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Since I’m trying to aggregate multiple loves into one blog (books, brunch, bites and booze), I have a new plan for posting reviews on my City Imbibing page.

  1. I’m first going to write my review on this main page
  2. If the experience lends itself to a book, I will make the connection
  3. I will then add a shortened review to my City Imbibing section
  4. I know this isn’t all that exciting, but it feels like a personal epiphany

My inaugural post now begins –

Shoolbred's

“Get drunk by the fire at Shoolbred’s.  We did that last winter and Fab Moretti showed up.”

— Chris Baio (Vampire Weekend Guitarist)

Shoolbreds: A neighborhood favorite (East Village – 2nd Ave btwn 12th & 13th), this bar is my go-to hangout on these cold winter evenings (afternoons, mornings…).  It boasts four coveted seats by a crackling fireplace (you have to lurk, ready to pounce as soon as the seats are available) as well as a “buy one get a token for another free one” beer and well-drink special from 4-8pm every single day.  Though not included in this special, they make a wonderful hot toddy (may beat my own personal recipe), delicious spinach and artichoke dip and lamb sliders.  Another advantage to the flocked-velvet decor is the lack of tacky illumination due to flickering TV screens – this is moving-picture-free-zone.

My beloved fireplace experiences with Shoolbred’s does lend itself well to Winter-based novels.  Two very different titles immediately come to mind:

  • SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson: I reviewed this in greater detail here, but this thrilling noir mystery set in the very cold, snow covered, 24-hours of darkness country of Finland will make you shiver and have a greater appreciation for the fireplace.
  • NERD GONE WILD: The antithesis of Thompson’s scary debut, this book is in Vicki Lewis’s humorous Nerd Series.  It’s a cozy, quirky romance set in the wildness of Alaska, with endearing character and laughable “enemies.”  This is a total guilty indulgence – get your hand out of that cookie jar and give this a try (hold the neon-colored jacket proudly).
  • THE GLASS CASTLE: Most of you have probably already read this memoir from Jeanette Walls, that became a bestseller after astounded readers all over told their friends about the author’s horrible childhood.  It’s a book that makes you appreciate what you have – and respect those who go without.  At the same time, I hated the book and found it hard not to shake it (as a way to reach the characters), since the parents were so capable and made life hell for their children, when it may not have been necessary to suffer…

I’ll leave you with these pictures our assistant took of Central Park yesterday afternoon, of the “SnOwMG” (she was brave to venture into the weather, while I was safely ensconced at, you know this, Shoolbred’s)-

Central Park 02/10/2010

Remember the last time I talked about the potential for disappointment vs. choosing ignorance?  Well, maybe that’s not exactly what I said, but I did admit to being scared to try something new that slightly deviates from a known, and enjoyed, thing.  Ex: my love of the REBA TV show on Lifetime does not translate to her music, and when I tried to indulge in some of Reba’s greatest hits, it made me gag the next time I tried to watch her show.  My actual point was related to  Joanne Rendell’s wonderful HuffPo writing and my fear of being disappointed in her book, CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE, which she thoughtfully sent me and proved me totally WRONG (terrible article synopsis, please read full “Reading: Hobby or Lifestyle ” .  But, that book review is a glowing post for another day.

Kerri and me

NOW on for my totally unrelated comparison.  I’ve probably mentioned a time or two that I’m from a tiny town in Michigan, where you know the same people growing up through the years.  Kerri and I were inseparable throughout most of our childhood, when one of her favorite hobbies would be to stare out her kitchen window and watching the activity of the cute, older neighbor boys (I always just wanted to play fairies with wings and wands of colored paper).  One of them happened to be a very talented basketball player, so her creepy window watching culminated into a more mature crush around 8th grade.

Imagine her euphoria when just last week over Thanksgiving, the two were reunited at long last (and I do mean long; we’ve been out of high school for years).  After several very cheap drinks, some coy smiles and hair flipping, he didn’t know what had come over him.

Now, nothing inappropriate happened of course (there is no scene from Nora Roberts to be played out here), but let’s just say Kerri said that real life was impossible to live up to her eighth grade dreaming.

And there you go, Kerri, at your request a post dedicated to you!  Now pack those bags and come visit.

xoxo-

Lydia

chick lit

PostSecret

In case you weren’t aware, Romance is the most successful genre of books; it’s also the most popular/successful type of EBook purchase.  Coincidence? I think not.  This PostSecret “secret” really touches on the secretive nature of the new digital mediums that are allowing people to read whatever they want without anyone knowing.  The conservative Christian reading Chelsea Handler?  The heterosexual reading about being gay?  The wife looking into divorce? Handheld devices have really returned reading to a private endeavor.

Interesting insight in an amusing/frivolous way.  Now if I could just get someone to donate an EReader to me so I could explore what non-socially acceptable books I may enjoy…

Sundays are notoriously unproductive (is this true across the board or just for my roomies and I?), typically spent lolling around in front of the Lifetime Movie Channel or, weather permitting, relaxing on the pool deck, rejuvenating from what was undoubtedly a raucous weekend.  So it makes me proud to say that yesterday, I accomplished quite the feat: one sushi meal with Char at RA, one Lifetime movie (the disturbing & sad Natalee Holloway one), three cups of tea and two books!

Quite unintentionally, both books I read dealt with ghosts/spirits/other-worldly forms of energy.  The protagonist in Joshilyn Jackson’s The Girl Who Stopped Swimming saw the ghost come to her of the young girl who drowned in the pool while Ronlyn Domingue writes a captivating tale from the ghost’s perspective in The Mercy of Thin Air.

girlwhostoppedswimmingThe Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Jackson’s third novel, following Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia.  Having read them all, I’ve come to realize that Jackson employs a formula in each: Takes place in the South, involves a family secret, poor relatives and a young woman.  While these traits are shared, each book is individual, offering a different story and secret to be uncovered.

The secret in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming begins to unravel once Laurel finds the body of her daughter’s tween friend floating in her pool.  After enlisting her free-spirited sister, Thalia, to help, Laurel discovers more than she had anticipated about her marriage, her daughter, DeLop (the oppressed town of impoverished relatives), the murder in her past and even about herself.  An enlightening novel that makes the reader question happiness and wonder about their own ghosts, outside their line of vision.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
  • Author: Joshilyn Jackson
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

mercyofthinairHard to believe The Mercy of Thin Air is Domingue’s first novel.  Written with such insight and conviction, even a non-believer like myself questions reality.  Told in first person by the intelligent and vivacious Raziela Nolan after her tragic death at the turning point of her life, it tells the story of love that doesn’t die with the body.

Even though Razi dies in 1929 at the age of 22, the story carries the characters up into the 21st century, as she stays “between” – invisible to mortals but remaining on Earth. Her  tale is intertwined with the love story of a couple struggling through their relationship and hidden past, whose lives intersect with the one Razi left behind.  Interesting subplots abound: Razi’s dedication to educating women on their reproductive options when this knowledge was illegal (apparently in the 1920s pregnancy was the only job women were expected to do), the growth and development of independent women, the relationships with other souls in “between” and the life of her great love.

Both The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and The Mercy of Thin Air are more than love stories, though I do feel they appeal to women readers much more than men.  I consider myself to be grounded in reality and both these books made me more open to the presence of those we can’t see.  The next time I feel a cold draft or smell a scent that seems out of place I may have to smile, wondering if possibly a spirit is sharing in my experience. Who is to say otherwise?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: The Mercy of Thin Air
  • Author: Ronlyn Domingue
  • Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

I do, however, suggest you read these books at least a few days apart.  I had a hard time sleeping last night imagining the spirits hovering around my bed!

Sometimes the life of a drug lord seems a little like the mob – dangerous and violent, but sexy in that easy-money sort of way.  I don’t have the heart for it – I can’t take the pictures of the starving children in Africa that come up on those religious commercials, much less personally contributing to addicts (is that a logical chain of thought?).  Not to mention drugs, weapons and police scare me… But they do make for a good story, as long as the violence and danger stay on the page, unlike the Mexican Cartels currently doing their best to wreak havoc in the States…

Elizabeth Lowell had no idea how current her fictional novel, The Wrong Hostage, would seem right now, with news outlets daily covering the influx of drugs and violence from Mexico and the issues going on within the drug world down there.

Published as the second book within her “St. Kilda” series (of which I’ve

How I like to picture MX

How I like to picture MX

never read the first), The Wrong Hostage takes place during a harrowing weekend in which California Judge Grace Silva is forced to go toe-to-toe with the feared Mexican drug lord, Hector Rivas Osuna, in order to rescue her 15-year-old son.  Held hostage against money Silva’s ex-husband owes, she takes action.  Instead of wasting time in tracking down her lousy ex, missing for weeks, she calls the super-secret St. Kilda firm, known only to her due to a brief, passionate love affair with an operative… If you’re a fan of the “Romantic Suspense” genre, I bet you can guess this operative is also, ta-da, the son’s real father.

Through scary roads in Mexico, being witness to cold-hearted murder within the drug community (reminiscent of the Chicago Mob: https://novelwhore.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/operation-gambat-when-corruption-was-king-of-chicago/) and all the while reigniting  long-lost passion, this is a fast-paced novel that leaves your heart in your throat as you just wish the family to be reunited, frolicking on a white-sand beach and off the drug-ridden streets of Tijuana.

Crazily enough, I read this novel last year and as quickly as I finished the last page it left my thoughts, just to spring to mind as I was reading The New York Times two days ago:  “More than 7,000 people [in Mexico], most of them connected to the drug trade or law enforcement, have died since January 2008. Many of the victims were tortured. Beheadings have become common.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&em.

There are numerous additional articles covering home invasions and kidnappings in the United States, all related to the Mexican drug trade, making me wonder if a situation like Lowell portrayed in The Wrong Hostage happened to an ordinary family unconnected with underground, all-powerful rescue rings (do these even exist in real life?), what would happen?  Would the news even be publicized, or would one family be in unbearable private pain?

It’s scary when what I would consider to be outlandish fiction comes alive in the newspaper.  While I enjoyed reading this book throughout its 406 pages, I don’t like the reading of individual newspaper articles that don’t always have the same caliber of ending (trying not to give anything aware, being sly).

Give this book a try if you like action, suspense, guns and violence with an undercurrent of sexual tension, but skip it if you would rather not take a behind-the-scenes peek at what may be happening as we speak.

And I even love Mexico – Cancun vacation, anyone!?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B
  • Title: The Wrong Hostage
  • Author: Elizabeth Lowell
  • Publisher: Avon

northern_lightsMy Dad went on a fishing trip to Alaska last year, which completely surprised me since my dad had never fished in his life, much less being some huge sportsman that travels some 3,500 miles to what I always imagined as some white, frozen piece of tundra, replete with polar bears (cute, but supposedly dangerous), Sarah Palin shooting wolves, and not much else.  But every morning when I received a picture message I had to admit it was of a gorgeous scene.

So, with my interest in Alaska piqued, when I came across Nora Robert’s Northern Lights novel priced at a very affordable $1 at the Newberry Library book fair I had to snatch it up.  While not a huge Nora Roberts fan, I admit her books are a fat-free indulgence every once in awhile, and I dare to say Northern Lights is one of her better titles.

Complete with murder, small-town intrigue and (surprise, surprise) a steamy love affair, Lunacy, Alaska is brought to life through the sexy cop recently transplanted from Baltimore (due to a traumatic experience, read it to discover why he ran away), and the equally mysterious female bush pilot who is also the daughter of a man missing 15 years soon to be found murdered in the mountains.  Whew what a story.  Through family issues, affairs, and secrets past and present, the tale is twisted through a town where everyone knows each other, and one of them is a murderer.  It’s up to the “outsider” Police Chief and his sexy hometown hunny (sorry, couldn’t resist) to separate the disgruntled rednecks (are rednecks in AK?) from the real threats.

Scene from the movie, also real life?

Scene from the movie, also real life?

Brought alive by a newly aired Lifetime movie (another guilty pleasure, though I swear I only imbibe with roomies present, never alone) graced with the acting of country singer LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian (apparently with a past role in “Baywatch Nights” – who knew), the 562 page book is condensed into a two hour movie, commercials included.  Needless to say, much of the quality, community feeling and character development that makes the book a success is lost in the movie translation.

As you may or may not have heard, the movie may be somewhat of a success due to the publicity of a supposed real-life affair (strategic move or true infidelity?) between Rimes and Cibrian, both of whom are married.

While I would never suggest that anyone go out and purchase this book, if the Nora Roberts genre appeals to you than give Northern Lights a chance.  It offers twists and turns outside the bedroom (ha), and the ending, while expected, isn’t boring.

And just in case you’re wondering, my dad will never feel the need to read this book to relive his Alaskan experience, since we still have delicious smoked salmon in the deep freezer waiting to be enjoyed.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade, Book: B-
    NovelWhore’s Grade, Movie: D
  • Title: Northern Lights
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Publisher: Jove

Book vs. Movie

By now, who isn’t familiar with this term?  If you haven’t read the book, at the very least you’ve seen the trailers for the movie, currently in theaters, featuring a multitude of celebrities: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly and Kevin Connolly make up the all-star cast

I’m sure authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (both contributing writershjntiy-book to the smash success “Sex & the City) had no idea the effect their book, aka “The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys,” would have on the world.  I remember first reading “He’s Just Not That Into You” (HJNTIY) back when it came out in 2004 and was on it’s way to becoming some sort of a classic.  I was a naive and somewhat innocent college sophomore, and thought that the book was a more amusing and informational form of the Bible.

Though my Advanced Composition teacher ended up stealing the book (Ms. Laura Elizabeth, you disappeared with my “Bible” and my portfolio!) I still have quite a vivid recollection of the empowerment I felt upon completion.  Although I’ve never found myself in a terribly unhealthy relationship (some are less happy to remember than others…), I have definitely been blind to the reality of any given situation.  Told with humorous examples, comedic banter and the ability to make you smile through your tears of humiliation (you wonder how you missed that obvious hint!), the book is a feel-good tool to encourage every woman to go out there and find the relationship she deserves, not just one she’s stuck with.

Since I really did enjoy the book, appreciate the message and was able to occasionally relate to the situations with self-deprecating laughter, I had high expectations for the movie.

Let me admit, I am not a movie person.  I am terrible at sitting still, rarely captivated by what is happening on screen and I don’t even like popcorn (though I looooove the icees at theaters!).  I think books are a much more effective and enjoyable way to portray a story, although a movie is much less effort.  Anyways, I was prepared to really enjoy HJNTIY, as it had been receiving mostly rave reviews.

hesjustnotthatintoyou_000My movie partner was a guy I’m casually seeing, and he only went to the movie since he lost a bet (lesson to be learned, never bet me on random historical facts!).  He complained about going, but I think ended up liking it and laughing more than me.  It was your stereotypical romantic comedy with a little bit more humor, I didn’t think it had nearly the powerful and positive message that the book shared with it’s audience.  The movie poses the question:

“are you the exception… or are you the rule?”

The movie follows different characters through life in Maryland (totally random, right?), and it’s almost one of those six-degrees of separation examples, how everyone is inextricably linked without knowing.  It’s interesting to see how all the lives tie together, but painful at times to watch as Gigi (Goodwin) is pathetically desperate to date someone, anyone, or as Janine’s (Connelly) husband enters into an affair.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but I did leave feeling as if something were missing.  Oh, right, it’s the idea that things don’t always turn out as you planned, and the guy doesn’t always realize that you’re the greatest woman in the world for him (though I’m sure you are), and that sometimes, relationships are disappointing and people aren’t meant to be together and it doesn’t work out (and I swear I’m not even bitter or cynical!). I guess one marriage does dissolve through the course of the movie, but in the current state where affairs and divorces are commonplace, it would be almost more satisfying (less stereotypical, at least) had the woman been responsible, or at minimum, in control, of the relationship!  I definitely think the uplifting lesson conveyed in the book is somehow lost with the on-screen adaptation.

Read the book if: You need motivation, inspiration, or optimism in your relationship or life in general.  Pass the book to a friend if you can see they’re stuck in a dead end relationship and a third-party unbiased source yelling at them could help realization dawn.

Avoid the book if: You like losers, and accept you’re stuck with them.  No no kidding, read the book.

Watch the movie if: You like happy endings, stereotypical romantic comedies, pathetic women, cheating men, and some laughter along the way.  Though I suggest you wait until it comes out on DVD and make a wine night out of it, much better use of $$$$.

Avoid the movie if: You’re looking for a movie with a lasting impact.

  • Title: He’s Just Not That Into You
  • Author(s): Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment
  • NovelWhore’s Grade (Book): A-
  • NovelWhore’s Grade (Movie): C+

**As usual, the book is much better than the movie!

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