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?