Reading List: Valentine’s Day

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This Valentine’s Day, pick up a book with a little romance! The 10 books listed below are either about relationships or feature them in a memorable way.

 

Persuasion by Jane Austen

What happens when two people with a history meet once again, years later? Jane Austen’s characters come to life in this brief tale of romance and personal growth.

 

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simpson

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?

 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds: smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is not just about children and teenagers fighting for their lives. It’s also about learning how to love someone, even if you’ve been stuck in survival mode for a long time.

 

Where The River Ends by Charles Martin

He was a fishing guide and struggling artist from a south George trailer park. She was the beautiful only child of South Carolina’s most powerful senator. Yet once Doss Michaels and Abigail Grace Coleman met by accident, they each felt they’d found their true soul mate.

 

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Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance by Julianne Donaldson

When Marianne receives an invitation to spend the summer with her twin sister in Edenbrooke, she has no idea of the romance and adventure that await her once she meets the dashing Sir Philip.

 

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This one’s a wild and tempestuous romance, but the classic Wuthering Heights has fascinated readers for years. At its center are Catherine and Heathcliff, and the self-contained world of Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and the wild Yorkshire moors that the characters inhabit.

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The book in the famous series in which Harry, Hermione, and Ron are suddenly teenagers who are trying to figure out dating- as well as where Voldemort’s Horcruxes are.

 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Henry

The love story of C.S. Lewis and his wife, Helen Joy Davidman Gresham, was improbable and seemingly impossible. Their Eros-story led to some of Lewis’s greatest works, yet Joy is most commonly known for how she died. Becoming Mrs. Lewis allows us to see how this brilliant and passionate woman lived.

Book Review: “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

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*This post contains mild spoilers for Atonement

First things first: Atonement is a controversial book, but there can be no doubt that it is well-written. Ian McEwan gets inside the minds of his characters with a precision that is almost uncanny- how can an adult man so accurately capture the motivations of a dreamy (and judgemental) thirteen-year-old girl? Yet the story unravels in flowing prose that compels you to read more, and you believe the characters, as dysfunctional as they are.

To summarize without spoiling, Atonement is mostly about the connection between a  young man and woman and how it is dangerously misunderstood by a thirteen-year-old girl. This leads to a great injustice, tearing apart the family at the story’s center. McEwan also throws in a lot about WWII in the second half of the story and how simply trying to survive can alter one’s reality.

What Atonement gets right: the writing. To me, Ian McEwan’s style is like a mixture of F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern) and Jane Austen (Regency era). That’s hard to pull off, but Ian McEwan succeeds. His story is all about the characters and their inner workings, so the plot revolves around their reactions and decisions. Thus, the different events in Atonement make sense to the reader because we know what’s really going on with the characters (even if they don’t), giving us the satisfaction of being “in on it.”

What Atonement gets wrong: In the #MeToo era, it’s hard to read about a rape that essentially goes unpunished. The main witness to the crime (who is not credible at all) takes control of the situation, which leads to the actual victim essentially not even having to give a testimony. This is an obstruction of justice, and McEwan’s attitude toward the young girls involved is detached at best and coldhearted at worst. In fact, most of the adults in the book are extremely neglectful of the children they are supposed to be taking care of, and McEwan writes as if this is normal and expected (instead of, you know, wrong).

Who should read Atonement: I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys books about fictional crime, in-depth character analyses, WWII, nursing, literature in general, and very complicated romances.

Who shouldn’t read Atonement: People who like books where they can escape and be happy in that escape. This book isn’t light or positive.

 

Ian McEwan’s new science fiction book, Machines Like Me, is due out this year. You can find two of McEwan’s books, including Atonement, here at the library. 

 

Featured Book: “Surprised By Oxford”

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Christians should never underestimate the power of their priesthood among nonbelievers. I was hooked, and drawn deeper into the faith, by the character of various believers and how it spoke of their God: by their humility, humor, compassion, perspective, even priorities. – Carolyn Weber

Surprised By Oxford by Carolyn Weber is a memoir that shares the author’s testimony. Weber arrives at Oxford ready to hit the books but is surprised when she instead begins wrestling with what she believes about the afterlife, the Bible, and theology in general. She also meets a fellow student who intrigues her, but she is wary of dating and Christian men in particular. What follows is a beautifully written tale of discovery, faith, friendship, and a little bit of romance.

If the title of the memoir sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Surprised By Joy, the autobiography of C.S. Lewis. Like Lewis, Weber also struggled with theology before coming to accept Christ as her Savior. And also like Lewis, Weber recorded her story so that others might have hope and believe.

To learn more about Carolyn Weber and her book, you can read her interview with The Gospel Coalition. Surprised By Oxford is available at the library in our main book stacks.

 

 

Book Review: “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is cute, relatable, and touching.

I’m a nonfiction person- I like true crime, journalism, and feminist books- but this young adult novel was a nice change of pace for my reading list. For starters, the book is set on a college campus in 2011. The main character, Cath, is getting used to college as a freshman. Maybe it’s because I also came to college in 2011 that I felt a connection to the story. Or maybe it was the references to how Cath and her twin sister, Wren, remembered 9/11 happening when they were in elementary school. That’s a sad thing to relate to, but it’s also a unifying experience that everyone of a certain age has. I still feel shocked when one of my student workers tells me that they don’t remember 9/11, or (gasp) they weren’t even born yet! They don’t remember Y2K either- which, if you don’t know how important that was, here’s an example: my husband’s family of 11 stockpiled food and supplies for months leading up to Y2K, only for nothing to really happen. There’s nothing wrong with not remembering 9/11 or Y2K, though. It just makes me feel old.

Anyway, back to Fangirl. So Cath and Wren go to college, and Wren wants time away from Cath. College is scary for Cath, who struggles with anxiety, but she manages to make a small cast of interesting friends. One of these friends turns out to be a love interest for Cath, and their romance is pretty cute. They’re very different in personality and interests, but they both put a lot of effort in their relationship, which is heartwarming to read about. Plus, this character brings out the best in Cath, who can often withdraw when she really needs to be asking for help.

Another major point in the book includes Cath coming into her own as a writer. She excels at fanfiction writing- in fact, she’s writing a really long and Internet-famous piece about Simon Snow (who is basically this world’s Harry Potter). However, Cath learns in her Fiction Writing class that she may need to branch out and create her own characters.

Fangirl also has brief but powerful descriptions of mental illness and, thankfully, getting the help the characters need. Cath’s family has trouble coming to terms with the reappearance of Cath’s distant mother, Cath’s father struggles with manic/depressive episodes, and Wren has to face up to an alcohol addiction. Still, in all of the turmoil, the characters make progress in their treatments and with their relationships. It’s encouraging to read about mental illness in a real way- it’s hard, it affects others in your life, but there is also help for those who need it.

I’d recommend Fangirl to any freshman who’s still new to college, growing up, and figuring out your relationships (with family, friends, or significant others). I’d also recommend it to people who have graduated already and want to take a look back at how things used to be. It’s nostalgic without being overwhelming. Added bonus: if you love Harry Potter, you will definitely relate to Cath’s Simon Snow obsession.

 

You can check out Fangirl from the library here.

 

Content note: Fangirl contains some suggestive scenes and language.

Matthew’s Valentine Movie: “The Princess Bride”

There are few films that can easily appeal to such a wide general audience in its portrayal of a fantasy, romance and comedy. One that does it flawlessly is The Princess Bride. This film would go on to be so applauded by critics and its fans (gaining a cult following) that in 2016 it was inducted into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The film was adapted from a novel by William Goldman that shares the same name.

The story begins with a young boy sick and in bed while his grandfather offers to read him a book in hopes that it will make him feel better.  The boy is played by a young Fred Savage, who would go on to gain notoriety in The Wonder Years. His grandfather is played by Peter Falk, who in turn was famous for his ongoing role in the series Colombo.  The young boy is apprehensive and initially dissatisfied that his grandfather has chosen to read him a love story but the book soon captivates him.

The plot of the book first revolves around a young farm girl named Buttercup played by Robin Wright. Buttercup and a local farm hand Westley (Cary Elwes) live a simple and normal life and slowly come to realize they are in love with one another. Westley seeks to marry her but first ventures out to sea, hoping to return with a fortune, and is never heard from again (as he has been presumably killed by pirates).

Years pass and Buttercup has agreed to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Humperdinck seems to be a noble and chivalrous Prince but later proves to be much more sinister. On the road, Buttercup is kidnapped by three brigands who hope to ransom her back to the kingdom. They are led by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a cold and calculating Sicilian mastermind. His two cohorts are Inigo Montoya, a Spanish Swordsmen played by Mandy Patinkin, and Frezzik the Giant, played by the most famous pro wrestler of the time: Andre the Giant.

The three brigands soon find themselves hunted by a masked man dressed in all black. He proves their equal in strength, skill, and cunning. After this mysterious stranger bests the three, he then proceeds to abduct Buttercup. While traveling together it is revealed that this masked marauder is actually Westley whom Buttercup had long feared dead. Upon this realization the two are at once overjoyed that their love for one another has maintained through the years apart.

Unfortunately, Prince Humperdinck and his men catch up and Buttercup pleads for Westley’s life. Humperdinck agrees only if she will marry him, but secretly he has his second-in-command take Westley to be killed. Westley is then subjected to unspeakable torture and is left for dead. All seems lost until Inigo and Frezzik, now repentant in their ways, find Westley’s body and successfully bring him back from near death with the help of local healer Miracle Max (Billy Crystal). The three then set off to free Buttercup from the evil Prince Humperdinck. The film features a classic ending with our two protagonists, together at last, riding off into the sunset.  As the story is finished, the young boy begs his grandfather to tell him the story again on the next day and the grandfather happily agrees.

This is a timeless film that audiences of all ages can appreciate and enjoy. Its simple and well-known themes of adventure, fantasy, and true love are a hallmark of any fairy tale, and The Princesses Bride stands at the top of the list in my book.

This film is available at Union University Library and is rated PG. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

 

 

*written by Matthew Beyer

Library Staff Picks For Valentine’s Day

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Looking for a romantic movie to watch on Valentine’s Day? Or maybe you don’t like Valentine’s Day too much and would rather watch something completely different. Either way, the library has plenty of entertainment for this holiday! Here are a few of our recommendations.

 

Olivia Chin recommends:

  • Romantic Movie Pick: La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle; starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Music, dancing, LA, and romance- what’s not to love? I’ve watched this about 10 times since it came out, and it never gets old to me.
  • Non-Romantic Movie Pick: BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee; starring John David Washington and Adam Driver. This true story is both horrific and hilarious as a black police detective infiltrates the KKK. There’s a small romantic sublot, but it’s definitely not the main part of the movie; plus, this is a great movie for Black History Month.
  • Romantic Book Pick: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen. If you enjoy young adult novels with travel, realistic families and problems, and teenage romance, then North of Beautiful is the perfect read for you. It’s well-written with noticeable and validating character development; you’ll want to stick with these characters to the end (and will probably want to know more about them afterward).
  • Non-Romantic Book Pick: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. The true crime genre often gets about as far away from romantic as you can get. Before her untimely death, author Michelle McNamara chronicled her research journey as she tried to figure out the identity of the Golden State Killer. This book dives deep into the crimes he committed, the people who were affected, and the investigations that occurred.

Of course, I also have to plug our Blind Date with a Book program. It’s super easy: just walk up to the Circulation Desk, pick a mystery book from our cart, and go on a “blind date” with it!

Blind Date With A Book(2)

 

 

Rachel Bloomingburg recommends:

  • Romantic Book Pick: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. This charming YA novel about a teenage girl whose love letters cause high school chaos (and spark romance) has also recently been made into a popular Netflix movie!
  • Non-Romantic Book Pick: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Another YA novel, this book dives into the culture of World War II espionage.

 

Hannah Shea recommends:

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  • Romantic Movie Pick: Killers directed by Robert Luketic; starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. Watch what happens when a former hitman, who is trying to keep this a secret from his wife, has to go on the run! This movie is available via Prime Video.

 

Cara Stevenson recommends:

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  • Romantic Movie Pick: The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter; starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan. Loosely based on the real life romance of starring actor (and writer) Nanjiani and his wife, this story follows an inter-ethnic couple who faces cultural challenges. This movie is also available via Prime.

 

Lakreasha Scharcklet recommends:

Romantic Movie Pick: A Walk To Remember, directed by Adam Shankman; starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. This is a true tear-jerker and a classic romance story!

Non-Romantic Movie Pick: Same Kind Of Different As Me, directed by Michael Carney; starring Greg Kinnear, Renée Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou. Same Kind Of Different As Me is about unlikely friendship and overcoming racial barriers. You can read the book here.

Our Book Picks For Valentine’s Day!


 *Post written by Ruth Duncan