For me, choosing the right book to read is often like deciding what I want to eat. Sometimes I am in the mood for something with meat-and-potatoes substance that teaches me more about myself and the way I view the world. Sometimes I want something exotic to take me far away to different times and places. Every once in a while, however, I want something light and tasty — but not completely without merit; a book that is like dark chocolate for the mind. If you are in the mood for a guilt-free Valentine’s treat that won’t add inches to your waistline, check out these sweet and rich stories.
By Marian Keyes
Viking Press, $25.95
The Brightest Star in the Sky is the latest book by international bestselling author Marian Keyes. Keyes has
been compared to chick lit authors Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding, but I found her to be more an Irish Lorna Landvik or Carrie Adams. As delicious as this novel is, there is a darkness at its center that makes it more than frothy chick lit.
The story revolves around the seven inhabitants of a townhouse of flats at 66 Star Street in Dublin, Ireland. Katie, a 40-year-old music executive, is capable, independent and looking for someone on whom she can depend — which doesn’t seem to be her fantastically rich and successful boyfriend, Conall. Lydia, who lives downstairs from Katie, is a tiny spitfire of a cabdriver who spends time creating lists of things she hates and making the lives of her glum Polish roommates, Andrei and Jan, utterly miserable. On the second floor is elderly Jemima, who is enjoying her final days in Dublin in a flat filled with comfortable, overstuffed furniture after the death of her beloved husband, an architect famous for his modern designs and clean lines. Matt and Maeve, a young married couple, live on the ground floor.
A ribbon of the supernatural runs through The Brightest Star in the Sky in the form of a mysterious, omniscient “visitor” who narrates the story. This narrator effortlessly took me back and forth through time and space, giving me a complete picture of the lives of the residents of 66 Star Street.
Much of the story had me laughing out loud — even when I had felt like crying a few pages earlier. The Brightest Star in Sky evokes a range of emotions making it very real, and the unearthly “visitor” (and a few other unexpected elements) makes the book something a bit more.
Yet another reason that this book is more than your average chick lit novel is that it is not entirely predictable. The characters’ lives come together in surprising ways, and there are quite a few plot twists that I didn’t expect.
The more I think about it, the more I realize it is more than one piece of chocolate, it is rather like an entire heart shaped box of candy treats — each one more fun to bite into than the one before.
For your littlest Valentines …
The Yellow Tutu
By Kirsten Bramsen
Illustrated by Carin Bramsen
Girls ages 3-5
Random House, $15.99
This book is absolutely precious. Just take a look at the cover! Little Margo receives a lovely yellow tutu for her birthday. She thinks that it is amazing, and being the creative child she is, decides to wear it to school — on her head. Her classmates laugh at her until her friend Pearl stands up for her. Together they decide that the tutu makes her look fascinating — not silly at all.
The story is sweet, but what drew me to this book was the beautiful illustrations. From the tulle-decorated endpapers to the shine on Margo’s curls, The Yellow Tutu is one of the prettiest books out there. It would make a very good Valentine’s Day present for any little girl ages 3 to 5 — especially when accompanied by an actual yellow tutu for her to wear however she would like!
Wow! It’s a Cow!
By Trudy and Jay Harris
Illustrated by Paige Keiser
Ages 18 months – 3 years
This is my 21-month-old son’s Valentine’s pick. His favorite new activity is making animals sounds, and this book gives him the perfect opportunity. Its sturdy construction ensures that Wow! It’s a Cow! won’t get destroyed as the child turns each whimsically illustrated page, and its amusing storyline will give him or her much to giggle over:
How do you know it’s a cow?
“If it goes, ‘Neigh, neigh,’
And it’s pulling a plow,
It’s not a cow.
It’s a … horse.
My little guy particularly enjoys the picture of the cow swimming in the farmer’s pond as if he were a duck. Wow! It’s a Cow! is a Valentine’s treat to please any little sweetheart.