Top Five Love Stories (In The Past Twenty Years)

Ta-Da! I’m back!

I haven’t really able to write recently for a myriad of reasons, but mostly the past couple months have just been hard. I don’t want to lie to you guys and tell you that life is great 100% of the time, because that’s not how life works. BUT life is filled with little bits of extreme happiness and love. And fortunately I have love from my family and my significant other to help me through.

It’s exactly that love that I want to discuss today, because on Monday the 16th it will be mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary (whoopie!!! part-ayyy!) and I’m psyched! I love our anniversaries, it reminds me of when my life really began to feel complete (okay okay, I’m sorry I’m sappy!)

Nonetheless, the past couple days I felt an overwhelming feeling of love not only from my boyfriend but from my family as well. And because of that, I began thinking about the books that I’ve read that have stuck with me as great love stories, or stories of triumph in situations because love was prevalent. Some of my favorite love stories actually don’t have that much romantic, intimate love in them. But I remember the following books as incredibly well written and often struck me as the best love stories of all time. Or at least of the past 20 years.

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, and this is just my opinion – but let’s be honest, my opinion is always right. So here we go:

1.  Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

This is a book that I love. I just absolutely adore this book. In no way is it a traditional love story, in no way is it a happy story – but it’s the story of a girl with a dream so big and a heart filled with so much love for one person that she is willing to do anything to make it a reality. Now I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but had you been thrust into a Geisha lifestyle at the age of  nine-years-old and sold for your beauty, you would probably think this story was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.

2.  The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

This is an easy one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to my list. This novel, with its beautiful writing and striking humor coupled with an incredibly believable and heartbreaking story, has made me cry more than any other novel I have ever read. And this is coming from a girl who has dealt with the deaths of Dobby, Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin all in one book (madness!!!!) But nonetheless, Green writes a novel from the point of view of a girl dying of a disease. Going to support groups for it, she winds up meeting a boy who also has a disease, but not one he’s dying from. The plot thickens from there, but this book was written with grace, amazing humor, and such unpredictability that I was on the edge of my seat (crying) the entire time.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alright, this one I’m honestly a little embarrassed to put on the list, but I cried so much during this book that I had to put it on here. This book, while a love story, is a true story about a woman finding herself and loving who she is. It’s a struggle between living a life she was just comfortable in and a life that has purpose. In this case, her life of purpose includes meditation, lots of pasta and a man she fell in love with. This one struck me as less of a book about the love between two people but rather a book about the love of oneself. The idea that you can live your life, and you can do it your way. The idea of looking at your body in a mirror and saying, “hey, if someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t need to see it. And also, screw them!” and I really like that.

4. All of the Harry Potter Books – JK Rowling

I really don’t need to go into detail on this one, because anyone who has read the books will understand why this is on my list. Despite the romantic relationship stories in this series, the most prevalent, and most important relationship is the friendship and kinship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron/The rest of the Weasleys. If I go into too much detail I’ll start crying over here, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: the HP books have given me a lesson in all the different types of love someone is capable of having. From the smallest bit of kindness to a huge show of affection: love is everywhere.

5. The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

My girl! Amy Tan is the shit. I’m in love with all of the books she’s every written, and honestly I wanted to put this book and The Bonesetter’s Daughter on this list, but TBD was less about love and more about over coming obstacles (also I didn’t want to overcrowd you with Amy Tan – but please read that book because it’s fantastic!) Anyway, this novel is incredible. It’s about a woman’s journey as half-Chinese, half-American living in China as a courtesan. Honestly this book has a similar feel that Memoirs of a Geisha has but without the feeling of the main character being a slave and unable to do anything about her own life. This book has so many different moving parts to it, but the thing you need to know is that when this book had loving moments in it, it had heart warming, heart breaking, all consuming, vulnerable, tears rolling down your eyes moments. Read this!

So that’s the last of it. I’m sure if I wracked my brain a little more I’d be able to give you some other books, but for now here are the top five books that center around love that are my personal favorites.

If you have other books that you think ought to be on the list, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The next time you hear from me will be after my anniversary, which means that the next time you hear from me I will have gained twenty pounds from all the pasta I’m going to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. YESSS! Ciao!

Rachel

Book vs Movie: The Revenant

Well well well, look what the cat dragged in… Or should I say, “look what the grizzly dragged in???” (Forgive me, my vocabulary is limited to sarcasm and dad jokes) I know this review is a little bit late to the game but better late than never, right?

Let’s get started: About a week or so after it came out, my boyfriend and I watched the brand spankin’ new movie The Revenant starring the ever-so-awesome Jack Dawson (aka Leonardo DiCaprio) [… side note, does anyone else think of Leo as Jack still? Because that love will never die in my mind and is always the first thing that comes to mind. DAMNIT LEO AND KATE GET TOGETHER ALREADY!] 

We went in to the movie trying to keep our expectations to a minimum. The last time we saw a movie that was that hyped up we were so disappointed. To be specific, that movie was Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max got something crazy like 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and everyone was saying it was the greatest movie of all time. So of course I’m expecting the best movie ever. Instead I got a two hour desert car chase.

Before anyone argues with me, I want to say that when the movie came out on DVD my boyfriend and I bought it and gave it another shot and actually really enjoyed it! The problem lies in the hype:

You see, for most movies that come out with five star ratings, everyone expects the best movie ever – they don’t go in appreciating the movie for what it is. With Mad Max, it just so happened to be one of the most extraordinary car chases I’ve ever seen. But again, how was I supposed to enjoy that when everyone is saying it’s a feminist masterpiece and the most brilliantly made film since Avatar?

So like I said, my expectations were lower than usual because I just didn’t want to feed into the hype. Fortunately, my expectations were exceeded. The Revenant kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. There was never a dull moment, even in the slowest moments I was still wholly captivated.

Which is why when we went out to dinner one night and I saw The Revenant in Barnes & Noble under the Page to Screen section, I was thrilled! Should I have spent the money? Probably not. But was it worth it? Definitely. (I can practically hear my wallet yelling from the living room, “Ah’r you f#*&ing kidding me? I’m bleedin’ ova here!”Apparently my wallet is an Italian Mobster – No ragrets)

Anyway, I bought the book when I was still reading the Dan Brown novels  – which I will tell you about, by the way, I just need a break from the disappointment – and mentioned the book in one of my posts. I was surprised that one of my favorite bloggers Bottles And Bookends had heard the actual story of the main character. I was actually impressed that this was a true story and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it.

Well it took me probably about a week or a week and a half to finish the book. It’s not that big, less than 300 pages, but I’ve been a slow reader recently so I was actually pretty pleased on my timing. But let me tell you … you have to read this book.

This novel was phenomenal. From the very first page I was completely hooked. The author, Michael Punke, did so much research and really got the feel of early 1800’s trappers and Native Americans and put them in this small but powerful book. The writing was an interesting style akin to watching a movie. The constant change of what I’ll call “point of view” for lack of a better word, made the book all the more authentic.

It was poignant, it was different, it was rough at times, incredibly detailed, and all over a well written novel.

Now here’s the tricky part: was the movie similar to the book? Yes. But did the movie take a hell of a lot of creative liberties? Abso-fucking-lutely. For starters, Hugh Glass does not have a child in this book. And anyone knows from the trailer of the movie that this man is seeking revenge because of his son. So that’s plot difference number one.

Number two: the movie, remarkably, is mostly following one man’s journey for revenge. A solo adventure to find the men who deserted him. The book, however, offers a much more realistic take: the main character is seeking revenge on his own, but often needs the assistance of other people in the surrounding areas to survive.

Number three: The ending. I’m not even going to touch on the ending because I don’t want to give it away, but the endings of the two Revenants are different. One is more concrete while the other is open to interpretation.

But let me say this. absolutely adore historical fiction. I think it’s incredible. I love being transported into a world not entirely unlike my own, still based on fact, but obviously maneuvered to make it more appealing and exciting to read. This book hit that mark to a tee. If you like historical fiction, this is the perfect book for you.

As for book versus movie. I honestly don’t think that there’s a way to compare the two. While there were obvious similarities between them, I truly believe that the movie was a 10/10, and the book was 10/10, but for different reasons.

For that I’m calling this one a tie.

I do very highly recommend this book. And I highly recommend seeing the movie and then reading this book, because it was really cool to see the dramatization and get interested in that story and then go and read a more realistic interpretation of what actually happened.

So what are you waiting for? You’ve listened to my dad jokes enough – go read!

Until next time,

Rachel

P.S. Thank you for supporting me for 50 posts! I’m so excited that I get to share my thoughts and ramblings with you guys and I’m so thankful that you find me interesting enough to stick around. Here’s to the next 50!

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Book Series’ That Get Worse Over Time

Hi friends! I have different kind of topic for you today, but it requires a bit of an explanation:

So you all know that I’ve been obsessed with Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series since the beginning of 2016. I finished the first two novels, Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code, and then began reading The Lost Symbol. Well, to be quite frank: The Lost Symbol sucks.the-lost-symbol

As you know, I’m a big supporter of what I like to call, “stop reading bad books!” It’s pretty self-explanatory, if you’re reading a bad book, stop! Don’t waste your time. Life is way to short to be reading books that aren’t contributing to your happiness.

So, I stopped reading that book and began the fourth book, Inferno, which has proven to be pretty interesting so far, with absolutely no mention of the third book – so I’m in the clear.

But anyway, I was discussing this with my sister when we switched topics to the new Chelsea Handler show on Netflix. I was always a HUGE Chelsea Handler fan. It wasn’t until her fourth book and final  seasons of Chelsea Lately, actually, that I stopped giving a crap.

Apparently my sister felt the same way about her books and our mutual disinterest made me think about the books she’s written and how, much like Dan Brown, it got worse over time.

Chelsea’s first book, My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands was incredible! I could read that book a thousand times and never get bored of it. It’s her observational humor and her “who-gives-a-fuck” attitude that I am drawn in by. But what happened was she began with a great book – a really, really great book. That, to me, would be just setting her up for failure… Except her next book, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea was almost as good as the first! Who’da thunk?

my_horizontal_life_book_coverUnfortunately, her third book was not as great. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang seemed like Handler just wanted to give the reader some weird and awkward stories. It was honestly more awkward to read than her first book which was entirely about sex. This book was almost awkward and uncomfortable for the sake of being “edgy” and I didn’t like that. For example, she discusses masturbation and tells us EXACTLY when, where and how her first experience happened (Hint: it’s when she’s in third grade.) Too much, Chelsea. Too much.

Her fourth book, and the last one that I read, Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, was really kind of a bullshit book. Very few parts were written by Handler herself, and instead were just chapters written by people in her life, including the comedians that worked with her on Chelsea Lately. It was less of the humor that I was used to with Handler – drinking and sex stories, observational humor, sarcastic responses and just all around a fun read. Instead it was a novel written by everyone except Handler saying how horrible she is (in the best way). Not my kind of book.

She has a fifth book, Uganda Be Kidding Me, that I didn’t even bother reading. At the time when this book came out I had stopped watching Chelsea Lately entirely because she didn’t even want to be there anymore. Every episode she said something bad about who she was with or the network itself or would say things like “I don’t even know we’re still on the air. Stop putting us on the air.” So I just said screw it and read other books/watched other shows instead.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are so many book series, or at least books by the same author, out there that really do get worse over time. Not because the writing is worse, or the plot isn’t interesting, but rather (or at least to me) that the author kind of stops giving a shit, or tries to be something they’re not. 51febvmy-al-_sy344_bo1204203200_

You’ll all remember that I loved the first Mindy Kaling novel, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the second. I thought that even though she was trying, she was trying too hard. Her stuff wasn’t as funny anymore because she wasn’t being herself, she was being herself PLUS everything that she’s trying to sell. So instead of being Mindy Kaling, she’s being everything her brand is. It’s hard for a comedian, or any author, to write two solidly good books in a row, let alone a series of books.

I hate to say that when it comes to Chelsea or Dan Brown, their books just get worse. But it does seem to be true! For Chelsea, after the second book she ran out of material and instead of just leaving on a high note she thought, “I can still milk this and get some money off of the people who watch my show or want my books to be as good as the first one” and just went for the lazy approach of picking uncomfortable stories to tell her audience or not even really writing a book at all – having her staff do it for her. That just seems lazy.

With Dan Brown, I know he’s a great writer, I know he can come up with compelling and intriguing plots, but for whatever reason after The DaVinci Code he seemed to just stop putting as much effort into the books. It was almost like he figured his first two books were great so anything that comes after might just be filler, but he’d still be getting paid a lot of money for it, so what the hell! Let’s a write a book!

Please keep in mind, though, this is just my opinion. I’m not sure what other readers have thought on either of these topics. But for me, it’s not worth it to spend my time reading a book that I either know I won’t like or appreciate as much as I’d like to, or that just sucks. I already have limited time Dan Brown Inferno book coverto read books, I don’t want to spend that precious time not enjoying it.

Soooo, now I’m reading Inferno – the fourth and final Robert Langdon books, and this book is pretty good so far. It starts of with a bang – literally. So it’s been fun to read so far. I don’t think it’s as good as the first two, it still has the same sort of formula: Langdon is in a foreign city and has to outrun people with a beautiful woman he just met who happens to be a very strong, independent person and he brings art history and conspiracies into the mix. Every single book. But at least it’s not as bad as The Lost Symbol at this point.

I have a few more books on my reading list that I plan on getting to as soon as I’m done with the Dan Brown series, but for now I’m just enjoying the mystery of whatever the hell is  going on in this book…. what the hell is going on in this book???

I actually heard a lot of people didn’t care for this novel, but I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much!

Well, my loves, it’s been a pleasure. I hope this blog at least gets you to stop reading a bad book you’re reading and start getting into something interesting!

Until next time!

Rachel

P.S. If you’ve read any of the Chelsea Handler books and think I should give the fifth book and the new TV show on Netflix a shot, let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. I’m very on the fence and want your opinion.

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Book vs Movie: The DaVinci Code // Review

Whaddup peeps? As of exactly seven days ago, I finished the second book in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code.

First things first: I would like to preface this by saying that this book was amazing. But I would also like to say that the movie, while similar, was not as good as the book.

I think I told you guys a while ago that I had re-watched the movie The DaVinci Code for the first time in like 10 years. I really, really enjoyed the movie and was so excited about it that I went to straight to the bookstore to pick up the first two books in the series, Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. The first book, A&D, was spectacular. I was so enthralled in this book from beginning to end, it was just really fun and interesting and I loved it.

I felt the same way about The DaVinci Code – it was extremely well written, well researched, and put together. It had everything and more that I could want from a murder mystery book, and it really made me think back on history and Bible versus and things that I never could have put together to make an interesting chain of historical evidence (whether it’s fiction or not, it’s very intriguing.)

That being said, by reading this book I was actually a little more disappointed in the movie version. First of all, I don’t think they should have released the movie counterpart BEFORE A&D. Since it technically comes first in the series I think it would have made more sense to continue with releasing the movies in chronological order simply because of the character development that happens in Angels & Demons.

Here’s where I want to clarify something: I was super excited when I realized that the first movie was actually the second book. I thought it was really cool that they could switch up stories like that and still make everything in the plot make sense.

What I didn’t like was the fact that Robert Langdon, the main character and symbologist, was used in the movie to promote the fact that Sophie was related to Jesus and therefore had healing powers. In the first book, Angels & Demons, Langdon goes through a lot of difficult situations involving tight quarters and closed off spaces. Langdon, you may have guessed, is claustrophobic. He doesn’t like elevators, he doesn’t like planes, he doesn’t like anything small and enclosed.

Well, in the first book that’s never resolved; that’s just his character flaw. Good ol’ Langdon, always finding himself in tiny closed off places! That scamp! In the second book, this flaw is still not resolved. But in the first movie The DaVinci Code it is! In the movie Sophie has this weird healing power that allows her to touch people’s foreheads and cure them. So what does Sophie do? She puts her hand on Robert Langdons head and he all of a sudden can be stuck in tight corners. WHAT?!

Fine. I get that you’re trying to make a point to really prove that she has these mystical ties to Jesus and that Mary Magdalene and Jesus are her ancestors. But are you really going to sit there and tell me that she can frickin’ heal people by touching their heads but then never mention that AT ALL in the book? Like where do you even come up with that part of the plot? It’s never alluded to in the novel, it’s never mentioned that some ancestors had magical healing powers – there’s nothing even remotely close to that to give anyone that idea, and yet in the movie here she is just healing people whenever she wants.

I don’t know, I know this is a small flaw to find but it actually really irks me. I feel like if you’re going to make this HUGE point of proving that this woman is related to Jesus then you should back it up. In the book it would have been pretty easy to squeeze that little piece in because it is, after all, the second book in the series. There’s already been one book where we learn of his claustrophobia, so why not get rid of it in the second book? But they didn’t do that.

Instead, they let him stay claustrophobic and continue on to find the murderer. But in the movie they make it a big spectacle that she can heal him because that’s what her mother used to do to her and oh by the way did I mention she’s related to Jesus?

It all just seems too convenient. I was perfectly fine with having The DaVinci Code come out in film version first, I figure that each book is different enough that they can get away with it. But I just can’t condone putting magic healing powers in a movie that barely goes into his extreme fears simply to prove a point.

I can’t speak for everyone but I’m pretty sure that if we’re reading The DaVinci Code we’re not really going to second guess magical powers in the middle of the novel. It’s just not going to happen. Everyone is too involved in the book to care. I mean you could throw in a gorilla riding a unicorn with Gollum on his back yelling “I’M THE REAL JESUS” and I don’t think anyone would question it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would be fine with this whole healing power thing in the movie if it was alluded to in the book. But there was nothing that I read that would support that theory. And I’ve seen a lot of movies where they take away plot to fit it into the movie, I can’t remember a movie that added extra plot to it. I feel like they could have gone without it, or at least explained it a little bit in the book.

All that said, though, I thought this book was really great. If you’re someone who enjoys history, who likes reading about secret societies or if you just really like mystery novels this book is for you. It has everything in it: action, adventure, murder, love, car chases. Everything.

Dan Brown does an amazing job of really getting his readers to accept the theories he’s putting out there because without them none of the book would make sense. You can tell that he really did a lot of research and knows what he’s talking about when it comes to secret societies and rituals. He also consistently blows my mind with all of his symbolism work. I know that the main character is a symbologist, but it has to take a lot of time and effort to truly understand the meanings behind so many of the pictures, architecture and random trinkets discussed in the books.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone at all who loves mysteries. The book is about 600 pages but it goes by so fast with all of the craziness going on! I guarantee you’ll love this book. I do recommend that you read the book first in this case just because the book does a much better job at explaining all of the complicated rituals and beliefs than the movie does. The movie gives you more of a bare minimum or an overview instead of a solid explanation.

I’m going to start the next book in the series The Lost Symbol – this one is about Freemasons!! I’m very excited to read it and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it’s going! My only complaint so far is that they are working on the third movie which will be Inferno, but the order goes Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno. I don’t know what it is about the movies, but they just want everything to be all outta whack.

If you’ve read any of the Robert Langdon series comment down below and let me know what you thought so we can talk about it and I won’t feel like a crazy person just sitting here obsessing over these books!

Until next time, friends!

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Top 3 Books I Want To Read

Hi friends! So this week I’m in a funky mood. I’ve been wanting to buy more books but I don’t have enough money and I already have a ton of books that I haven’t read yet that I need to read. It pains me to want to buy books so badly and not do it, but it’s for the best, I’m sure.

I have a pretty big collection of books. Most of them I’ve read but some of them I haven’t. Recently I’ve been trying to read all the books I own instead of going out and buying new books. This is great for my bank account, and it’s super difficult for me. So rather than pine and think of all the books I want to buy, I’m going to get myself excited about the books that I already own.

So without further ado, let’s begin:

  1. The Revenant – Michael PunkeTheRevenant_Poster

I actually just saw the movie based on the book and it was fantastic! I had no idea that this movie was a book first (published in 2015) and the second I saw the cover at Barnes & Noble I had to buy it. This is my most recent purchase and I’m just itching to read it. For those who haven’t heard of the book or the movie, the premise is about a trapper in the 1800s who is mauled by a bear and left for dead, but not before his son is killed before his eyes with no way to stop it. This book/movie is the ultimate book of revenge and vindication, and I can’t wait to read it.

Side note: The movie was incredible (yes, I will eventually do a Book vs Movie on this one). And I love Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s easily one of my favorite male actors. Everything he touches turns to gold (except his Oscar…. poor Leo.)

2. The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City – Jennifer Toth

This is a book I’ve wanted to read since the mid-2000s but was a little too scared to. As someone who lives relatively close to New York City, I’ve walked those streets many-a-time and don’t really like thinking that there could potentially be an entire race of people who live beneath your feet in total squalor, but with a somewhat advanced society. I don’t know, it just always scared the living daylights out of me.

molepeopleBut recently I’ve wanted to learn more. I’ve been told that this book is fiction, but nearly everything I’ve read has said that this book is categorized under “non-fiction” and “history” and that fascinates me even more. This book and the stories told within it could be fiction or they could be facts.

It’s one of those things where when I think of it, my brain logically goes into “oh please, this is totally fiction” but slowly changes to, “hold up. Of course it’s true!” I mean let’s just discuss the possibility here for a second: New York City is completely overpopulated. Years and years ago it was so crowded that they couldn’t build outward anymore, only upward. Who’s to say that they couldn’t built downward as well?

Looking at an entire city filled with more than 8 million people spanned over 305 square miles, where are they all going to live? Let’s assume that each person has an apartment – that’s 400 square feet that they need to live in. At a certain point you can’t build flat anymore – you have to start building up. There’s unlimited space in the sky. Maybe having the world’s tallest apartment building isn’t the greatest idea, but hell! It gets people to be off the streets and in their own space!

So if you agree with the fact that you can’t build on the ground anymore, and can only go up, what makes you think you can’t go down? What in the world would stop people who don’t have the money to afford a NYC apartment from inhabiting the tunnels hundreds of feet below the surface? Nothing! They’ve already been excavated, you can continue to excavate the area, and you’re free of the windy air pummeling down on the other NYC homeless. And that’s why I absolutely can’t wait to read it. It’s just so interesting!

    3. The Lost Symbol and Inferno – Dan Brown

I know I’ve already discussed reading the first of the Robert Langdon series Angels & Demons but I’m just so so so excited to finish this series. I’m halfway through the second book, The DaVinci Code, and I’m absolutely loving it. My boyfriend was sweet enough to surprise me with the last two RobertLangdonbooks of the series so that I wouldn’t have to go out and buy them. (He’s a good man who knows the way to my heart!) And since then, they’ve been sitting on our coffee table just whispering, “read me! we love you! you know you’re curious! read me!” and damn is it hard to resist!

I’m not even halfway through the entire series and I’m already thinking this is one of the best mystery/adventure/historical fiction-ish series I’ve read. It has everything: history, murder, bad guys, guns, an awesome symbologist, super smart women, and conspiracy theories (that honestly make a hell of a lot of sense)! It’s amazing!

I highly recommend reading these books if you haven’t already (I know, I’m late to the Dan Brown game).

So those are the top three books that I have in my possession right now that I absolutely can not wait to read!!!!!!

If you have any books that you think I should read, or any books that you think I should add to my collection please feel free to let me know!

Until next time!

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com