When we decided to do a Valentine’s post I instantly knew the book’s I wanted to review. When reading my favorites, I could fall into the story, pretend I was there, just as emotionally engaged as my main characters. I laughed, cried, and felt a small sample of the most powerful experience on earth, love. But as we discussed love stories further in our ongoing three-way book-nerd text, I realized my two picks were not particularly happy stories. Both stories have pockets of happiness, but they’re surrounded by unpleasant times, & unfortunate circumstances. My favorite love stories are not my favorites because they are happy, sugar-coated boxes of sweethearts, they are my favorites because they keep hope. Life doesn’t always bring fairy tales. Sometimes things suck, sometimes you’re alone, and sometimes you just can’t be with the one you love. But in my favorite love stories, it doesn’t matter if that small moment of bliss lasted for only a few days, an hour, or even a minuet, just having those memories to fall back on in the hard times and the dark nights, is enough to get you through till the next dawn.
My first pick, The TimeTravelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, follows the lives and love of Clare and Henry. The story shows the importance of having faith in love and family, specially for Clare and Henry to make it work despite Henry’s Chrono-Displacement Disorder. This story always reminds me to appreciate the present to the fullest, because no one can control what happens in the future.
My second pick for favorite love story, Atonemnt by Ian McEwan, is a beautiful heartbreaking story of true love lost, and what could have been. Once true love is taken away, there is nothing that can be done to apologize or alleviate that wrong-doing, regardless of the countless attempts to atone.
A note on both of these titles, read the novels, the movies just aren’t as good, and they even change the ending of one of them!
When we decided to write a post for Valentine’s Day, I thought to myself, well, crap. Not in the fact that I don’t like romance or anything—in fact, my biggest sin is being a hopeless romantic—but in the fact that I don’t read that genre all too much. Why? Kiddingly, I told Jess and Ali that it’s like asking Taylor Swift to review the greatest heartbreak albums. It’s what she makes her fortune off of doing; I would hope she would go home and listen to some rap and electronic music after a hard day of recording her lovesick country-ish ballads. As a “recreational writer,” all I do is write sad love stories. I like to call them historical fiction, the plight of a woman and romance in history, but really, it’s like Taylor Swift calling her albums gothic romance collections. We’re both just lamenting about heartbreak and being hopeless romantics.
But then I remembered something: there is a difference between Taylor Swift and Adele. It’s not just the “Someone Like You” tracks and the “Dear John” power ballads, but it’s also the “Rumor Has It” moments of revenge. Just because it’s romance generally, doesn’t mean it’s all the same. So, sitting at this keyboard, contemplating the world of romance over, the question becomes: who is the Adele to my Taylor Swift?
Two men, ironically; one poet and one novelist to be exact. Pablo Neruda and John Green have a way with rhyming scheme and story that truly capture the heart and mind. Through a series of love affairs and through the lens of a complicated young romance, I promise you that you will find the satisfaction of getting your romance fix this Valentine’s Day.
If you’re not fluent in Spanish (lord knows I’m not), I definitely recommend this translated version. The translations are side-by-side so you can rummage through the Spanish and the English and really appreciate both versions of the sonnet.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a huge poetry fan. I have never been good with it nor have I really ever gotten into its meaning or impact. But once I started reading Neruda, I quickly fell in love. The collection focuses around Neruda’s intense love affairs. Sometimes its sensual, sometimes its frustrated, and sometimes its genuinely loving. All of which accompany the rise and fall of great romances (if they do fall, as some did for Neruda). It’s embellished yet real, and satisfies that Shakespearian urge many of us get this time of year—it’s just a little naughtier than Shakespeare was allowed to be.
My favorite passage:
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way.”
The Fault in Our Stars: John Green
This book is getting a ton of attention right now because of its anticipated motion picture release. But there is a reason why they are making this book into a movie: it’s brilliant. It will make you laugh so hard it hurts, and then five pages later, you’re balling so hard and your mother asks you, “My god, are you on your period or something?” (That’s not to say it’s chic-lit; I just don’t know the male equivalent).
But that’s what makes this book absolutely genius. I will spare you the detailed plot description because you can just go watch the trailer for the movie (but PLEASE GO READ THE BOOK). However, to wet your pallet: Hazel has viewed her life as one with a pre-written ending. Even though her cancerous tumor has decreased in size, she knows that “terminal” cancer has already written her ending. Then she meets Augustus in a group cancer meeting who changes her outlook on life, even though she is somewhat resistant to it at first. An amazing and beautiful love story ensues, complete with snarky comments from best friends. It’s ending is unexpected, leaves you wanting more but also leaving you whole at the end (that’s a rare talent of John Green’s). It’s a book that’s technically Young Adult, but readable to all ages.
I’ll leave you with a funny and loveable scene. While there are quotes in this book that are much deeper in meaning and more eloquently worded, I wanted to leave you with a smile:
“It’s just that most really good-looking people are stupid, so I exceed expectations.’
‘Right, it’s primarily his hotness,’ I said.
‘It can be sort of blinding,’ he said.
‘It actually did blind our friend Isaac,’ I said.
‘Terrible tragedy, that. But can I help my own deadly beauty?’
‘It is my burden, this beautiful face.’
‘Not to mention your body.’
‘Seriously, don’t even get me started on my hot bod. You don’t want to see me naked, Dave. Seeing me naked actually took Hazel Grace’s breath away,’ he said, nodding toward the oxygen tank.
I have a confession to make: I don’t often like love stories. I don’t think this is anything against love (in fact, I adore being in love myself) but I think it has to do with my reading tastes—I prefer messy endings to happy ones, quirky and unusual characters to likable ones, literary fiction to chick lit, and unreliable narrators to clearly demarcated storylines. Perhaps this means I’m the most cynical of the three of us; perhaps it just means that I like my books messy and complicated. Either way, that means that when I do pick up a love story and it stays with me, it’s a relatively rare phenomenon. Here are a few of the ones that have stuck with me:
I love The Big Bang Theory, and Sheldon Cooper is one of my all-time favorite TV characters. So perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that I adored The Rosie Project. If I had to describe it in just one phrase, it would be “Sheldon Cooper falls in love.” Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with a lifelong difficulty with social interactions, decides that he will embark upon The Wife Project and sets out to find the perfect partner using a questionnaire designed to ensure compatibility. Along the way, he meets Rosie Jarman, who is everything that Don is sure he wants to avoid. Rosie, however, is on a journey of her own to find her biological father, and Don is just the person to help her. Witness the birth of The Father Project, which Don finds himself strongly driven to solve… until maybe he realizes it’s not just curiosity that is driving him. The Rosie Project is a wonderful and hilarious novel, and I could hear Sheldon Cooper’s voice in my head every time Don opened his mouth. It was too perfect.
The Lover’s Dictionary is an unusual book, but a beautifully executed one. It is the story of a relationship, related in alphabetical, rather than chronological order. Each page holds one “definition”—a passage, varying in length from a few words to a few paragraphs, defining a words in terms of the arc of the relationship being described. The story unfolds out of order, but the pieces come together into complete story by the end.
I’m a huge fan of Patrick Ness’s books and his latest, The Crane Wife, is a wonderful book. The Crane Wife is a lovely rendition of the Japanese folktale of the crane wife, a modern but whimsical take on an ancient tale of love, memory, forgiveness, creativity, and broken promises. Ness tells us the overlapping tales of George and his daughter Amanda, and the way their lives are shaped and changed by their intersections with Kumiko, whom George falls in love with. There’s an incredible depth to the story that sort of sneaks up on you, and it is a beautiful rumination on the healing power of love.