Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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16 Unforgettable Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And what better way to ring in the day than with a love story?

Now, I could line the bottom of my bird cage (if I had one) with most of what passes for “romance” stories these days. That’s not what this list is about. You won’t find any cheap dime store boiler plate trash here. This list focuses on timeless love stories that go above and beyond basic romance.

Some of these titles are relatively new. Others have been around for centuries. All reach straight for your heart. Climb in. And settle in to stay. B.Y.O. tissue.

Here are 16 of the most unforgettable love stories of all time, along with memorable quotes. Many have been made into movies. Some might surprise you:

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpiece of love and life among English gentility during the Georgian era. Mr. Bennet is an English gentleman living in Hartfordshire with his overbearing wife, one of the most ridiculous mothers in all literature. Mrs. Bennet’s chief goal in life is to see her five daughters married off and living comfortably. But fate intervenes…

Memorable quote:

“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”

2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak

This novel traces the lives and loves of its two tragic protagonists, Yuri Zhivago, a physician and poet, and Larissa Antipova. Pasternak’s epic love story takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and World War II. First published in Italy in 1957.

Memorable quote:

“Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.”

3. A Common Life – Jan Karon

Laughter and wedding bells ring as Father Tim and his artist neighbor, Cynthia, get ready to tie the knot. Finally!

Memorable quote:

“I am not proud, but I am happy; and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride.”

4. Message in a Bottle – Nicholas Sparks

When a woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, she’s determined to track down its author – and finds much more.

Emotionally intense story of love after loss. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Memorable quote:

“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul.”

  1. The Princess Bride – William Golding

Six-fingered swordsmen. Murderous princes. Treachery. Gallantry. Sicilians and rodents of unusual size.

Buttercup and Westley’s love story is a classic that not even the Dread Pirate Roberts can sink. Did you know the 1987 movie was based on a book?

Memorable quote:

“As you wish.”

  1. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

The powerful, poignant story of the unbreakable bond between a young boy and his two Redbone Hound dogs, ‘Ole Dan and Li’l Ann, reminds us what love really means. Set in the Ozarks during the depths of the Depression.

Once in a lifetime, a story comes along that inspires generations of readers. Where The Red Fern Grows is one of those stories. Bring Kleenex.

Note from Kimber: My personal favorite, friends! Even better than bacon! Mom always wants to snuggle up with this one. I’m a good helper, ya know. But I’m a World Class Snuggler and face-licker!

Memorable quote:

“I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: ‘You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.’”

  1. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Set largely in Kenya, East Africa, this sweeping epic is a story of discovery, loss and love.

Karen Blixen followed her dreams until her dreams became reality. She came to Africa from Denmark to search for something inside herself. There, she discovers a man and a country. And life as she’s never known it.

Blixen published her autobiographical Out of Africa under the nom de plume, Isak Dinesen.

The 1985 movie won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. It stars Meryl Streep as Blixen and Robert Redford as her lover, Dennys Finch-Hatton.

Memorable quote:

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

  1. The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks

A touching story about what we long for. What we settle for. And who we were meant for. Full of longing and wistfulness. Despair and hope. And unexpected plot twists. Vintage Nicholas Sparks.

“I read to her and she remembers.”

Memorable quote:

“We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has only happened once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”

  1. Rome and Juliet – William Shakespeare

Don’t make me explain this.

Memorable quote:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

10 – 13. The Last Promise, A Perfect Day, The Letter, The Sunflower, – Richard Paul Evans

  1. The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

How a brand new toy becomes Real.

Don’t think this “children’s” classic is a love story? Think again.

Memorable quote:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

  1. Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë

Beloved love story between the plucky orphan and governess Jane Eyre and the dark and brooding Rochester.

Memorable quote:

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

 

16. Bid Time Return – Richard Matheson

A haunting story of the link between a man and a woman that transcends time. The novel upon which Somewhere in Time is based.

My husband rolls his eyes every time I drag out my SIT DVD. I just smile and grab some more chocolate.

This story and the movie that followed starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour prove how little critics know and how even a predictable love story never fails to tug at the heart strings.

An unforgettable John Barry score doesn’t hurt, either.

Memorable quote:

“Come back to me.”

What would you add?


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Stories & Soirees: 5 DELICIOUS Valentine Pairings!

Hello February!

‘Tis the month for love and romance and all things heartfelt. That includes good books and good food! In fact, what better way to kick off Valentine’s month than with pairing some great love stories with great food!

The titles below feature love stories flavored with rich, robust writing. Also links to a culinary idea or two you can savor before, after, or while you’re turning pages.

Some of these titles may be familiar. Some may be new. Some may surprise you. Just don’t get so engrossed in the plot that you neglect to mind the stove, okay?

Ready? Set? Grab your book. Head to the nearest kitchen and Let’s Go!

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Delicious! ‘Crystal Shadows’ Fills Fantasy Bill

Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood (Olympia Publishers, 2020)

By R.J.  Parker

Fiction/Fantasy

It was a dark and stormy night…

No. Really. It was. I, Kimber, was there. And the night wasn’t just “dark and stormy.” Rain was coming down in sheets. Sideways. The wind was howling like a banshee with a tooth ache. A flood watch and a wind advisory were in effect.

“It’s a perfect day to curl up by the fire with a good book,” spake Mom.

Well. Who am I to disagree?

Thankfully, R.J. Parker’s Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood filled the bill. Here’s why:

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Join the Gentle Journey With ‘Keep Walking’

 

Kimber here. You already know that one of us is super stingy with uber high ratings (Hi, Mom). But every once in a while, a book comes along that makes the grade. Keep Walking, Your Heart Will Catch Up is one of those books.

We don’t say that often. So I’d listen up ‘fize you. Here’s why:

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How to Become a ‘Fully Alive’ Addiction Warrior

Fully Alive

Using Your Individuality to Conquer Addiction

By Michael J. Surdyka

Non-Fiction

“Imagine yourself as a warrior,” urges author Michael J. Surdyka in this frank, no-nonsense book on conquering addiction, both alcohol and drug. “If you want to keep your sobriety, you are required to fight for your life every single day.”

The author shows you how in this practical hands-on guide to lifelong sobriety.

Indeed, Fully Alive offers a powerhouse of perspective, support, understanding and practical advice for anyone battling an addiction or those who know someone battling same. What sets this book apart from many other resources on the topic is its emphasis on developing a Sobriety Blueprint and recovery plan specially and specifically tailored to each unique individual.

As explained in the Introduction, Fully Alive is:

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‘Immersed in West Africa’: Not Your Average Travel Book

Immersed in West Africa: My Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau (Kindle) (Travels With Terry Book 1) by [Terry Lister]

Amazon

Immersed in West Africa: My Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau

By Terry Lister

Non-Fiction

Truth? When the author initially requested a review, I wasn’t interested. That’s cuz the last few travelogue/memoir type books I’ve read were redundant and as dull as dirt. Think moon rocks. Without the moon.

But the author was gently persistent. So I reluctantly agreed to read and review. (Which just shows you what I know.)

Turns out Immersed in West Africa is a delightful read. Here’s why:

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6 Titles to Curl Up With if You Love Whodunits

You’re kidding, right?

I say this to Mom a lot. Especially when she gets The Look. You know. That Look. It usually precedes a mile-long description of her new favorite book. Of course I listen. Because, ya know. That’s my job. Well, that and being beautiful and brilliant. (It’s a tough job. But I’m up for it!)

So when Mom came up with yet another harebrained idea for Fine Wine Fridays – where do these things come from? – I just smiled and listened.

Mom’s latest brainstorm? A list of really cool murder mysteries/whodunits.

Being the brains in this dynamic duo, I reminded Mom that she doesn’t typically gravitate toward either genre. But you know Mom!

So here, in no particular order, are Mom’s version of Fine Wine Friday murder mysteries/whodunits. (See more Fine Wine Friday picks here.)

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‘Farm Tough’ Lays an Egg

Farm Tough, by Patrick Scott


Rebel Without a Cause meets Huck Finn, shakes hands with The Haymeadow and runs into Lord of the Flies in this “coming of age” story set in Yuba City, California.

The narrator, now age 70+ and dying of cancer, looks back on his summer of 1955. A spoiled rich kid, Ryan was twelve years old when he’s sent to spend the summer with his grandparents while his parents sort out a divorce.

Once in Yuba City, Ryan soon meets meets a bunch of local guys with majorly limited vocabularies. (Someone didn’t bother to read our submission guidelines. More on that in a min.) The boys skinny-dip in the Feather River, pilfer railroad ties to build a raft, and jump off a bridge. Ryan tries so hard to fit in, he lies to his grandparents about an overnight at the river.

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Gold Standard in Historical Fiction?

Calling all fans of historical fiction and anyone else who can fog a mirror!

Today we’re reviewing three outstanding novels. They’re all historical fiction. All are set during World War II. Anchoring these narratives are strong women who survive and flourish against the odds.

Mom says The Nightingale and Cilka’s Journey are two disturbing but outstanding reads. And that The Things We Cannot Say is one of the year’s best. (And she reads alot. When she’s not out walking with me.)

Taken together, these three novels may represent the “gold standard” for historical fiction. 

So sit tight and get ready to dive in.  Let’s go!

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5 Clunkers You Can Skip & Not Miss a Thing

Your time is valuable, right? Especially when it comes to books.

That’s why Mom and I launched the BKLBITS (Big Kitty Litter Box In The Sky) Awards last summer. It was one of our most popular features. I mean, Holy Meow Mix! No one wants to waste their time on lousy snoozers littered with unsympathetic, cardboard characters we don’t know, don’t want to know, and could care less about.

Mom and me, we like to be helpful. As in, save you some time. So here, without any further ado, we’re rolling out BKLBITS Awards, Part II:

1. Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese

This book gets all kinds of rave reviews elsewhere. It’s supposedly about two brothers “whose fate is intertwined.”

So not impressed.

It takes seven chapters – we kid you not – for a laboring mother to give birth. Yea, verily. We don’t expect or require every book to move at warp speed. But this thing moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. Bye!

2. The Demeter Code, by Russell Brooks

We received a request to review this international spy “thriller” novel in November. It’s supposedly about biological warfare, CIA spooks, Syrian arms dealers, thieves, contract killers and corporate espionage, punctuated by lots of gun play and a seemingly never-ending dead body count.

It was obvious early on that the author did not bother to read our submission guidelines. Or maybe he figured we wouldn’t notice just how majorly this thing sails outside our wheelhouse. Ugh. (Main character Ridley Fox gives stray alley cats a bad name.)

But a request is a request. So here’s our review:

If you gravitate toward trashy “thriller” books of the pulp fiction variety, this one’s for you. Otherwise, feel free to choose something more productive. Like watching grass grow.

 

3. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo

“Beautiful forever” is a corporate slogan for Italianate floor tiles. That matters in Annawadi, a .miserable slum of Mumbai where residents young and old scrape out a meager existence in the shadow of luxury hotels and an international airport. Because this novel is all about mercurial promises that gleam like new tile but crack and crater the moment they’re set down or even lightly jostled.

This colorful novel centers around the “professional competition for trash” that keeps Annawadi barely alive, eking out bare subsistence in a society roiling with corruption, disease, poverty, and squalor.

A Pulitzer Prize nominee for general nonfiction, this story is reasonably engaging. It’s beautifully written. But you may find its pace uneven and the plot plodding.

4. I Will Always Love You, by Ashley Lee London

This book is an ambitious effort, spanning multiple generations and relationships. That’s part of its problem. There’s no real cohesive, unifying theme. It’s all over the place. The result is a confusing, muddled morass of artificial emotion and manufactured pathos. For example, the godfather/goddaughter relationships between Michael and Lori seems artificial. Like it’s trying too hard to make up for deficits in Lori’s upbringing.

There’s also a recurring issue with print quality. Numerous pages sport smudged ink and blurred paragraphs.

Additionally, the characters are hackneyed, the plot humdrum. While the story had potential, much of it is frittered away scampering down multitudinous bunny trails and story arcs that are tangentially connected at best.

Unfortunately, story threads don’t really start coming together until around page 300. Only the most diligent of readers is likely to wait that long before beating a hasty retreat to the nearest exit. (Read our full review here.)

5. The Aviator, by Eugene-Vodolazkin

A man wakes up in a Russian hospital. He has no idea who he is, how he got there, or what year it is. He gradually realizes he’s been in cryo storage for most of the 20th century. Memories of his grandmother reading Robinson Crusoe, a summer dacha, a murder, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and a barbaric gulag bubble to the surface as aviator Platonov tries to make sense of who he is, where he is, and why.

Reminiscent of Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, ‘The Aviator’ is also dense. At times it’s even oblique in the tradition of Franz Kafka.

The narrative is packed with details and rich descriptions of people, events, and observances that are seemingly superfluous or irrelevant. Connecting the dots into some semblance of coherence can be a challenge, perhaps mirroring the mental and physical deterioration of the main character.

Snorefest!

 

Next up:

One of the best historical fiction books we’ve ever read! Stay tuned!