Friday, December 2, 2022

Amanda Sellet

Amanda Sellet (pronounced Sell-ay) is a former journalist who has written book reviews for The Washington Post, personal essays for NPR, and music and movie coverage for VH1. She has an M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU. After a mostly coastal childhood, she now lives in Kansas with her husband, daughter, and cats.

Sellet's new novel is Belittled Women.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am never not reading, at least for a few minutes at the end of the day, but the choice of material is driven by two things: mood and due dates. My library hold list is one of the main ways I keep track of upcoming releases, right up there with the random scraps of paper littering my desk.

For most of the fall I was on a tight deadline, so my taste in leisure reading ran to lighter fare, with a spate of catching up on the physical TBR once I finished drafting. Looking back, I can see that I read mostly in genres and categories I have written, am writing next, or hope to write in the future.

Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews

I finished writing a new book on a Friday afternoon, ordered pizza, and immediately opened the latest installment in the Hidden Legacy series. For pure escapism, there are few things I find more entertaining than urban fantasy/paranormal romance. The snark, the action, the magic, the tension – it’s all there. The first three books set in this world are among my most re-read ever, so this is where I turn for pure relaxation and fun.

The Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley

I haven’t read many novels in verse, so I was unprepared for the beauty and emotional intensity of Culley’s first book, Three Things I Know Are True. That was one of my favorite reads of 2020, so I ordered her new YA novel in verse as soon as it was announced. This was another stunner, and a master class in characterization and storytelling with the economy of detail required by the form. I can always tell when a book gets its hooks into me, because I feel compelled to recap the plot for my mother in our weekly phone call. I’m not someone who typically seeks out crying books, but when the emotion is honest and real, the way Culley writes it, I deeply appreciate the catharsis.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

This has been on a lot of year-end best lists. Since many people are probably familiar with it, I will only add that in addition to the bold stylistic choices – including a section that happens inside a video game – I admire the trajectory of Zevin’s career. Not only in the sense of commercial success (though huzzah for that!), but because she has pushed the envelope artistically and continued to experiment with new things, instead of getting stuck in a narrow niche.

As someone who hopes to try her hand at many types of books, that’s inspiring to see.

The Layover by Lacie Waldon

There are so many flavors of reading experience under the greater “romance” umbrella that part of the trick is finding your favorites. Waldon’s second book was a standout for me in the crowded romcom field, so I made a point of seeking out her debut. Happily, I loved that one too: the chemistry crackled, the characters had believable inner lives, and the banter was genuinely funny.

Other people have their own romance preferences – more angst, higher heat, specific tropes they love/hate. For me, Waldon’s writing hits the sweet spot: smart, romantic, well-crafted, and just thoughtful enough to give the fluff some ballast.

Pest by Elizabeth Foscue

There was a conversation going around a few years ago about whether real teens drink as much caffeine as their fictional counterparts, thanks to the ubiquity of coffee shop hangouts in YA novels. It wasn’t the lattes that strained credulity for me so much as the disposable income – and copious amounts of free time.

In Pest, I discovered a much closer analogue to my own high school experience, which was all about work, academic and after-school. On top of empathizing with the stressed main character, I found this to be a witty, richly textured contemporary with a killer sense of place. I’m excited to see what Foscue writes next.

Lia and Beckett's Abracadabra by Amy Noelle Parks

Parks’ second YA novel has all the trappings of a fluffy summer read: a quirky lakeside setting; eccentric relatives; flirting with cute boys; a mystery that is also a glamorous competition for young magicians. But instead of razzle-dazzling with the tourist-friendly lights and sleight-of-hand, we see behind the curtain to the darker side of stage magic – especially for women.

One of my favorite things about reading (and writing) YA is that you can use the vehicle of an entertaining story to tease out truths about the world that young readers are only beginning to perceive. Pointing out the misogyny inherent in relegating even the most talented female magicians to the role of a “lovely assistant” – because no one wants to see a man get sawed in half – is a clever entry point for teens discovering an adult world still riddled with sexism (among other -isms).

Welcome to Temptation by Jenny Crusie

Like many readers and writers of romantic fiction, I often find myself hungry for a Jenny Crusie type of book. Since I have yet to find a reliable read-alike, over a recent holiday I treated myself to a re-read of one of the best books from her backlist. Crusie books have much of the same appeal as Hollywood movies from the 1930s and ’40s, with the snappy one-liners, screwball situations, and absurd supporting characters. For anyone else who adores that style of romantic comedy, stay tuned. I may have a line on a book that will interest you, coming in 2024.
Visit Amanda Sellet's website.

Q&A with Amanda Sellet.

The Page 69 Test: By the Book.

--Marshal Zeringue