A Few Of My Favorite Things: 2016

As you most likely know by now, I’m a feeling-based writer as well as a feeling-based media consumer. And perhaps because this was an election year filled with an abundance of strong feelings (both high and low), I became very protective (more so than usual) over the energy I gave books, TV shows, and movies. Books were set aside and the channel was changed if the creation didn’t have a feeling I desired to fall into–no matter how well it was written or acted or directed.

(Yes, I know I sound like the Californian I am. I’m okay with that.) 🙂

Gigi reading over my shoulder
Gigi reading over my shoulder

So in the interest of sharing, here are some creative works–new and not new–from other creators (because, obviously I enjoy my own creations or I wouldn’t create them in the first place!) that I enjoyed diving into this year:

The Shining by Stephen King (Yeah, I know what I just said above, but I thoroughly enjoyed diving into this book. It has a lovely simplicity to it, a strong core, and a rich atmosphere. Plus…I knew the ending so I wasn’t bowled over by the horror.)

Northern Lights by Nora Roberts (My mom and stepfather visited Alaska this year so I reread this book to get into the spirit of their excitement. I adore Nora’s books and count this among my favorites.)

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (Ms. Abbott is a writer’s writer. This book is powerfully subtle, absorbing, and haunting.)

Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb (I can’t say what I want to about this book without ruining it. So I’ll just say…wow.)

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben (I enjoyed that the female main character was flawed and imperfect, but not a cardboard cutout. She wasn’t always likable, and that’s great. Women don’t need to be perfect, nor put on pedestals, nor pander to or prevent the male hero’s journey in fiction. All of those things have been done. This book was a refreshing perspective.)

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (I just started reading this book and am completely immersed in the world–prohibition in the 20’s–that Dennis Lehane created. A terrific storyteller.)

A Wish for Christmas (My talented friend Christie Will directed this holiday film and it has all the warm and fuzzy Christmastime feels. Christie’s adorable daughter even has a cameo.)

Longmire (I know, I know, I’m late to this game, but I enjoyed the nod to the Golden Era of Hollywood with the character-driven pacing, the attention to subtlety, and the allowance for thoughtful spaces between thoughtful plotting.)

Jessica Jones (Fabulous. And too scary for me to watch at night.)

Justified (My friend Dara came for her annual visit and we binge-watched the first season. She’d never seen the show so it was fun to enjoy it all over again with her. Plus…Raylan Givens.)

Sixteen Candles (A movie with the best final few minutes of all time. Plus…Jake Ryan.)

Chelsea (As I said to my stepsister this morning, what Chelsea Handler is doing for single, independent women is what George Clooney did for single, independent men. Also, I think what she is doing with her show, with her voice, is so important. She is a package of authenticity, honesty, curiosity, wisdom, and humor.)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Runnin’ Down a Dream (I’ve already written about how much I *love* this documentary.)

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child (In high school, I named our dalmatians Hendrix and Zeppelin. I love the music and the artists from the Hendrix and Led Zeppelin era, and this documentary was excellent–told in his words and focused more on the humanity, the heart, and the creativity, rather than the drugs, etc.)

Janis: Little Girl Blue (Sensing a pattern? Janis Joplin, what an amazing woman with a quest for expressing emotional honesty. Brave, brave, brave woman.)

Parks and Recreation (This show got me through post-election feelings. Strong character integrity, silly antics that remind me of my small town and my family–my mom is totally Leslie Knope–and a whole lot of heart.)

Apparently the themes of what I’ve enjoyed this year have been: strong characters–female and male–strong integrity, and a lot of heart. Well, to be fair, I always enjoy those qualities in people both real and imagined. 🙂

And here are a few things I’m looking forward to in 2017 (some new releases, some just waiting impatiently on my iPad for me to get to them):

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Echoes in Death by JD Robb

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

In closing–I wish everyone a 2017 filled with stories that you can fall into and adore. May we be uplifted and remember that we’re all just humans on this planet doing the best we can. We’re all learning to fly (to quote Tom Petty). 🙂

xo Isla


Romance Novels & Feminism

Do you see any conflict between being a romance novelist and being a feminist? Do you feel an obligation to interject socially conscious themes into your work? Are there authors you respect for their socially conscious stories? These are a few of the questions I was asked during a Q&A with Geek Girl Authority‘s Leona Laurie.

Here are a few soundbites from my responses:

“We’re at a time in our culture where long-standing and important issues are coming to light in a new way—including feminism—and I’m grateful to have grown up in a family that celebrates empowerment. When we empower individuals to feel good, do good and be equal players, I believe we lift ourselves as a whole.”

“In the genre of romance, Nora Roberts must have very strong shoulders because generations of writers are taking taller strides because of her.”

“My job is to tell the most authentic story that I can, each and every time, and I take that responsibility to heart.”

Check out the full Q&A here!

xo Isla



Women, Fabulous Women

As you know, I love writing about independent women who are doing interesting things. This is important to me, writing women with a strong, evolving point of view, and one of the many reasons I enjoy telling stories–I get to celebrate women being fabulous women.

In the book Pacific Passion, I adored writing about a budding female film director. We need more female film directors in the world and before we dismiss the past as locked with a giant men-only poster on the door, BFI compiled some photographs that celebrate female film directors of the past. 

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xo Isla

From bestselling author Isla Dean comes the second story in the Tropical Temptation Series.

Pacific Passion

Spirit, independence, and imagination have all driven Alexa Black—of the famous Black family—to live her dreams as a filmmaker. But when those dreams start to shatter, her past appears in the form of Cade McGinnis when he pulls her from the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Kauai where they first met as sixteen-year-olds.

On the cliffs that overlook the deep blue bay, the truth of the past and the passion of the present collide. Alexa, a sweeping and spontaneous woman, and Cade, a stoic and steady man, must decide if their love will withstand adventures of both sea and heart, so they can begin again, together.