L is for (Books About) Love #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

A lot of people might be surprised by this admission, but I’m actually a romantic. While romance isn’t my preferred genre, I do prefer that there be some sort of romance happening in any book I read. I enjoy watching love unfold during the course of a story. I have many books I love that could fit this category, so here are just a few.

The Host, by Stephanie Meyer (science fiction): I know lots of people who hated this book, even separately from the fact that this is also the author of Twilight. But I stand by it. Wanderer is an alien who inhabits the body of Melanie, but Melanie doesn’t go away like she’s supposed to. Instead, Wanderer and Melanie share Melanie’s body, and they eventually develop a friendship. Through Melanie’s memories, Wanderer grows to love Melanie’s brother and fall for her boyfriend. This is a fascinating book that explores the nature of love.

Six Months, Three Days, by Charlie Jane Anders (science fiction novelette): Doug and Judy can both see the future. She sees every possible future and he sees only one. They’re both right, every time, and they agree that in six months, three days, their relationship will end. They date and fall in love anyway. It’s a powerful book about how much we enjoy the process of being in love, so much so that even if we’re guaranteed heartache, we do it anyway.

Frankenstein, by Dean Koontz (Book 1: Prodigal Son) (science fiction/ fantasy/ horror): This series of five books continues the Frankenstein legend many years later. Only Deucalion, formerly Frankenstein’s monster, is now one of the good guys trying to help two cops stop Dr. Frankenstein from continuing his work. Carson and Michael are partners who work together but don’t want to admit their feelings. Over the course of five books, their feelings for one another deepen and grow while fighting off bad guys. A misunderstood monster, love, and genetic engineering… that’s pretty much a guaranteed win in my book.

What are your favorite books about love?

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F is for (Books About) Family #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I’m a big believer that families don’t have to be blood; we create our families. There are many reasons to create family; the important thing is to know that they’d always have your back no matter what.

This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab (YA horror): Kate was born into a family with a father who doesn’t seem to love her. August was adopted into a family who just wants to protect him. Their families are at war over control of a dangerous city where violent acts create monsters. Kate and August both have to decide what family means to them, and how they fit into the war. This is a fantastic, gripping book that kept me turning pages. I had just as much trouble putting it down the second time I read it as the first.

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (YA): When a car accident kills her family and puts Mia in a coma, Mia realizes that she can choose whether to live or die. She thinks about her life while her boyfriend tries to remind her of all the things she has to live for. This novel basically ripped my heart to shreds. So you should definitely read it. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it’s on my list to watch. But since the preview made me cry, I’m guessing I’ll love the movie too.

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon (YA contemporary): Both of her books are fantastic (and now that I think about it, both speak to the nature of family). This one is all about the ways families simultaneously lift us up and drag us down. Natasha and Daniel both love their families, but they both expect them to be different people. The majority of this book takes place on a single day in New York City, but what an unforgettable day!

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (and all of them, really), by JK Rowling (MG through YA fantasy): Harry’s parents died, so he ends up stuck with his horrible aunt and uncle, who don’t love him. During his first year at Hogwarts, he finds a family that will stick with him through all seven amazing books. Some people might call this friendship, but when you have people willing to die for you, isn’t that family?

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (contemporary): Victoria is an orphan who had one shot at a family, and blew it. Now an adult, she has another shot, and it scares her to death. She’s only comfortable with flowers and expressing herself through them, as she was taught as a child. This story is told with dual timelines between 18-year-old Victoria and 8-year-old Victoria. It’s moving and fascinating.

What are your favorite books about family?

My 18 Favorite Couples in Fiction

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. First off, the sea of pink starting the day after Christmas annoys me. Second, restaurants are always crowded. Third, I prefer incidental romance, like when my husband snaps a picture of something he knows I’ll like, or when he helps me fold laundry without being asked.

That being said, the approach of V-day does make me think about romance. I love romance novels and movies. And I’m totally a shipper! I call out my choices and stick to them. (I still think Twilight would have been better if Bella ended up with Jacob… Team Jacob forever!)

  1. Elizabeth and Darcy, from Pride and Prejudice: I’m a sucker for when people think they hate each other, but then end up in love. They’re both strong characters and end up being so awkward with one another when they start to realize all the ways they were wrong. Their coming together at the end is a delightful payoff.
  2. Eve Dallas and Roarke, In Death series: Eve Dallas is a homicide detective who thinks that cops make bad life partners. Roarke is a former thief/ smuggler, now richest man on the planet. When she has to interview him for a homicide investigation, he romances her with coffee. (My kind of guy!) They dated for a few books, then got married. 58 books into the series, they still love, argue, and negotiate difficulties of two passionate people being married. Part of the reason I love this series is it’s one of the few romances that doesn’t end with “and they lived happily ever after…” There’s so much more to love.
  3. Qhuinn and Blaylock, Lover at Last, the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger (#11): The Brotherhood are vampires sworn to protect their people from the Lessening Society, evil creatures who want to destroy them. Each Black Dagger book focuses on a different couple, and I love them all. Qhuinn and Blaylock are my favorite because the title sums up my feelings… at last! All the other couples had a sense of inevitability about them. But Qhuinn and Blaylock danced around one another in the background for many books, first as friends, then they had a falling out. When they finally get together, it was a beautiful thing. Incidentally, it was the last book in the series that I read. The author was starting to focus on characters who’d been in the background before, who I didn’t care about. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday…
  4. Claire and Jamie, Outlander: I love everything about their romance. I love how they challenge and test one another. Even in book form, their chemistry lights up the page. (I have not watched the TV series) This is another couple who’s story doesn’t stop with marriage, and their devotion to one another is captivating.
  5. Bishop and Miranda, Out of the Shadows: Kay Hooper writes a special crimes book series where the investigators all have some paranormal ability. Bishop created the unit and is in charge. Throughout the series, it’s alluded to that he’s looking for someone. Well, he finally finds her when Miranda Knight, a small town cop, has to call in the FBI for a series of murders. He wronged her a long time ago, and she’s not sure she can forgive him. Something about their chemistry has always spoken to me and made this book my favorite in the series.
  6. Noah and Allie, The Notebook & The Wedding: I know some people who like romantic stories who didn’t like The Notebook, and my guess is that they only saw the movie. I liked the movie, but it loses quite a bit of the power the book had. No matter what comes between them, Noah and Allie love one another fiercely, and nothing can stop them. It’s a beautiful love story set across two books, and even death doesn’t end it.
  7. Katniss and Peeta, The Hunger Games: I was always Team Peeta. I’m a sucker for unrequited, unselfish love, and I never believed, not even for a little while, that Peeta was hunting Katniss. I love that she’s the pragmatic one, and he’s the romantic one, and that we the readers can see her slowly falling in love with him long before she realizes it. The conclusion of the trilogy, while sad, felt right.
  8. Jane & Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre: I know there are people who hate this pairing, who think that Mr. Rochester was selfish and awful. I get it, but they’re wrong. Mr. Rochester is a passionate, proud man, and as such makes mistakes. Yes, he tries to deceive Jane about his lunatic wife, but his reasoning is sound. He doesn’t consider himself to be married, and in today’s world, he could easily get a divorce. See, if he treated the wife in the attic badly, I’d be all about “down with Rochester.” But he doesn’t. He hates her, but still takes good care of her. He deceives Jane, but never intends to hurt her. Jane is fantastic because, in an age when women were blindly submissive, she always does what she thinks is right. Her passion is a barely restrained thing, in an age where a passionate woman could get herself locked up in an insane asylum. These two perfectly complement one another.
  9. Will and Louisa, Me Before You: The first time I read this book, when I finished it, I started back over at the beginning. It spoke to me that much. Louisa never quite fits in anywhere. People are always teasing her about her clothing, the way she acts, and the things she says. Will is perpetually pissed off after the accident that left him paraplegic. At first, they don’t like one another, but as time goes on, they learn that the other one is the only one who really listens and understands. It’s beautiful and sad.
  10. Mia and Adam, If I Stay & Where She Went: Mia and Adam are brought together by their mutual love of music. Adam feels comfortable with Mia and her family in a way he’s never felt before. When a car accident kills her whole family, Mia learns about it from her coma, and realizes she has the power to stay or to go. She looks back on times with her family and with Adam as she makes her decision. I haven’t seen the movie, but the book gave me all the feels.
  11. Mulder and Scully, The X-files: I was on board for them to confess their love for one another in Season 1! But it didn’t happen that way, and the underlying tension was what made the romance great. I hated any of the rare times they dated or flirted with anyone else, but their close relationship and deep understanding of one another made me certain they were meant to be together. That’s part of the reason I’m enjoying the new series, even though it seems they’re together-but-not-quite. No one understands them the way the other does.
  12. Jim and Pam, from The Office: I didn’t even want to watch the stupid show. My husband started and thought it was funny. As often happens, he watched several episodes before something caught my attention, and then I was done. Throughout all 9 seasons, I was rooting for them, and I loved that their love story continued (and had conflict) even after they got married.
  13. Admiral Adama and Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica: BSG is not a romance series, and of all the romances that happen, this one is probably the most subtle. I doubt it’s making anyone else’s list, but I love it. They’re both a little older than are typically focused on for romance, but I think that’s part of what makes it great. They don’t get along at first. I don’t even think they respect one another at first. (OMG, this is just like P&P… no wonder I love it.) But slowly they start to learn how to work together, until at one point, Adama admits to his son, “I can’t live without her.” What makes that statement even more poignant is that she’s dying, and everyone knows it.
  14. Harry and Sally, When Harry Met Sally: There are so many amazing scenes in this movie, but the last scene, where Harry confesses his love on New Year’s Eve, is romance gold. They were enemies, then they were friends, then they fell in love. It seems to happen that way a lot in fiction, and I firmly believe it’s because we see ourselves in the people we hate, and overcoming that is like learning to love yourself.
  15. Prince Henry and Danielle, Ever After: I’ve always loved Cinderella stories, but I love this one best because: 1. Hello, Drew Barrymore. 2. Danielle isn’t some milquetoast heroine waiting to be rescued. Nope, she challenges Prince Henry, and he becomes a better man because of it.
  16. Han Solo and Leia, Star Wars: They hate each other until they don’t. Their relationship is volatile but based on respect. Even in the more recent movies, when they’ve been broken up, it was still obvious how much they loved one another. I liked how it showed that a broken up couple can still love one another, even if they shouldn’t be together.
  17. Kate and Luc, French Kiss: When Kate’s fiancé goes to Paris for a medical conference and meets the love of his life, Kate overcomes her fear of flying to follow him and win him back. She ends up teaming up with a French con man, Luc, who shows her why the one who left wasn’t good enough for her in the first place.
  18. Honorable mention: Rick and Daryl, The Walking Dead: I realize that they’re not a couple, but their bromance is the best. It’s not uncommon for women in books and movies to have close friendships, but we rarely see it with men. These two have such amazing chemistry that many of the best scenes are just the two of them. Seeing them go from enemies to brothers has been one of my favorite things on the show.

Did I miss any? Who are your favorite romantic couples, in books or TV/ movies?

Haters Gonna Hate

Roatan, Honduras Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roatan, Honduras
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Last week, as I’m sure everyone knows, the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality.  I saw a lot of celebration on my news feed. There was also an article shared about a pastor who stated that he would set himself on fire if gay marriage was legalized, and many of the comments I saw were things like, “Has he done it yet?” “Fire! Fire!” and so on.

I feel bad for that pastor.  How much hatred does he have to have inside him for him to threaten to light himself on fire because of something that has nothing to do with him?  How much must he hate himself to make those statements? We’re a culture that’s easily angered.  We’re intolerant of his hatred and intolerance, and our knee-jerk reaction to such stupid statements (because yes, I think it’s stupid to light yourself on fire because other people now have more rights than they did a month ago) is to bring gasoline to his fire, to jump on the hatred bandwagon.

I’m not hitching a ride.

I get why it feels good to respond to his hatred and anger in kind, but it doesn’t do any of us any good.  From the time I was little, my parents told me “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” and no matter how much we pretty it up, that’s what the sentiment boils down to.  Righteous anger might feel good, but that doesn’t make it right.

If I tried to talk to that pastor and met his hatred with more hatred, I pretty much guarantee he wouldn’t hear anything I had to say. If, however, I met his hatred with compassion, perhaps he would hear me.  Maybe not.  Maybe he would hear some part of what I had to say.  I can’t make others listen, but I’ve found that if I treat people with respect, it almost always has better results than treating them with disrespect.

There are a lot of people I don’t agree with.  There are opinions that offend me.  But if people respond to intolerance and offense with hatred, it just perpetuates more hatred.

It might be difficult, but I encourage you to remember that when someone is awful, your hatred won’t make them better, nicer, or more tolerant.  After all, nothing you can say will be worse than what they live with.  People who spread hatred have to live with themselves.  Treat them with kindness, because they’ve already sentenced themselves to life in a prison of hate.

Feel Good Friday

Desert Botanical Gardens Phoenix, AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens
Phoenix, AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

When I started Feel Good Friday posts over 6 months ago, there were weeks when I had trouble finding 5 news stories to feature here.  It would take me about an hour of searching to find things current and worth sharing.  These days, I find way more than 5 news stories easily.  Keep the positive focus, and good things will come.

A photographer takes pictures of her grandmother as a way of showing that her grandmother is the epitome of beauty.  Beauty has no age.

Smiley, a puppy mill rescue born without eyes, goes on to be a therapy dog.  It took love and training for him to learn not to be fearful, but once he did, his joy for life affected everyone else.

99 year old woman finished her 1,000th dress for little girls in Africa.  Her goal was to get 1,000 before her hundredth birthday.

When a cheerleader with Down’s syndrome is bullied at a basketball game, three of the players walked off the court to defend her.

New Hampshire police are giving out tickets for following the law.  Actually, they’re not tickets… they’re gift certificates.  Police have been given gift cards to hand out to people walking their dogs on leash, using the cross walk to cross the street, that kind of thing.

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
-Anne Frank

Go forth and have a wonderful weekend!

Feel Good Friday

On Feel Good Fridays, I post good news stories. Remember that you find what you look for, so if you look for the good in your fellow man, you’re likely to find it.

Oh look, a fish! Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Oh look, a fish!
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

This is seriously the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.  If you haven’t seen the Unworthy video of skeletons dancing, you should take a look at it.  It made me cry and gave me a feeling of wanting to hug my fellow man.

Here’s a bunch of fun pictures with cops acting goofy.

7 positive trends with teens.  We all hear about all the bad stuff kids do, and how selfish they are, but studies indicate that teen drug use and pregnancy is down, and volunteering is increasing.

Seniors “prank” the school principal by giving him letters of gratitude.  Saying “thank you” to someone is seriously the best gift you can give anyone.

This is a true story about the power of noticing others.  I love the point that it makes, that taking a few moments to notice someone else, especially when you don’t have to, can have a powerful impact.  Take a few minutes and read it; you’ll be glad you did.

I generally only share 5 positive things, just to keep it manageable, but I see far more than that most weeks.

What kind of things do you see that warm your heart?  Has someone done something kind for you?  Have you gone out of your way to show kindness to someone else?  I know you’re out there, so tell me in the comments.

And as always, go forth and be kind today.  Have a great weekend!