What I Read When I Read About Love

Our Valentine's Day at the Avenue Hotel. Photo: Avenue Hotel, Copenhegen

Photo: Avenue Hotel, Copenhegen

I know, I am a few days late–but I was in Copenhagen celebrating Valentine’s Day with my gorgeous hubby. I won a Valentine’s Day stay at Avenue Hotel, a design boutique hotel in Copenhagen’s Fredriksberg district. The stay included a cozy tower room at the hotel (breakfast included), champagne, pastries from Strangas Dessert Boutique and an amazing dinner at Höst. Needless to say, inspiration came to me while I was there and there will definitely be a a follow-up to Maybe Baby.

But while I was there, I starting thinking about which books would be on my Books About Love 2014 list–if I had one.

 

Sex in the Title CoverSex in the Title by Zack Love – a satirical rom-com set in New York City in the 1990s that revolves around the romantic adventures (and misadventures) of five guys who think they are going to conquer the world. Since it’s set in the 90s, the New York we find is pre-smart phone, the Twin Towers are still standing and there’s a wonderful air of nostalgia (perfect for someone like me who was a teenager in the 1980s and in college and grad school in the 1990s). Contrary to the title, the book is not all about sex. It’s more about the pie in the sky ambitions and goals we set for ourselves when we’re young and naive and what happens when we are finally faced with reality. Now, how can this be a rom-com then? Well, Zack Love interweaves the tales of five friends and their pursuit of love. Yes, there are foibles, nothing is perfect–even the people who almost seem too perfect are just as flawed as you want them to be. This is a book with so many laugh-out-loud moments as you are reminded of your own romantic foibles and dreams of youth. Bravo, Zack!

 

cover-jod-webcover-joy-webJust One Day/Just One Year by Gayle Forman – Wonderful books about Allyson and Willem, who meet by chance in the UK during an open-air performance of Shakespeare and what happens when Willem convinces Allyson to do something unexpected–go to Paris with him even if it’s just for one day. What happens during that day and, in the next book, as they try to reconnect, is amazing. If you liked Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, you’ll love these books.

 

Is Marriage coverIs Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriae Decline Affects Everyone by Ralph Richard Banks – The title alone is enough to stop you in your tracks but there is more to this book than meets the eye. It is an interesting study of love and marriage within the African-American community and how antiquated ideas of the black woman’s place in society had led to a decline in marriage within the community and the implications it has on US society. Banks questions why it is considered acceptable for African-American men to marry outside of their race while the same is not always true for African-American women. He also examines the mixed messages sent to young men and women by the media, their families, the church, etc about their place in society. So why do I consider it a book about love? Because quite a bit of the book examines why African-American women may maintain friendships or be attracted to men of other races but will not, or are reluctant to, pursue relationships with these men. Since I write a lot about interracial relationships, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that social pressure can prevent someone from seeking love.

 

The-FLAVOURS-OF-LOVE-HB-654x1024The Flavors of Love by Dorothy Koomson – Dorothy Koomson has always said that what she writes is heart fiction–not simply women’s fiction. Her books are always about love and the choices we make because of love. This book is more suspense than romance–the story revolves around Saffron Mackleroy, a widow whose husband was murdered eighteen months prior to the start of the novel. On the outside, Saffron looks like she’s coping well with her situation–she’s even decided to finish writing the cookbook her husband was working on. But then her fourteen-year-old daughter Phoebe gets in trouble at school and confesses to something that begins to tear apart the semblance of normalcy Saffron is trying to maintain. And then the person convicted of killing Saffron’s husband begins sending her letters and claiming to be innocent. It’s easy to get hooked by The Flavors of Love. I know I did! Another great one, Dorothy! Can’t wait for your next book. 🙂

That’s it for now! What books would you put on your Books About Love list?

Three More Books to Read This Summer

You all know how much of a book nerd I am. I proudly fly my book nerd flag. 🙂 So while everyone else around me has been going clubbing or sailing or disappearing to summer houses or the Greek islands (and all those other things Stockholmers do when it’s summer), I’ve been working and reading. You may remember I took two weeks off in June, went to Italy, wrote and lived la dolce vita. Since then, I’ve been working, working, working and taking the occasional weekend trip. And all the while I’ve been reading. 🙂

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Cover of Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh

It’s been a while since I read any sci-fi novels. None has really jumped out at me. So I was really pleased when I heard about Love Minus Eighty through a Twitter connection. The story is set in a future version of New York where one’s love life is as closely monitored like a reality TV show and death isn’t always the end–especially if you’re an attractive woman on the right side of thirty. This addictive novel follows the stories of several interconnected characters as they try to figure out romantic love in an age where technology has taken over. This is not your usual sci-fi novel. It reads more like speculative literary fiction and is a real page-turner. I loved sinking my teeth into it, and I think you will too. The world presented is like Facebook on crack…no, more like Facebook on the most psychedelic drug you could imagine. Hats off to Will McIntosh for such a brilliantly written novel! This was the first time I’d ever read his work and I am already a fan. 🙂

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Cover of French Kissing by Catherine Sanderson

French Kissing – Catherine Sanderson

French Kissing is not a new book. It was originally published in 2009, but I only just heard about it a few weeks ago. I was thinking about booking a weekend trip to Paris and stumbled upon a short interview with Catherine Sanderson and her experiences as an expat living in France. And as an expat living in Stockholm, I always find it fun to read books about others wading in the murky waters of another country’s culture and unwritten rules of society. And Sally, French Kissing‘s heroine, is doing just that while also trying to raise her four-year-old daughter Lila and maintain an amicable relationship with her ex, the faithless Nico. While Nico has moved on with two other women, Sally hasn’t dated and decides it’s time to take the plunge and rejoin the dating market. She does so via Rendez-Vous, the French version of match.com. We follow Sally through a few dreadful dates, a few not-qute-right-but-nice-enough dates and all the while get an idea of what it’s like to date in a foreign language. Sanderson does a great job of giving the reader insight into how the French (and especially Parisians) date and what it’s like raising a bilingual child while also trying to maneuver as a newly single mum. Sally is an extremely likable character. She is definitely not an all-too perfect Mary Sue. And her journey from coupledom to singledom while looking for love is an addictive read!

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Cover of S.G. Redling’s Damocles

I first heard about the plot of Damocles during a Matera brainstorming session. I thought the story–of a crew on a one-way expedition into deep space mission to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence–was intriguing. I couldn’t wait for the book to finally come out, and it doesn’t disappoint. Linguist Meg Dupris and her crew have the daunting task of making first contact with the humanoid inhabitants of Didet, an earth-like planet with eternal sunlight. But first they must overcome the Didetos’ fear that the “earthers” are there as invaders…and they must find a way to communicate when there is no common language. The story moves quickly, with Meg and Loul, a Dideto who predicted that “aliens” would come, struggling to figure out how to interact and learn from one another–and realizing they have more in common than they think. What I really liked with Damocles is how the story is told from both Meg and Loul’s perspective. So we get a very interesting view of just how first contact might be. Two thumbs up!

OK! That’s it for now! Happy reading (and writing)!

My Spring 2013 reading list

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No blossoms yet in Stockholm, but soon!

Spring has finally arrived in Stockholm, Sweden–the air is getting warmer, the ice on Brunnsviken has finally melted, I could actually go out without a thick scarf and hat on. You know what that means–now I get to tell you what books I plan on reading (or am already reading).

So what’s on the list this time? One oldie and lots of new books. 🙂

  • The Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton. Now, I read this book a few years ago and loved it. I was feeling nostalgic and decided to read it again.
  • The Husband Diet by Nancy Barone. Nancy is one of my fellow Matera brainstormers and this is one of the books we brainstormed together. Can’t wait to finally read it. I’ve preordered it. 🙂
  • Damocles by S.G. Redling. Sheila is another Matera brainstormer and Damocles is another book we all brainstormed. I loved the plot when she told us about it. I think this is going to be another hit like her previous novel, Flowertown. Different genre, complete different story but I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
  • The Lost Daughter by Mary Williams. Williams is an African-American woman who was adopted by actress Jane Fonda. The Lost Daughter is her memoir about growing up in Oakland in the 1970s and what brought her to the camp Fonda and then-husband Tom Hayden ran. It’s also a story about self-discovery and knowing when you can go home again.
  • Leftovers by Stella Newman. I loved Newman’s Pear Shaped--even when her main character was driving me crazy with being submissive to an emotionally-unavailable man. According to the back cover blurb, Leftovers is about friendship, love and enjoying what’s left on the table. I’ve already got it on my Kindle…soon I’ll dive in. 🙂
  • Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy. Every now and then, I need a dose of paranormal, and it looks like this time it will be the werewolves of Hemlock Grove who give me my dose. 🙂
  • Lessons in French by Hillary Reyl. Set in Paris in 1989, this is a story about a woman rediscovering Paris and her past. It’s also about what happens when life begins to spiral out of control. I can’t wait to dig into this one! 😀
  • Banker’s Death: Temptation in Florence #3 by Beate Boeker. Beate’s a fellow Matera brainstormer and, as I posted earlier, I love her sense of humor and her quirky cast of characters.
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Theresa Anne Fowler. Having read so much by and inspired by  F.Scott, it’s great to finally find a novel about Zelda. This one is sure to be enthralling!
  • Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice. Rice is the pseudonym for one my fellow Matera Brainstormers. She writes great romantic and erotic suspense and this is one of her books which I haven’t read yet. I think I will take this one with me to Copenhagen in a few weeks! 🙂

That’s it for now. I am anxious to get working on Maybe Baby again. I’m revising Chapter 7. Five more chapters to tighten and then I will feel ready to release it. 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)! 🙂

Review: Gayle Forman’s Just One Day

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Cover of Gayle Forman’s Just One Day

I was in the mood for a romantic book that wasn’t a romance. At first, I thought I wanted some chick lit or women’s fiction but then I stumbled upon Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and it struck a nostalgic chord in me. I bought it on a whim and don’t regret it.

Just One Day is a new adult novel that revolves around good girl Allyson’s journey to finding herself and love lost. Everything starts in England–just before her freshman year at Harvard starts–when Allyson and her best friend Melanie decide to check out an underground performance of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. That’s when Allyson first catches sight of Willem de Ruiter, a free-spirited young Dutch actor. Sparks fly and, on a whim, Allyson decides to go to Paris with Willem. During their time together, she blossoms, becoming Lulu–a more laid-back and adventurous version of herself as Willem encourages her to stop following a plan that was never hers to begin with. But nothing goes as smoothly as Allyson hopes. Willem’s good looks mean that she is under the constant scrutiny of other young women who are attracted to him and there are the inevitable meetings with girls from his past. But along the way, Allyson learns to let go and to let herself experience life and love without the suffocating boundaries set up by her parents. But just as quickly as they meet, a misunderstanding tears them apart and Allyson eventually returns to the confines of her life in the US, wondering if that one day with Willem meant as much to him as it has to her and if she can ever find him again.

While I was reading Just One Day, I was reminded of the movie Before Sunrise. There is the chance meeting in an unexpected setting, the American falling in love with the European, and the limited time they have together. But that’s where the similarities end. Forman has written a story that is in itself like the Shakespearean plays Allyson studies–where no one is quite what they seem. Willem is charming and frustrating and, according to Allyson, too beautiful for her. And  Allyson, insecure and overprotected, becomes the woman she wants to be as they explore the beauty…and sometimes the dangers…of Paris.

I loved reading Just One Day. I thought it was an elegantly written novel with beautiful descriptions of Paris and Utrecht and scenes set in Philadelphia that made me just a tad bit homesick. 🙂 The characters are three-dimensional and come to life, making you care about them and cheer for them. The sequel to Just One Day, told from Willem’s point of view and called Just One Year, is coming soon, and I can’t wait to read it.

My take on it? 5 stars.

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