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

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An Open Letter to John Green

Before I begin, I’d like to express that I’ll be back to do normal posts very soon. This is a fluke….or is it? You decide. Until next time, friends.

Dear John Green,

I hope you had a pleasant and chocolate filled Easter! I’m currently looking at my Easter basket and am eyeing the chocolate duck. I’ve eaten it’s head so far (sorry duck) but all I’m thinking is, “damn, I want to eat the rest.” And honestly, I’m so torn apart right now that I just might.

Why am I so unhappy, you may ask? Because I just finished reading your critically acclaimed The Fault In Our Stars about thirty minutes ago. Normally I would turn this post into a Book vs Movie post, but I genuinely think it might deserve two posts – one letter to you and one book vs movie – just simply based on the fact that my little aching heart can’t watch the movie yet. I need time to process. To heal.

But I will give you my book review. So I’ll go ahead and give you my rating: 5 stars. No, 15 stars. This was the fault in our stars you were speaking of, Green: the fault in our star rating system because there’s no star high enough to accurately assess this novel. Wonderful.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, but based simply on the fact that everyone was reading the book, and everyone was loving the movie, I didn’t read it or see the movie. I didn’t want to be peer pressured into reading a book by some dude I didn’t know when I could be reading a book by Amy Tan. That was until I read Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle and yourself. I loved it. I loved it so much, and I loved your part of the story so much, that TFIOS quickly moved up my “to-read” list.

Having promised myself that I wouldn’t keep reading science fiction and fantasy novels exclusively, I decided it was time to read the book. You start the novel with a bang – cancer. You have this writing style that is so conversational, but at the same time you feel like you’re getting smarter just reading it. It’s so intelligent, and you use that intelligence to perfectly express exactly what the character is feeling in a way that a real person would feel. I can’t get over the magic of this novel.

Side note to my blog family: In case you don’t know what the premise of the novel is about, here’s a brief back cover summary: A cancer ridden Hazel is depressed and stays at her house all day watching reality TV shows. Her mom then sends her to make some friends at a cancer support group in their local church. She meets a cancer survivor named Augustus, and she starts thinking differently.

As a sarcastic and introverted person who absolutely loves reality TV (don’t judge me) I absolutely loved Hazel. I thought she was a brilliant character with a beautiful heart, and realistic expectations – and maybe a defeatist attitude. Augustus, the everlasting love interest, was portrayed as this funny, optimistic, romantic teenage boy who just wanted the girl to love him, but was really so much more than that.

And that is why I’m writing this open letter to you. As a habitual reader – clean and sober 30 minutes – I usually get way too invested in my books. They’re the great love of my life (along with my boyfriend – Hi, Anthony!) so I often put my whole mind and soul into a book – I become defenseless to these characters and allow the author to toy with my emotions for several hundred pages. There is usually an expectation, though. That, yes, I allow the author to invade my psyche with the understanding that at the end of the book I may be sad, but I won’t feel devastated.

You have crossed that boundary, sir. It has happened before, but I’m putting this on the top five list. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily that the ending was an all consuming devastation of a single event, but rather that the entire novel was devastating. It was one thing after another, and even with a fairly happy ending, you still know that more goes on when the book is finished. Much like Hazel and her obsession with Peter van Houten’s novel in the book, I just want to know what happens when the book is over. It’s only now that I realize how much of a written genius you are to have the presence of mind to create a book so devastating but so familiar and friendly, only to have it end the way you ended it, much like van Houten’s book.

Well, I feel as though I’ve berated you enough, good sir. I would like to say some kind words before we part: I absolutely LOVED this book. I truly felt connected to it in a way that I haven’t felt with another book in a while. So I want to congratulate you on creating a masterpiece, and for possibly becoming my next favorite author.

I almost wrote “I love you, Bye” before I realized that’s not how you end a letter. So until next time, okay? I love you, bye.

Rachel

The Genre Dilemma

I’m at a dilemma. After reading The Mime Order I’m kind of stuck in a rut due to my current love of the supernatural.

I ought to give you the whole backstory. You see, I have a predisposition of getting obsessed with a genre and sticking to it for a really long time until I get bored with it and move on. I do this a lot – the most memorable and long obsessions began about two years ago, when I started reading books about Asian culture.

It all started with the wonderful Amy Tan and her first novel The Joy Luck Club which chronicled a group of older female Chinese immigrants and their daughters in San Francisco. I had actually read an excerpt of the novel and was absolutely fascinated to the point where I just had to read the book. It was, and remains, one of my favorite books of all time. It’s heart warming, heart breaking, and everything in-between.

After that I decided to read her newest book The Valley of Amazement about a Chinese/American woman living and working in multiple courtesan houses. Now this book was incredible. I’ve mentioned before that a great book makes you feel as though you’re the character. That their pain is your pain, that their activities are your activities. That is exactly what happened here. I felt so connected with the main character that I actually took the book with me places so I could read while I was waiting for appointments or classes or whatever I had going on that day. I would literally break down in tears while in public reading this book. In fact, I was waiting for a class to start (I had two hours before it started) and decided I would buckle up and read the rest of the novel. I finished it in an hour and a half, and spent the next thirty minutes crying in the women’s restroom. It, too, was spectacular. Absolutely amazing, and gut wrenching at the same time.

Soon I had read nearly all of Tan’s books (I only have one of her books left! I’m saving it for the perfect time!) and was watching a documentary on olden days China on Netflix when I came across a documentary on Geisha girls in Japan. Oh my god was I fascinated. I was so fascinated that when I finished the documentary I immediately ordered Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, who was featured in the film. I was so entranced by his novel that I actually ended up writing an entire essay based on Geishas and their customs. It took a lot of documentaries and a lot of books, but I couldn’t have been happier doing that research.

So, for me at least, finding a subject that I enjoy and want to learn more about means reading a ton of novels based on the topic. My sister and I even went to Boston and I saw a woman reading a book on the subway based on a Japanese family’s life over the span of something crazy like 100 years, and I took note of the book and author so that when we got home I could buy the book. That happened about 7 months ago. I was on this Asian kick for nearly a year. I was that obsessed.

Now, I’ve moved on to supernatural/fantasy novels, usually young adult. I’ve always loved this genre – I mean my blog name is based off of a line from Harry Potter! But last January when I read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, I began to slowly integrate fantasy novels into my repertoire, until it became all I was reading. I read books in the meantime (and I’ll admit some of them were about Asian culture – you never get rid of a love!) but I waited an entire year for the Bone Season sequel to come out. That was “my precious.” Then I finally got and read the sequel, The Mime Order, all I want now is for the next book. My next “precious.”

And this is where the dilemma begins. After reading such an wonderful novel, it’s so hard to find something similar that can live up to my expectations. So, I can either stick to my guns and continue reading supernatural/fantasy novels (I’m currently almost done with The Maze Runner by James Dashner) or I can reach out and find a new topic to hone in on. I was thinking of switching over to romance novels – I just bought One Day by David Nicholls, or perhaps a John Green novel… but then fantasy novels are just amazing, and so exciting to read! Dilemma, dilemma…

Let me know what you guys think. Maybe I’ll start taking some suggestions!

In the meantime, let’s get reading! Until next time.

Rachel

Books I Want To Read Part 1

It occurs to me that I’ve told you to read books, but I haven’t told you what books I look forward to reading! It’s weird because I read a lot of books, but I also have a HUGE amount of books that I buy in bulk purchases that I want to read and haven’t gotten the chance to… yet. This will have to be separated into a couple of parts because there’s no way I can cover them all in one blog post.

That said, I’d like to talk about the first book I’ve been wanting to read: Samantha Shannon’s The Mime Order which I’ve been waiting for, for over a year, has FINALLY arrived!!! I told you a bit about The Bone Season, and I told you I’ve been waiting for her new book to arrive at my house so I can read it. Well, I pre-ordered the book online about a little more than a month ago to make sure I’d get a copy the day it came out. On January 27th, the day The Mime Order came out in stores and online, I got an e-mail saying that my shipment had been delayed. I was sad, but I figured that it would ship the next day and then I’d be all set with my new book for overnight shipping. Nope. It took until January 31st for them to ship me my book, and I got it three days ago, February 2nd. I was very frustrated, but I have it now, so let bygones be bygones. I am so ecstatic that it has finally arrived, though! You’ll all be getting a review of the book as soon as I’m done!!

Now onto some of the books I want to read:

  • This second one is embarrassing that I haven’t read it yet, but I really want to read it!! The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. My last post mentioned the book Let it Snow by a trio of authors, one of whom is John Green. If his other books are anything like what he wrote in that novel, I will love this book. Everyone already seems to love both the book and the movie, so I really need to read it ASAP. Sorry John Green lovers! I’ll read it as soon as I can! (And maybe make a book vs movie in the process!!)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Another book turned movie that I have yet to read. The movie looks amazing, and I contemplated seeing the movie first, but then decided against it (just FYI, I could write an entire blog about that alone. It’s such a tough decision!!!) I honestly don’t know too much about the novel except that there’s a murder and they’re trying to figure out who killed the person. But everyone has said that the book is amazing with a million plot twists, so I’ll give it a shot!
  • The next book, All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman, looks amazing. It’s about a a boy who has superhero friends, and marries a superhero. But one of her ex-boyfriends hypnotizes her so her husband is invisible. The husband then has a limited amount of time to get her to see him or she never will see him. It seems like such a weird concept that it HAS to be amazing. I’ve heard great things about it, so I look forward to reading it.
  • The last book that I reeeeeally want to read is the first of a series: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for so long. Every time I see it I say, “Oh! I’ll read that next!!” and then I get distracted by shiny objects and forget about it for a while. From what I gather of the book, it follows a girl whose family comes from a long line of witches. She finds an old alchemy book that awakens all types of demons and monsters and other sinister things and she’s the only one who can stop them. It looks so good. This is really the exact type of book I love to read most, and it’s even a series!! I can’t wait to read it. Soon… soon…

So that’s it for now, I have so many more to tell you, but I know if I keep going it’ll be a list of 30 books I want to read. So I’ll split this up and keep you posted on some stuff I want to read as it comes along. I hope you’re all enjoying the first of the next six more weeks of winter! Has it been six weeks yet?

Until next time!

Rachel