A Great and Terrible Beauty ~ #JNGReads

Ah, when reality fails to live up to expectations…

This novel was annoying. Was it as annoying as some of the 2-star reads I toiled through last year? No, thankfully. But was it random, all over the place and full of totally pointless characters? Yes, ma’am.

I’ve been wanting to read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray for years now. I think I added it to my Goodreads To-Read List when I first signed up for the site, which was a long time ago. By all accounts, this novel should’ve been a favourite of mine – the setting is Victorian England, the tale is meant to have magical twists and turns, and the heroine is a redhead, which I always associate with feisty, strong and brave characters. This novel really does tick every box that I look for when picking up a young-adult novel.

And yet, it fell utterly flat for me.

I have to admit, my mind wasn’t totally into this novel from the start. This could be because I entered into it hot off the tails of the most recent novel in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, A Court of Frost and Starlight, which I have been anticipating for almost a year. It could also be because I’ve been exhausted from work this entire week. It is more likely because I’m leaving on my belated honeymoon to Paris and London next week and my mind has been wandering and daydreaming constantly. These could all be reasons why A Great and Terrible Beauty didn’t wow me like I thought it would.

However, if a book is good enough, nothing should get in its way. If a book is captivating and intriguing enough, I can pick it up after a long and busy day and be immediately swept up in it, as if I never put it down. If a plot is compelling enough, I won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough, even if my arms are tired from a grueling workout or my eyes are burning from hours staring at a computer screen. And, if characters are engaging enough, they will become dear friends. None of the characters from A Great and Terrible Beauty intrigued me, and the plot was so jumbled and random that it wasn’t able to redeem the novel for me whatsoever.

Okay, hang on a minute here, I feel like this little review is getting as jumbled as the novel. How to organize my thoughts better? What about a list of the things that made no sense to me and that I am still flummoxed by? Good plan!

1) Carolina – Who is this girl and why is she relevant? I still have no idea. Is she Mother Elena’s daughter? Was I supposed to be shocked by that? I didn’t even care, TBH.

2) Miss Moore – I really thought she’d somehow be involved in all the stuff with The Order and the realms and then she wasn’t and was just some basic character who served no purpose and wasn’t even in the novel enough to be this feminist, independent female character. Major potential that was unexplored if you ask me.

3) Mary Dowd’s Diary – 100% of the diary entries included in the novel seemed pointless to me and served only to muddle the plot and didn’t actually add any suspense or thrill, in my opinion. Could’ve done without the diary honestly.

4) Circe – I have no words for how confusing this character is as a “villain”, mainly because she isn’t even present in the novel and I don’t have any grasp of what exactly she is or is after.

5) Gemma’s Brother – What is this guy’s name again? I can’t even remember…which just proves how pointless his inclusion in the novel was, even though it was brief. Wasted time and space on the page, if you ask me.

6) Mrs. Nightwing – Could’ve been cool. Could’ve been an unexpected villain OR an unexpected aid to the main characters. Was none of these things. Not cool.

7) Brigid – See comments above.

8) The Order/The Realms – WTF was even happening in the realms and what even is The Order? Like was it just comprised of Mary Dowd and Sarah Rees-Whatever? Or has The Order been around for a long time? Did I miss a huge explanation here? Possible.

9) Mr. Bumble – Again, major potential left unexplored BECAUSE this novel could’ve had way more commentary about what it means to be a woman in the Victorian era EXCEPT that it only alludes to these things and then flits off into fairyland and then nothing much happens.

10) Ann – The epitome of unexplored potential. She could’ve been the raddest female character if she only had a bit more backbone and fight to her. And okay, maybe the author wanted to go the route of having her be self-conscious about her lack of beauty, etc. BUT what about exploring this a bit further rather than just referencing the fact that she tries to physically hurt herself and then shying away from this subject matter?

11) Gemma – Not quite as annoying as my two least favourite characters of all time, Audrey Rose from Stalking Jack the Ripper and Anna from Anna and the French Kiss (I know, you all have your pitchforks at the ready, I can sense it), but Gemma has to be one of the most insipid and idiotic characters I have ever encountered. If someone says, Do NOT take this power with you into the real world…DON’T DO IT. DO NOT. Those instructions were very clear. Gemma just seems like a selfish, spoiled brat right from page 1, and this only gets worse when she teams up with equally annoying and vapid characters like Felicity and Pippa. Mean Girls-esque cliques in a Victorian-inspired novel? NOT. A. FAN.

12) Kartik – Is this person a viable love interest for anyone in this story? Does this person have a point in this novel? No to both.

I was going to give this book a 3-star rating, to be generous, but boy, did that list ever work wonders and clarify things for me. This novel was a bore, but also super confusing and left me with more questions than answers. Not impressed, to say the least.

❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

✦ Answered Dreams ✦ ~ A Court of Frost and Starlight

☆ Nothing much happened in this novel…and yet, it meant everything to me. ☆

I’m the type of reader who fantasizes about characters, long after I’ve turned the final page of a novel. I’ll find myself on the subway thinking about what a fictitious couple might be up to at that exact moment. I’ll be standing in my kitchen, making lunch or dinner, and I’ll find myself considering what a fictional character would be making for his or her own dinner. And now that I’m married, I’ve found myself speculating about the married/domestic lives of characters like Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire…and Feyre and Rhysand…beyond the scenes of the books they are a part of.

☆ I love imagining and envisioning the spaces in between a novel, the quiet moments that are omitted from or would follow it. ☆

And for that reason, A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas was my ideal sort of book. As I said, nothing very substantial happens in it…no plot twists or moments of heart-wrenching anxiety. Following the drama of A Court of Wings and Ruin, though, I don’t think we really needed anything too heart-pounding. Instead what we get is what I felt I needed most: the everyday, the routine. We see Feyre and Rhys, as well as the cast of the Night Court, going about their lives and picking up the pieces after the war. The novel, or novella, whatever you want to call it, is comprised of a bunch of little scenes of this everyday life, and I found it adorable and touching in equal measure. It gave me a glimpse into scenes I had tried to imagine myself: Feyre and Rhys busy at work (something my husband and I can really relate to, having started new, dream jobs ourselves recently), Mor and Cassian retreating to places of solitude to ease their anxieties, and Amren engaging in an unexpected romance. There was nothing earth-shattering about this story, sure, and yet somehow it felt significant, felt like catching up with a friend after a long time apart. And there are, of course, a few surprises, but even these were treated with subtlety. This book felt intimate and human, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I could go on with more examples of lovely moments in the story or provide some of my favourite quotes, but since the story is so short, I hesitate to do that. That would take the fun and wonder out of experiencing it as a reader…so let me just say that if you are a fan of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, this is a must read.

☆☆☆☆☆ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Can I See You Again? ~ #JNGReads ~ Highly Recommendable Chick Lit.

Another day, another chick lit. novel read by me! Oh, how consistent I am!

“‘Everything about him is true. He is kind. He is handsome. He is the truest person I’ve ever met. He’s the man I think of when I have a bad dream, a crummy day, when the lights go out and the entire house is dark. But I’ve hurt him.’”

Welcome to yet another review of a romance novel…it seems like all I’ve been reading lately is chick lit. (or YA books verging on chick lit. status), and I am very okay with that. Other than the Victorian novels that form my academic roots, chick lit. is my go-to reading genre, and I don’t see that as likely to change anytime soon. Even the YA and fantasy novels I choose to pick up all have some element of romance to them, and I’m starting to embrace and be less ashamed of this personal preference more and more as I engage with like-minded readers on Goodreads. Chick lit. can be awesome, deep, profound and super entertaining ~ I’m here to shout that from the rooftops!

Anywho, I digress…let’s get back on track for today, shall we?

I just finished the most wonderful story!

~ an actual quote from me today, upon finishing Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan

(*Yes, also a quote spoken by Belle in Beauty and the Beast…but we’re practically the same person anyway, so let’s roll with it!)

Let’s start with a few things that I know to be true about myself. 1) I don’t usually pick up books based on their covers. 2) When I do, I rarely expect them to be masterpieces because I’ve been burned before by a pretty cover (for example, here). 3) When a book has a gorgeous cover AND is amazingly written, gripping and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (as in the case of this example), I am one happy lady and it is very likely that I will become obsessed with said book.

I picked up Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan on an absolute whim a few weeks ago, solely because the cover jumped out at me in the bookstore. (Check out the Goodreads page for this book here to see said cover, which I unfortunately did not have time to snap a photo of myself.) Was I expecting Can I See You Again? to be sugary sweet and adorable? Yes ma’am. Was I expecting it to be unique, with a witty and engaging narrator/protagonist I loved within pages and a hilarious yet still feasible plot? No sir. I was NOT at all expecting to fall head over heels in love with the main character of the novel, Bree Caxton, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud while reading her narration. Sure, I knew I’d probably find some moments cute and endearing, as I do in most chick lit. novels I pick up (I’m relatively easy to please, except when I’m really not, and then it’s a disaster, as in this case!), but I didn’t think the story would get under my skin quite as much as it did. I was a fan of just about everything about this novel, I would consider it near perfection in terms of the chick lit. standards I’ve come to adopt over the years…and this vehement reaction of mine was what was very surprising.

I really struggle to write reviews of GREAT novels, to be honest. I find it easy to log in detail what I don’t like about a novel when I have a violent reaction to it…but when a novel is GOOD, I find myself just wanting to say, Go and pick it up for yourself! How do you put into words why you loved a novel or why you had such fun reading it? It’s more of a feeling than any one specific thing about the book sometimes, and that’s the case for my experience reading Can I See You Again? these past few days. Yes, the characters, mainly Bree, her love interest Nixon and her best friend Andrew, are creatively depicted and have very distinct voices. Yes, the banter between Bree and Nixon is on fire, and I found myself smiling from ear to ear reading about how Nixon was flirting with Bree (often without her even realizing it, despite the fact that she’s a love guru by trade). Yes, the plot was filled with romantic moments like an unexpected first kiss and enough hijinks to make Sophie Kinsella proud. But, none of those things would necessary make me this excited about a book; even if all these elements exist and are executed well, the novel still has to have that little something special, that extra zing about it (like THIS INCREDIBLE BOOK has in spades!) to make it really stand out among the zillions and bazillions of chick lit. novels I’ve read in my lifetime. And, somehow, Can I See You Again? had this. I can’t put it into words, but what I will say is that I loved every moment of reading this book, found it nearly impossible to put down, and really never wanted it to end. Considering I had never even heard of Allison Morgan before seeing the novel in Chapters, I find this reaction pretty terrific (certainly one to shout about from the rooftops!), and I am definitely intending to pick up her other novel, The Someday Jar, soon.

I also should say that the beautiful cover of Can I See You Again? clearly did its job! As I said, I had never heard of Allison Morgan until I SAW this book in Chapters with my own two eyes, and it was the design of the cover that made me pick it up, turn it over, read the synopsis, and then buy it. It wasn’t the title or Morgan’s name attached to it…it was 100% the cover. So, kudos to the cover designers because they made me into an Allison Morgan fan and I’m super grateful for that!

I’ll be passing Can I See You Again? on to my mom ASAP…which means it is a really darn good chick lit. novel because her standards are high, and if a book doesn’t capture her attention within the first chapter, she’s bound to put it down. This one, though, I think she’ll struggle to put down at all!

“‘I’ve learned what it’s like to kiss a man with every bit of my body and mind. To be stilled by his touched, silenced by his breath on my skin, honored by his smile. I’ve learned what it’s like to feel. I’ve learned what it’s like to lose him.’”

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

By Your Side ~ #JNGReads

“I knew it was the extreme amount of stress I’d been under lately. Something had to give. I needed an outlet.

Under no circumstances should it have taken me almost a week to read a 350 page young adult book. But, I had an unexpectedly rough week, which is fitting for this reading experience in so many ways.

By Your Side by Kasie West is a novel about a teenage girl, Autumn, who gets stuck in a library over a long weekend with a misunderstood guy from her school, Dax. A common criticism of this novel that I’ve come across is that the setting of the library seems totally inconsequential, as neither of the characters actually read when they’re trapped in there, and that the portion of the novel when Autumn and Dax are trapped in the library is too short. These two things are true. However, they did not affect my rating of this novel whatsoever, and I will explain why.

“Just talking about rules right now was relaxing me. Structure sometimes helped me feel safe.”

By Your Side was unlike anything I expected from reading the synopsis, and yet, in so many ways, it surpassed my expectations. This is all down to the fact that Autumn suffers from anxiety.

I had an anxiety attack this morning. There’s a long story behind it, related to the long week I had, but to make that story short, I found myself crying in bed this morning as I thought about all the obligations (mostly social) ahead of me this weekend. I eventually calmed myself down (I’ve been told that anxiety attacks are not supposed to last for more than 20-minutes, even though they often seem to go on for an eternity), and when I did, I was able to get back into reading By Your Side right at a spot in the book when Autumn is also coming to terms with her anxiety. Autumn becomes easily overwhelmed when in certain social situations with her friends, and she slowly learns, through the course of the novel and with the help of her new friend/love interest Dax, that saying No is okay and important, particularly when she is being pushed beyond her limits.

“‘Have you ever felt trapped?’

I gave a single laugh. ‘Yes. I have anxiety.’”

Saying No is something I wish I was better at…but I’m working on it. I have felt exactly what Autumn has, that urge to give into people, to always say Yes to them even if you feel yourself starting to break. What I appreciated about West’s treatment of anxiety was that she focused on the sense of responsibility some people with anxiety feel, this burden of not wanting to disappoint other people or let them down. West focuses much of her portrayal of anxiety on Autumn’s family members and Dax reminding her that she has to keep herself healthy, that it is okay for her to admit her limitations, step back, and take some time alone to focus on her mental well-being. I don’t think this sort of thing is talked about enough in society, even with the current move toward focusing on anxiety disorders and mental illness. I believe that many people who don’t suffer from anxiety would find it hard to wrap their mind around why a person may feel uncomfortable about going to a particular social engagement, or why the thought of doing a certain social thing would bring them to tears. But, I have been there, most recently this morning, and I can say with conviction that for individuals who suffer from certain types of anxiety, there is no rhyme or reason; all we know is that some things, on some days, by no logic or rule, are simply beyond our power.

“‘Thanks for letting me stay home this week.’

‘Of course. You need to take care of yourself.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m staying home from the basketball game tonight too. Just the thought of it makes me cringe.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with that.’”

Autumn eventually gets to the point where she can say No to her friends, based on how she is feeling and by gaging her own mental health, and she is lucky in the sense that her friends are supportive of her and open to learning about her anxiety disorder. Believe me, not everyone in the world is that understanding. Having said that, I personally appreciated that West emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself, of doing what is right for you. Anxiety is just as real as any physical illness, and I agree with West that it has to be treated as such: sometimes, a person with anxiety simply isn’t feeling well enough to do something, and that feeling should be viewed as just as valid as if someone couldn’t make it out because of a stomach flu or throat infection. We all have our boundaries and barriers, and not every day is going to be an anxiety-filled one…but the ones that are need to be taken slow and easy, and Autumn is conscious of that towards the end of her story.

Is By Your Side the best young adult novel I’ve ever read? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it would make an adorable, light-hearted move and I really liked Autumn and Dax and their cute banter. That, I would only give 3 stars for though…for West’s portrayal of anxiety, however, I’ll up my rating a touch.

I would encourage any teenager who suffers from anxiety to pick up this book, because not only is it enjoyable, it will also remind you that what you’re feeling is perfectly valid and should be respected.

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Summer at Tiffany’s ~ A New Favourite ~ #JNGReads

Note (written after proofreading this review): This “review” marks the return of the real Janille N G, an absurdly emotional booklover who apparently can’t say anything concrete or constructive about a book and is instead so overwhelmed by feeling that her reviews are just a gush fest…enjoy! 😉

Remember when I read Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan last year and absolutely loved it? (If not, you can read my review here – haha!) Well, I just finished reading the sequel, Summer at Tiffany’s, and…and…I ADORED IT!!! I. Can’t. Even.

Okay, time to calm down for a minute so I can get this review out.

Summer at Tiffany’s is an adorable, exciting, heart-warming, intricate, realistic, HUMAN novel. It is chick lit. at its absolute finest, combining a fun, flirty plot and hilarious, gorgeous, glamorous characters with a warm and fuzzy feeling that simply cannot be beat. Truly, reading Karen Swan’s novels (granted, I’ve only read the two, but I have a feeling all her books are this way) always give me a warm feeling – they are the literary equivalent to sipping on a hot earl grey tea in a moderately crowded Starbucks in your favourite city. Actually, I think I said some variation of that exact sentence in my review of Christmas at Tiffany’s, and it is no less true about Summer at Tiffany’s. This amazing and intoxicating novel features dangerous expeditions and a dashing explorer, a beautiful English woman and three of her equally beautiful best friends, a sparkling Tiffany solitaire engagement ring and the most simple, intimate and fairytale-esque seaside wedding. All. Of. The. Heart. Eyes. For. This.

I’m an incoherent mess, so sue me. Summer at Tiffany’s was a damn good book that woke me up out of a fog in so many ways, during a particularly stressful week. It is the perfect companion to Christmas at Tiffany’s because both books gave me wanderlust, reminded me of the power of a great romance, and instilled in me the importance of quality, lifelong friendships.

I texted my best friend of almost two decades when I was halfway through Summer at Tiffany’s and told her that Cassie’s relationship with her best friend Suzy reminded me of my relationship with her. Well, in truth, Cassie’s relationships with her three best friends remind me of my relationships with my three best friends, who were also the bridesmaids at my recent wedding. When my best friend asked me why this book reminded me of her, I couldn’t quite articulate why (okay, except for the fact that she also lusts after a Tiffany solitaire engagement ring, but that’s a story for another time!). Now I think I’ve come to it: reading Summer at Tiffany’s, and Christmas at Tiffany’s as well, gives you that comforted, joyous and calm feeling that a night out with your best friend does. You know when you’re seated across from your best friend in a fancy restaurant downtown and you just look at her, her gorgeous face that you’ve seen age over the years, her dazzling blue eyes and her perfectly curled hair, and you just get this excited feeling, this overwhelming feeling of happiness that she is your best friend, always has been and always will be, and you are just the luckiest person in the world for it? You know that feeling you get when you see your best friend’s name appear on your phone, a new text, and even though you last texted her last night, you realize you’ve missed her a ton since then? You know that sort of friendship that’s more than just common interests…it’s blood, it’s a lifetime? That’s the sort of friendship both Christmas at Tiffany’s and Summer at Tiffany’s portrays, and that buzz you get from being around your best girlfriend is exactly the same feeling sitting down with one of these books will give you. It’s calming, reassuring, peaceful, but also heart racing and exciting.

Maybe none of that made sense – it probably didn’t – but that’s mainly because the magic of Karen Swan’s writing is better experienced than described. She writes female characters oh so well, with complexity and intricacy and respect. You won’t get a vapid, wishy-washy heroine in Christmas at Tiffany’s or Summer at Tiffany’s – you have to be ready to meet some strong and spirited women, as well as the men who support and adore them. I don’t know what better way there possibly could be to spend a Friday night than reading about those sorts of characters and relationships…except for spending it with my best friend… Enough said.

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Don’t Touch ~ #JNGReads

I got Don’t Touch at Chapters 3 days ago, on sale for $1.50. That is both a travesty and a blessing.

It is a travesty because Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson is an excellent young-adult novel and it is worth much more than $1.50. So much more.

It is a blessing because if the book wasn’t on sale for $1.50, I never would’ve spotted it and decided to pick it up. And, I am lucky to have had the chance to read it.

Don’t Touch is a complex, intricate and deeply moving story about a high school student and aspiring actress, Caddie, who suffers from severe anxiety and OCD. Caddie’s anxiety is so all-consuming that she has convinced herself, after her parents’ separation, that she cannot touch anyone without dire consequences. Caddie purchases gloves, she wears long sleeves and pants even in the oppressive heat of summer, and when she develops a crush on her classmate Peter and is cast as Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet opposite Peter in the title role, she does everything within her power to avoid getting close to him. Caddie is the narrator of Don’t Touch, and so the reader is able to develop a very intimate relationship with her, hearing her innermost fears and turmoil at wanting to engage with Peter and her other friends, but not feeling as though she is able to.

There were moments in Don’t Touch that brought tears to my eyes. I don’t suffer from severe OCD, but I have friends who do, and I myself suffer from anxiety. I am learning recently that my struggle with anxiety (which began at the start of high school) is so much less severe and difficult than what so many of my peers have to endure on a daily basis, but I do believe that mental health is all relative, and my anxiety sometimes feels like the most horrible thing in the world, at least to me. I luckily have never been in Caddie’s position where I fear touching others, but I do understand the frustration that comes from having this one fear playing over and over in your brain, no matter how hard to try to get it to stop or how logical you try to be. Anxiety isn’t really logical at all, or at least it isn’t in my experience, and I was deeply touched by Caddie’s narration of her inability to calm herself down even when she knows her anxieties are nonsensical, silly and impossible.

Rachel M. Wilson writes about anxiety well, with heart and respect. She mentions in her Author’s Note that she herself suffers from OCD, and that is clear in her careful treatment of mental health struggles that she is familiar with them. I only wish her book got more hype because I believe it is the exact sort of text that teenagers need to read. If I had read something like this book in high school, it may have helped me comprehend my anxieties and understand that they are not as uncommon or embarrassing as I originally thought. I don’t mean to say that a book like Don’t Touch would’ve cured me, but it would’ve made me feel a bit more “normal”…whatever that even means.

Caddie is a strong character, despite her anxieties, and what is most profound is the message that ailments like anxiety or OCD do NOT make a person weak, but rather they can make them impressively strong. Caddie goes through a lot and she doesn’t always come out on top of her anxiety, but in the end, she has developed methods to cope with it and she is able to touch people and enjoy this proximity. She comes a long way, but what is most special and poignant about her progress is that she seeks help, from her mother, from her friends, and from a trained professional. She eventually realizes that power comes from talking about her anxieties, from taking the power away from them, and she becomes vocal and unselfconscious in her discussion of what is plaguing her. This was beautiful to see and an incredible message for anyone who suffers from anxiety or OCD to be left with: that speaking about it, owning up to it and in a way embracing it, is the first step toward wellness.

“Talking about fear takes its power away.”

I would highly recommend Don’t Touch to anyone and everyone because it truly blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to find it so sharp and touching, but it was, and I think it is worthy of a lot more attention. Spend $1.50 on it, spend $15.00, spend $50.00…but whatever you do, pick up this book!

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Neverwhere ~ #JNGReads

Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming my new favourite author.

To be honest, I’ve only read two novels by Gaiman: Stardust and now Neverwhere. My husband, however, is an avid graphic novel reader and he recently finished the entire Sandman collection, as well as several collections that take place within the Sandman Universe (such as Death and Lucifer). Although I haven’t read these stories myself, discussing them with my husband and having him show me bits and pieces of them has convinced me that Gaiman is a genius storyteller. My brother also spoke very fondly of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I think will be my next Gaiman endeavour) and American Gods. Neil Gaiman seems to be all around me lately, and I can’t say I mind!

Neverwhere is one of those books that I will never be able to describe or summarize. There is a lot going on in this relatively small (only just over 400 pages!) text, and much of what occurs is fantastical but still somehow totally realistic and mundane. It’s hard to put into words the vibe and tone of Neverwhere, but trust me when I say that if you love unique characters, thorough world-building, and the city of London in general, you will enjoy this wild ride. I can’t say too much about the plot because I feel like everything would be a spoiler since so much of the novel’s magic is down to the creation of this insane and yet wonderfully recognizable world, and I would urge anyone who has read any Gaiman and enjoyed it, or anyone who is interested in getting a feel for what Gaiman’s work is all about, to pick Neverwhere up. I feel, personally, that it gave me a truer sense of who Gaiman is as a writer than Stardust did because, rather than adhering to genre specific criteria as he did in creating Stardust, a fairytale, Neverwhere seems to be entirely of Gaiman’s own invention.

What I can comment thoroughly on, though, is Neil Gaiman’s mastery of the English language. The man can write, there’s scarcely any doubt about that, and what’s more, he seems to have mastered many different styles and genres of writing. Neverwhere felt exactly, to me, like it could’ve been written by Dickens and that is what I adored about it! Several of the scenes reminded me of something from the pages of my favourite Dickens novel Our Mutual Friend, and the way Gaiman constructs and describes his characters is very reminiscent of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. I am particularly thinking of characters like Mr. Croup, Mr. Vandemar and the Marquis de Carabas, who are gritty and dirty and devious enough to have been created by Mr. Dickens himself. I believe that Gaiman was very much aware of how he was emulating Dickens’ style, but I also was amazed to find that the text felt so totally his own; it wasn’t a parody or an imitation at all, but it was certainly an homage to the great works of Victorian past.

“There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar’s eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing alike.”

“They walked down some impressive lobby. Then they waited while the footman lit each of the candles on a candelabra, of the sort normally only seen on paperback book covers, where it is traditionally clutched by a young lady in a flowing nightdress who is fleeing from the kind of manor house that only has one light on anywhere, burning in an attic window.”

Neverwhere is worth picking up for the beauty of its language. But what’s even more impressive is that the plot is exciting and the characters are both hilarious and feisty. The protagonist, Richard Mayhew, is a bumbling average guy who happens upon this totally outrageous adventure, and as a reader, it is so enjoyable to watch him navigate his way through circumstances that are outlandish and dangerous.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about Neverwhere and I will not hesitate to continue plowing through Neil Gaiman’s catalogue. Highly recommend this one!

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Wedding Date ~ #JNGReads

GRRR!!!

This is the sound of frustration, of dashed hopes.

I should’ve loved The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. I didn’t. The end.

If only I could end my review there, but I feel like that would be cruel. I really should explain my frustrated outburst.

I should’ve loved The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. The plot is right up my alley, it’s a story that I myself could’ve written and have always wanted to write. Hot guy and cute girl meet in a stuck elevator, hot guy asks cute girl to be his date to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, hot guy and cute girl fall in love. Does that not sound like the SWEETEST thing ever? It’s better than a Hallmark movie…and to be frank, it’s extremely similar to the plot of one of my all-time favourite romantic comedy films, The Wedding Date (coincidence?), starring Deborah Messing and Dermot Mulroney. (Sidenote: Can we consider Guillory’s novel to be plagiarism of this movie? I won’t go there, but I’ll leave you with that thought to consider, if you’ve seen the movie and read the book.) Really, I should’ve absolutely adored this short and sweet story.

But, I didn’t. (The end?) And believe me when I say I’m pretty disappointed. Why didn’t I love this story? Well, there’s a lot going through my mind right now, so I thought it best to compile a list of reasons…

1) The characters were FLAT! Excuse me for expecting some depth to the hero and heroine of a chick lit. novel. I know books of the romance genre don’t always put forth the most complex characters, but I’ve come to expect something a little bit more substantial. The dialogues are basic and generic, Drew and Alexa have possibly the most cliché jobs and personalities for a romance novel, and the side characters pop up to make occasional cameos but are not at all fleshed out. I struggled to figure out why characters like Alexa’s sister, Olivia, and her best friend Maddie were even in the novel because they were hardly significant. After reading romance novels like Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game with witty and engaging and human characters, I’m over this flat nonsense.

2) Drew and Alexa had NO chemistry! Seriously, their conversations were stilted and felt forced, the sex scenes were very awkward and weirdly described, and their texts left much flirtation to be desired. I’ve read romance novels that were entirely written through texts and correspondence, like Meg Cabot’s The Boy is Back, and loved them, so the interactions between Drew and Alexa left much to be desired.

3) The writing did NOT flow! The narration jumped around a bit too much for my liking, from third-person perspective focusing on Alexa’s point of view to third-person perspective focusing on Drew’s point of view, and there were often random jumps in between, either mid-sex scene or mid-conversation. I felt like things jolted around too quickly and everything was sort of written like a summary. I never felt settled in one particular scene long enough to enjoy it.

4) Clichés ABOUND! 90% of things that happened in this book have been done in other novels or in films or TV shows. Case in point, the movie The Wedding Date…even the title is a cliché.

Really, that’s about it, and maybe those seem like things that can be overlooked, but when a novel is only just over 300 pages, I expect for things to be more perfected and to feel tighter.

What I will say is that I really enjoyed two things about The Wedding Date: 1) the diversity of the characters and its treatment; and 2) the emphasis on body confidence. The stand-out aspect of this novel is that it features an African American female character and a white male character. I can’t say I’ve ever encountered a novel that featured an interracial couple, and it was very refreshing! I know this isn’t something I should even have to comment on because it should be much more commonplace, but in my experience, it isn’t and I am so happy that this novel is getting some hype because of it…very well deserved! As far as #2, I absolutely loved how Guillory treats Alexa’s self-consciousness about her body. I’m going to come right out and say that I have pretty big hips and a rather large (and impressive, if I do say so myself!) butt, and while these are two of my husband’s favourite things about me, they are definitely aspects of my body that I have always been self-conscious about. I really appreciated Alexa’s occasional, but NOT heavy-handed, reflections on her body, on how her stomach and hips look to Drew. Alexa is still a very confident woman, but she has her insecurities, and I particularly liked that Guillory portrays that a woman can be confident in terms of work and her interactions and personality, and about her physical appearance in general, and yet still have certain hang ups about her body. Alexa never dwells on them for too long, and I thought that was incredibly realistic and that her anxieties were well handled. I also love that she is still super confident in her intimate moments with Drew, and that this sexy and sensual side of her takes over and quiets that self-doubting voice. It was gratifying to read about a female character in a romance novel who doesn’t have this teeny tiny body and who is aware of that, but also not at all limited by it.

Okay, so, now that I’ve taken account of the good and the bed together…let’s go with an average rating, shall we? Not the best romance novel I’ve read by any standards, but it had its own redeeming qualities for sure!

❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart