My Literary Maidens

Apologies are in order…big time!

I am so so sorry that I have been MIA on the blog for almost a month. Trust me, I get it – this is no way to show my appreciation for all you lovely readers!

However, allow me to promise you that a giant, mammoth of a book review is on its way VERY soon. If you follow along with me on Goodreads, or if you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I’ve been buried deep in the world of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series for quite a while now. That’s the reason for my lack of posts – I’ve been so enthralled with my reading, so eager to delve into my book and not put it down for the entire night, that I haven’t actually had anything else to review (although I know this is no excuse, considering I could’ve offered you some lifestyle posts in the meantime – massive apologies again!). I even chose to skip right past writing a review for the second novel in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, because I just wanted to blaze right into the third book instead. And, I did exactly that – I am about two hundred pages away from completing A Court of Wings and Ruin, and my heart is already breaking at the thought. I have so enjoyed living in this world, with Feyre and all of her friends, and I simply do not want it to end. Hence why I have been reading extremely slooowly, savoring every last sentence and image and adventure.

Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time – and I swear, a book review of the entire ACOTAR series is on its way.

Having said that, when I realized a few days ago that I haven’t posted anything here in almost a month, I was horrified! I knew I had to get something out to you, and I also knew that I needed to exercise my writing muscles again, lest they get out of practice. So, on to a bit of a different topic… Here is another wedding-related post for you all…

“You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”

~ Pygmalion

Left to right: Lady Camille, JNG, Lady Courtney and Lady Kailah ❥

I count myself well and truly lucky to have some of the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for. My three best friends, my maidens, my bridesmaids, are among the most inspiring, beautiful and kind women I have ever known, and not only are they a constant source of pride for me, they also treat me with this unwavering respect and love. At times it is overwhelming to fully comprehend how loyal and dedicated they are to me and to our friendships, and they have each been the most incredible helpers throughout my wedding planning experience so far. To borrow from the idea presented in the quote above, my bridesmaids treat me like an absolute queen and make me feel so remarkably special, and I will forever be grateful for that. I cannot wait to return the favour at each of their own weddings! (Note: You can read a detailed post introducing and describing each one of my bridesmaids here.)

Not a single thing in the world could persuade me to change the three women I selected as my bridesmaids because they are the most perfect women that ever walked the planet. Having said that, there is one thing that could persuade me to increase their number – to add a few more ladies to my maiden fold – and that would be if my three favourite females from literature could jump out of the pages of their individual works and become real-life women. I recently found myself thinking about this, wondering which three heroines I would select to join myself and my bridesmaids in all of the wedding planning and events. And, there was absolutely no question – three literary heroines popped into my mind without hesitation, and I truly believe each of these women would fit in so well with my three best friends because they are all quite alike. I like to think I keep very good company, and I believe that even these women of the fictional world would adore my real-life bridesmaids instantly, and vice versa.

~ So, here we have it, my selections for My Literary Maidens (in no particular order, of course). ~

Jane Eyre

“Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien—I forgave him all…”

Was there any doubt that Jane Eyre was going to be on this list? Well, there shouldn’t have been. Jane Eyre is the one literary character that I will always owe so much of my personality, my morals and my convictions to. If I wasn’t such a chicken, I’d already have this Charlotte Brontë inspired tattoo on my skin that I’ve been dreaming up for years now, because that authoress is someone I will forever be indebted to. Jane Eyre, and the novel named after her, taught me so much about love, about soul mates, and about sacrifice. She presented a strong and dignified example to me at the most critical time in my life, when I was just leaving high school, and her story emphasized to me that it is possible to find an all-encompassing love that consumes but does not overcome you. Jane Eyre taught me that love is not an easy road, that there are countless obstacles on the way to finding it and also within a relationship, but that True Love means forgiveness, it means being strong enough to stand up for your love, to fight for it. To have Jane Eyre stand beside me on my wedding day would mean having a true role model in my midst, it would mean acknowledging that fortitude is an aspect of True Love that I will always apply in my own life.

Clare Abshire

“I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a novel that I also read when I was finishing up high school, and it is without doubt on par with Jane Eyre in my green heart. Clare Abshire is a source of undeniable inspiration in that novel, if only because she is constantly waiting for her love (time traveler, Henry DeTamble) to come home to her. Clare puts up with a lot of turmoil and tragedy in her relationship with Henry, and she faces every obstacle with unfailing resolve and impenetrable will. She is the very definition of a strong woman, and she has always been a model for me of how to overcome jealousy, uncertainty and insecurity. Clare is so confident in Henry’s love for her that she doesn’t let the little things, like ex-girlfriends in his life, or even the big things, like his regular absence, to get to her. She has a lot to face and get through in loving Henry, but she tackles each situation with a calm that is utterly remarkable. Clare Abshire taught me that love means being patient, it means waiting for The One and then hanging onto him through thick and thin, being his rock, his anchor. To have Clare Abshire stand beside me on my wedding day would mean acknowledging that True Love really can conquer all, and that the right love will survive all obstacles of time and distance.

Eliza Doolittle

“Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can’t take away the knowledge you gave me….Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself.”

I admit, it was a bit trickier for me to come up with my third literary bridesmaid…but only for about two seconds. Then, it dawned on me, what better bridesmaid to have than the original flower girl, Eliza Doolittle of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Eliza isn’t your classic romantic heroine whatsoever, and that’s what makes her a character that taught me so very much about love and relationships. I read Pygmalion for the first time after starting university, but I’ve been a fan of My Fair Lady since I was something like 6 years old, so Eliza Doolittle has always been a mentor to me. And what a remarkable and unique woman she is – Eliza Doolittle is a woman who does not stand down, who is not flattened or trampled on by any of the men around her. Although she is fond of her professor Henry Higgins, she refuses to have her personality muddled or diluted by him, and she is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Her main objective throughout the entire play is to better herself, to lift herself up in society, and while her pseudo-partner Higgins assists her on her journey and gives her the tools to be a better version of herself, she is the one who gets down and dirty, who battles every day with society’s expectations and uses her indomitable will and strength to get ahead and make a name for herself. Eliza Doolittle is one of the strongest female characters that exists in literature, and that comes from her defiance of societal norms and her desire to question and interrogate the social structures around her. To have Eliza Doolittle stand beside me on my wedding day would mean acknowledging that True Love does NOT mean losing your identity or becoming a mere domestic goddess. It would mean acknowledging that being a woman in love, being a wife, does NOT mean giving up on your dreams or stifling your passions. It would mean proclaiming that the right husband, the right partner, will give you wings to fly and build your own name, for yourself.

With friends like these, how could a girl go wrong? My three real-life best friends and my three fictional ones are the pillars of my personality, the puzzle pieces that go together perfectly to make me into the woman I am today, the one that my fiancé fell in love with. Without each of them, I would be nowhere close to who I am at this moment, and I am so honoured that each of them will play a part in my Big Day…because believe me, I plan to make Jane and Clare and Eliza a real presence on my wedding day, even if they can’t be there in person…so stay tuned for posts about that in the future!

See you all again very soon, I promise!


Girl with a Green Heart

A Truly Unexpected Favourite ~ A Court of Thorns and Roses ~ #JNGReads

What on Earth did I just read?!?!?!

I rarely do this. I rarely sit down and write a review only moments after finishing a book, especially if it’s after 10:00pm on a weekday, but this time, I just couldn’t resist.

I am in shock – complete and utter, mind-bending, soul-altering shock – from what I experienced. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.

I have to admit, I was expecting to enjoy Sarah J. Maas’ novel A Court of Thorns and Roses. Read the description of it, online, on Goodreads, anywhere you can find it – it is a novel right up my alley: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a strong and defiant heroine, battling it out against unique and terrifying villains, all in the hopes of saving her beloved. Sign me up. My only source of hesitation when picking up the novel was its genre – fantasy is not my thing whatsoever (Unpopular opinion time: I struggle to get through episodes of Game of Thrones that my fiancé finds incredible and heart wrenching, because I find that show DULL!), and so I had this feeling that I would like ACOTAR, but that I wouldn’t love it.

Well, I was freakin’ wrong on all accounts, and I am more shocked than anyone about it (except, perhaps, for my fiancé who can’t believe that a book of high fantasy had me gasping and writhing on our couch). Holy ****, I don’t even know how to describe what I’ve just experienced. This book is INCREDIBLE and I LOVED it!!!

Okay, how to put into words the emotions that are currently swirling in my chest… I have no idea. I need to try to be calm and rational about this, but it is so so hard, and if you’ve heard of ACOTAR at all or read any reviews, you’ll know why I’m so shaken. It is just that good. Like I said, I was NOT expecting to react this strongly or be this sucked into a fantasy world, but Maas’ writing is so intricate and detailed and consuming that I couldn’t stop myself from being overtaken. And more than that, I am completely overwhelmed by the story – it delivered every possible emotion; I felt horror and fear and anxiety and joy and love; it was romantic and funny and suspenseful and terrifying. It was everything, absolutely EVERYTHING that literature and fiction should be because it effortlessly transported me to another world. I was so enveloped in Feyre’s world that I almost forgot where I was at times, that I was able to ignore my real-life anxieties and obligations and go on a wonderful and awesome adventure. This, this, is what reading is all about!

Alright, let me try to properly articulate what I loved about A Court of Thorns and Roses… Everything!!! No, focus, be more detailed than that…

~ I loved the world, the setting. This surprised me more than anything. As I mentioned, I’m not one for all that fantasy stuff, and although I don’t mind reading about a fairy every now and then, I can’t say that I crave entering mythical or magical lands all that often. Having said that, Maas creates a world that is recognizable and relatable, but tinged with just enough magic to make it intriguing. Fantasy truly is the perfect word for it because I felt like Prythian was the ideal place to live, full of human comforts and familiarity, but also laced with wonders and immense beauty. I totally felt like I was living there because Maas’ descriptions were so breathtaking, and to be frank, I’d like to head back there right now.

~ I loved Feyre. I’ve heard criticism of her, and I’ll admit that I was SUPER annoyed when she couldn’t figure out the simplest riddle in all of existence, but she kick assed and I loved it! She is a strong, defiant and utterly brave female character, and she is about a million times more resourceful and resilient than her male counterparts. This is the type of female character that we need in this day and age, and when things got ridiculously intense at the end of the novel, I was on Feyre’s side every step of the way. I think she made all the right decisions, and I was in awe of her heart and her passion. I like to think that I’m similar to her in many ways, in my loyalty above all things, and she really did inspire me to stand tall and walk with my chin held high under all circumstances. Go Feyre!

~ I loved Rhysand. This is probably shameful, but this is where I’m at by the end of this epic novel. I don’t understand Rhysand, I have no real idea what he’s up to or what’s going on, but I like him. He’s mysterious and I just know that he’s misunderstood and has a kind heart way underneath his pale skin, and I’m sorry, but any time I sense even a bit of Mr. Rochester in a male character, I’m going to fall for him. It’s complicated, definitely, but I feel like something good is happening between him and Feyre, so I’m just going to go with it. He was there for her when it counted, when no one else was, and for that, I give him points. And, also, this scene…I mean, come on, I didn’t stand a chance…

“The pain shot through my bones again, and through my increasing hysteria, I heard words inside my head that stopped me short.

Don’t let her see you cry.

Put your hands at your sides and stand up.

I couldn’t. I couldn’t move.

Stand. Don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing you break.

My knees and spine, not entirely of my own will, forced me upright, and when the ground at last stopped moving, I looked at Amarantha with tearless eyes.

Good, Rhysand told me. Stare her down. No tears – wait until you’re back in your cell.

….Good girl. Now walk away. Turn on your heel – good. Walk toward the door. Keep your chin high. Let the crowd part. One step after another.

I listened to him, let him keep me tethered to sanity…”

~ I wanted to love Tamlin. I think I was supposed to love him, but in typical Victorian heroine fashion, I let a more interesting male character distract me. Tamlin was bland, if I’m honest, and he didn’t really do much of anything. Even his “romantic” interactions with Feyre weren’t all that spicy or intoxicating. However, I understand that it was important for him to be the likable good guy in order for Feyre’s willingness to die for him to be believable. If anything, though, I saw him as more of a plot device to get Feyre Under the Mountain, and that was just fine – but, the fact is, I’m not enamoured with him and I’m more interested in Feyre’s personal journey in the coming books than with her relationship with him.

~ I loved this entire reading experience. I can’t emphasize enough that A Court of Thorns and Roses delivers exactly what every reader should want: a true escape. I was whisked away to an entirely different realm and I was absorbed for every single second of my journey. The final third of the novel is full of such suspense and agony and uncertainty that I was actually shaken and left totally unnerved. I found it hard to concentrate on anything else, or even to sleep, because I kept dwelling on Feyre’s dilemma – it was that intense.

This reading experience was passionate for me, all encompassing and profound, and I am so glad that I decided to buy the second and third installment of the series this past weekend so I can dive back into the story right away. There must’ve been flaws with this novel, I’m sure there were, but I can’t even think about them because I’m too overjoyed and excited about how intricate the story was and how many new friends I’ve made in its pages. This reading experience was simply breathtaking, and I would highly recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses to any reader that wants to get away for awhile and be consumed by a world both different from and yet satisfyingly similar to our own.

On to the next novel – but seriously, I’m cracking open its spine tonight!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!


Girl with a Green Heart

Thirteen Reasons Why – #JNGReads

I want to start this review by stating that the reason behind my critiques and average rating of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is the writing style, and has nothing at all to do with the subject matter. I am a firm believer that suicide is absolutely something that must be discussed with and among young adults, and although I know the Netflix adaptation of the novel has received some criticism from parents and teachers for sensationalizing suicide, I feel strongly that this topic must be addressed and not avoided or feared. Young adults deserve for their anxieties and sources of depression to be acknowledged, and we also owe it to the young adult generation to encourage them to read texts and watch films and television shows that will draw their attention to the dangers of bullying, ridicule and prejudice, and that will encourage them to be mindful of their own actions and behaviours. These aren’t issues to shy away from, especially in our current age of social media, and I for one am very happy that there are authors like Asher out there who are eager to push the envelope and get people talking about tough and scary subject matter. For its unvarnished and unafraid portrayal of teenage depression, Thirteen Reasons Why gets a lot of respect from me.

Having said that, I could not give Thirteen Reasons Why a four-star rating, and that is mainly because I found it very hard to follow and felt myself constantly comparing it to another, very similar young adult novel that I read this year, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Before I Fall deals with the topics of bullying and teen suicide and investigates them in just as much depth as Thirteen Reasons Why, but, in my opinion, it was a better book and the narrator Samantha Kingston’s voice was more unique and clear. I found myself becoming very emotionally and viscerally attached to Sam and her story, and, unfortunately, that profound connection was missing from my reading experience of Thirteen Reasons Why.

I think this is mostly down to the fact that Clay’s first-person narration of listening to Hannah’s tapes is inter-spliced with Hannah’s narration on the tapes themselves. I know that Asher was probably intending for this style to come across as a conversation between the two main characters, a way of meshing their voices, blending them, and offering a stream of consciousness sort of perspective to the reader, but I felt that the style just missed the mark here. Rather than building a bond between Clay and Hannah that I found devastating and tragic (which I believe was the intention), the constant oscillation between Clay’s thoughts and Hannah’s was incredibly jarring and took me right out of the narration on the tapes. I kept feeling as though my understanding of Hannah and the stories she related was being interrupted, almost as if I was reading along and then literally had a family member or friend or random person sitting beside me at Starbucks come bursting up and start talking to me of unrelated topics. It quite literally felt like having my reading distracted by external forces at times, and I found myself thinking that I wished Clay’s narration was omitted entirely. Although I found Clay to be a sweet and endearing character, most of that I gleaned from Hannah’s description of him on the tape devoted to him, and I think the entire novel could’ve offered a more seamless and moving experience if all that had been presented to the reader was a transcript of Hannah’s tapes and nothing more. I just never had a chance to connect to Hannah, to get to know her or live inside her skin, because every time I came close to empathizing with her, my attention was snatched away by Clay’s internal monologue and his own preoccupations, frustrations and sadness. I feel that Clay’s narration wholly and utterly diluted Hannah’s, and that is why I preferred Before I Fall, which was told in a truly emotional but concise and clear first-person style that encouraged and helped me to live in Sam’s shoes, to effectively reside in her head.

I don’t know how much of that made sense and how much of it merely verged on disgruntled rants and ramblings, but I have to say that I am disappointed by the writing style in Thirteen Reasons Why because it prevented me from feeling for and with Hannah. I guess that is the best way to sum up my feelings toward the novel: the subject matter was important and poignant, but the articulation of it was frustrating, confusing and disjointed, in my opinion.

The thing is, what’s tricky about critiquing Thirteen Reasons Why is that I almost feel bad or guilty for giving it an average rating because, like I said, the subject matter is anything but average. By saying that I didn’t like the way the novel was written, I fear that I may discourage some readers from picking it up, and I sincerely hope that is not the case. Thirteen Reasons Why is absolutely the sort of book I would encourage my teenage daughter or son to read, and I do believe that encountering this subject matter in written form is probably preferable to watching a TV show about it because the novel does at least provide more depth and intricacy than a visual medium would. Having said that, I would equally encourage my daughter or son to read Before I Fall, which I feel is a stronger novel – in either case, though, I would be willing and eager to enter this sort of conversation with my child and remind him or her that actions have consequences, that words and decisions affect and can hurt other people. That is the strongest lesson I took from Thirteen Reasons Why: none of us live in a bubble, what we do and say matters and has an impact on others. Even Hannah, who we may be inclined to view as a victim at first, chooses to release tapes that are damning and complicated and dark, and so she is also a contributor to the complex world of rumours and gossip and unreliable perspectives. Nothing is black and white or straightforward in Thirteen Reasons Why, and even the victims are guilty in many ways of their own (I’m thinking of the two tragedies that happen during the party Hannah describes at the end of her tape collection, and in which Hannah is at least somewhat complicit), and I believe this focus is what makes the novel so hard-hitting in the end.

One other criticism I’d like to address is something I read in some other reviews on Goodreads. I noticed that a few people have criticized Hannah for ending her life for reasons that these readers feel aren’t serious or valid enough. I find that sort of critique to be quite callous and unnecessary. The crucial thing to remember about anxiety and depression is that they follow no specific formula and are drastically different for each individual person who struggles with them. Speaking as someone who has dealt for many years with anxiety, I know that it is often “illogical” in the sense that there are few people who would understand or sympathize with why certain things give me anxiety, particularly when my mind is fixated on things that are so subtle and seemingly minor that they’d hardly concern anyone else at all. But that’s the thing, my mind works differently from everyone else’s simply because everyone has their own mind and their own way of seeing things, and I would never judge someone else for being nervous or worried about something that I myself could deal with or overcome. Mental health is so personal, and I think that the beauty of Thirteen Reasons Why is that it explores the fact that even the littlest and apparently most insignificant words and actions can have much more weight than we can imagine. So, if Hannah felt compelled to end her life because of her experiences with the people she mentions on her tapes, that is so sad and unfortunate and heartbreaking, but it is not for anyone to judge or justify. That’s just my feeling on that particular critique.

Overall, I encourage people to read Thirteen Reasons Why and to not be afraid to put it in the hands of their children. As long as the dialogue about it is open and honest, I feel there are more lessons to be learned from this novel than risks resulting from reading it.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Miss You – #JNGReads …and JNG Lives

Miss You by Kate Eberlen is a novel I am finding it very difficult to review, for several reasons.  The first is that I believe the novel is incorrectly branded, and this necessarily lowered my overall rating of the novel.  Due largely to the blurb on the back of the book, as well as the quotes included on it from other authors (such as one from one of my favourite chick lit. writers, Sophie Kinsella), I had certain expectations when I purchased Eberlen’s story, and, to be perfectly honest, it met none of them.  This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but I do feel that it is slightly dishonest to promote a story as a romance when in fact it features very few romantic elements.  If Miss You were instead labelled a family drama or a coming-of-age story, I think readers of it would have a better sense of what is to come in their reading journey and experience, and this would’ve definitely improved my review, if only because I would’ve modified my expectations to the genre.  In any case, there was one particular aspect of the story that touched me profoundly, and so I increased my overall rating as a result of that element – but more on that in a moment…

To go back to my first point, my main criticism of the novel… Why do I feel that Miss You is not a romance?  Well, because it isn’t.  I don’t think many readers would disagree with this assessment.  It is compared to David Nicholls’ One Day, a novel that Eberlen actually mentions in her own, and yet, while One Day focuses almost entirely on the romance between its main characters, Dex and Emma, using their individual life experiences to further their romantic relationship in some places and simultaneously indicate to the reader why they are perfect for each other, Miss You focuses most of its attention on the individual lives and tragedies and struggles of Tess and Gus, but very rarely exposes why they would be romantically compatible.  Although Tess and Gus are often in the same place at the same time and do indeed miss each other on multiple occasions, there is no reason to believe that they are meant to be together romantically.  They didn’t even seem to have very similar interests, in my opinion – Gus is a doctor, with a passion for cooking and art, and Tess is a pseudo-English literature student and aspiring writer.  Certainly, they both enjoy culture and adore London life, but their interests and hobbies are not exactly identical.  This is not to say that people need to have the same talents and ambitions to be romantically involved, obviously, but in most cases, I found it very difficult to even recognize that they were missing each other because attention wasn’t always drawn to the fact that they were in the same place.  If the novel is supposed to be about two people constantly missing each other, I think more emphasis should’ve been placed on those moments throughout the novel, rather than summarizing them neatly at the end, as Eberlen chooses to do.  The one aspect of Tess and Gus’ lives that is similar is that they both deal with the loss of a close loved one, and I did get the sense that they could’ve greatly aided each other in the grieving process.  Having said that, did I feel like Tess and Gus were soul mates?  Definitely not, and although they did miss each other frequently, I never really felt frustrated by that fact because their lives seemed wholly separate and barely intertwined anyway.

Despite the fact that there was hardly anything romantic about Miss You, as I said before, there was one element of Tess’s life specifically that totally absorbed my attention.  Much of Tess’s life centers on her mother’s battle with breast and ovarian cancer and the weight these diseases represent in Tess’s own life.  At a certain point in the novel, Tess gets information about the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutations that drastically increase a woman’s risk of acquiring breast and ovarian cancer, and many chapters explore Tess’s fear and anxiety with regards to cancer and her chances of battling it within her lifetime.

This is a topic that is very close to my own heart and which caused me to have a highly emotional and visceral response to Tess’s story in Miss You.  My maternal grandmother suffered from breast and ovarian cancer and passed away at the relatively young age of 57 because of her struggles with the disease.  My mother and I have consequently been involved for many years in screening programs at one of the most reputable hospitals in Toronto, and a few years ago, my mother was approached to have genetic testing done to see if she carried one of the BRCA mutations.  It turns out that she tested positive for the BRCA 1 mutation, which increased her risk of breast and ovarian cancer to astonishing and terrifying degrees.  She opted, with the knowledge and understanding of her mother’s battle with cancer, to have a hysterectomy and a prophylactic mastectomy.  Although she did not have breast or ovarian cancer, she chose to electively have the surgeries as preventative measures (in much the same way as Angelina Jolie did years ago, in case any of you are familiar with that story), and I am so proud and happy that she did because it was one of my greatest fears that I would have to watch my mother go through such a horrible battle with such an awful disease.

Now, I am in Tess’s position in that I myself have a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA 1 mutation.  Since I am still very young when it comes to breast and ovarian cancer, I have decided to hold off on genetic testing because, at this time, I could not have any of the preventative surgeries and my screenings would not change at all.  However, I know that one day I will have to be tested and, since I am a glass half empty sort of person, I have convinced myself that I am positive.  What most touched me about Tess’s experience with the BRCA mutations, though, was the moment in the novel when she receives her own genetic testing results.  Without giving too much away, Tess does think about being positive and tries to mentally prepare herself for that result, but she also discusses the fact that she doesn’t feel she could ever be fully prepared to hear that she is positive for a genetic mutation of this magnitude.  That led me to believe that, although I tell myself every single day that I am positive, I will never feel the impetus to deal with that outcome until I hear it confirmed from a doctor’s mouth.  That was an interesting personal revelation for me.  Tess’s honesty and her forthright narration of her fears and uncertainties felt so similar to my own, that I became convinced that Eberlen must’ve faced genetic testing herself or is at least very close to someone who has.  Eberlen’s treatment of cancer and its implications is touching and detailed, but also sensitive and respectful, and I don’t think I will ever forget reading Miss You because of it.

As I said, for all of the reasons I discuss above, it is very hard for me to rate Miss You.  It didn’t deliver what I expected at all, and yet in some ways, it offered so much more.  Although I wasn’t drawn into Tess and Gus’ romantic endeavors, I was touched by their individual family lives, and so I would recommend Miss You as a novel about family love, rather than love of the romantic variety.  And, for any women who have encountered breast and/or ovarian cancer in their lives, I HIGHLY recommend it!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The Boy is Back – #JNGReads

“But I have to tell someone:

I love him.

I still love him, now more than ever.

And it’s killing me!

He is killing me. Every time he says my name, or looks my way, every time he laughs, even if he’s only telling one of his stupid jokes about his parents’ idiotic World’s Greatest Grandparents mugs, he is taking my heart, pulling it out of my chest, crumpling it into a little ball, and stuffing it into his pocket, as casually as if it were a napkin he’d used to wipe his mouth.” ~ The Boy is Back

The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot is a FABULOUS novel! I was tempted at first to only give it 4 stars because it isn’t my favourite chick lit. novel of the year so far (that award must go to Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, which is going to be a tough novel to beat, honestly), but then I thought to myself, wait a second, this novel was fun, funny, addictive, entertaining, romantic and well-written, so what more would it have to do to earn 5 stars? Nothing, absolutely nothing, so a 5-star rating it deserves!

Let’s start with the obviously awesome things about this novel…

~ The title. I love it! There’s something so simple yet emotional about it – four little words convey something profound and yet so mundane. The “boy”, in this case prodigal son Reed Stewart, has returned to his hometown of Bloomville, Indiana, and this seemingly everyday occurrence shakes up protagonist Becky Flowers’ life irreversibly. I was intrigued by the title the moment I read it, and I knew at once that this story would be nostalgic and sentimental and delicious!

~ The cover. How beautiful is it?  (Check out my Goodreads page to see it!)  The bright yellow is what caught my attention when I saw it in the store, and it is just so fresh and lively that I couldn’t resist picking the book up. It just screams that it is the perfect summer read, which it is!

~ The format. Written entirely through text messages, emails, newspaper articles and other forms of social media, this novel is truly unique. After flipping through a few pages in the store once I picked the book up, I was immediately interested in finding out whether or not a story written in this format could be detailed and deep enough. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the novel is not only highly readable, but also very complex and intricate. At times, I have to admit, I did crave a bit of prose, but that was somewhat delivered in the form of journal entries by Becky. I also think the fact that I wished there was a bit more classic narrative in the novel stems from the fact that I fell so deeply in love with the characters (more on this in a second), that I just wanted more of them, as much more as I could get. While some people might find it to be a failing on the part of the novel that I craved more, I definitely think it’s a sign of the opposite! The only criticism I have of this choice of format is that in some cases the texts and emails were a touch unrealistic, in that the characters wrote such detailed messages about things that you would assume the two parties conversing would already know. This is really the only way that the reader could get any backstory though, and I’m choosing to overlook it because the texts were otherwise very charming to read and I was impressed by how distinct and diverse each character’s voice and writing style was.

Okay, so that leads me to the subtly amazing aspects of this novel…

First of all, the characters are brilliant and rival some of my all-time favourite chick lit. characters for my affections. Finally, since reading The Hating Game a few months ago, I found a new couple to root for and swoon over. Becky is adorable and endearing, but also fiercely confident and a strong, professional business woman. She came across as someone I could easily be friends with, and many of her texts reminded me of messages of my own that I’ve sent to my best friends. We, as readers, are also intimately exposed to a number of different characters because we read their private messages and emails, and I found every single character fascinating and entertaining in their own way. I adored the marital banter of Carly and Marshall, I thought Trimble was annoying but also hilarious in her anxieties and obsessions, and the Stewart parents, as well as Becky’s mom Beverly, were an absolute treat! There wasn’t one character that annoyed me, and I never found myself reading a section that I wasn’t interested in because I liked all of the characters equally. Cabot really did a fine job of making me feel invested in the lives of her characters, both main and supporting.

My heart really does rest with Reed Steward though, the hero of the story. Oh man, have I ever developed a book crush on him! (Why does this keep happening to me with fictional characters?!) There’s nothing quite like reading the personal texts and emails of a handsome, dashing and adorable man in love. I think Cabot nailed Reed’s voice because I felt as though he almost jumped off the page at times, his voice was so clear and distinct. He also says some of the sexiest things to Becky, but they are never cheesy, cliché or heavy-handed. He flirts very subtly, and Cabot expertly establishes a rapport between her two main characters that the reader gets quickly swept up into. And, I mean, a man who can quote Jane Austen on the fly – my heart flutters just thinking about it!

I HIGHLY recommend The Boy is Back because it was by far the best book I’ve read in recent weeks. I am so so glad I picked it up when I did, to give me a cheery disposition as the warm weather gets into full swing, and I am absolutely going to read more of Cabot’s work as soon as possible. If you’re looking for a unique and meaningful but fun and enjoyable romance, pick this book up!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Reluctantly Charmed – #JNGReads

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill is a pleasant, charming read, and was the last book I needed to finish to complete my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. In hindsight, I set my goal pretty low, planning to read only 18 books in 2017, and the fact that I accomplished my goal within the first four months of the year is testament to the fact that most of the books I’ve read recently have been light, fun and airy. Reluctantly Charmed, in that way, was a very fitting end to my Reading Challenge, because it is quite possibly one of the airiest novels I’ve ever read. Now, I don’t mean that as a criticism whatsoever – it is true that O’Neill’s story is quite simplistic and is written in a straight forward and uncomplicated style, but if you are a fan of chick lit. with a unique twist, then this would absolutely be the book for you. Although it isn’t jam-packed with twists and turns and complex plotlines, it is the quintessential garden read, the perfect book to read in a park, under a tall, full tree, with an iced tea in hand.

I thoroughly enjoyed Reluctantly Charmed and I probably would’ve given it a 4-star rating, until I reached the last 100 pages. At that point in the novel, about 3 quarters of the way through when the main conflict was being revealed, my interest started to wane and I became a bit bored with the story and the characters, a touch restless and ready to be done with it. Prior to that point though, I found the story to be lovely and the adjective I used before, charming, is probably the best way to sum up the entire novel. Set in Ireland and heavily drenched in folklore and fairy culture, Reluctantly Charmed really did a perfect job of creating a distinct ambiance and feeling. It was so clearly set in Ireland, and you could feel that in every page because of how the characters spoke and the descriptions of the environment and the references to magic and fairy stories. The Irish setting was subtle though, and it was never overpowering to read descriptions of the country or its people – I do have to say that my favourite part of the novel was how clearly and powerfully Irish culture figured in all of it.

I also enjoyed reading from Kate McDaid’s perspective, and I found her to be an endearing character. However, I found that her clear narrative voice did become a touch diluted in those last 100 pages of the novel, and perhaps that is because this marked the point when Kate began to believe in the fairies. It sort of felt as though Kate got to the conclusion of believing in The Seven Steps her ancestor left to her and acknowledging her connection to the fairies in Ireland without doing any real soul searching or without any internal observation or reflection. All of a sudden, Kate remembered her fairy friend from her childhood and she accepted that her ancestor was in fact a witch, but this all happened almost as soon as she set foot in the rural town of Knocknamee, almost as if leaving Dublin caused her to open herself up to magical possibilities. That is all well and good and actually makes a lot of sense considering that Knocknamee is the site of the fairies in The Seven Steps Kate publishes, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit more internal monologue from Kate actually marking her change in feelings toward the magic around her. Overall though, I enjoyed reading from Kate’s perspective and she was a fun character to follow.

What bothered me about the last 100 pages of the novel, I suppose, is the fact that Kate’s voice and the overall storytelling style started to become a bit too mundane. In the rest of the novel, Kate has such a witty, comical personality and when she narrates, this personality really shines through. I found that, as soon as Kate made it to Knocknamee, her narration was less engaging and enjoyable to read, and even her romance with Hugh seemed to be watered down and less exciting than it was when Kate was at her office in Dublin. I think maybe O’Neill intended for Kate’s narrative style to change slightly toward the end of the novel because she is becoming tired and her journey is slowly starting to take some of her strength away from her, but again I think some introspection on Kate’s part would’ve clarified that and made the reader empathize with her a touch more. I also found the ultimate resolution with The Seven Steps to be a bit frustrating, because I desperately wanted the fairies to be good and innocent, for Kate’s sake. I was enchanted throughout the novel by the idea of fairies inhabiting Ireland, and to give them a sinister, evil edge at the very end of the story sort of felt dishonest to me. In a way, I was rooting for Kate to believe in the fairies all along, particularly when she was reluctant (which was for most of the novel, as the title suggests), and to see her finally believe and begin to embrace her history and connection to the fairies only to then have her almost punished for that trust seemed like a huge let-down. For that reason, I had to reduce my rating of the book because it just left me disheartened, especially compared to how cute and fun the story was in the beginning.

Ultimately, I would recommend Reluctantly Charmed as a quick and easy spring or summertime read. It was nice and not at all stressful to get swept up in, and I think that many younger adults would probably really enjoy the magical realism elements and the quirkiness of the narrator.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Before I Fall – #JNGWatches

“That was a long time ago.  That was yesterday.” ~ Before I Fall

A day stuck at home with the worst sore throat I’ve ever experienced seems like a good time to write a review of a film I saw and loved recently.  I’m pretty sure that when I wrote my post about the young adult novel Before I Fall just a couple months ago, I promised to also post a review of the movie adaptation.  Well, I did see the movie that very weekend, when it first opened, but I never got around to documenting my thoughts about it here on my blog.  To be honest, it’s been such a long time since I wrote a post that was anything other than a book review, and that’s mainly because I have a lot going on in my life which is so exciting but also very time-consuming.  Don’t worry, I promise there will be a post coming soon about all these amazing changes – for now though, I will talk to you a little bit about the movie Before I Fall, as I promised so long ago.

Before I Fall is a movie as beautiful and haunting as the novel it is based on.  Naturally, the movie is quite a lot shorter than the novel and it does omit some details and scenes (one in particular that stands out is the interaction between Sam and her math teacher, which I am actually really happy that they took out of the movie), but that’s due largely to the fact that the movie is succinct and of average length.  I appreciated that because I’m not a fan of excessively long movies, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any real need for the length.  Sure, Before I Fall could’ve included some more elements from the novel, but it didn’t need to, and I think the writer and director did a fabulous job of determining what dialogues and events were essential to the telling of the story and focusing mainly on those.

The film is haunting for so many reasons, and I think it’s all down to the remarkable directing talents of Ry Russo-Young.  I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of her other films, but I am definitely interested in watching a few others because of how much I enjoyed Before I Fall.  Before I Fall is so subtly poignant and memorable, because of both the acting and subject matter (more on this in a moment), but also because of the way it is shot, the way the environment and scenery add a layer of somber shadow to the entire atmosphere.  As a proud Canadian, I knew instantly that it was shot in British Columbia, because I’d recognize that misty locale anywhere, and I feel that setting fit so perfectly with the overall story and with Sam’s struggles and journey throughout the film.  The entire thing felt dark and wet, sort of like it does in Toronto today, with rain intermittently pouring and heavy gray clouds darkening the sky, and that is by far my favourite sort of scenery to see in a movie.  It made everything feel that much heavier, and I think that was a brilliant choice for the environment of the film.

Russo-Young also does a remarkable job of making the viewer look at and understand the nuances and intricacies of the film.  A great example of this is the scene when Sam goes to Kent’s party for the second time (after waking up on Cupid Day for the second time in a row), and the camera just follows her, focusing on her facial reactions only and allowing the other characters to blur out around her.  There’s a wonderful moment when Sam is dancing with her best friend Lindsay, and the camera remains fixed on Sam so that we can gage her emotional journey as she relives the party.  Another brilliantly shot and articulated piece of the film is the day that Sam spends entirely at home with her little sister, Izzy.  This day is shot absolutely beautifully and it is so heartbreaking but also touching.  I love that Russo-Young decided to splice scenes of Sam and Izzy exploring the woods outside their home with moments of them just chatting and relaxing in bed, and this was by far the most thought-provoking and heart wrenching part of the film because it allows the viewer to get inside Sam, to understand that although she is troubled and often misguided, she is at her very core nothing more than a sister, a former little girl herself.

“How is it possible to change so much and not be able to change anything at all?”

~ Sam

And, that brings me to the real strength of the film, the acting of Zoey Deutch.  Again, I haven’t seen any other films that Deutch has been in, but I am now very intrigued and eager to witness more of her acting, because she is nothing short of incredible in Before I Fall.  I talked about this a bit in my review of the novel, but Sam is one of those characters who it is very easy to be conflicted about.  She is a “mean girl” in every sense of the word, but because Lauren Oliver offers us a chance to get to know her, to reside in her mind, we see that she is wonderfully complex and has such a big heart.  Zoey Deutch is able to portray all of these complexities with just her facial expressions and the way she talks, and it is something special to behold.  Her eyes and especially her lips say so much, without even using words at all, and it is so easy to follow Sam’s emotional trajectory just by mapping the tiny changes on Deutch’s face.  Since so much of the film is centered on watching Sam’s facial expressions, on seeing her wake up over and over and noting the subtle changes she goes through during her repetitive days, Deutch was a perfect choice for the role.  Her acting really soars toward the end of the film, and I particularly like the part when she returns to Kent’s party after spending the day with Izzy and begins to finally piece together her role in this day and what is required of her to move forward.  It is depressing and sad to watch her understand what she must do, but it is also a perfectly articulated journey, and seeing Deutch run through the woods, both desperate and resigned, is a profound moment.  Deutch also doesn’t overact at all, and her portrayal of Sam’s fears and anxieties is so subtle and gentle and sweet that it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Sam and root for her.  That makes the ending even more breathtaking and difficult.

“For the first time when I wake up….I truly understand what needs to happen.  I truly understand how to live this day.” ~ Sam

I really recommend Before I Fall because I believe it is a movie that both teenagers and their parents will sincerely enjoy.  It has stayed firmly with me over the past few months and I think it may be one of my favourite book-to-movie adaptations.  It is certainly one of my favourite movies of the year so far, and may go down as the best movie of 2017 for me.  I can’t stress this enough: go see it!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The White Queen – #JNGReads

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory is a novel that I am quite confused about and am finding difficult to review. This is partly because I don’t even know that it should be classified as a novel, and the writing style and structure doesn’t really fit exactly within my knowledge of the genre of historical fiction.

I picked up The White Queen because of my eagerness to read another novel in the series it is part of, The White Princess. I recently came across photos for the new TV series based on The White Princess, and I immediately wanted to watch it, but I knew that it would be a better idea to read the book first. I then remembered wanting to watch the series The White Queen as well, and since I knew that it was also based on one of Gregory’s novels, I decided to read it first, watch The White Queen, and then move onto the story of her daughter, the White Princess.

Well, after finishing The White Queen, I am still eager to watch the TV adaptation and read The White Princess, but I do have to admit that The White Queen was not written at all how I expected it to be. My only other experience of Gregory’s writing was in reading her more famous book The Other Boleyn Girl, as well as The Virgin’s Lover, which comes a few books after the story of the Boleyn sisters. I read both of those novels when I was in high school, and I remember enjoying them immensely. I’ve always liked historical fiction, both when it comes to literature and to other types of media like movies and TV, and I do know that I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and The Virgin’s Lover very much because they were addictive and highly entertaining and transported me straight to regal England. The descriptions and scenes were vivid and detailed, and I felt immersed in the lives of the characters. I know that much of Gregory’s storylines and the interactions between her characters were fictionalized, but I also felt like I achieved a better understanding of the time period she wrote of and I actually did feel like I learned many things about the history of England and some of its most famous monarchs. Amidst all of that though, I did grow attached to the characters, their struggles and anxieties in trying to maintain power and authority, and I felt as though I had an invested interest in their lives and their tragedies and triumphs.

With The White Queen, things were a bit different, and I feel that all I received really was a history lesson. This is largely due to how the novel is written. In The White Queen, Gregory adopts a style where she basically summarizes a great deal of information into not so many pages. I honestly don’t think there was even much dialogue in The White Queen, and when there was, it was incredibly simplistic, to the point and often very dry. (Sidenote: I will say that the last quarter of the novel featured much more dialogue, and the conversations between The White Queen and her daughter Elizabeth, the future White Princess, were quite tense and interesting – but I don’t know that they made up for the lack of dialogue and connection between the characters in the first three quarters of the novel.) Gregory does a great job of running through the events of Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s reign and marriage to King Edward, but it is unclear why she even chose Elizabeth to narrate the story because there is nothing unique or outstanding about Elizabeth’s voice. At times, it felt as though I was reading a history textbook, devoid of bias or personal interest, and this just didn’t seem to jive with the fact that Elizabeth does in fact have a distinct role and influence in her husband’s reign. At the same time that the story was written in textbook style, however, it was also missing any concrete facts or hard-hitting details; Gregory glossed over a lot of gritty, nuanced historical information, and instead summarized battles and feuds in a handful of pages or less. She does cover a remarkable number of years in her story, but there isn’t any real character development throughout because we never really get to hear her character’s speak or see them in action. Instead, it is almost as if we are being told a story in conversation, as if anecdotes and events are being recounted to us without depth or any real insight into the causes and factors behind and surrounding them.

I have also read several reviews on Goodreads in which fellow readers said that they found The White Queen to be very repetitive, and I definitely have to agree with that assessment. Certain phrases were repeated, verbatim, within mere pages, and Gregory mentioned characters’ titles constantly, almost as if she needed to remind the reader every time a person was mentioned, who exactly they were. The main characters appear so frequently, though, and the novel is only just over 400 pages long, so I found it very unnecessary to read that George was the Duke of Clarence or Thomas was Elizabeth’s Grey son on every other page. It just made my reading experience that much more tedious. Gregory also goes so far as to repeat ideas over and over, particularly when Elizabeth is reflecting on the politics of her husband’s reign and her royal position. It is almost as though we are witness to the constant obsessing that Elizabeth does, but because she never adds anything new to her reflections, this is more frustrating than insightful. However, despite all the repetition (which I sort of think is just be evidence of lazy writing), Gregory’s tale does flow very nicely, and once you get into the hang of reading it, it is very easy to get through many pages in one sitting. It’s somewhat of a strange paradox when you think about it, and perhaps the fact that Gregory’s writing is so repetitive makes it that much less complicated and easier to blast through rapidly. Who knows?

The thing that makes it so difficult to review The White Queen, though, is that I still found it really interesting and enjoyed reading it, in spite of its many flaws. It was definitely frustrating to get so little information about specific characters and to feel as though historical details were being diluted and washed over, while at the same time having some phrases and ideas incessantly repeated, but I still did find myself entertained as I read. It’s true that I didn’t have any strong emotional connection to any one character, but I certainly wasn’t dreading reading more of the book, and on the contrary, I found that when I did have a moment to sit down and read it, I got through many pages quite quickly because of the smooth and fluid style.

The best I can say, I guess, is that The White Queen is an average novel. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, especially because I remembered Gregory’s style to be more rich and opulent. But, I do think it will make an incredible TV series because there is so much subject matter to be treated and there are so many dialogues I can imagine coming out of scenes that Gregory somewhat flitted past. I’ll certainly be interested to watch The White Queen, and I do still intend to read The White Princess to see if Gregory perhaps developed a more detailed style and a knack for getting inside the minds of these particular characters later in the series.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The Marriage Lie – #JNGReads

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle is a fantastic novel, and it is just what I needed to read at the moment. After feeling so indifferent toward my last read that I couldn’t even review it because I had nothing interesting or worthwhile to say about it, and after quite frankly despising my read prior to that one, I am so happy to be able to write a review now that will be nothing but glowingly positive. The Marriage Lie is an addictive novel, it is fast-paced, well-articulated and just the right length – I would highly recommend it to any and all readers!

I haven’t read a mystery novel or a thriller in a very long time, and I can’t say it is a genre I am particularly well-versed in. Sure, I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s novels and I of course encountered a classic Agatha Christie tale every now and then in my English literature classes, but other than that, I haven’t delved too deeply into this realm of literature and although I intended to read both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train when I heard all the hype about them, I just never got around to it. Psychological thrillers are rarely at the top of my list of books to read, because they just don’t come onto my radar all that often. That is until The Marriage Lie which I couldn’t avoid spotting on Goodreads – it seems to have absolutely taken the literary world by storm, and I read nothing but rave reviews, so I immediately added it to my To Read List and picked it up as soon as I next went to the bookstore.

Boy, am I glad I read this novel because it was so utterly enjoyable and absorbing that it took my mind off absolutely everything and was the quintessential escape novel. I liked absolutely everything about this novel, from the plot structure and pacing to the main characters, including Will (who despite his imperfections and flawed morality, I happen to fancy quite a bit). The only aspect of the novel that lowered my rating is the fact that I did predict some elements and revelations – there was not one huge twist in the story, and I didn’t mind that at all, but I did suspect one of the revelations from the very start of the novel, so that was a bit anticlimactic in a sense. It didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the novel whatsoever, though, so I wouldn’t have any qualms recommending the novel to mystery lovers despite the predictability of the whole story. I should say, though, that the very ending of the novel shocked me and quite literally took my breath away – I actually found the entire final chapter to be very charged and emotional, and difficult to get through, but it was an absolutely perfect conclusion!

My favourite aspect of the novel was probably the characters, and how well they are articulated and described. I was astonished by the fact that each one of them had such a distinct personality, from Iris’ twin brother and best friend Dave to Will’s old “friend” Corban. Each one of the main and secondary characters was fleshed out and thoroughly developed, and they each added a clear drive and depth to the overall story and contributed in some way to Iris’ search for answers about her husband, Will. Iris was by far my favourite character because I found her incredibly endearing, and I think the fact that Belle made her a psychologist really worked well with the premise of the story because it meant that Iris was smart enough to piece together the mysteries and complexities of her husband’s past life, but also that she wasn’t a complete expert on every layer of the mystery. She had just enough knowledge and expertise to get her through her search and investigation, but she was also often lost and confused in much the same way I was as a reader, so it was really comfortable going on the journey with her. I also have to admit that I truly did like Will, although he doesn’t feature literally in too much of the story. The plot is very complex and there are so many moral issues presented in it, but I think that at the very root of everything is this immense love that Will has for Iris. I’ve read many reviews where readers said that the book really kicked off for them in the second chapter, and I totally agree, but I will say that the first chapter was my absolute favourite because it is so simple and subtle, and gives such insight into the relationship that Iris and Will have. This first chapter was perfectly detailed and was the ideal introduction to the story because it allows for the reader to sympathize and empathize with Iris’ emotions later in the novel, including her depression and sadness as well as her anger and frustration.

The Marriage Lie is complex and compelling, and I think it is the perfect blend of thrilling and realistic. There wasn’t anything too far-fetched about it and the characters were so utterly believable that I had no real criticisms about it whatsoever. I highly recommend it to all readers, because I think even those not accustomed to the mystery genre will thoroughly enjoy the ride!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart