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profile-icon Kendall McCurley

When you think of romance novels, do you think of cheesy covers with half naked men? Do you think of predictable plot lines? Dumb heroines? Over the top heroes? Cringe-worthy scenes? If you do, that’s okay! But I am here to tell you that romance novels have come a long way since then and why you should give them a try.

For me, I was tired of having to read assigned books in school that held little to no interest for me. I lost my love of reading and really struggled to find something I enjoyed. For many years, I chose not to read, outside of schoolwork. From about middle school to my freshman year of college, I read nothing outside of assigned reading, and the most popular books at the time, which was Twilight and Hunger Games. (I didn’t even read Harry Potter!) I was burnt out on reading. But my best friend introduced me to romance novels, and I was hooked. Today’s romance novels come in a variety of plot points, heat levels, and much more. There really is something for everyone in this genre. Here is a quick breakdown of ways to find the perfect romance novel for you!


Plot Points (Tropes)

Romance novels are famous for specific plot points, also known as tropes. Knowing the trope of the book will give you an idea about what the book is going to be about. Here are a few popular ones: Friends to Lovers, Enemies to Lovers, Fake Relationship, Second Chance, Forbidden Love.


Heat Levels

Don’t like super sexy scenes? That’s okay! Don’t like when the book leaves you hanging? That’s okay! Romance novels usually give labels to let you know how descriptive the book gets. Think of them like movie ratings: Clean (G), Sweet (PG), Steamy (PG-13/R), Spicy (R).


Genres within Genres

To me, the best part about romance novels is that they cover a huge variety of other genres. In fact, the romance can actually take place alongside another point plot. Mysteries and thriller/suspense romances are two subgenres where the romance is just a side plot to the overall plot of the book. Here are a few subgenres that are popular within the overall romance genre: Paranormal, Sports, Contemporary, Historical, LGBTQ+.


Romance novels can be read by anyone. You can find a romance novel that has any combination of tropes, levels of spice, and subgenres. After high school, college, and graduate school, I was tired of having to read assigned books that held little to no interest for me. When my best friend suggested that I read a romance novel, I scoffed at the idea of reading something like that. I thought that reading had to be educational, impactful, and enlightening. But I was wrong. Reading can be whatever you want it to be, and it took me until I was 20 to rediscover that idea. Are the plots predictable? Sometimes. Can the characters be cheesy, over the top, or just plain dumb? Sometimes. But can’t you say the same for other books in other genres?

I hope this gives you a better look into the romance genre and will encourage you to pick one up and give it a try! Let us know what you are reading or if you would like any recommendations!

Check out what we have at SJR State!

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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

I’ve been hearing the Brené Brown buzz for a while. In fact, I have a paperback copy of Daring Greatly on my home bookshelf that I have been steadily avoiding for years. I can’t really tell you why I’ve been avoiding her. Maybe it’s because she’s been too popular. Perhaps my little heart can’t take one more “too good to be true” self-help guru. Perhaps it’s because Oprah is a fan. When her work came up in some research on giving and accepting feedback, I finally decided she could no longer be ignored. I guess that happens when someone is talking about something you are incredibly interested in, darn her!

I decided to start small with Brené in the most literal sense. I chose her book The Gifts of Imperfection because it’s a slim one hundred and thirty-seven pages. Obviously, I didn’t want to invest too much time and effort into someone I was skeptical about. The premise of the book did intrigue me. The cover teases, “let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.” That sounded good to me, but I was fearful that she’d just throw a bunch of surface-level vague notions of “be yourself” at me with no real action plan.

I pride myself on being an honest person, and I am happy to tell you that Brené was not what I expected. First, she’s a researcher, and her work is grounded in research- both her personal work and the work of other professionals. I didn’t know anything about her going into this book and was so thrilled to read within the first few pages that she’s not just some well-meaning (or money-grabbing) lady with a book deal. In fact, she has dedicated an entire chapter to describing her work and her research process. Gold star! She does an excellent job of presenting research in a readable and relatable way. She does this by using real-world examples and reframing complex ideas. For instance, she writes new and improved definitions for terms that can be difficult to understand based on her qualitative research. She’s talking to people and using their experiences and words to inform her work. She is also very transparent about how the ideas presented in her research take shape in her personal life. Brené talks about her own shame, guilt, joy, and fear.

Brené also impressed me by providing information about concrete actions I can take to improve areas of my life that need development. I appreciate that I can start working on myself today because of reading her book. I have already incorporated a few of her ideas into my daily life and intend on trying out other pieces of advice from the book.

Another thing that I loved about this book is that Brené mentions other researchers and authors by name and references their work. Because of her diligence and transparency, I have a great list of books to follow up on in different areas that I want to develop. I also plan on reading some of her other works because I was impressed by this one.

This tiny book packed a powerful punch. If you have an interest in developing in any of the following areas, this book is for you:

  • Authenticity
  • Self-Compassion
  • Resilient Spirit
  • Gratitude and Joy
  • Intuition and Faith
  • Creativity
  • Play and Rest
  • Calm and Stillness
  • Meaningful Work
  • Laughter, Song, and Dance

P.S. some of these themes aren’t what I initially expected. She was pleasantly surprising me all over the place!


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
ISBN: 9781592858491
Publication Date: 2010-08-27
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profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2001 is a collection of the humorist’s real diaries. The entries aren’t the complaints of an angry young man or an angry older man; the entries sent me to Google to discover arcane and fascinating references to artists, photographers, authors, and regular people. Sedaris’ daily writings are also fun, educational, and relatable. Who knew that young David and his friend Ronnie Ruedrich were apple-picking partners in Washington state? Ronnie moved to San Francisco and now owns a shoe store. I use her shoe-buying advice: If it’s snug, it will stretch. It if hurts, it won’t. Who knew that Sedaris taught college writing? As a former writing teacher, I connected to David’s “constant feelings of deception.” Sedaris reminded me to read the journalist Anatole Broyard and authors Russell Banks, Toni Morrison, Fran Lebowitz and David Rokoff. Google any one of those names and read their works; you won’t be disappointed.

Famous for writing personal essays about his family members from his mother who commiserated with his beleaguered teachers to his father who told young David that when [he] got a fancy job, [he] could have a fancy snack after work, Sedaris’ Theft provides fans of his essays with context for family members. Amy Sedaris, his famous sister from the Comedy Central television series “Strangers with Candy” and the movie Elf, is often with David in his diary shopping for silly products or attending parties with famous people. Sedaris’ diary discusses movies in unique ways, too. Of Planet of the Apes from 1968 he recalls noticing Charlton Heston’s fillings as he laughs maniacally when he realizes he’s on Earth and not some far-off planet. I watched for those fillings during a re-watch of the classic film. Hilarious. Sedaris shows a sympathetic side when recalling the sadness in A Patch of Blue. He mentioned reading Diane Johnson’s Persian Nights and An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma, both authors with whom I’m not familiar. That’s the beauty of this extensive diary: discoveries! College students will relate to the entries where Sedaris recalls his adventures from the three universities he attended. And the good news is that he published a follow-up covering the years 2003-2020 entitled A Carnival of Snackery. I’m reading that one as I write this blog.

While I read Theft by Finding, I took copious notes so that I could Google the references later. I took those notes and wrote to David Sedaris via his publicist. That was back in November. And last week a friend texted saying that Sedaris was on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross discussing his current book Happy Go-Lucky. It reminded me that I hadn’t heard from Sedaris. When I reached into the mailbox that day, I discovered the treasure displayed here! A response from David Sedaris! A copy of the postcard is below.

As a fan of Sedaris since the early 1990s, I’ve read and enjoyed most of his books. Our library has several titles including Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a favorite of mine that mimics Aesop who employed animals to expose the foibles of humankind. Sedaris, though, seeks a darker humor here than Aesop to hilarious ends. Pick up any of his books and get ready to laugh.


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Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Call Number: PS3569.E314 A6 2017
ISBN: 9780316154727
Publication Date: 2017-05-30
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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

I’m excited to announce that three new contributors will now be adding content to The Book Blog! These three bloggers will expand the diversity and voice of the blog content. I’m excited to read what they will have to share! Here are some brief biographies to get you acquainted:

Letitia Bulic, Public Services Librarian, St. Augustine Campus Library

Letitia is the Public Services Librarian at the St. Augustine Campus Library. Letitia is a voracious reader of a variety of genres. She will also be the Vikings Read More Challenge and Book Club facilitator at the St. Augustine Campus starting in the fall. We’ll learn more about Letitia from her upcoming blog posts!

Brenda Hoffman, Academic Support Coordinator, Writing Center SAC (bio provided by Brenda)

Genres you like to read: memoir, mystery, humorous essays, history

Favorite books: Naked, Angela’s Ashes, Catcher in the Rye, The Sudden Appearance of Hope, Strangers on a Train, Cat’s Cradle, Of Mice and Men, Interview with a Vampire, Church of the Dead Girls… (I’ll stop here)

Least favorite books: The Bridges of Madison County, Hunger Games series, Twilight series, Manga

Authors you enjoy: David Sedaris, Frank McCourt, Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace, Stephen King, Ruth Ware…

Where, how, and why you like to read: I like to read outside with audible if the narrator’s voice suits the piece. Reading on a hammock is glorious with my dog, Axel, sitting by my side is wonderful, too. I’m enjoying audible books thanks to my sisters, Sara and Suzy, who encouraged me to read Claire North’s The Sudden Appearance of Hope whose narrator is a dream! I listened to Hope in a park filled with shady trees. Stephen King said in an interview that he reads a hundred books a year, and he offers suggestions for readers. I’m rarely disappointed when I follow King’s advice; I read Church of the Dead Girls on his recommendation. Wonderful read. I read on my Kindle (app and the Kindle). I read print books checked out from the SJR State library, SAC campus, as well as inter-library loan. I love opening print books because I miss using bookmarks! And Libby and Hoopla keep me in a never-ending supply of stories. I credit my mom with my love of reading. As the last of eleven children, I cherished time alone with my mom who was a voracious reader. Even when I was too young to read, I’d curl up next to her while she read, pretending that I could understand the jumbled words in her books. When I was of age, trips to the library introduced me to Nancy Drew. I was hooked. Losing myself in a book, devouring a perfect first sentence of book, or relating to a character in a book are reasons why I love reading. And reading reminds me of my mom, which is the best reason to read!

Kendall McCurley, Public Services Librarian, Orange Park Campus Library (bio provided by Kendall)

Favorite Books:  I don't actually have a favorite book but I do have my favorite genres which are historical fiction, true crime, mystery, and romance.

Least Favorite Books: My absolute least favorite book is Catcher in the Rye. I also am not a huge fan of science fiction.

Authors You Enjoy: I love Nora Roberts, Suzanne Collins, Samantha Whiskey, and many other authors that I can't think of right now!

Where, How, and Why You Like to ReadI rediscovered my love of reading about 10 years ago. Throughout middle and high school, I didn't really have the time to read and disliked a lot of the assigned reading that I had in school. In college, I discovered iBooks on my iPad and have been reading non-stop ever since. I typically read on my iPad through iBooks or with Kindle Unlimited. I try to read a little bit every day. Mostly, I end up reading picture books to my daughter but every now and then, I get a moment to read on my own! I just finished reading 'Confederates in the Attic' by Tony Horwitz and I'm currently reading 'The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

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