Monday, July 28, 2008

Sam's Letters to Jennifer

Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson is a thoughtful romantic novel. It was an endearing and hopeful love story and made a cynic like me believe in true love.

The book is about a woman named Jennifer whose Grandmother Sam falls into a coma. Jennifer rushes to Lake Geneva to be by her Sam’s hospital bedside. While at her Sam’s house, she discovers a stack of letters addressed to her in which Sam narrates her loveless marriage and how she found true love.

Jennifer’s husband died about a year ago and she is clearly still mourning his passing. Now with her best friend in the hospital, she feels her world is crumbling around her. And then she finds the letters and discovers her Grandmother’s secret. Her Grandfather married Sam under false pretenses and Sam had resolved herself to a life without real love. Until she meets Doc and she is so full of love, but must always keep it secret.

While reading Sam’s letters, Jennifer finds herself slowly falling in love with Brendan, her childhood playmate at the lake. The impossible has happened; Jennifer has opened herself up to love again only to find out that Brendan is dying of a brain cancer. She has learned to love once more and it could be taken away from her in one heartbeat.

This story pulls at my heartstrings and yet it is so simple and full of hope. My favorite part is when Sam wakes up from the coma and meets Brendan and says to him, “So why have you given up hope? How can you leave someone as special as Jennifer without a fight?” Finally someone is voicing what I have been thinking for years! I believe a lot of relationships fail because people aren’t willing to fight for the relationship. It’s a lot easier to walk away from someone than it is to stay together and work at the relationship. Even with all the love that Brendan feels for Jennifer, he was going to have this one summer and then die. But Sam’s words made him want to fight for something more than just a summer regardless of what it might cost him.

I did wonder why Sam never left her husband even after he showed his true colors, but I guess there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell. I love the idea that Sam wrote these letters to Jennifer to give her an insight into her life and also into Jennifer’s. As Sam writes,
“Right now, I’m thinking about love: the hot, crazy kind that turns your chest into a bell and your heart into a clapper. But also the more enduring kind
that comes from knowing someone else deeply and letting yourself be known … I
guess I believe in both kinds of love, both kinds at the same time and with the
same person.”
That’s what Sam had with Doc and what Jennifer finds with Brendan.

While I found some similarities between Patterson and Nicholas Sparks, I absolutely was not depressed or saddened by Sam’s Letters to Jennifer. In fact, I felt more inspired and hopeful that a deep, blazing, caring genuine love does exist out there. You just have to be open to it and know when to fight for it. As Sam says, “Love never dies.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Beautiful Day

Yesterday I felt inspired so I grabbed my camera and headed over to Brookside Gardens. This is my first time going there all year! I usually like to go in the spring when all the flowers are in full bloom, but now towards the end of July most of the flowers are starting to wilt. Yesterday was perfect weather though. It was hot, but not too humid and I spent a good solid two hours walking around and taking some great shots.

Here are some of my favorites from yesterday:

I love the rich blue of the flower and the softness it evokes and the hard line of the tree trunk behind it.

I've always been a fan of pics with roads or paths in them. It reminds me that there is always an open road to take.

I love the reflection of the clouds in the water.

I'm a linear person and I love clean lines.

This is by far one of my favorite shots. Everything just looks so peaceful and tranquil.

I love the vibrant red of this flower.

I love the splash of sunshine in this flower.

There was something so moving about seeing this hallowed out tree trunk just laying there in its glory.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Marriage Spell

Although I have been having a really fun summer (more on that later), I have been in a really pissy mood (again, more on that later), that I knew I needed to read a fun trashy romance novel. I headed over to my local library to see if I could find anything that would catch my fancy. I knew I wanted to try a different author since I feel Johanna Lindsey has become stale, but it’s so hard to find a gem in this genre.

And then I came across Mary Jo Putney’s, The Marriage Spell. The premise sounded kinda cheesy, but out of all the authors I picked up, I kept returning to her. The story involves magic, wizards and spells, the dork in me just couldn’t resist!

The tale takes place in England, as all good romance novels should. It’s the early 1800’s and we meet Abigail Barton a gifted wizard and healer. Having magical abilities is a great gift, but is not accepted by general society and the upper crust. Luckily for Abby, she lives in an area where her and her father are respected healers.

As a young boy Jack Langdon, Lord Frayne, was sent to Stonebridge Academy where they beat the propensity of young gentlemen that either have magical talents or are far too interested in magic. After leaving the Academy, Jack has a strong distaste for anything magical.

Until he suffers a life-threatening riding accident where Abby uses her special healing powers to restore his health in exchange for his hand in marriage. Jack must accept the fact that he is married to a powerful wizard and that he may himself have strong magical powers.

With Abby’s help, Jack learns to accept his true nature and overcome his fears toward magic. He respects her and has tremendous pride in his new wife. Slowly you see them fall in love with each other and its really sweet. Instead of each other being the obstacle towards true love, they confront his evil stepfather together, and in doing so brings them closer.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I’m glad I picked it up. It was nice and refreshing that there wasn’t a cat and mouse game with Abby chasing after Jack or vice versa. Instead they got married early into the book and you got to see their relationship develop from mere strangers, to friends and then to lovers.

Although I have this labeled as a trashy romance novel, there wasn’t enough graphic sex to my liking, but what are ya gonna do? This books wasn’t trashy at all, but a very nice well developed love story. I liked how Putney made love magical and that there is real power between two people who are in love. As Jack states, “Together we can face anything Scranton can throw at us.’ This was the magical spell created by marriage he realized. Together they were greater than the sum of their individual parts.”

The Marriage Spell was a nice and easy read and to me wasn’t a cookie cutter romance novel. I liked that the characters did not fight their feelings for each other and instead learned to embrace themselves and grow with one another. I may have found a new go to in the romance genre.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bookish Meme

I have seen numerous meme's like this before and finally decided to do one. I originally saw this on Once Upon a Bookshelf. Here are the rules:

The instructions:

Look at the list and

Bold those you have read.
Italicize those you intend to read.
Underline the books you LOVE.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (does it count that I have read one book out of the series)
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (I really don’t like Dickens, but had to read him in school)
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (I’m pretty sure I read this or I may have seen the movie way too many times so I think I have read it)
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. . Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (Hated this book)

92.The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Monday, July 14, 2008

See Ya Soon Mr. Nice Guy

This weekend was a bittersweet weekend for me. I said farewell to someone who has become a dear sweet friend to me. You first met him as Mr. Nice Guy. After a few dates, we both realized that there was nothing really there and promised to remain friends, which we actually did.

We didn’t hang out every weekend, but we did make an effort to hang out at least once a month. He was one of my favorite people to go to sporting events with although we never did catch a Skins or Wizard’s game. We always had great conversations and I always felt very relaxed around him and I knew I could always be myself around him with no judgment.

And when he hit a rough patch with his father passing away unexpectedly, I did my best to be there for him. I knew how hard and upset he was over his father, especially because he was so close to his family and being the eldest son always took care of his family. I gently reminded him that he needed to take care of himself and allow himself to mourn. I wanted to badly to erase the pain that he was going through.

Mr. Nice Guy is moving down South. He’s an Army Doc and got his new orders. He left this morning. We had our goodbye brunch yesterday, talking about our goals for the future and me promising to come down and visit him.

At one point in the conversation he looked at me and said, “I wish things had turned out differently for us.” It caught me off guard, but I replied back, “I know exactly what you mean. I wish the same.” And I can honestly say I meant it. As we hugged each other goodbye, I held on tightly to him, not wanting to let him go. I knew I would miss our friendship dearly and also our lost opportunity.

Mr. Nice Guy is such an amazing person. I wish I had given him more of a chance when we first went out on those couple of dates. I wish I wasn’t scared of the possibility of being with a nice guy and really allowed myself to see what could happen. I don’t think I gave him a fair chance and cut it off before it even started. But I also know that he deserves someone who will appreciate him for his kindness, loyalty, honesty, friendship and love and I know inherently that I would take him and all of his great qualities for granted. And he deserves so much more than that. I firmly believe that timing is everything and I wasn’t ready for what he had to offer me.

I really hope he enjoys himself in this next stage of his life. I hope he meets a nice Southern Belle that will adore him completely. I hope he figures out what he wants to conquer next after his stint in the Army is up. I hope nothing but the best for him.

As we pulled away from our embrace he said, “I’m not even going to tell you to come down because you always have an open invitation to come visit me.” And I responded, “I promise.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Love the One You're With

I was sucked into Emily Giffin’s new book, Love the One You’re With as soon as I read the synopsis. I am such a sucker for unrequited love stories or stories that involve past loves coming back and spinning your world into chaos. I love the drama. Explains a lot, huh?

Ellen and Andy have the perfect marriage. They love, trust and support one another, but one day walking down the street in New York City, Ellen bumps into her old love, Leo. And from that moment, Ellen’s marriage heads into a tailspin. It’s not that she doesn’t love her husband; she loves him dearly and cherishes the life they share. But she also never stopped loving Leo. He was the mad passionate love affair; Leo was the one that got away.

What begins as a simple run in turns into so much more. Ellen goes down the dangerous path of reminiscing over her relationship with Leo and wondering how things fell apart. She also partakes in the treacherous comparison game between Andy and Leo, which never goes well. All her old feelings for Leo quickly resurface after their encounter and Ellen is left feeling unsettled.

She starts to question her marriage to Andy and cannot deny the strong attraction she feels for Leo. Slowly she feels herself being sucked back in by Leo even taking a photography gig that he helped get for her. All the while Andy suspects nothing.

To escape her feelings for Leo, Ellen agrees to move to Atlanta so that Andy can work for his father’s law firm. Her resentment towards Andy only builds in Atlanta, where she feels like she has morphed into a stepford wife, which only causes her to question her marriage to Andy more and what her feelings for Leo means.

Eventually the truth comes out right before Ellen is about to fly back to New York to do another photo shoot with Leo. Andy is upset and gives Ellen an ultimatum, if she goes to New York than she better not come home to him. And even with this dire threat, Ellen has to go to New York to see Leo.

There she must decide what she wants out of her life. Does she throw away her marriage for a man whom she has loved desperately, but who also hurt her deeply? Or does she return to a man who has loved her, but to a life that leaves her unsatisfied?

I enjoyed this book more so than Giffin’s previous novel, Baby Proof. I could predict the ending, but I was happy with the way it ended. Spoiler alert: I’m glad Ellen realized she was about to ruin her marriage for a man that didn’t have the balls to fight for their relationship when they were first together. I’m glad she didn’t cheat on Andy and realized that he is exactly where she is supposed to be. As she states, “I hold that day deep within myself, as a reminder that love is the sum of our choices, the strength of our commitments, the ties that bind us together.”

I think it’s fascinating how we can hold onto our past loves and they almost become idolized in our heads. I know I’m privy to that. There is one ex in particular where all I remember is the good times and I gloss over the rough ones. And I sometimes wonder what would happen if he came back into my life asking for another chance. Would I let him have it or would I remember all the reasons why we’re not compatible? And when I finally meet someone new, will I still wonder about him or will he just be a past love that brings a smile to my face?

Do you ever fall out of love with someone or does that love just merely change and morph into a new type of love? As I said, I love books that pose these types of questions. And while there was a happy ending to this book, I appreciate the fact that Giffin didn’t wrap it up too nicely. Even a year later, Ellen and Andy still struggle to find the right balance for their marriage and have found a compromise that works for the both of them currently. I’m relieved that she broke free of Leo’s hold on her.