A reason for those love songs

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Puffin
Number of pages:  345
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

* * *

Note: Just this once, I’m trying a different way of reviewing. This may get a bit personal, but I hope you’ll ride it out with me — I just really need to try this out. :) A short, yet proper review will be at the end of the post.

Dear Future Tina,

I’m not sure when you’ll read this again, or if you’ll even be able to ever read this again in a few years or decades from now. I don’t know if this blog will still exist, or if this entry will exist because you can always delete and re-write this sometime in the future. But let’s assume that you won’t do any of the two things I said above and you will eventually read this again, with a surprised smile on your face.

Your brother got married exactly a week ago, and that was the very reason why you picked up This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen once again. This was a so-so book during your first read, probably because you read it during the New Year and you weren’t really feeling the characters nor the situation back then. If you need a reminder on why you picked this up, it’s because all the mushiness in the wedding put you in the mood to read something that had a little of romance in it, and not the paranormal kind.

You are not like Remy. You are not like her at all. Okay, maybe in some ways you are, particularly in the way you are both so obsessive-compulsive with everything (but she is more OC than you are)…but in other aspects, you are not. Let’s state the most obvious: Remy is a dating machine. You are definitely not.

I think that’s one of the reasons why you didn’t relate to her when you first read it. You can’t understand how someone can do what Remy does: date a guy for a while, be sweet and all, sleep with him and then when the relationship heads for some semblance of seriousness, break it off. I don’t really understand it either, but I know we know some people who are like that. And I know both of us wonder: how could they do that? How could they jump from one guy to another and not feel exhausted at all the emotional trauma? How could they even attract so many guys when you can’t seem to attract some?

But Remy has her own reasons, of course. I guess when you see your mother get divorced and married for more than five times, you’d think the same thing: love is a joke. It’s not real, and if you fall for it, you lose. Remy said it very well: “The fate of your heart is your choice, and no one else gets a vote…I just think that you have to protect yourself…you can’t just give yourself away.” (p. 265)

You know what’s strange, though? As different as we are to Remy with regards to how you date (or not date), we’re pretty much the same with how you handle your heart. True, Remy has much more experience than us, but we both handle our hearts in the same way: closely guarded, and walls up, and no one could get in close enough to really hurt us. Not that we have been really hurt before (of course I’m not sure about when you read this, but as of this writing, we’re both single since birth and there’s still no one on the horizon — but only God knows what’s in store for the future), but we’ve definitely seen enough people get hurt so much that we don’t want to experience that, ever.

But remember your brother’s wedding? Remember the feeling you had as you watched your brother tear up and how your sister-in-law looked so happy and beautiful? Remember all the love in the air as everyone celebrated their blessed union? I know you know in your heart that you wanted the same thing. I know that despite all the fear of getting hurt, despite everything that you’ve seen, heard and read, that you still want to experience the kind of love that would make you see the reason for all those love songs.

I hope that we both find an ending similar to Remy’s in This Lullaby. There are no guarantees, really, but there is an assurance that everything will be okay. Yeah, it’s fiction, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with hoping, right? If in case you haven’t found our Dexter yet when you read this letter sometime in the future, I hope that we will find him sometime soon. Or he’ll find us, just as he found Remy in the book. :)

Don’t lose hope, my future self. Remember what Dexter said: When it works, love is pretty amazing. :)

Yours (well, you are me, anyway),

* * *

The proper review:
Suffice to say, I liked this book more the second time around. Perhaps it’s because I understood it a little bit better, and related to it more despite my differences with Remy. Dessen is very good with writing stories that resonate well with the target audience, and as always, I like her strong characters, especially the minor ones who still manage to leave a big mark in the story. I bet Dessen can make even the smallest character who sells affordable car insurance have an leaven a mark in the story.

This isn’t my favorite Dessen, but I see why people love it so much. This book left me witha  goofy grin on my face after, and a hopeful feeling that someday, my own Dexter would come. :”>

Although personally, I still prefer a Wes (Sa-woon!).  ;)

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes
See Michelle Read

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The Elle Word

Love Starts With Elle by Rachel HauckLove Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck
Thomas Nelson, 320 pages

Elle’s living the dream-but is it her dream or his?

Elle loves life in Beaufort, South Carolina-lazy summer days on the sand bar, coastal bonfires, and dinners with friends sharing a lifetime of memories. And she’s found her niche as the owner of a successful art gallery too. Life is good.

Then the dynamic pastor of her small town church sweeps her off her feet. She’s never known a man like Jeremiah-one who breathes in confidence and exhales all doubt. When he proposes in the setting sunlight, Elle hands him her heart on a silver platter.

But Jeremiah’s just accepted a large pastorate in a different state. If she’s serious about their relationship, Elle will take “the call,” too, leaving behind the people and place she loves so dearly. Elle’s friendship with her new tenant, widower Heath McCord, and his young daughter make things even more complicated.

Is love transferable across the miles? And can you take it with you when you go?

A week ago, some colleagues and I were discussing relationships and romance, and how one must go in choosing a mate. Perhaps “choosing a mate” is not the proper phrase to use (frankly it sounds a bit too bestial for me), but the discussion was about how the other person can be qualified as a potential guy or girl or will they be cast off into the friend zone. It was quite an interesting discussion, and I was surprised at how some of the guys told me that I needed to find someone who I don’t share too many common interests with but someone who is my opposite — someone who complements me, to use their term. That kind of got me confused. I mean, I know people say “Opposites attract” but if you have no common ground, how will you even start talking? Isn’t having something in common — even a little — a prerequisite in building good relationships?

It’s timely that I started reading Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck as I semi-wrestled with these questions. We first meet Elle Garvey in Sweet Caroline, as one of Caroline’s best friends and someone who could not wait to get married. She was so set to find a man in Beaufort that she started Operation Wedding Day in Caroline’s book, where she made a list of men that are qualified for her husband standards and set off to date them, only to find herself disappointed after kissing and dating many frogs that she hoped would be her prince. We see her at the end of Sweet Caroline done with her Operation Wedding Day and still no groom in sight, and yet she was still somewhat happy at the state of her heart.

We meet Elle again, this time a year after the events of Sweet Caroline, happily managing her own gallery and in love with assistant pastor Jeremiah Franklin for the past two months. Elle is at the peak of her career and life, and there was only one thing that would make her happier — a ring. Jeremiah provided that for her immediately at the start of the story, but not without revealing a catch soon after she gives her yes: they would have to move to Dallas because Jeremiah accepted a pastor job at a big church there. Elle felt torn, and even if there was probably more flowers in Houston TX, she said yes to Jeremiah, all in the name of love (cheesy, but it’s the only way I can describe it).

It’s here we see trouble brewing. Elle tries her best to submit to her husband-to-be’s whims and wishes, but she can’t help but feel stifled with Jeremiah’s passion for ministry and lack of concern for her. Elle loves Jeremiah, but she also loves her life and her dream and her art — one of them will have to give, but which? To make matters even more confusing, Elle becomes friends with her tenant, handsome and gentleman Heath McCord and his daughter, who both just happen to be there when she needed company the most.

Now, there is really nothing new or surprising in this novel, and I think everyone who’s read the blurb will know what will happen in the end. And it is true: there’s really nothing so surprising in how the story unfolded — the storyline is pretty typical. In a way, it reminded me of the local movie Miss You Like Crazy (John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo), with less angst and more chaste.

So why give it a pretty high rating, if the story’s so typical?

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