Four Great Books to Gift This Valentine's Day

If you're looking for a romantic novel for Valentine's Day (or any other day of the year for that matter) here are four excellent choices. But a word of warning - if you're after gushy regency romances, bare chested cowboys, or the latest 50 Shades knock off, you might as well leave now, as that's just not BookBrowse's thing. Instead here are four thoughtful stories which are long on love, relationships and exceptional writing, and short on heavy breathing. Perfect for gift giving, or buying for yourself!

I Shall Be Near YouI Shall Be Near You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Historical Fiction, debut novel, published by Crown in hardcover Jan 2014

Perhaps Gone With the Wind is to blame, but novels about the Civil War are usually assumed to be about the South. Erin Lindsay McCabe's debut I Shall Be Near To You is a welcome deviation from the expected norm. Set in the North about a husband and wife who both enlist to fight for the Union, this story offers tender insights into the sadness of war. It also elaborates on a little-known historical fact: some women dressed as men to fight in the Civil War...In addition to the immersive details about war and the portrayal of women's involvement, this novel is a love story. Rosetta's first-person narration paints a tender portrait of two lovers, desperate to stay together as the world contrives to tear them apart. Though Rosetta's dialect is often grating ("That gets my dander up, even if what that lady spy done is wrong, like he thinks she ain't smart enough to do more than gossip.") her spunky attitude and tenacity reveals a fascinating, appealing character. Rosetta is brave enough to choose her husband's love over a life of feminine conformity.
Abbreviated from the full length review by Sarah Sacha Dollacker


Calling Me HomeCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Novel, published by St Martin's in paperback Jan 2014

Calling Me Home is an outstanding debut novel! Alternating between the present and 1930/40s, the author draws you into the lives and conversations between an elderly white woman and a young black hairdresser as they drive from Texas to Ohio. Both women have secrets that they have guarded but end up sharing with each other. In reading the novel, issues such as race, love, family, and segregation are dealt with in a sensitive manner. This novel makes a person question why we have our prejudices when underneath we are all just human beings with the need for friendship, love and acceptance (Loren B). It has so many layers. It's sad and touching. Keep a box of tissues handy!
Abbreviated from the full length review by BookBrowse members


The Crane WifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Novel published by Penguin Press in hardcover Jan 2014

Readers of young-adult fiction will recognize Patrick Ness as the author of the widely acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, as well as the novel A Monster Calls, based on a concept by the late Siobhan Dowd. In these works for young people, Ness has showed himself adept at blending fantastical and real-world elements, including human tragedy (the depiction of terminal illness in A Monster Calls is particularly heartrending). Now, in his first book for adults, The Crane Wife, Ness does the same thing for a new audience (although teen readers will likely enjoy this new work as well). Broadly inspired by a Japanese legend that Ness remembers hearing as a child, The Crane Wife inventively mixes a realistic--even at times funny--love story with spiritual and supernatural elements to create an entirely original work of fiction.
Abbreviated from the full length review by Norah Piehl



Why We Broke UpWhy We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Novel for ages 14+, published by Little, Brown in paperback December 2013

I loved this book. If I'd read this book when I was 14, I would have written that with capital letters and exclamation points, the page soggy with tears. Remember when you could read a book and feel like it was written just for you? That the author was writing about your own private world, your singular thoughts, the startlingly originality of you and your friends? The feeling is absolutely thrilling, but it fades as we grow older and (hopefully) less self-centered, and realize that emotions are universal and uniqueness is dime-a-dozen. I treasure Why We Broke Up for reminding me of those teenage feelings, of the crushes and romances, the delights and disastrous mistakes that shaped my young self. I can only imagine what it would have been like to have read this book then - what a rare gift a book like this can be to the raw emotional life of a young teenage girl.
Abbreviated from the full length review by Lucia Silva


For more recommended love stories see last year's Valentine's blog post: Debut love stories for Valentine's Day, and every other day of the year

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Someone by Alice McDermott
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