Category Archives: romance

In Which I Liked a Nicholas Sparks Movie…

15th April 2015

For real. So the bff and I rarely get to spend any time together. She’s got three kids; they’re all uber involved in extra activities…yada yada yada. When I realized I’d have a Friday evening to myself, I figured I’d see if I could hang out with her and the kids, but she called and practically yelled in the phone, “It’s meant to be! I don’t have the kids tomorrow! Let’s go see The Longest Ride!”

She hung up about as quickly, leaving me to Google The Longest Ride and then groan. Because The Longest Ride is a Nicholas Sparks movie, based on his book. And I hate Nicholas Sparks films – though that isn’t quite fair, I’ve only watched one – The Notebook – under duress (same bff gave it to me and bugged me for six months until I watched).

Friday afternoon I girded my loins to go the theater to see a film about a cowboy and love. Yech.

At least, I thought I was going to see a mushy film about a cowboy and love. What I actually saw…was a mushy film about a cowboy, and a girl, and an old man thinking back on the love of his life. Cheesy as hell, but I actually liked it.

There was still the obligatory rain scene (I swear, someone could do an academic paper about Sparks’ use of rainy scenes. He must think there’s some real symbolism there or something. Yes! The rain washes away who I used to be and now I am clean and free to love you!). Anyway, there’s also not much in the way of character development: I know two things about Sophia, one of the main characters. She was raised by Polish immigrants. And she likes art.

Similarly, her paramour, Luke, rides bulls to keep his momma on the ranch because Daddy died of a heart attack. But momma doesn’t care about the ranch and wants Luke to stop bull riding because a bull nearly killed him. Motivation enough? I guess.

BUT. The real gem of the film is the relationship between Ruth and Ira, a Jewish couple who meet at the start of World War II, when Ruth’s family immigrates to the US from Vienna. Luke and Sophia save elderly Ira from a car crash, and he asks Sophia to go back for a box of letters that chronicle his relationship with his love. She develops a relationship with the old man, reading him the love letters he wrote and can no longer read and gaining insight into love, life, and relationships.

And I loved it.

Had the majority of the film focused on the contemporary couple, it would have been a snoozefest, but watching Ruth and Ira fall in love in flashbacks and navigate the problems couples encounter was really lovely. Their lifelong love affair was beautiful.

Even though I never thought I’d find myself saying this, I’d actually recommend The Longest Ride. It may be rental material, but if you want a love story that won’t make your eyes roll back in your head (I’m looking at you, every rom-com ever), try this one.

Review: The Drake Equation by Heather Walsh

23rd January 2014

pg1*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Emily Crossley and Robert Drake would never be matched up on eharmony or match.com. Each is passionate about politics and his or her own key issues. Emily works for a nonprofit devoted to ridding the planet of gas-guzzling SUVs. Robert is a businessman whose business it is to market those same SUVs.

When they meet at an anti-SUV rally Emily hosts, sparks fly…but less from lust and more from a sense of righteousness. Robert follows up with a string of emails, and Emily is intrigued, asking him out before she loses her nerve. As Emily and Robert’s arguments grow more and more heated, so does their attraction.

But how do you reconcile an attraction to someone so inappropriate for you on paper? Emily and Robert both struggle with this, yet each is level headed and logical, able to articulate their stances in ways that aren’t offensive to the other. Plus, there’s more to each than politics. Robert loves astronomy. Emily loves to read. At one point, Emily even questions whether she uses her politics as a way to separate herself from others, a moment of brutal honesty. But it is each character’s openness with one another that allows them to fall in love until Robert’s demanding job overwhelms any chance they have of being together.

At first glance, The Drake Equation made me nervous. Not only is it a romance novel, but it’s also a novel involving two characters whose political beliefs are diametrically opposed. To be together, miraculously, neither Robert nor Emily suddenly changes his or her political beliefs. Neither one gives up a career for the other. That’s not to say that Robert and Emily don’t change or compromise, but so often in romance novels, one or the other of the characters in the couple makes a change that makes my skin crawl a bit. Heather Walsh avoids that and creates a cast of intelligent, thoughtful characters without unrealistic obstacles getting in the way of love, making The Drake Equation the perfect romance novel for people who hate romance novels.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

12th November 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review.

A woman wakes in a French battlefield hospital with no recollection of who she is, where she is, or how she may have gotten there. But she does remember how to assist the doctors and how to drive an ambulance, a difficult skill. From all accounts, she’s American, though it’s only 1916, and American hasn’t yet entered the war. On leave, she attempts to make her way to the Admiralty in London. She isn’t sure why she needs to go there, but the place holds significance for her, and she’s hopeful someone can identify her there.

But on the way, she takes ill, and Dr. August Bridge and his wife take her in. Dr. Bridge is a cranial surgeon, unfit for war because of scoliosis and bad eyesight, and he begins working with Stella in an attempt to regain her memory, as there are moments of clarity for Stella in which she only feels emotion. She sketches disturbing images she sees but cannot determine whether they are true or a figment of her imagination. But the story turns in an instant when Stella remembers her old life.

***

So, you should know that when I was in college, I devoured Anita Shreve books. In my estimation, they are similar to what the Jodi Picoult books are now. Pretty covers. Intriguing stories, but with a depth I usually enjoy more than some other women’s fiction.

Stella Bain was initially enthralling. Watching as she struggles to place herself and recall her reason for being in France is fascinating. I felt as though much of the book would be spent with her and Dr. Bridge working to restore her memory. However, when her amnesia disappears – rather quickly in the scope of the novel – the story becomes something different altogether. Stella begins to tell what brought her from America to the battlefields of France, another different but intriguing narrative. Yet after the reader understands what has brought her to war and what caused her amnesia, the novel begins to wane.

Still a good read, Stella Bain suffers from what many novels in the past several years have – a promising introduction but a less-than-stellar fulfillment of its early potential.

Recommended for fans of Anita Shreve and those interested in World War I.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

TLC Tour: Mystery Girl

21st August 2013

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*This book was sent to me by the publisher New Harvest, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in coordination with TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

I became an assistant detective, and solved my first murder, right after my wife left me, when I went a little mad. Never as crazy as the master detective himself, of course; he was completely nuts….And trust me, I know from crazy, being, as I admit right here at the outset, no poster child for emotional health myself.

Sam Kornberg starts his tale thus, in the great tradition of unreliable narrators before him. His wife Lala has left him; he’s unemployed, and his plotless novels are gathering dust. His only friends are MJ, his former employer who owned (and lost) a used bookstore and frequently went on poetry binges, and Milo, a former gay porn film projectionist who rents videos. Lala likes nice things, and novels without plots and failed bookstores certainly don’t provide for her. In an effort to impress her, Sam takes a job as an assistant to Solar Lonsky, a morbidly obese private eye who can’t leave his home.

Sam is tasked with following Ramona Doon, a beautiful young women with whom he becomes more and more intrigued. Yet he’s perplexed by his job. As he asks himself after observing Ramona one evening, “Was this what he sent me to learn? What mystery could it solve, what crime? Where was the victim, and who the criminal, besides me?”

Sam quickly finds the answer to that question, and as he is drawn deeper into Lonsky’s grip and Ramona’s spellbinding nature, Sam’s seemingly simple job becomes absurdly real, and Satanic rituals, porn, and doppelgangers confuse matters further.

Pulpy and raw, David Gordon’s writing is reminiscent of great noir while still retaining the shockingly real voice of a more modern fiction writer. Mystery Girl is an excellent exploration of a bumbling sad sack writer forced to transcend his own mediocrity.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

See This, Not That – Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

2nd July 2013

Have you guys seen this preview yet?

Because all I have to say about that, is this:

I mean, really.
And if you haven’t seen the latter version, I urge you to spend your pennies and rent it because it’s just the best. I may or may not have spent a week my freshman year in high school watching this over and over again. It’s pretty amazing.