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Posts Tagged ‘valentine’s Day’

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Anyone who has been to a drugstore in the USA lately knows that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. All those red hearts can only mean one thing — valentines are coming. And, after a completely unscientific survey of those we have met the past few days, we have concluded people fall in two camps – those who embrace Valentine’s Day and those who don’t. (Some claimed to ignore it, but seriously, who can successfully do that?!?)

No matter how you choose to deal with this holiday, a very good book can help you cope with the pressure to find or keep love. And, now that we think about it, we admit they can even help you ignore the whole thing if you wish. To help with whatever strategy you choose, we have picked three books for Valentine’s Day – one for those of you in need of a love story with an edge, one for those of you who would like to embrace its sentiments, and one for those of you in need of a laugh as you search for and/or advise others as they navigate their path to “true love”.

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For those who need the catharsis of an angry love story

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015) – This book is going to be BIG.  We will describe it as the next Gone Girl (from a British perspective), but we will not say much more as almost any description of the plot will ruin the experience of reading it. We can also say this book is a great pick for those needing to feel a bit better about their own love life, and/or for those stuck in troubled places, and/or for those of you needing a page turner on these cold winter days. Read it before the inevitable movie based upon its prose arrives in a theater near you.

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For those needing a good book unapologetically about love 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2015) – As people who love bookstores and booksellers, it is hard not to like this charming novel about a bookseller and his bookstore, the love found when a baby is left among his shelves, and the love life of one of his publishing reps. A “shelf talker” the author wrote for Mr. Fikry, the fictional bookseller hero of this book, to use in his store to sell this book (yes that is confusing) succinctly sums what we would say about “The Storied Life…“. Thus, instead of crafting another review, we now share Ms. Zevin’s fictional shelf talker. “Despite its modest size and the liberties the author takes, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has some lovely moments. Though my taste runs to books that are less sentimental than this one, I’m sure my wife, my daughter, and my best friend cop will love this book, and I will heartily recommend it to them.” And thus, we recommend this to anyone in need of a story that leaves you smiling, or for anyone needing a book to give someone who loves a sentimental tale. (e.g., your Mom)

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For those who need a laugh or two as they journey towards true love, and/or for those of you helping guide teens as they navigate their paths towards love

We Should Hang Out Sometime!: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist (2014) – Mr. Sundquist — a paralympian, a Youtube sensation who was helped along the way by the Vlog-Brothers – Hank and John Green (of The Fault in Our Stars fame), and a cancer survivor — has written an often hilarious, sometimes painfully awkward memoir about his attempts to find a girlfriend. As a reader, you follow him from his Christian Youth Group to college, and then to LA as he attempts to find a date. Ultimately, this book is about how self doubt and fear crippled him more than his actual amputation. Written for young adults, this memoir would make a great reminder to anyone that dating is awkward no matter who you are, but that somehow, we all manage our way through it. (PS – he finally gets the girl.)

And, we finish with a quote from a superb book and classic movie —  The Princess Bride — “This is true love — you think this happens every day?” May love happen for you often, even if not every day.

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It has been a bizarre winter here in Vermont.  Classic, picture-perfect snow storms, with lots of great powder for our famous ski slopes, have been followed by sleet, freezing rain, and March-like weather with thawing and balmy days.  And then it snows all over again.  And then it drops far below zero. So this means that we have been making sure we ski or snow shoe while the opportunity exists; and, we have been reading a lot of good fiction by our respective wood stoves and fireplaces to keep warm.  As Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes.” Good thing it’s always the perfect weather for reading.

Two recommended books from our most recent reading are reviewed below.  And, because we have been reading so many good books lately, and we never know what you all are in the mood to read, we put in a bonus pick or two.

9781476729084The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013) – Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes this review for Simsion’s international bestsellerThe Rosie Project. I loved this crisply smart romantic comedy that takes you into the world of socially challenged Don Tillman, a 39-year-old geneticist looking for love in all of the wrong ways. It doesn’t help that he has designed a 16-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner, that he “speed date” eliminates those who answer incorrectly, and that probably no one would meet his criteria.  When he meets Rosie, a sharp, beautiful “barmaid” 10 years his junior, he doesn’t know quite what to make of how he feels and of the ensuing series of unplanned, wacky events.  This is sort of a “When Harry Met Sally” story with a Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime narrator. Throw in a DNA matching side plot and you have yourself a love story with a little science on the side.

And for those TEDx fans, when you’re finished with the book, make sure to check out Simsion’s talk. As a former physicist and IT guy, he comes to writing screenplays and novels later in life. As you will learn, however, all of this experience contributed greatly to the crafting of The Rosie Project. ~Lisa Cadow

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (2014) – This is Mr. Beah’s first novel, but not his first published work.  His acclaimed memoir A Long Way Gone, about his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic that “everyone in the world should read” (The Washington Post).  So with that build up, our thoughts on his fiction.  Yes, Radiance of Tomorrow is set in Africa.  And yes, the other Lisa and I seem to pick books with this setting often.  But unlike many novels with African settings that focus on life during a civil war or leading up to a war, this novel looks at what happens AFTER a civil war, with insight and grace.

In Radiance of Tomorrow, Mr. Beah explores what happens when people return to their villages when fighting is over.  Yes, it was a bit depressing to read his descriptions of what foreigners do when they arrive post-war to “help”.  Yes, when I assumed most of this novel was based in the reality of the author’s own experiences in Sierra Leone, it was even more disturbing.  But, trust me please; somehow, this book is also up-lifting.  Perhaps because the characters – the children, the elders, the mothers and fathers – are superbly memorable, the hope they carry with them is inspiring, and the prose is well-crafted. ~ Lisa Christie

Some other books worth mentioning from our 2014 wood stove reading

Thrillers/mysteries

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen (2013)- The latest Department Q novel shows how the misfit threesome stuck in the bowels of the Copenhagen Police Department have become an effective cold-case solving unit, and a worthy (and unique) family. ~ Lisa Christie

Myths

Mythology by Edith Hamilton (1942) – I have been inspired to re-read this by an amazing Greek unit from my son’s fifth grade English and Social Studies classes. What a great gift to me!  I am loving spending some time with Perseus, Medusa, Hercules, Theseus, and the Gods. ~ Lisa Christie (with Lisa Cadow seconding the staying power and fun of this book)

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AH February, once the groundhog has left his/her lair and seen/not seen a shadow, everyone’s thoughts turn to love.  However, we don’t want to be the kind of book bloggers who when Valentine’s Day rolls around recommend predictable, saccharine love stories, those that could be described as glasses of Rhine wine too sugary to swallow.  Our own experiences of February 14th haven’t always been red, rosy and filled with heady, oaky Chardonnay. And, we’re guessing this is probably the case for some reading this post as well.  So, in the spirit of that understanding, we’d like to suggest three titles that are more attuned with 2013 cocktails poured full of modern love  –  those with shake-ups, stir-ups, trips over thin ice (in Antarctica no less!), but with the occasional sweet, unusual, happy ending, too.

Affairs of the heart know no boundaries of course.  All three picks also take the reader on wild geographical adventurers: Where’d You Go, Bernadette, starts out in Seattle but has scenes set at the ends of the earth in a place most writers don’t dare to tackle – Antarctica. The whimsical My Berlin Kitchen looks at issues of identity and belonging; and, we move with the author around the America and Europe in search of a kitchen she can call home. Truth in Advertising is set closer to the center of “civilization” in the ad world of modern New York, but moves the reader from coast to coast and beyond. Upon turning the last page of any of these three selected stories about modern love, readers will not only feel well-traveled, but also that their own hearts have stretched and grown in unexpected ways.  Each offers an alternative love story – each will make you laugh and leave you with a smile. Sip slowly, though, they will come to an end all too quickly.

Cheers, book lovers. And, Happy Valentine’s Day, too.

 Truth in Advertising by John Kenney (Jan 2013) – Funny, observant, wry, thoughtful, insightful, unswervingly full of modern truths and questions, not at all preachy — we should have expected nothing less than being able to use these adjectives to describe a book by a New Yorker contributor.  That said, this book was just what we needed – a funny, unique coming of age story about a 40-year-old man (yes, it took him awhile) making a living, but not a life, as a NYC ad man.  Mad Men fans might appreciate a chance to look at advertising in the current century. New Yorkers will love the chance to see Manhattan in all its glory.  Anyone in need of some humor and a well written tale (with an echo of a Catcher in the Rye sensibility) will surely enjoy this book.  P.S. This is a perfect read for right after the Super Bowl as it features main character Finbar Dolan working under the wire to create the perfect ad for a demanding client to show to the nation during the Super Bowl.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

 Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (2013).  In this unique send up of all things pretentious, internet-oriented and well basically, all things about modern life that are enjoyed by those people who can afford it (e.g., private schools, Starbucks, exotic travel, personal assistants), a mother mysteriously goes missing and her child investigates.  The cause of her disappearance?  Possibly a workaholic husband, difficulty competing with local stay-at-home moms, an aversion to rain (it takes place in Seattle), a home being invaded by blackberries, an overwhelming aversion to people, a mysterious past, and a few well-plotted surprises.  We loved the plot twists and the unexpected quirkiness of this witty send up of modern life, modern love, modern parenting, and the exploration of  what it means to find a place (no matter what age you are) for one’s talents in this ever evolving world. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

9780670025381My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss (2012). This is  lovely, gentle read by an author many may recognize as the creator of the popular food blog, “The Wednesday Chef” which was inspired by none other than Julie Powell’s Julie by Julia blogging adventures. In this food memoir, Weiss explores what it means to belong. Born in Berlin to an Italian mother and an American father who soon divorce, she spends much of her childhood schooling and summering in different countries and on different continents. Her interest always lay in the kitchen and with books which ground her through her peripatetic, international and fascinating upbringing. Each chapter tells a piece of her story with recipes inspired by time spent in places such as Sardinia, Berlin, and Brookline, Mass (a highlight: the description her uncle making pizza in a little cottage in the Italian countryside with stringy mozzarella and puffy, soft dough). Part of Weiss’ quest for belonging involves not only finding the perfect kitchen in which to cook but also the person with whom her heart feels most at home. A very nice addition to the food lover’s library – recipe box?- of titles. ~Lisa Cadow

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