. Well, it did not disappoint. I fell in love with Mia, the main character, and her spunk and perseverance. Not to sound weird, but I also hugged this one. (What can I say? I am a hugger...a book hugger that is.)

From the publisher:

"Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

"Number one: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, 10-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

"Number two: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

"Number three: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

"It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams? "

Book Cover of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Casey McQuiston's Red, White, and Royal Blue

Why it is on the list: This one IS a (steamy!) romance. And I LOVED it. I didn't really know what to expect going into this one, but I thought it was such a fun, romantic romp with lots of heart and plenty of crazy shenanigans. For me, this was the complete romantic package for me--bring on the hugs!

From the publisher:

"What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

"When his mother became president, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius - his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, US/British relations take a turn for the worse.

"Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: True love isn't always diplomatic."

Book Cover of The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan's The Kitchen Front

Why it made the list: Historical fiction is not my go-to genre, but when I received this book, I thought, what the heck. And I am SO glad I did. I loved this book so much for the beautiful depiction of the beauty of female friendship and support. The story was so interesting to me, because it was about a time period I have read a lot about, but didn't know this particular part of history. In addition, I thought the ending was beautifully executed. Hug it out!

From the publisher:

"Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest - and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.

"For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all - even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart?"

Book Cover of Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Laekan Zea Kemp's Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Why it is on the list: This book does have a sweet romance in its pages, but I love it for its focus on the importance of community and providing assistance to members of the community that are in need. I loved the family at the center of this YA novel. I think this is an excellent example of a YA book that shows teenage characters struggling but finding their own way with an excellent payoff in the end. I love the way food was represented in the novel as well. It is just great. Completely huggable.

From the publisher:

"Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans - leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she's been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho's who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she's been too afraid to ask herself.

"Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho's is an opportunity for just that - a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo's, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander's immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discover where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

"This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families, and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community."

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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