Brain Candy

Polar vortex or not, it’s cold in New England in February. For those of us who lack a love of cold-weather activities, like ice skating or snowboarding, winter is the perfect time to curl up at home in a deliciously squishy, oversized chair, wrapped in a soft, fuzzy, possibly electric blanket, and a book.

My “to be read pile” has reached a point where it’s now “piles” and I have them separated by category. There’s the business/management/leadership pile, which are text-dense, educational, yet often dry books; these are the ones I need to read at my desk, in the morning, and in short bursts. They are not comfy chair books. There’s another pile I think of as the “be a good human” books – well-rounded, learned, and so on. This pile contains Michele Obama’s book, Humans of NY, and other biographies or books about interesting people. Sometimes these can be read in the comfy chair, but only in short stints. The next to last pile contains fiction that challenges me to think or makes me uncomfortable or anxious. This pile contains thrillers, suspense, and early mysteries by the authors many writers aspire to match.

And then there’s the brain candy pile. These are the books that have great plots, lovable characters, quirky/twisty/challenging puzzles, and realistic, engaging dialogue; they are also the kind of books that this reader can devour in a single sitting, the kind where I will forgive the occasional typo, head-hop, or other anomaly because the stories are so good, such sweet, tasty candy for the brain. These stories challenge the reader to figure out whodunnit, but somehow, they just go down easier (meaning less work, less anxiety) than other kinds of books for me. This is not in any way meant to demean, as these are quality reads; rather, these books are just so enjoyable for me that I can’t get enough. They make me happy to read, and I love them.

Often cozies fall into this pile for me, but also paranormal romance and paranormal mystery. I’ve been bingeing a couple of new-to-me paranormal romance series lately. They’re juicy, a bit more obviously formulaic than some genres, but not annoyingly so. There’s something about that predictability that adds to the candy – and even when the overall formula is there, the puzzles are different, which is what makes them a perfect brain candy read for me. They make me work to try and solve the crime, the characters are well-rounded and realistic, but there’s a comfortable rhythm and pace to how everything unfolds that keeps the anxiety level low, while never being boring. Right now I’m working through Renee George’s Peculiar Mysteries and Witchin’ Impossible series. (WARNING: These are NOT cozies.)

The paranormal mysteries I’ve been reading do amp up the anxiety a bit, enough to make me growl at my family when they interrupt, but again, they’re well-balanced stories that end up in a place that make me smile and reach for the next one. I’m particularly fond of anything by Amanda M. Lee — especially the Grim, Mystic Caravan, and Moonstone Bay series she writes.

Every reader has different tastes and preferences – what’s your brain candy read?


Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is Vice President, State Services at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

13 thoughts on “Brain Candy”

  1. In my book club we call them “brain floss” because like dental floss does for your teeth, they refresh your brain and get it ready for more “meat” to come. My current mental floss reading is “Drowned Under” by Wendall Thomas.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Because I write cozies, part of my “job,” as it were, is reading other cozies … good, bad, and everything in between. So I don’t feel like I relax while I’m reading them. I’m looking to see what they do right and wrong, and what I should steal, er, borrow, or otherwise add to my toolbox. For brain candy I watch TV. “The Good Place” is my current favorite, as is “Schitt’s Creek” and “Kim’s Convenience.” But guess what? I steal stuff from their writers, too!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I also don’t have very much time to read. I do it early in the morning, but by late in the day, my eyes are too tired. I have my stack of New Yorkers on my nightstand for bedtime reading. I’m about six months behind because I can only get through half an article at a time! They’re hard work, but I love them!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. My Natalie McMasters Mysteries are detective stories with a hard edge, but I like to experiment too. My newest book is as much a romance as a detective story, and the next one will have a gothic bent. So I need to start reading gothic cozies (is there such a thing?).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad I don’t write cozies or science fiction or paranormal. That means they can all qualify as brain candy.
    Although I have to say I’m reading BECOMING (in short bursts) and there’s a certain amount of brain candy for me there too.


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