Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reviews: Assorted Love Stories

Since I mentioned these four books all together, I feel like it would be a shame to separate them now. (I’m kind of hungry, so I think I’ll assign them dessert ratings.) Let’s get cracking…

One Day by David Nicholls: Did I cry big old leaky tears? Of course I did! (Oh, Dex and Em, Em and Dex.) This is a classic case of “the course of true love never did run smooth.” The conceit—checking in with this couple on the same day of the year from 1988 to 2007—initially made me a bit nervous. I wondered how this brief window could possibly show the nuances of age and maturation. Not to worry! Nicholls has a firm hand on his plot and is smart enough to cluster interesting events around St. Swithins Day (or at least allude to them). Yes, Emma was a bit self-righteous and Dexter was more than a bit of a cad, but together they were good. I love the intersection of their lives, which I suppose was the point. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the intrusions of other characters. I most certainly did. Nicholls has a knack for describing all sorts of people, and he takes special care with their faces, giving almost photographic detail. He also has an ear for dialogue that is both funny and true, which makes for blistering conversations and an excellent (drunk!) epistolary exchange. I cringed with recognition at his cutting, fond observations about human habits, but that’s what happens when you have the full portrait of two people. A banquet of desserts: sometimes lemon tart, sometimes chocolate torte, all very delicious.

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story by Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman): If you’re a reader of Ree’s blog, you’ll like this book. If you’ve never heard of The Pioneer Woman, you should head over there now and have a looksee. You’ll also like this book. Ree is such a winning presence on the web and on the page. I rooted for her every step of the way as she fell in love with Marlboro Man. (He’s a rugged cowboy, not a smoker.) She’s a charming fish-out-of-water on his cattle ranch, and the evolution of city girl to ranch wife is fascinating. Though everything is brushed with a rosy sheen (even postpartum depression) and her descriptions of Marlboro Man can veer into Bella-levels of adoration (your knees give out every time he kisses you?), these glosses can be forgiven. It is a true story after all, and a hopeful one at that, even if it reads more like fiction. An old-fashioned comfort food of a romance! Apple pie, for sure.

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott: A cute set-up (girl striving to be normal as a reaction to her decidedly public parents) and some ideas worth perusing. Hannah experiences a love triangle, but in a stunning bit of real-life restraint, both guys are not “perfect” for her. She figures out (with a little help) how to tell the real guy from the phony one, and that was a nice resolution. Unfortunately, this path to realization took a turn for the wacky close to the end, almost invalidating the very practical lesson. By wacky, I don’t mean her estranged Hugh Hefner-esque dad or her washed-up webcam mom. They were fun diversions. (Here’s where I admit to loving the reality TV show The Girls Next Door, so I was jazzed by Hannah’s trip to New York to see her dad.) Kind of a cotton candy book.

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman: I think I’m developing a sixth sense for David Levithan. Is that weird to say? Every time a book starts breaking my heart in a particular way, I get suspicious and flip to the acknowledgements. Why, hello there! The Big Crunch has a bare minimum of plot to follow, as it’s more of a meditation on the trials/tribulations of the first big connection. Hautman seems intimately familiar with the cozy cave of first love, that tunneling down of existence where only one other person matters, and he lets us explore slowly along with the couple, admiring the sights. Wes and June have a meandering emotional path, but the details are worth the journey. (The cover is so great. I sort of wish an alternate graphic novel form existed.) Tastes like ice cream, a sweet spectrum of melty feelings.

And there you have it! Romance in all different flavors. (My tummy is rumbling. I’m going to settle down with a hot chocolate book and some hot chocolate.)


  1. Thank you! I was my stomach. :)

  2. I'm a long-time Pioneer Woman lover, that's for sure, and have been meaning to pick up Black Heels for quite some time! Thanks for reminding me!