JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #3

Hello and Happy Sunday!

Today, I’m feeling that it’s a Sunday. Recently, I haven’t been too depressed on Sundays and I haven’t dreaded Mondays all that much, but today I am definitely struggling with the idea of heading back to work already. Maybe it’s because last weekend was a long one, or because I didn’t have the chance to read as much as I would’ve liked to this weekend, but I just feel like the last two days sped by rapidly, and I wasn’t ever able to catch up. I can’t say I’m all that concerned about the summer coming to an end, what with the fact that I’m a Fall/Winter Girl through and through, but I still wish Monday morning didn’t creep up on me so quickly sometimes. Having said that, I’m back with another Weekly Round-Up to discuss just how much I accomplished this week. Here are the items I will be mentioning in today’s post…

  1. What I’m Currently Reading
  2. What I’ve Recently Finished Reading
  3. What I Intend to Read Next
  4. My Favourite Quote of the Week (from any form of pop culture – literature, movies, music, etc.)
  5. My Favourite/Most Listened To Song of the Week
  6. Photo of the Week
  7. My *Weekly Wish*

• Currently Reading •

I’m currently about halfway through Colleen Hoover’s novel It Ends With Us. I’ve been hearing a lot about how incredible Hoover is as a romance writer for the past few months, and when I finished my most recent read (more on this below) midway through this week, I decided it was high time for a lunch hour excursion to the Chapters near my work to pick up a novel that would mark my first foray into Hoover’s catalogue. I chose It Ends With Us because I had seen the best reviews for it on Goodreads, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. I caught wind of what the basic premise and main conflict of the novel is, so I’m positive that it is going to break my heart and destroy me, but so far I am intrigued and interested in watching the characters progress. I also really like the narrator, Lily Bloom, and am enjoying reading all about her floral shop and her interactions with her best friend Allysa. Having said that, I know the story is going to get deep and heavy, so I am emotionally preparing myself for that complete 180.

• Recently Finished •

Halfway through this week I finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. You can read my review of the novel here. For me, it was an average novel, mainly because I found it hard to connect to the narrator, Professor Don Tillman, and his scientific, logical, straightforward manner of speaking. I sped through it and I didn’t hate it by any means, but it’s not my absolute favourite novel that I’ve read recently.

• What’s Next •

This is tricky because I am still drowning under piles of books I have to read (not a bad thing whatsoever, mind you). This past week, however, I managed to score tickets to see one of my favourite authors of all time, John Irving, in conversation at my old university. He’ll be appearing there in early September, and while I’ve read many of his novels (The World According to Garp most recently, although A Prayer for Owen Meany is my all-time favourite), I have been meaning to read his latest novel, Avenue of Mysteries, for a very long time. It is currently sitting on my bookshelf, so I absolutely will be picking that up before I see John Irving live (Eek, so excited!), either next up after I finish my current read, or in the very near future.

• Quote of the Week •

“It is my intention to astonish you all.” ~ Bathsheba Everdene

Last night, my fiancé and I sat down to watch a movie on Netflix, and I somehow managed to get him to agree to watch Far From the Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan. He is a huge fan of Victorian film adaptations ever since meeting me, and he was more than willing to delve into this story because he generally likes period dramas. I had already seen the movie, but I find Bathsheba Everdene to be such a fascinating and conflicting character that I was eager to watch the film again. And, besides, Garbiel Oak is definitely a swoonworthy hero. What struck me most in my rewatch of this movie, though, is the fact that Bathsheba is such a modern and contemporary heroine. She is strong and defiant in the face of her male counterparts who try to shut her down, and she is quite progressive in her attempts to manage a farm herself. She refuses to allow men to tell her what she is and is not capable of, and although she makes a few blunders in the name of “love”, she has herself mostly figured out from a business perspective. She is also unfailingly confident, both in her abilities and her intelligence, and her dialogues are always pointed and sharp – she never gives her male interlocutors the upper hand. I personally like Bathsheba quite a lot, particularly when she proclaims the quote above, surrounded by the men that she will be the boss of on her newly inherited farm. She is a force to be reckoned with, as are the greatest female characters in film and literature.

• Song of the Week •

And on that same vein, my song choice for this week is “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme”, sung my Carey Mulligan in the Far From The Madding Crowd movie and on the soundtrack. It is such a simple Victorian ballad, but the lyrics are poignant in that they offer advice to women to guard their hearts and their heads. I know this is a bit of an archaic idea, but Mulligan sings the song so simply and I like that her voice is not classically trained, but fits the genre so well. It definitely whisked me back to Victorian times when I listened to it.

• Photo of the Week •

There is one photo that I am absolutely dying to post, but unfortunately, I can’t. It is probably the best photo of me ever, and I am standing with my back to the camera, wearing my wedding dress. It is just the most gorgeous photo (if I do say so myself) and all I want is to be able to show it to everyone. But, alas, my wedding is still just over 4 months away, so the time for my big reveal of my wedding dress hasn’t come yet.

In lieu of that particular photo, then, I have chosen this photo of my fiancé and I as my Photo of the Week. It is one of the photos from our engagement session, and I just love the joy and happiness that is clear on my face. I don’t think I’ve ever looked more excited or comfortable or at peace in a photo, and the man whose arms are wrapped around me has A LOT to do with that!

• JNG’s Weekly Wish •

To finish things off for this week… My wish is that tomorrow will be the least Monday-like Monday of all the Mondays. I’m hoping it feels more like the start of a new adventure than like the beginning of a daunting work week.

Good luck tomorrow everyone!

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Return of Queen V ~ #JNGWatches

Long may she reign.

You all didn’t think the trailer for the second season of ITV’s popular drama Victoria would come out without me writing a blog post, did you?  I hope not, because if you know me well, you’ll know that I’ve been waiting for this trailer for half a year, desperately wanting to know what will happen next for Queen Victoria and her dashing Prince Albert.

I was more than a little obsessed with Victoria when it originally aired (I even wrote reviews of every single episode, the first of which you can read here), mainly because it encapsulated absolutely everything I look for in a television show and story!  It was gorgeously rendered, visually intoxicating, expertly acted, dramatic, funny and entertaining!  It was a class act production, from the sumptuous costumes to the jaw-dropping sets to the extraordinary acting talents of Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell and many others.  I was blown away by the entire thing, and so happy to see the Victorian era and this impressive, modern-minded queen coming into the spotlight.

The first season ended on a great note, with Victoria giving birth to her first child and grappling with what it means to be a wife and mother while simultaneously being a queen.  This is an interesting dual identity to explore and it is clear from the season two trailer that Victoria’s struggles with domesticity will be emphasized and interrogated.  The trailer does suggest, though, that this season will be even more romantic than the first (if that’s even possible because the first one was an absolute romantic masterpiece!), and it seems that Victoria and Albert’s marriage will not only be put to the test but will also grow stronger and more solidified as they face issues together as a strong family unit.

Okay, so let’s get into this.  I’m going to break apart some of the things I noticed from this dense trailer, the things that stood out to me and that I am most excited for…

(Sidenote: this probably marks my 15th time watching this trailer in the last day…it is totally addictive and there is just so much to take in!)

  • First of all, can I just say that the music in this trailer is perfection?! It sounds very similar to the title theme of the show (which is also absolutely gorgeous and is actually my alarm clock tone) and so has very Victorian instrumental notes, but then it becomes clear that it is a modern song and I think this juxtaposition of the Victorian imagery with this contemporary music emphasizes the fact that this show is modern in many ways and that Queen Victoria’s story can easily be applied to and enjoyed in the 21st century.
  • The imagery and aesthetic is breathtaking for this entire trailer. I like that it focuses solely on Victoria, and on other characters in relation to her, and the way the camera focuses on her and creates beautiful pictures/almost portraits of her is really romantic and gives the reader a warm and intimate feeling.  We are watching Victoria in her most personal moments and it truly does feel like we know her, like we are friends with her or living through her, even in such a short trailer.

“Do you remember kissing me here before we were married?  Everything was simpler then.” ~ Victoria to Albert

  • Oh yes, Victoria, we remember…talk about one of the most romantic scenes of season 1! Having said that, I love how soft and gentle Jenna’s voice is here, and I love that is it clear that she is not only reminiscing on the start of her romance with Albert, she is also a little bit wistful and depressed.  It is clear that she wishes to go back to easier times, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out throughout the season and in her relationship with her daughter.
  • Also, it has to be said that Victoria’s black, crushed velvet dress is probably the most beautiful dress I’ve seen on this show so far! Totally jealous!
  • I love how often Victoria’s hair is down in this trailer, especially in that moment where she is walking with her horse and Albert. It harkens back to Albert’s statement in season 1 that he likes when her hair is down because she is unbound and seems more human and less of a queen.  It’s nice to see that she is allowing herself to be a woman, and not a monarch, in quiet moments with her husband.

“You will always be my beloved.” ~ Albert to Victoria

  • Trust Albert to swoop in and say something ridiculously adorable and sexy right when it seems like Victoria is feeling emotional and vulnerable. Be still, my heart!
  • It’s fascinating to think that the show is going to explore elements of postpartum depression, and how debilitating this must feel for Victoria, considering that she is a queen and is meant to be strong and powerful. I like that the show is willing to delve into mental health issues, and I have no doubt they will do so with grace and tact and that it will add a very interesting layer to Victoria’s character.
  • When the music picks up and all these images are swirling together, particularly Victoria’s corset being adjusted and her in different social situations, like riding and at dances…just wow! This section of the trailer is so artfully done and it encompasses so much without being overbearing.

“To be a queen, I must rule.  Yet to be a wife, it seems I must submit.” ~ Victoria

  • I feel that this is a struggle that women still face: how to be a wife and mother and still enter the workforce, have dreams and goals and talents. This is undoubtedly a tough position to be in, probably more so if one is a monarch, and as a young woman about to get married herself, I am very interested to see how Victoria manages this split identity.
  • I don’t even want to know why it shows Victoria in mourning clothes. I’m not ready to go there just yet!

“God had nothing to do with it.” ~ Victoria

  • I love that Victoria’s sassy nature is coming out again this season, and I also think it will be interesting to see her get frustrated with her family members once again, particularly her mother. She is very in tune to what people say and think, and I am eager to see her deliver some powerful speeches and one liners again.
  • Did Victoria throw something at Albert? Yes, it appears so!  Haha, I love it…that will be an amazing and dramatic scene to see!  (And I should say that this was my fiancé’s favourite moment in the entire trailer.)
  • That last image of Victoria waving like the true queen she is…exquisite!

I have no doubt that this second season of Victoria is going to be spectacular!  Here’s hoping ITV and Masterpiece release a few more teasers in the months to come.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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!

JNG

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)

JNG

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)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Tale as Old as Time – #JNGWatches

“It’s my favourite part because, you’ll see,

here’s where she meets Prince Charming

~ but she won’t discover that it’s him ‘til chapter three.”

~ Belle

If you’re a longtime follower of this little blog, you already know how fond I am of stories, how invested and engrossed I get in the tales of fictional characters.  I’ve raved about Jane Eyre and her dashing Mr. Rochester, I’ve gushed over the more modern romance between Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire, and I’ve even obsessed over a piece of chick lit. every once and a awhile as well.  I am the type of person who wears my literature loving heart on my sleeve (in all its green glory), and I’ve ranted about other forms of pop culture as well, such as my adoration for musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and plays like Angels in America.  And, I’ve mentioned on countless occasions, that one particular film, from the earliest days of my childhood, touched me on a profound level when I was only a little girl.

~ Beauty and the Beast ~

Arguably Disney’s greatest movie.  It officially came out in November 1991, the very month and year I was born, and so there’s no denying that Belle and I were born around the same time, and may in fact (at least in my mind) be one and the same person.  Now, naturally, I’m somewhat delusional when it comes to fiction, making it such a huge driving force in my life, allowing it to inform many of my decisions over the years, like the courses I studied in university, and the friends I’ve chosen to surround myself with, and the man I’ve decided to marry.  But no piece of fiction has been with me as long as Beauty and the Beast, and I feel strongly that it is responsible for many of the aspects of my personality that I hold so dear.  There’s no doubt that the movies and books we encounter as young children have the ability to shape our thoughts and mold our future, and I was such a young girl when I first watched Belle’s story.  Is it any wonder, then, that I went on to develop a passion for the French language and for novels and the written word?  Growing up in a small town just east of Toronto was also significant, because I identified on so many levels with Belle’s desire to escape her “provincial life”, the “little town” in which she was born and raised.  Is it any wonder, then, that I chose to go off to the big city, to downtown Toronto, for university, and that I have decided to make this very city the home of my adulthood?  Belle, although to many people no more than a cartoon princess, was my soul mate as a child, my role model, and so very much of who I have become is owed to her.

So, imagine my jealousy when I heard that Beauty and the Beast was being remade, as a live action film, and that Emma Watson was taking my rightful role of Belle.  I’m kidding, of course – I was unbearably excited as soon as I learned that my beloved B&B was getting an update, and although I wasn’t sure how I felt about any of the casting, I was eager to give the film the chance it deserved.  I went in with an open-mind (which was surprising to everyone who knows my intense love for the original), and I immediately bought my tickets to see the movie this past Saturday, the day after opening night.

Well, as much as I would’ve loved to be able to critique something about the film and maybe present a bit of a more dignified review, I can’t – the film was nothing short of PERFECT!  I was in tears several times throughout the movie, and every tiny detail of it took my breath away.  This is going to be another rave-y post because I can’t gush about this movie enough.  I was tempted to pay for another ticket and watch it from the beginning again within minutes of it finishing, and if it wasn’t sold out, I probably would have.

I saw the movie with my fiancé, mother and father, all of whom are consciously aware of just how important this story is to me.  The most surprising thing is that all three of them absolutely loved the movie too!  I was expecting my mom to adore it because she has always been just as obsessed with the original as I am, but I was not anticipating just how excited my dad and SS would be about it.  They’re both eager to see the movie again and SS was singing lines from the various songs throughout the rest of the weekend.  He makes a pretty convincing Gaston, I must say!

The movie is touching – that is probably the best word to describe it.  So much of it just took my breath away, from the incredible and jaw-dropping sets to the gorgeous costumes.  I was extremely skeptical about the CGI and hoping that the Beast wouldn’t look too cartoon-y and ridiculous, and in the end I was so impressed with how realistic he looked.  His facial expressions were exact and I had no problem believing that he was actually real.  And of course, my favourite enchanted objects looked exquisite, as usual, and I was quite fond of the reboot and makeover they each got.

The music was just as incredible as in the original, and I was blown away by the musical numbers, particularly the performance of the song “Gaston”.  Was I expecting Luke Evans to be able to sing?  No.  Was I thoroughly impressed with him, on all accounts, but particularly during his  musical number?  Absolutely!  Luke Evans was by far the breakout star of the entire movie for me (probably because I have always had a soft spot for the villain!), and his dancing and singing was absolutely perfect!  This specific scene was easily the most fun of the entire movie, and Evans oozed this confidence that was exactly what the role needed.  He was my favourite part of the whole movie, no question!

From the time my mom and I met Gaston at Disney World!

Credit must be given to the other superb actors though.  Ewan McGregor was hilarious as Lumière, and he performed “Be Our Guest” flawlessly.  Ian McKellan was the dream Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson was the quintessential Mrs. Potts – she also performed the title song with grace and skill.  Emma Watson was, I must admit, a pretty great Belle, and while that character is very dear to me and it is hard for me to say this, I think she was very well cast and did a good job channeling Belle’s goodness and charm.

“How do you feel about growing a beard?” ~ Belle to Prince Adam

(Easily the most adorable and funny line of the whole film, and definitely my favourite!)

The greatest surprise for me, though, was Dan Stevens as the Beast.  I haven’t seen Stevens in any other roles (although SS tells me he’s remarkable in the TV show Legion) and so I had no expectations of him – but, he truly blew me away!  One of the many minor additions to the original is a solo song for the Beast called “Evermore”, which I found so endearing and moving.  Stevens brilliantly acted it and his singing was just great, and I found that particular scene to be so essential to the story because it really added a human quality to the Beast’s character.  There was no doubt, after that scene, that he had truly become a prince on the inside, where it counts.

“I am not a beast.” ~ Adam (aka the Beast)

I’d also like to briefly touch on the controversy surrounding some aspects of the film.  There’s no need to go into too much detail because I don’t want to bring any negativity to this review or give any credibility to this criticism, and I honestly haven’t read too much up on it because the headlines alone frustrated me.  Anyone who’s being critical of the fact that the film does include references to homosexuality is being totally ridiculous, in my opinion.  The film is beautiful, it stays true to its strong message of loving people for who they are on the inside, and it presents powerful role models to young children, particularly young girls.  By including some subtle references to homosexuality, I feel that the filmmakers only made the story more inclusive and more representative of our society, and I think that is simply wonderful!  There is at least one character in this film that everyone can attach to and be inspired by, and I think that is exactly how Disney stories need to be updated and brought into the 21st century.  For anyone who criticizes the film for these sorts of things, I would encourage them to actually see it with an open mind and an open heart, because they may actually learn a thing or two about love and kindness.

Beauty and the Beast deserves 5-stars, if you ask me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!  There is something for literally everyone to enjoy and I am so happy to say that it did the original so very proud!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Substitute ~ a Perfect Read for Fans of The Wedding Date – #JNGReads

The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank is the first novel that I have ever read on an e-reader, and I have to say that, despite the new medium and the adjustments that I had to make in my own reading style, I thoroughly enjoyed it! If anything, I never would have had the chance to read this lovely little novel if it wasn’t for my new Kobo, because I actually found it for free on the Kobo website and thought it would be the perfect first e-book for me to delve into. I am so glad that I downloaded it and gave it a chance, and I would recommend it to a very particular type of reader…but more about that in a moment…

I feel that a quick, light and breezy review is most appropriate for this novel, as it is all of those things. The Substitute, I must be honest, isn’t a work of great literary fiction – it is simple and predictable. But, regardless of the fact that I saw all the “twists” coming and had read similar stories, and even similar phrases and passages, before, I still couldn’t get enough of The Substitute. The story was so light and fun that it became totally addictive for me, and I powered through it over my lunch breaks and morning and evening commutes. The “pages” of my Kobo couldn’t refresh fast enough! The experience of reading The Substitute felt, for me, like that year in elementary school when I first discovered chapter books and became obsessed with reading. Perhaps this is down to the fact that I was reading for the first time on a Kobo, and so the whole activity of reading felt very new to me – but, in any case, reading The Substitute and being so eager to get back into the story as often as I could sneak a break reminded me of those recesses in grade school when I would sit on the hard pavement with my chapter book in hand. I spent a lot of my time, both during school hours and home hours, reading in my young life, and these past few days of mine, immersed in The Substitute and loving every minute of my immersion, brought me back to the days when I discovered the joys of reading for the very first time.

It’s pretty obvious, then, that The Substitute made me very happy while I read it. It most certainly isn’t the book for everyone, and I know many fellow readers who wouldn’t get past a single chapter. It is not only simple, but also simplistic, written in a fast-paced style that tells a lot more than it shows. There is a lot of summary in it, of both feelings and events, and issues are resolved mega-quickly. This would frustrate many readers, and it is the sort of thing that frustrates me about certain books too. But, for some reason, I couldn’t be frustrated with The Substitute because it was too fun a book to be mad at. It was exactly like one of those Hallmark movies that are so enjoyable, even if they are unrealistic. I knew exactly how the story would end (happily, spoiler alert!) and I knew that much of it would be far-fetched and unbelievable, but I really didn’t care. I loved the ride, I got swept up in the romance, and it made me so eager for my own wedding later this year. It was, quite simply, a feel-good read, and that was just what I needed!

I also must say that I was surprised by how much I liked the two main characters, Megan and Josh. Sure, there isn’t a lot to them, and they are about as developed as the main characters in those Hallmark movies I mentioned, but that was precisely what I was expecting from this novel, and I chose to read it with that in mind. It delivered on my expectations, and Megan and Josh were so adorable and endearing and straightforward, that I found myself latching onto and becoming attached to them.

As if all that doesn’t recommend it enough as a perfect holiday read, The Substitute reminded me very much of one of my favourite movies of all time, The Wedding Date. Again, this movie isn’t earth-shattering or groundbreaking, but it is so addictive in that it just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Some of the quotes and moments are so truly romantic, and I actually think one quote in particular from The Wedding Date summarizes the whole premise of The Substitute perfectly…

If you’re a fan of fast and fun romances, then The Substitute is the book for you! It’s a truly entertaining love story fueled by fate and chance, and if you want to smile constantly while reading, it won’t disappoint!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

God Save the Queen – #JNGReads

victoria

My second read of 2017 is already under my belt, and we’re not even halfway through January. That’s 2 out of my Goodreads goal of 18 for the year down – go me! Right on schedule.

I’ve just finished reading Daisy Goodwin’s historical fiction novel Victoria. Now, it’s a well-known fact that I am a huge fan of both Victorian literature and the monarch who gave her name to this era, and I did in fact watch the entire ITV series Victoria when it was released. So, for that reason, this was a bit of a strange reading experience for me. I normally make it a point to never read a book after seeing the film or TV adaptation. The only time I ever did that (until now) was in high school, when I had to read Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s for a Writer’s Craft assignment. Obviously I was already very familiar with the classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn, and I found it extremely difficult to fall in love with Capote’s tale because I was constantly comparing it to the film version. I also read that Capote really did not like Audrey in the role of Holly Golightly, but I could not stop myself from picturing her as I read, so I feel like I never had a natural, authentic reading experience. I just wasn’t able to fully appreciate Capote’s text and prose, and it has been one of my least favourite literary texts ever since.

I desperately did not want the same thing to happen with Goodwin’s Victoria. I absolutely ADORED the ITV series of the same name, so I was equally eager and wary to read the literary equivalent. I was at once afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell out of my head when reading about Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, as well as desperate to have a chance to continue experiencing the story that I fell so in love with while watching the TV show. I have to say that, now that I have finished reading the novel, I am still very conflicted about whether or not I am happy that I had watched the TV series prior to reading the story. Part of me wishes that I hadn’t because the plot was much less surprising given the fact that much of the dialogue was taken directly from the show and many of the scenes paralleled each other. On the other hand, the novel did go into greater depth during the most significant scenes, and if anything, I felt that it added subtle details and intricacies to the moments from the series that I was most fond of. It’s really hard to rate Victoria for all these reasons – I feel like I can’t quite judge it on its own, as a novel in its own right, and I think that is unfortunate. But, I did still thoroughly enjoy it and I finished it rather quickly because I was so connected to the characters and so eager to revisit them.

The novel was also different from the series in one important respect: (SPOILER ALERT) it ends with the scene in which Victoria proposes to her beloved future husband, Prince Albert. If you’ve seen the ITV series, you’ll know that it goes on after this particular moment, to investigate the early days of Victoria and Albert’s marriage, until they have their first child. I really do love Albert and I think his relationship with Victoria was very significant historically, so I preferred the second half of the TV series because Albert was featured in it. Having said that, the first half explores Victoria’s relationship with Lord Melbourne (Lord M as she likes to playfully call him), and that was lovely to watch unfold as well. There was undeniable chemistry between the two characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them engage in a quasi-romance that was at once forbidden and intoxicating. The novel Victoria delves into this relationship between Queen V and Lord M much further, and we are given a lot more insight into the internal feelings and emotions of each character. While I was disappointed that Albert wasn’t introduced until around 315 pages into the novel (it is only 400 pages in total, so Albert is barely in it), I also found it interesting to get a closer look at a relationship that was sort of overshadowed towards the end of the TV series. I do like Lord M very much, and although I know the romantic aspects of his relationship with Queen Victoria are highly fictionalized and not really grounded in historical fact at all, I still did enjoy getting a closer glimpse into what Lord M might have felt for his much younger monarch and friend.

My experience reading Victoria was undoubtedly pleasurable, despite all the qualms I mentioned above, and probably what I liked most about it was witnessing the young Victoria begin her reign. This moment in her history is treated rather quickly in the series – although Victoria’s struggles in being a young, female monarch are constantly treated, we do tend to focus more on the romances she engages in (or at least, I did while watching). The novel was different in that it thoroughly investigated several scenes in which Victoria is forced to stand up for herself, assert her authority as a monarch and develop her own voice. These moments are wonderful to behold, and they gave me such inspiration as a young woman in the working world, developing her professional career. I latched on to several quotes from these points of the novel because they reminded me that Queen Victoria was a remarkable and revolutionary monarch and still serves as an important role model for young women in a world still very much dominated by men. I loved witnessing Victoria stand up to Sir John Conroy and her uncle the Duke of Cumberland, and I cheered for her whenever she was grounded and strong. She was admittedly somewhat childish and immature at times, but it was also fascinating to see her develop from a petulant adolescent into a more self-assured and self-aware leader. I think this aspect of the novel was more exciting and engaging for me than any of the romantic bits, and for that reason, I would highly recommend Victoria to teenage girls, particularly those in high school, who may be in the market for a powerful role model.

“she would start as she meant to go on.”

“‘It is time that people stopped seeing me as a little girl.’”

“‘I am tired of being treated as a young lady without a thought in her head.’”

To conclude my review, I have to be perfectly honest and say that I preferred the TV series to the novel Victoria. That may be due in large part to the fact that the TV series is visually astonishing – the costumes, the sets, the actors are so remarkable and it is a series that I don’t think I will ever forget. Goodwin writes with a very cinematographic style, and you can clearly tell that she is imagining and picturing each of the scenes she writes, so I think they come across as already being made for the screen. I do believe that the two mediums go hand in hand, though, so I would certainly say that if you view this novel as a companion to the TV show and engage in enjoying the two together, the experience will be very pleasurable.

❥ ❥ ❥ (out of 5) for the book alone

❥ ❥ ❥ ❥ ❥ (out of 5) for the book as a complement to the TV series (admittedly my favourite TV series of all time)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Crown – #JNGWatches

Good evening Dear Readers and welcome to 2017 at The World of my Green Heart!

My apologies for the extreme delay in posting, but time got away from me over these holidays, since my last blog entry. I’ll mention a bit more about this in tomorrow’s post (yes, that’s right, you’ll be getting two posts in a row to make up for my absence!), but I was specifically kept away from my computer by SS who happened to have 10 days off of work over the holidays. We were able to spend all of these 10 days together – he is right beside me as I write this very text – and I just couldn’t find time to get onto my laptop or even to read. I am finding the time now, though, and I am happy to say that I have many ideas for posts that will be coming very soon! I’m also thoroughly enjoying my current read, Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, so I am certain that I will be finishing it within the next few days, as I get back to work and my lunchtime Starbucks reading routine. I’ve set myself a goal of 18 books in the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge, and what with my full time work schedule and spending every weekend with SS, I think I will be keeping myself pretty busy trying to read a book and a half every month for the next year. Wish me luck!

Anyway, let’s get to the subject of today’s particular post. I’m a fan of the monarchy – actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m a fan of Queen Victoria but that doesn’t mean that I’m an expert on English history by any standards. I know a lot about the Victorian era in terms of literature and culture, and I am a collector of facts pertaining to the queen who gave this time period her name, but that doesn’t mean I know much about King Henry the VIII or Queen Elizabeth I or even the current reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. While I woke up ridiculously early in second year university to watch the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I’m not a super fan of the Windsor family really. I appreciate their existence and I like the idea of royal families, but I don’t know much about the current family that inhabits Buckingham Palace.

You can’t imagine, however, just how many people have asked me if I’ve seen Netflix’s new original series The Crown. In theory, it makes perfect sense that they would be shocked that it took me this long to get around to watching it – I’m very vocal about my love for Queen Victoria, so it stands to reason that I would also be interested in (or even obsessed with) Queen E II. I’m not though, so I didn’t feel the same passion to watch The Crown that I did when I watched ITV’s drama Victoria. Not even close, to be frank. But, the phenomenon that is this Netflix series certainly intrigued me, so I sat down this past week and blasted through all 10 episodes with SS.

I have to say, I really did enjoy it. Like I said, I don’t know much about Elizabeth’s reign, specifically the beginning of it in the early 1950’s, and I did learn quite a lot about the economic and social climate of the mid-20th century. Having said that, I did find many parts of the series, particularly the more political bits involving the government at Downing Street, to be a touch boring and hard to follow. While John Lithgow put in a formidable and admirable performance as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, I still didn’t love the parts where he and his fellow politicians were discussing the laws of England. It didn’t seem all that relevant to me and I found it hard to keep track of their issues, concerns and preoccupations.

What I did really enjoying about the series, though, was the relationships it explored, and the way in which the characters within these relationships were portrayed. In terms of more minor characters, I became very fond of King George, particularly during the flashbacks that were used after his death early in the series, and I also became fascinated by his brother, the former King Edward VIII. The conflicts that these men experience, due largely to the pressures of being royalty, are quite surprising, and I was interested in King Edward’s relationship with the divorced woman he chose over his throne. These were elements of English history that I had no idea about, and I felt the brotherly relationship between George and Edward was really nicely portrayed and explored. The same can be said for the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret. Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby play these roles to perfection, and each dialogue they engage in is full of masterfully measured tone and body language that suggests a discomfort and jealousy between the two sisters that I hadn’t previously expected. Their relationship becomes more and more complicated as the series progresses, and as Margaret becomes open about her relationship with a divorced man, and it is very interesting to see the internal tension that Elizabeth experiences as she must choose whether to be a good sister or a responsible queen. I was on the edge of my seat during many of the conversations between these two characters, and I think Foy and Kirby had great chemistry and were very believable as sisters who both love and resent each other.

The breakout star of the series was, for me, Matt Smith as Prince Philip. Wow, that man was something else! I’m not a Doctor Who fan at all and I’ve actually never even seen an episode, but I know a lot of people who are very fond of Matt Smith, and now I can see why. He’s a fabulous actor, and his portrayal of Philip was so surprising to me in every way! Maybe I don’t know enough about the real-life Prince Philip, but I was shocked to find that he is portrayed as a bit of a playboy in The Crown. His one liners are witty and totally unexpected, and he comes across as quite immature and difficult to deal with most of the time. Smith gives Philip an element of the juvenile, but he is also arguably the most memorable character. The scenes between Elizabeth and Philip are uncomfortable and fascinating, and I am very eager to see how their relationship develops over the next several seasons. It’s interesting to watch a series where we know exactly what the ending will be: Elizabeth and Philip will live into their nineties and remain married. What makes this series unique is that it takes the inevitable and complicates it, providing us viewers with a glimpse into the dramas that resulted in the present we are so familiar with.

There’s no doubt that The Crown is a good piece of television, and I’m not surprised that it is nominated for several Golden Globes. My prediction is that it will win many, and I was hoping to see an award for Matt Smith myself, which doesn’t seem like it will be possible considering that he wasn’t even nominated (an outrage, in my opinion, unless I’m missing something and he was in fact nominated…?!). I would, in any case, highly recommend the series because it makes for an intriguing and dramatic watching experience. It is definitely binge worthy!

Let me know in the comments below if you get around to watching it and what you think.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Christmas Film Recommendations – #JNGWatches

Hello dear Readers!

I thought it was high time that I gave you all some Christmas movie recommendations. Today felt like the perfect day to do this because I just encountered a well-known and much loved film for the first time, and it truly touched my heart.

As you all know, I am an avid, passionate fan of the Christmas season, and one of the pastimes that gets me into the spirit each year is watching Christmas movies every night with my parents. We’ve recently brought SS into the fold, and we watched four movies last weekend alone. My mother and I are unstoppable when it comes to scouring out movies, taping them and scheduling time for us all to sit down and watch them. We have a very good idea of whether or not we will like a Christmas film just from the description, and we’ve found some real winners over the years that have become near and dear to our hearts. Although I can’t possibly go through all the Christmas movies we’ve watched here, I would like to recommend a few of my yearly go-to’s, as well as talk about a couple new favourites.

Forever Favourites

~ Borrowed Hearts ~

Borrowed Hearts is a touching and fun Christmas film that is full of romance and valuable lessons. Starring Eric McCormack as a businessman who has no time for holiday cheer, and Roma Downey as the single mother who turns his life around, this movie features some remarkably charming moments, such as a scene featuring a heartwarming game of Twister, a visit to an outdoor skating rink and a whole host of family moments and traditions. McCormack’s character is heavily inspired by Scrooge, and it is exciting to watch him go from grumpy and surly bachelor to a true family man. Hector Elizondo is also just lovely as Javier Del Campo, another businessman who is more appreciative of family values and who encourages McCormack’s character to focus on love rather than his bank account over the Christmas season. There are strong suggestions that Del Campo is actually an angel, and this is a fun twist that really makes the movie feel even more like a Christmas classic. My mother and I have been watching this film for many years, and it is one of the classics that we won’t skip watching every Christmas season.

~ The Bells of St. Mary’s ~

Strictly speaking, The Bells of St. Mary’s is not a Christmas film. There is one Christmas scene in it, but this classic starring Bing Crosby (Sidenote: Bing Crosby singing just about any Christmas carol is absolutely divine!) and Ingrid Bergman definitely offers something for the whole family. This is the film that my father has always called his favourite Christmas movie, and for a long time we have watched it together on Christmas Eve, after returning from dinner at my grandmother’s house. It tells the story of the priest Father O’Malley who begins working at St. Mary’s Church to get it out of a financial slump. He butts heads with a nun who works at St. Mary’s, Sister Benedict, but they eventually start to see eye-to-eye despite several misunderstandings. I should note that my father and I are not at all religious, and although The Bells of St. Mary’s is technically about a priest and a nun and a church, it does not feel heavily religious in the least, and it delivers messages and insights that can be applied in any setting. Father O’Malley is also an incredible character: he is funny, witty, sarcastic and just plain cool. My father and I have always enjoyed Crosby’s take on this religious figure, and there are a number of very humorous moments throughout the film. You’ll also get a chance to hear Bing Crosby sing, which is the ultimate Christmas treat!

Fun 2016 Frontrunner

~ Crown for Christmas ~

It’s not every year that my mother and I can say we’ve found a new, all-time favourite Christmas film, but 2016 is certainly that year! Just last night, we watched a movie we had never encountered before, Crown for Christmas, and it was absolutely wonderful! It is highly reminiscent of The Sound of Music and (my personal forever favourite) Jane Eyre in that it tells the story of a New Yorker who is hired as the governess for the daughter of a king. Danica McKellar stars as the governess and she is charming and adorable in the role. My mother and I were instantly rooting for her. It is the king, played by famous British actor Rupert Penry-Jones, who really steals the show, though. I have been fond of Penry-Jones since I first watched the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Persuasion – he is THE Captain Wentworth in my books. Penry-Jones is a consummate British actor, and his traditional good looks and delectable accent made him the perfect choice for the role of king in Crown for Christmas. He has his moments of being cold and distant, but there is an undeniable warmth and goodness that oozes out of him, and he plays the role of father remarkably well. The movie was just so romantic, but also very wholesome, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of movies like The Sound of Music and Jane Eyre, but also to those who may have a soft spot for Rupert Penry-Jones and his dashing persona (I’m sure there are a lot of you out there!).

A New-Old Favourite

~ It’s A Wonderful Life ~

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”

I am ashamed to admit that I had never seen the classic (in every sense of the word) Christmas film It’s A Wonderful Life until today. I don’t know why, but I resisted watching it for many years. This seems strange in hindsight because it is a movie that is right up my alley – my favourite films as a teenager getting through high school were the likes of Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady and, of course, The Bells of St. Mary’s, so I don’t know what ever made me think that I wouldn’t love It’s A Wonderful Life. And love it, I did!

I decided to sit down and watch it today after my dear friend CV mentioned to me on the weekend that it is a film she watches every single year at Christmas. CV and I have almost identical taste, and I knew instantly that if it was a favourite of hers, it would certainly make my list of favourite Christmas films. I set myself up in front of the TV with it today, all bundled in my heavy sweater and blankets, and I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen for the full two hours. I happened to watch it in black and white, and I’m so glad I did because I think it felt a lot more authentic that way.

This is the story of a man, George Bailey, who sacrifices everything for the people around him. He is at once a businessman and a family man, and it seems like, for the most part, nothing goes right for him and he can’t really catch a break. His plans to leave his small hometown of Bedford Falls are constantly thwarted, and his dreams of exploring Europe and going off to college are never realized. Instead, George gives of himself to his father by taking over the family business, to his brother by paying for his college education, and to his wife Mary by being a constant source of support to her and their four children. George Bailey reminds me very much of my own father in that sense, and as I watched him toil at work, dealing with one crisis after another in swift succession, I was reminded of the nights when my father would return home from work very late, after a two and a half hour commute. My father never seemed to be tired though, and was always willing to sit down and watch TV with us, offer me and my brother advice with any school dilemmas, or even pick us up from our friends’ houses at all hours of the day and night. To this day, my father works very hard, but he is also a constant presence in our house, a personality that shines in any room he is in. And, he is also the sort of man, just like George Bailey, who has done so much for other people that they are eager and excited to give back to him, whenever they can.

It was wonderful (that adjective is truly fitting in this case) to watch George Bailey in his roles as workingman, husband and father. It honestly warmed my heart, and I nearly cried at the end of the film. Probably what made me so emotional is the fact that my own dear future husband SS is currently, at this very moment, working late, doing everything that he can to build his career, develop a name for himself and set us up with a comfortable and happy life. I am, of course, doing my part as well, and my mother does the same for my father, so it was also very nice to see George’s wife Mary act as his constant support throughout the entire film. It was simply a lovely story to behold, and the underlying message, that a person’s life is so much more valuable than they can ever imagine for the part they play in the lives of those around them, was remarkable and profound. This is a film that quickly became a favourite of mine and that I have every intention of watching every single year!

“Remember no man is a failure who has friends.”

There you have it – I hope some of you may have a chance to watch these great Christmas movies and curl up with your loved ones and some delicious hot chocolate over this holiday season!

xox,

JNG

Girl with a Green (and Red) Heart

my green heart