Books Without Romance

This week Electric Literature posted on the need for fiction that is in no way related to romance. I got to thinking–had I ever read fiction any without romance? The essay delves deeper than I want to go, so I’m just staying on the surface level with this. What fiction have I read that has no [remembered] romantic elements–no love, no dating, no ….well, anything that is related to romance. No fair using children’s fiction and no YA.

Feel free to comment with other titles or to correct my faulty memory on the titles posted here.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

But his parents are married….

 

 

 

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Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

I don’t remember it well enough to say there was nothing of romance….

 

 

 

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The Long Walk by Richard Bachman [Stephen King]

Maybe the whole point was romance?

 

 

 

 

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The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

I read this in 1980 and that was a long, long time ago. Maybe it is romantic because they are trying to form a new empire?

 

 

 

Can you add any titles to this list?

Want to correct my assumption on any of these?

Leave a comment!

 

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Top 5 Wednesday Freebie: Five New Royal Books

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This week’s Top 5 Wednesday is a Freebie week–choose your own topic. So, with a two royal weddings and a new royal baby all coming up I chose five new(er) royal books!

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Victoria and Christian IX of Denmark are like the trees of royal life.  You can read my review here. Or see the book here  Queen Victoria’s Royal Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages That Shaped Europe by Deborah Cadbury.

 

 

 

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If you’ve enjoyed watching Netflix’s The Crown, you might be interested to know how much was fact and how much was fiction. Hugo Vickers has written the definitive guide, The Crown Truth & Fiction. [I have not read this yet]. You may also be interested in the The Crown: The Official Companion Volume 1.

 

 

 

 

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This novel tells what it’s like to be Prince Harry circa 2007 or so when he was in Afghanistan. [I have not read this yet]. Prince Harry Boy to Man: A Novel by William Kuhn.

 

 

 

 

 

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A new biography of Prince Charles doesn’t offer too much new, but there are a few things mentioned that get fleshed out more than in the past. We learn more about his life after Diana’s death. Gossip, off-the record interviews, and some dubious sources are also involved. Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith. I read, but did not review this book.

 

 

 

 

Coming this summer

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Rarely has a king made such a horrific miscacluation than George V made in refusing to allow his look-a-like first cousin, Tzar Nicholas II and his wife (also a first cousin) Alexandra to find refuge in Britain in 1918. George could not know that Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children would all be shot point blank one night. He feared the rising tide of communism/socialism and worker discontent could spread to Britain and threaten his own throne.  This book will tell the whole story. The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport.

 

 

Do you enjoy sharing book lists like this? Check out the Top 5 Wednesday group on Goodreads.com! Post your own list or do a video!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

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I listen to much of the fiction I “read,” so I’m not always able to get a great quote written down. Nonetheless, for several years now I’ve kept a Commonplace Book–a notebook in which I write out quotes I’ve liked. I’ve lost quotes kept on phones that have died, too. I’ve learned to put more trust in pen and paper than in storing them on my phone. Here, then, are a few quotes I’ve liked. I couldn’t begin to pick a true Top 10, so these are just any old 10. Except the first.

 

All Time Number 1

 

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“My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

-Rhett Butler. GWTW. The way Margaret Mitchell wrote it–not the way Hollywood embellished it.

 

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2

“It was a far better kind of love than common.”

Villette by Chralotte Bronte

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3

“…the difficulties which render it arduous render it also glorious….”

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

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4

“Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afriad to step out of its frame.”

Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther

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5

“…she’d given him his most profound experience of the divine….”

Mr. Emerson’s Wife by Amy Belding Brown

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6

“…too much everything, not enough anything…..”

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

 

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7

“[We] use thought to not participate in life.”

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

 

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8

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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“She had a face, a body made not for Paris runways, but for good food and books by the fire and laughter. She was contructed from and for happiness.”

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

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10

“…she’s been raised in a certain way and the present is all she has….”

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

 

You can read all of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday posts at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Would you like to participate in next week’s Top Ten Tuesday? Here’s a link to the rules.

Review: Still Me: A Novel by Jojo Moyes

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Like most everyone who has read it, I fell so in love with Me Before You–I even liked the movie! Unlike most everyone, I also liked After You. I’ve worked with a lot of Will Traynors–well, pre-accident Will Traynor-types. It rang so true. The third installment of this series, Still Me, keeps the high standard of the series, but like book two, can’t hope to achieve the glorious love-pain of Me Before You.  But don’t worry–there is still so much to love that you will definitely want to read it. Even more than an adorable pug named Dean Martin!

 

 

 

The Story

This time around, Louisa Clark has landed in what at first glance appears to be the Trumps with a side dish of Mrs. Danvers. But keep reading. The Louisa we all love is in there–big time. New York is the perfect antidote for Louisa as she tries to find out who she really is, what she really wants to do with her life and who and what she really needs in that life.

My Thoughts

If you were upset with After You, give Louisa a second chance. You won’t regret it. And, I can’t wait to see who plays Dean Martin in the eventual movie. This book is the Bees Knees! And, yes, that line is important!

 

Still Me, by Jojo Moyes.

 

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6 Degrees of Separation: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

This month’s chain of 6 books is bit more of a stretch than usual because not only have I never read this book, until I checked the list to see what the March book was, I’d never even heard of it! This lapse on my part is likely due to it coming out not long before I became a parent (enough said).

The Book

The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. In today’s world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women’s movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.” (Amazon).

My chain is informed by both my young-womanhood and study of feminism vs conservatism in college and the writing of one of today’s top writers.

My Chain

Want to join in?

Next month’s chain starts with a life-long favorite of mine:

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Review: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

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I have a confression to make. One of my very, very few regrets in life is that I gave my records (“vinyl” now) to Goodwill ten years ago. I kick myself almost daily. A few, like my mono Beatles album and a Stan Kenton, are worth a good chunk of change these days. There is simply nothing like the sound of a real record (sorry, “vinyl” just doesn’t trip off my tongue well yet).

Diagnostic musicologist–or should that be vinylologist?

 

The Story

Meet Frank–he loves records. In the 1980s when cd-s were taking over from the wave of disappointment that was, first, 8-tracks, and then cassette tapes, Frank was a lone wolf in the save vinyl movement. Like a reader’s advisory librarian, Frank could listen to a customer and “hook” him up with a string of albums that told similar stories–but across musical “genres.” From Chopin to, say, Aretha Franklin, to Queen, to Johnny Cash–or at least something like that journey. Frank knows music thanks to his quirky mother, Peg. I had a little of this sort of teaching myself so I fell in love with this book right off. It also made me start remembering and listening online to some of my favorites–maybe someday I’ll post my own playlist.

Enter a mysterous young woman who hires Frank to “teach” her music in this way. Add in a charming group of folks working on the same nearly dead street as Frank’s record store and you have a marvelous ensemble cast to flesh out Frank’s story.

I loved this book from start to finish. Frank’s character is such a real and authentic voice of a music lover–a record (vinyl) lover. He hears the music in his very soul. The publisher has given us a gift of a great playlist from the book that you can access here: The Music Shop Playlist. You can also listen to some of author Rachel Joyce’s own favorite healing music.

I dearly hope Bill Nighy is cast as Frank and maybe Lily James as the mysterious stranger (no spoilers) and possibly Julie Walters as Maude.  I previously enjoyed the author’s book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

 

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My Verdict

 

 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

 

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My Favorite First Lady Biographies and Autobiographies and Two Novels

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First Ladies Rosalyn Carter, Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Hilary Clinton

 

You can read my favorite Presidental Biographies here.

POTUS and FLOTUS

Most Americans today recognize those as the abbreviations for President of the United States and First Lady of the United States. We came very close to having what Great Britain and other countries have–a First Man of the United States, too.  The current First Lady, Melania Trump, has the distinction of being the wife with the largest age gap (24 years)  since Mr. and Mrs. Grover Cleveland in 1886–the Clevelands were 28 years apart in age. You can read about their love affair and happily ever after in this post. Only Mrs. John Tyler, at 30 years younger than her husband, topped either of these. And, Mrs. Trump is the only third wife of a president.

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My FavoriteFLOTUS Biographies

 

Collective Biographies

 

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While this one is, sadly, out-of-print, it is still an interesting read. You can find it at libraries or used on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

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First daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel, wrote this collective biography putting her unique experience of life in the White House to good use. She wrote vother non-fiction and a very successful series of Washington-based murder mystereies as well. You can read a fun memory of her first murder mystery in this post.

 

 

 

There are several other collective biographies. I have not had time to read the newest ones, but do plan to eventually.

 

Dual Biography

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Mary Todd Lincoln may have been the most difficult First Lady in the nation’s history. Her wildly fluctuating moods (bi-polar) caused her to be almost unmanangeable. Varina Davis, her Confederate Counterpart, was the much younger second wife of Jefferson Davis.  She was 18 years younger than her husband, There is a new novel soon to be released that I am anxious to read on Varina. Both women struggled to support their husbands and to raise their children during the Civil War. This is a fascinating read. This book is out-of-print, but is available used from Amazon. Trivia: Did you know Jefferson Davis (by his first wife) was the son-in-law of Preisent Zachary Taylor?

 

Individual Biographies

 

Biographies

I am currently reading the book below on Mrs. Lyndon B. (Ladybird) Johnson and highly recommend it. I will review it when I am finished.

Eleanor Roosevelt is my favorite First Lady. Her passion, intelligence and persistence (yes, as in #shepersisted) are inspiring. From her horrible childhood–from which she likely suffered PTSD and was possibly sexually abused (why else would she need multiple locks on her bedroom door to keep her young, drunken uncles out?) to her education at the hands of the legendary Madame Suvestre to her marriage to Franklin and beyond, Eleanor is just plain fascinating. Today her legacy has been taken over with speculation about her sexuality–her affair with Lorena Hickock and her odd relationship with Joe Lash and, later, David Guerwitz, all spark belittling interest.  Blanche Weissen Cook’s multi-volume biography is fabulous, though the last volume was much weaker than the others. I thought each volume deserved to show the same level of interest in Eleanor’s life and work as the first volume had so beautifully done. I collect books on all the Roosevelt family and so have read numerous biographies on all members of the family.

The hardest part for FLOTUS biographers is to not let POTUS take them over.

 

51wOOYdbhJL._SY346_The “other” Mrs. Roosevelt–the second wife of Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, had been her husbands childhood sweetheart. Then one day, the couple, suddenly had a falling out. Theodore married the exquisite Alice Lee and Edith was left a spinster. Until that horrible day when Alice gave birth to her namesake and died. It was the same day Theodore’s mother died as well. Baby Alice was given to T.R.’s sister and he went off to the Dakotas. He thought he should not marry again–he thought this too disloyal, but after a few years her queitly married his childhood love, Edith and they had five more children. I often wonder how it felt to be chosen second. Did she harbor bitterness? Or was she just glad to have the man she loved?

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Claudia Taylor Johnson did more than merely beautify America’s highways–she helped make Lyndon Johnson into the savvy politician, the savvy Southern politician, who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and who gave us the Great Society legilsation that gave use the array of safety net programs we know today–or extended those given by the New Deal. She is an intriguing woman! I’ll have more to say when I finish reading this book.

 

 

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Bess Truman may have had the world’s most over-bearing mother. Asked at her First Press Conference how often she’d have such events she replied that this was the only one. She kept her word. Like Melania Trump, Bess was often abscent from Washington–almost always to be back home in Independence, Missouri, with her mother. But she and Harry were as much a political couple as Bill and Hilary Clinton or FDR and ER and Bess could knock back whiskey and play poker with the back room boys, too!

 

 

Other First Ladies I have enjoyed reading about are, especially, the two Mrs. Woodrow Wilsons. Sadly, the biography I have of the two of them, couldn’t quit making itself into a political biography of Woodrow. Then there is that footnote that tells all of history that then Governor Wilson and the first Mrs. W. used contraception–that W forgot “them” and could she grab them and bring them on vacation! I really didn’t need to know that….. Jacquline Kennedy is another fascinating first lady. I have read several biographies on her and have many books on the Kennedy family, but no one book stands out to me on Jackie.

 

Autobiographies and Letters

In November, Mrs. Michelle Obama’s autobiography will be released and  I plan to read it. If Melania Trump pens her autobiography after Donald’s term(s) as president, I will read it as well.

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What’s not to love about a lady with prematurely gray hair, a normal figure and a penchant for wearing mismatched Keds on vacation in Maine? Barbara Bush is the real deal–no matter what your politics are.

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography is sparse and notable mostly for what it left out. There is no modern day type soul searching on the marriage of Mr and Mrs FDR nor is there any mention of the live-in “lovers” [I use ” ” because the true status is irrelevant] during the White House years that kept both Eleanor and Franklin going during their long Washington years. Her most poetic prose is reserved for her beloved father, the alcoholic Elliott Roosevelt–brother of Theodore.

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After Eleanor, Abigail Adams is my other favorite First Lady. Truly a Founding Mother as well as a First Lady, she was also mother of a president and mother-in-law of the nation’s only foreign born First Lady until Melania Trump.

 

 

 

The Novels

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This novel, said to be a lightly veiled retelling of Laura Bush’s life, captivated me from beginning to end. Every word rang true.

 

 

 

 

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Mary Todd Lincoln’s freedwoman seamstress, Elizabeth Keckly, narrates this tale that shows just how out-of-control Mrs. Abraham Lincoln was.

 

 

 

 

And then…..

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Jed and Abbey…how I miss them.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever–Fiction List

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If you’ve read here much, this week’s list will be VERY predictable! These are the novels I can read and re-read forever and ever. To new readers–yes, I know of and deplore the racism in GWTW. I do not read it to glorify anything. I read it to enjoy Rhett Butler. I like either big, sprawling books (that today would be chopped up into a series) or short, fun books.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Artsy Reader Girl. Why not join in and post your own list? The rules are here. You can read all of this weeks Top 10 Posts here.

Review: Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

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I was honestly hesitant to even pick up Girls in the Picture due to the triumph that was the Swans of Fifth Avenue. I thought there was no way author Melanie Benjamin could follow that up with anything worthy. I was so wrong–and I’m so glad. Girls in the Picture is right up there on the same fabulous level as Swans of Fifth Avenue.

“Her desperation was so palpable it should have had its own dressing room on set.”

The Story

Famed silent film star Mary Pickford, aka America’s Sweetheart, and Academy Award-winning screen writer Francis Marion helped make movies what we know them to be today. Their friendship and their professional collaborations are the focus of this often emotional fictionalization of their lives from the early “flickers” to 1969.

Thru the book we come to know Mary and Fran and also screen legend Douglas Fairbanks. We experience Pickfair–the Buckingham Palace of early Hollywood. We also come to see what fame and listening to your press does to one.

As possibly the first ever “typecast” actor, Mary Pickford suffered the ruin of her acting career while at the same time she, along with husband Douglas Fairbanks and legendary silent film star Charlie Chaplain, formed United Artists–making her a formidible figure in the motion picture industry. Meanwhile Francis Marion, the woman who unwittingly helped to typecast Mary, earns accolades the likes of which women screen writers today would love to receive. Both women were trailblazers for women, not only in the movie industry, but in careers in general–by taking control of real careers, careers that they helped to define.

But, as so often happens to women, but almost never to men, the sacrifices they had to make were brutal. One of the hard parts of listening to audio books while driving is the desire to capture superb quotes. One I could not capture featured a dialogue on marriage and how women who are successful so often have no ability to choose decent husbands. Both women were married multiple times, but each did find her true love.

Interestingly, the author’s note at the end is, for once, as good as the novel itself. Having forbidden myself to research anything on Mary or Fran while reading the book (an occupational habit of librarians) here was essentially the sum total of my knowledge of Mary Pickford: that she, Douglas and Charlie Chaplain made a movie with the then Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten during their honeymoon travels in 1921–part of which I have seen. The author’s note filled me in much more.

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This image may be copyright protected. I would like to give appropriate credit. Click here to see where I found it.

An unexpected benefit to me as an adoptive Mom one part of this filled me with relief that adoption has become a much, much more rigorous process! I really doubt that was the author’s intent though!

You can read my review of Swans of Fifth Avenue here: There Were Three In This Marriage….

My Rating

 

4 Clapper Boards

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Romance Novels

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This week’s topic, Favorite Romance Novels, is a fun one. I don’t read very many formula romances, but I do read a lot of “romantic fiction” or chick lit. F.Y.I.–these are not listed in any ranked order.

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

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I read this sweet romance in Peace Corps years ago, but it has stuck with me. Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer.

Portrait of a Marriage by Pearl S. Buck

 

If you think Pearl Buck wrote only of China you’re missing a lot of great books. Portrait of a Marriage is one of my favorite books ever. She is the only author have ever read who captures the true feeling of married love. The illustrations are so poignet, too. I loved them as much as I loved the book. Portrait of a Marriage by Pearl S. Buck.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

 

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Romance doesn’t stop when you hit 30 or even 70. This is a contemporaty classic. Even the movie was good. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

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I admit–I threw this back. Then I got the audio. I fell irreversibly in love with this story. Another that shows that age and even ethicity does not interfer with love. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

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I know, I know–Me Before You! And, I LOVE Louisa and Will. But this one is just so sweet and wonderful, TOO. And, many people haven’t heard of it yet and they should. Jess, Tanzie, Ed, Norman and Nicky will ALSO capture your heart–I promise. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.

 

Do you love love stories?

You may want to read last week’s Top 10 Tuesday: Love Freebie post!

And, be sure to check out my Cross-Generational Romance posts. Older man, younger woman, but true love. See the tag cloud in the right side bar and click to view them.

 

You can particpate in Top 5 Wednesday! See the Top 5 Wednesday group at Goodreads.com for the weekly topic, then post your blog or video post.