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One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (2014)

oneplusoneJoin an unlikely group on this wacky road trip across England. In One Plus One, Ed drives Jess and her two kids Tanzie (10) and Nicky (16) and their dog Norman to a math tournament in Scotland. Single mother Jess is juggling two jobs, two kids, and too many bills. Tanzie is a math whiz, and this tournament is her shot at earning enough money to attend an exclusive school. Nicky’s differences make him a target of the neighborhood bullies. Tech geek Ed encounters a slew of problems relating to his business dealings, and without knowing quite how it happened, offers to transport the stranded family across the country. What should be a quick trip turns into an unexpected adventure.

The story is told from multiple points of view. Jojo Moyes’ novel is quirky, sweet, and memorable with endearing characters. Though it has moments of sadness, you’ll finish with a smile on your face.

Words and Pictures (2013) PG-13

wordsnpicsClive Owen and Juliette Binoche play an art teacher (Binoche) and an English teacher (Owen) who work at a Maine prep school.

They both are battling their own demons when they meet. They soon begin an open debate whether words or pictures have the greater power. It is the battle of right brain versus left brain dominance. The war between the teachers becomes a school-wide event.

Words and Pictures is a unique movie. Owen and Binoche are wonderfully matched in a Hepburn/Tracy kind of relationship. This is a movie not to be missed. It is intelligent, witty, and presents a “no frills” relationship between two adults.

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks (2011)

bestofmeSome of Nicholas Sparks’ novels are just really sad, but I still loved this one and have to recommend it. The character development and the plot have just the right amount of suspense thrown in to keep the reader turning pages.

Dawson and Amanda were lovers 25 years ago and are reunited in their North Carolina hometown after the death of a mutual friend. Neither has lived the life they had hoped to live, nor can they forget the special love that they shared.

In The Best of Me, you really come to care about the main characters as they struggle to accept and live with the choices they’ve made. After you read the book, check out the movie adaptation.

What If (2014) PG-13

whatifIn this offbeat comedy, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chandry (Zoe Kazan) meet at a party, strike an instant connection, and become best friends. She has a boyfriend and he’s been burned too many times. Can the pair really be just friends? What If is a sweet and smart romantic comedy set in Toronto with both funny and dramatic touches.
- Jennifer

What if your best friend was a girl? What if you liked her for more than just a friend? What if you don't know how to tell her?

This charming film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace, a med school dropout rebounding from recent heartbreak, who finds himself questioning all of these things.

Enter his roommate's cousin Chantry, an animator living with her long term boyfriend Ben. The two hit it off immediately and continually enjoy each other’s witty banter and humorous dialog. In a disastrous attempt to tell Chantry his true feelings, Wallace finally answers the question What If...- Chris

Beauty and the Beast (1991) G

beautybeastBefore heading to Disney World and the new Be Our Guest restaurant, I revisited this classic from my childhood. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination. The Oscars for Best Original Song (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Best Score (the talented Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) come as no surprise as you listen to the enchanting music throughout the film. The story is engaging, the characters endearing (how can you not love a girl who is thrilled by books and libraries?), and the movie simply magical.

Roger Ebert was equally enthralled. Check out his review. And something else to look forward to – Beauty and the Beast will be here live on stage in late March as part of Broadway in Chicago.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (1950)

grandsophyIn Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy, a lighthearted and witty regency romance along the same vein as Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Sophia Stanton-Lacy returns to England after traveling around continental Europe with her diplomat father…and immediately throws her cousin’s household into chaos. With her effervescent personality and managing manner, Sophy effortlessly fixes familial and romantic relationships. You’ll admire Sophy’s mad skills as a horsewoman, her disregard for silly rules, and the way her kindhearted yet devious mind conceives her madcap plans.

I listened to the engaging narration by Sarah Woodward -- and you can too by downloading the book through Hoopla!

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerThe story is set in London and goes back and forth between 2009 and 1849. In the modern thread, Julia inherits a house and travels from New York to London to clean out the house before selling it. The story switches to 1849, where Imogen lives in the house with her dispassionate husband. Imogen has an affair with the artist painting her portrait – a painting that still hangs in the house in 2009. Modern day Julia pieces together Imogen’s life and finds love in Nicholas, an antiques dealer who helps her with the research.

I really enjoyed That Summer and loved the switching of the characters and the years. Very entertaining – I hope that a movie is made from Lauren Willig’s novel.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013)

girlyouleftbehindSophie and Liv struggle through tragedies, tough decisions, and community ridicule nearly a century a part. A hauntingly beautiful portrait of Sophie with penetrating eyes painted by her impressionist husband connect the womens' plights across time. Liv feels a deep connection to Sophie and risks everything to keep the painting out of the wrong hands.

Sophie is left behind in occupied France during WWI as her husband goes off to fight. Liv is left behind after her husband's untimely death in 21st century London. Liv meets Paul and finds out he is on the opposing side of her quest to keep Sophie's portrait. Their relationship develops in opposite directions. She is not sure if he can pull her out of her deep depression left by her husband's death, financial ruin, and public criticism, or push her further down.

As Liv finds herself at the end of all hope, Jojo Moyes allows the reader inside the mind of Sophie on the brink of death at the hands of the enemy. In The Girl You Left Behind, parallel narratives converge as the two women continue to struggle. A satisfying epilogue ties up loose ends in both worlds, yet leaves enough for the reader's imagination to wander a bit.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)

storiedlifeThis is a story for those who love books and book people. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry presents a sad but delightful series of stories through A. J’s life as he loses his wife and a valued possession, but then gains the responsibility of a 2-year-old child and a new life. Poignant, sad, and funny events keep the reader (or listener) engaged for the full journey. Gabrielle Zevin’s novel was a New York Times bestseller, a #1 Indie Next pick, and a #1 LibraryReads selection.

Music and Lyrics (2007) PG-13

musicandlyricsHugh Grant plays a has-been pop star from the 80s doing backwoods promotional appearances when he is approached by a teen sensation to write a song for her. His strength has always been music, not lyrics. He unexpectedly finds a struggling young writer (Drew Barrymore) who insists she is not a lyricist. In the tradition of romantic comedies, we can figure out what happens but it is an entertaining journey complete with good old fashioned 80ish songs and music videos.

Despite the gap in their ages, Barrymore and Grant make a believable couple with chemistry bouncing off the screen in Music and Lyrics.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2014)

index.aspxIn New York City in 1911, a fire devastated both the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland being constructed above Coney Island.

These public events are the framework for a spellbinding tale in which the author weaves realism and fairy tale. This novel, a romance and a tightly plotted mystery, is set among carnival sideshows, freak shows, and the midway of Coney Island. Her portrayal of New York City during a pivotal year in the city’s history turns the city a character in its own right.

Alice Hoffman’s storytelling magic is here in The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a love story rich with history and a sense of place.

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson (2013)

index.aspxA cute, modern book with a character named Mr. Darcy. Any Pride & Prejudice fan (or dog lover) would love Unleashing Mr. Darcy. Check out Teri Wilson’s novel today – and visit SheKnows.com for an interview with the author.

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerAn unexpected inheritance. A mysterious painting. A forbidden relationship. In this mesmerizing tale, a house and a painting provide the link between 2009 and 1849 England.

In 2009, unemployed New Yorker Julia unexpectedly inherits a house in suburban London from a mysterious great aunt. In the mid-nineteenth century, Imogen’s mundane existence is transformed by the appearance of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

I was immediately drawn into the family saga spanning two centuries. I love Lauren Willig’s writing style, and how she mixes historical facts and figures with her fictional tale.

After I finished That Summer, I immediately wanted to start again to revisit those gothic twists that made me question what I’d previously read.

If you enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013) or A Vintage Affair (2010) by Isobel Wolff, or simply adore books that travel between the past and present, read this book!

Love Is All You Need (2012) R

Here’s a perfect movie to watch when you feel like you need a “romantic comedy.”  This sleeper-of-a-movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a wealthy but grumpy widower who travels to Italy for his son’s marriage to a young Danish girl. As the two very different families meet to prepare for and celebrate their children’s wedding, love and hope for a wonderful future materialize. Quirky but warm and funny, Love Is All You Need just might fit the bill.

Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (2013)

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has written this romantic suspense novel as a young woman’s search for her parentage and consequently her identity. The heroine Korobi is both infuriating and endearing as her story unfolds with all of its complexity, crisis, and obstacle. Oleander Girl is rich with descriptions of the Indian culture. Divakaruni writes about India in a way that gives the reader an insight into traditional Indian culture.