Tag Archives: love stories

Book Review: “Justine”

I’m a little late with this review, having spent the weekend on a little mini-vacation in Maryland. This week, we finished up our February “Month of Romance” themed reading with Lawrence Durrell’s novel Justine.

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I’m not exactly sure what to say about this novel. It was… breathtaking. Durrell’s grasp on storytelling – on his characters and on the reader – make Justine a truly beautiful story, and a pleasure to read.

Justine follows a young writer living in Alexandria, Egypt in the 1930s. Though he is poor, he catches the attention, and love, of infamous socialite, Justine. His experiences with her, her husband, and his other (former? current?) lover Melissa tell such a mesmerizing story. More than the plot line, however, it is the way the story is told that makes it so captivating.

I have never read any author quite like Durrell. His words are beyond poetic – lyric and fluid, making me feel like I was floating through this novel, rather than reading it. Durrell’s writing brings to mind the feeling of sweltering in the hazy heat of summer, really setting the scene of Alexandria. You can hear the people on the street, and feel the heat wafting in the windows, and seem to sink into the sheets of the narrator’s bed. My memory of the book is almost like that of a vacation – lazy, fuzzy around the corners, like a lucid dream where you need to remind yourself that you are reading, not reminiscing.

This is a novel that I wish I had taken more time with. Because of my goal to read a book a week, I felt like I was rushing through the story, not giving myself enough time to truly absorb all the sights, smells, sounds, and sentiments of Durrell’s Alexandria. Had I more time, I would have read only a few pages in each sitting, then given myself time to process it, to steep in the incense that is Justine. Rushing through made me unable to give this book the justice I wanted to, and left me feeling like I owed the novel more than a quick read. When the time is afforded to me, I will work my way through the rest of The Alexandria Quartet. It is hard to describe what this book is about – it’s more about experiencing the emotions and sensations that go along with with Durrell’s words.

If you’re confused by this review, and think it leaves you lacking for a description, that is probably because this book needs to be felt, rather than told. I would urge anyone with need of a vacation to simply sink into Justine, and float along on Durrell’s story. Simply put: I loved this novel, and can’t wait to escape reality with Durrell again.

Well, how about you? Did you read along? Have you read any of Durrell’s novels before? What were your thoughts (or “feelings” might be a better word)?

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Book Review: “Anne of Green Gables”

Well, I missed our “introduction” post (where I introduce what book we’re reading this week…) but this week, for our second “Month of Romance” book for February, we tackled L.M. Montgomery’s children’s classic, Anne of Green Gables.

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Anne of Green Gables tells the story about a young orphan girl who is mistakenly adopted by a couple who wanted a boy to work on their farm. Anne overcomes her many problems – feeling unwanted her whole life, having a bit of a culture barrier due to not having a steady home – by using her vast imagination and great love for learning. In Anne of Green Gables, we see Anne grow, mature, learn, and love. The freckly, skinny, redheaded girl grows into a lovely young woman through the book, as we watch her personal relationships develop due to her spunk.

This book was recommended to me by a good friend (hi Alyssa!), and I have generally agreed with her along the lines of literature. Sorry, Alyssa, but this time, I’m not such a fan. Hear me out…

I did not like Anne. I’m sure there is a collective GASP across the Internet when I insult everyone’s favorite orphan (I’m a fan of Little Orphan Annie myself), but I just had a really hard time trying to like Anne. Am I sympathetic to her trials and tribulations? Of course. It breaks my heart to think of any child feeling unwanted (which was a major theme throughout this book, and a huge problem Anne faced). I couldn’t get past Anne’s superficial notions (her desperation for material possessions like puffed sleeves), as well as her overwhelmingly annoying (sorry, but it’s true) attitude toward – well – just about everything. I just couldn’t feel very loving toward the book’s main character (at least in her youth), and that just put too bad a taste in my mouth to overcome.

That being said – L.M. Montgomery was a fabulous writer. Her portrayal of physical things (scenes, clothing, people) were stunning, and poetic in many ways. Her novel was beautiful to read, even if I had a very hard time getting into the actual story. While I just spent a paragraph bashing Anne, I do appreciate Anne’s ability to adapt and overcome – her ability to imagine better for herself than what she had in reality. I think that is a wonderful and beautiful lesson to impart on children. Anne’s growth (by learning through her mistakes) is also a great lesson for young readers, specifically little girls.

This month’s theme is “romance,” and I did appreciate the budding romance between Gilbert and Anne. I can see why this book was a great launching point to read more about Gilbert and Anne’s romance. More than romance, however, the real love story seems to be Anne’s opening up the hearts of Marilla and Matthew, Marilla specifically. While Anne’s imagination and flightiness drove them crazy at times, they were able to see a little girl who needed their love, and open their home – and their hearts – to her. I think Anne was a great influence on the couple. Matthew’s character was my favorite by far, but it was rewarding to see Marilla open up to Anne’s love throughout the novel.

So, what do you think? Did I totally miss the mark? Do you hate me for not really liking young Anne? Are you going to try to encourage me to pick up the next novel in the series in hopes my mind will change? What are your thoughts?

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Book Review: “I Love You, Ronnie”

Well – my friend Haley (who recommended this week’s book) takes the trophy for best recommendation so far in this book challenge! This week, to kick off the “Month of Romance” theme for February, we picked up I Love You, Ronnie, by Nancy Reagan.

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This book was nothing short of breathtaking.

I Love You, Ronnie is a collection of letters from Ronald Reagan (yes, the former US president) to his wife, sewn together with lovely commentary from his wife Nancy, which gives readers a more in depth look at the famous man, behind the scenes. She takes letters her husband had written to her – from various movie sets, from the road campaigning, from the White House, and beyond – and uses them to tell the story of their love, and their life together.

Who knew Ronald Reagan was such a romantic?! His words were absolutely beautiful, and give a great insight into how Ronald Reagan was away from the camera. This book was the perfect way to start the “Month of Romance” reading, because it tells a true, honest, inspiring love story! The more I read, the more I fell in love with “Ronnie and Nancy Poo Pants.” Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these two.

Here’s a little snippet of one of my favorite letters (to be honest, it was REALLY HARD to choose one), so you can better understand what I mean by “romantic:”

However there is one golden glow warming my soul in this first sunset – I’m twenty-four hours closer to you. Last night was another one of those nights – just too beautiful to stand. So tonight I’ll probably be looking at the Moon which means I’ll be looking at you – literally and figuratively because it lays far to the South of the mountain top and that’s where you are. That takes care of the “literal” part – the “figurative” part requires no direction, I just see you in all the beauty there is because in you I’ve found all the beauty in my life.

Seriously… who wouldn’t want to get a letter like that?

The most amazing part of this story was realizing that I wasn’t reading a work of fiction. Unlike other great romances dreamed up in the mind of one author, this one was real, and the copies of handwritten letters are there to prove it. Ronald Reagan is like a knight in shining armor, or perhaps a bard singing about an epic love – yet the epic love is his own. I mean, these two were really, head-over-heals in love for their entire marriage! It’s inspiring to see a relationship be so successful for so long, despite the multiple hardships they faced. I felt a connect with Nancy talking about how hard it was to spend so much time away from her husband while he was off filming movies or campaigning – as a military wife, I spend months away from my husband (he is actually two states away as we speak, and will be there until March 31, close enough to come home on the weekends). I loved being able to see that, despite their multiple and frequent separations, they were able to make their love last. I have to say, I cried a bit at the end, when Nancy discusses facing Ronald’s Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis, and her realizing that “Alzheimer’s is a truly long, long good-bye.” It crushed my heart to think of that goodbye – not taken by death or old age or even an accident, but for their lives to slowly dissolve… it’s too much to bear!

In the Prologue to this lovely piece of biographical literature, Nancy suggests that current generations of lovers need to get back to the basics of writing letters and expressing our love for one another through words that will last beyond our lifetimes. In the age of phones, email, social media, and texting, we are more connected than ever, but we are also missing out on the joys of seeing our lover’s handwriting, of the excitement that goes with receiving a letter in the mail, of the elation of seeing “I love you” in print, and being able to read it over and over and over again. I am making a point of following her advice and following in her dear Ronnie’s footsteps by writing out handwritten letters for Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, and major holidays. I hope you can be inspired to do the same.

This one is a must read. I am not normally a fan of biographical literature, and I generally steer clear of anything that can have anything to do with politics, but with a recommendation calling the book’s main character “the most romantic man ever,” how could I resist?! I am so happy I picked this one up (thank you, again, Haley!!)! It was such a refreshing story, and left me filled with such wonderful feelings. I will happily pass this one on to whoever is interested in a good – TRUE – love story! I can honestly say that Ronald Reagan is my favorite “leading man” in any book we’ve read this year (and that’s saying a lot, because most of them have been imagined by romantic minds).

Well, how about you? Did you read I Love You, Ronnie? What were your thoughts and reactions? Are you head-over-heals for Ronald Reagan? Were you surprised to learn how romantic he was? Share your feelings about this book with me!

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Week 23 Reading: “I Love You, Ronnie”

Well folks, we are entering February, and starting off our “Month of Romance” theme for our book club-like reading atmosphere. For those of you who have joined us recently, the idea behind this blog is to pick a theme for each month, and for each week within that month, a different book associated with that theme. I try to mix it up by picking different genres, to keep everyone interested, and to expose myself (and you!) to books we wouldn’t normally pick up. Within any month, we can read a biography, a sci-fi, a trashy romance, and a historical fiction… or anything else on the broad spectrum of literary themes!

Check out This Month’s Books, pick one (or more), and read along! At the end of each week, I post my review, and ask you to join in with your own review/commentary/questions. I enjoy having opposing opinions, learning something about the book I missed, or just discussing a novel with friends!

I’m very excited to pick up this week’s book, I Love You, Ronnie by Nancy Reagan.

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This book came as a very enthusiastic recommendation from my friend Haley (hey Haley, and Thing 1 and Thing 2!!). The book is a collection of letters from the late Ronald Reagan to his wife, Nancy Reagan. The letters encompass the bulk of their relationship, from the acting days, to the White House, and beyond. These love letters were lovingly assembled, and explained, by Nancy Reagan. When recommending this book, my friend Haley said that Ronald Reagan is possibly “the most romantic man ever.”

This should be an interesting selection. It is a collection of letters, and falls under the title “biographical literature,” which isn’t usually my genre of choice. But again – expanding my literary horizons and embracing something I usually wouldn’t pick up on my own. With a recommendation like “most romantic man ever” from Haley (who I trust with book recommendations), this should be a great one to start off our “Month of Romance,” and get us into the mood for love.

 

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