A Busy Day of Reading and Watching ~ New Recommendations!

I had a lovely day today, finishing up a novel I started just a few days ago, as well as getting through two TV shows I began earlier in the week. I couldn’t help but jot down my thoughts about them, so have a read if you’re looking for some new TV show recommendations in particular.

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins

This song relates perfectly to this YA novel…

Kissing Strangers by DNCE
“Ooh
Can’t quit, take sips
Wanna taste you
Ooh
Make wish, use lips
Kissing strangers (huhhh)
Na na na na na na na na
Till I find someone I love
Na na na na na na na na
Kissing strangers (huhhh)
Na na na na na na na na
Till I find someone I trust
Na na na na na na na na
Kissing strangers (huhhh)”

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzZWXrlDj-A

Also, it’s an extremely catchy and fun song, so I recommend giving it a listen if you’re unfamiliar with it and are planning to read this book.

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins was a cute book, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, in my opinion. I liked Zae well enough as a narrator (even if I did not understand her name in the slightest!), and her relationship with her three best friends was pretty endearing, but I think the novel took wayyy too long to get going and a lot of the light-heartedness was muddled by serious family drama that seemed a touch out of place at times. While this could’ve been the perfect beach/summer read, the fact that Higgins attempted to tackle big topics like infidelity and divorce while still simultaneously offering easy fun made it kind of hard to get a grip on the story. I also felt that Zae’s perspective that she and her friends should “use” guys for the entirety of Spring Break was quite flawed, and it was then hard for me to wrap my mind around Zae’s decisions about college and studying abroad only pages later. I think the novel was trying to do a bit too much in too short a time, and considering that the kiss collecting competition didn’t even get going until about a third into it and is then kind of abruptly dropped toward the end and not really concluded or addressed again, I didn’t feel like there was enough time to explore any one plot direction thoroughly enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I was entertained by this novel, but again, it somehow lacked something for me that I just can’t put my finger on. I would recommend this as a quick read if you’re spending the day by the water with friends or taking a plane or train journey somewhere, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect too much from it.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

***********

Doctor Thorne

God bless a wholesome Victorian story where all ends in happiness!

I decided to sit down and watch Doctor Thorne over the last few days after having it recommended to me by a friend a few years ago. Let’s be honest, the premise is exactly everything I always love and I was itching to get into a Victorian story again. This adaptation of one of Anthony Trollope’s 19th century novels was written by Julian Fellowes, who is apparently the writer of Downton Abbey which I have never watched but have been told by 2.5 million people that I NEED to see because I would ADORE it. I don’t know that the writing of Doctor Thorne was exceptional because I have to assume that most of it came straight out of Trollope’s novel, but I’m a fan of Victorian dialogue in general and there were more than a few “Hell yeah!” moments (mostly when Doctor Thorne himself was fighting with someone) so I have to assume that Downton Abbey is also full of great dialogue.

All in all, I would say that Doctor Thorne was a bit more boring than I would have liked, and it’s not at all on the same level as miniseries adaptations like Jane Eyre and North and South. However, it was still quite entertaining with characters I found to be more interesting and engaging than expected (I’m particularly thinking of the older ladies who are extremely and delightfully catty!) and I would describe it as a pleasure to watch. It also did make me violently emotional at times, specifically when I wanted to slap Lady Arabella and Lady de Courcy in the face for how they were treating Mary Thorne and Frank, and when I found myself vehemently wishing that someone would just kill Sir Louis already because he was the biggest douchebag I have ever encountered in a Victorian story! I even had some laugh-out-loud moments, as when Doctor Thorne stands up to the aristocrats around him and isn’t afraid to deliver some blunt and hard truths, even to people he should, from a societal perspective, be careful around. (Sidenote: Tom Hollander was excellent in this, and although it is still hard for me not to envision him as Mr. Collins after his exceptional portrayal of that character in Pride & Prejudice, I was definitely endeared to him here.) Stefanie Martini was a perfect female lead as Mary Thorne and she actually reminded me in a lot of ways of Ruth Wilson in Jane Eyre, who I’m sure we can all agree is an absolute QUEEN! I think Martini should be in a ton more period dramas, if she hasn’t been already.

To sum all this up, if you like period dramas, Doctor Thorne is certainly worth a watch – I suggest making yourself a hot cuppa and getting to it on a rainy day in!

***********

Fleabag

Okay, Doctor Thorne was always going to be overshadowed by this FREAKING BRILLIANT (!!!) show. I loved absolutely EVERYTHING about Fleabag, starting from episode one, and although I don’t know very much about Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I am convinced that my destiny is for her to adopt me and teach me the art of being truly witty, sarcastic, and badass! She is an utter powerhouse and I bow down to her! #queenstatus

Fleabag is probably one of the best shows I’ve watched recently. The truth is, I don’t watch much television generally because if a show doesn’t engage me within one or two episodes, I will throw in the towel without hesitation. So, if I’m watching a show and flying through it in its entirety in less than a week, you know it has to be good. Well, suffice it to say that Fleabag is hilarious, VERY entertaining, poignant, profound, heart wrenching, over-the-top, endearing, and easily one of the best shows of our time. The topics it tackles, from infidelity to cancer to suicide (to name only a few), are all completely on point and thoroughly contemporary, and every plotline is cleverly written, in an engaging and entertaining style.

The acting on this show is also FREAKING INCREDIBLE!!! Seriously, this show has some next level performances, not only from Waller-Bridge herself whose interaction with the audience is both moving and comical, but also from standouts like Olivia Colman who gives an utter knockout performance. Olivia Colman may well be one of the most talented actresses because she has such range (Don’t get me ranting on how epic she is in Broadchurch!), and I haven’t seen The Favourite but I’m convinced she deserved that Oscar because the woman can do no wrong and I never realized what incredible comedic timing she has. Season 1 of Fleabag is good, but season 2 is absolutely phenomenal, and Andrew Scott is a perfect addition as Hot Priest. His chemistry with Fleabag literally gave me chills because he comes across as oh so charming – literal proof that he is an amazing actor because he was creepy as hell as Moriarty in Sherlock, but there is none of that leftover in this character.

My personal favourite character, though, is Claire. She reminds me a bit of myself in some ways (My husband agrees with this – should I be worried?), but what mainly made her appealing to me as a character is that she is so complex and complicated. Her emotions are articulated with such subtle nuance, and it broke my heart at times and made me burst out laughing at others. Her chemistry with her sister Fleabag is probably the best thing about the show…and that is saying A LOT!

Fleabag is an ABSOLUTE MUST WATCH!!! Honestly, if you haven’t watched it already, what the **** have you been doing?! It’s totally bingeable and will have you rethinking so many things about life, love and family. 1000/10!!!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Role of “Mother” ~ My Favourite YouTube Pregnancy Journeys

Hi Everyone and Happy Almost-Friday!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something I mentioned in a previous post, when I announced that I was pregnant. What’s been on my mind is the fact that, now that I am halfway through my pregnancy and my baby boy will be arriving soon, my identity and primary role in life will necessarily evolve into that of “mother” above all else. This is probably the most jarring thing about welcoming a baby into the world because, naturally, it is a total adjustment to reconfigure your mind and your lifestyle in a way that will put this little bundle of joy before everything. It’s taken me a few months to really come to terms with the fact that I am, technically, a mother even now, and to really think about what this means for my future. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s very possible that this new role of “mother” will prevent me from doing things that I used to do easily in the past, but it is absolutely certain that this new identity of mine will encourage me to reprioritize many things and re-evaluate whether my life goals and pursuits are actually that crucial or significant (as compared to caring for my child). I personally am becoming very excited to give myself completely to this next chapter of my life, and I am eager to throw myself into becoming a new sort of person, one who is a combination of the ambitious, driven woman I have also been as well as the loving, caring and nurturing woman I will have to become. I think that taking on this new role will definitely shake things up for me, and help me to realize what is truly most important in life, and this is something that I am choosing to be invigorated by rather than afraid of.

One of the things that has helped me to understand what the role of “mother” will be like and how it will differ from other roles I’ve had in my life in the past is watching the pregnancy journeys of several women on YouTube. My doctor recommended to me, when I expressed concerns about coming to terms with this altered identity, that I do things to feel bonded with my baby and to make myself excited about motherhood, and I have found that following certain YouTube vloggers on their journeys to become mothers has been extremely enjoyable for me and has helped me to understand that I can be an incredible mother and also be my own person, that I can have a fulfilling and fabulous life but also choose to put my family and my child first. I have been uplifted, particularly on days of overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty, by these women’s videos, and I wanted to share some of their information with you all in case you are interested in engaging with some of their content (and seeing their ADORABLE babies!) as well.

My Favourite Pregnancy Journeys on YouTube

★ Sarahs Day 

My husband and I are pretty much obsessed with the YouTube channel Sarahs Day which follows Sarah, her boyfriend Kurt and their adorable newborn son Fox Ocean. I literally cannot stop smiling every time I watch a video on Sarah’s channel, and her Instagram stories of Fox’s daily activities are among the cutest things I have ever seen on the Internet! What I especially appreciate about Sarah’s content is just how much joy she evidently derives from being a mother – it is truly heartwarming to watch her interacting with her baby boy, and she seems to be very happy and overjoyed to have the opportunity to be his mother. Yes, she also highlights the challenges of being a new mom and the fact that her routine (particularly as it pertains to her intense workouts) has totally changed, but she never complains about any of this and there is this underlying emphasis on gratitude throughout all of her content. It is really very inspiring to me to watch her tackle each day of motherhood with positivity and optimism and enthusiasm, and those are definitely traits I want to emulate when my own baby boy comes along!

★ Carly Rowena 

Carly is an absolute badass, and I have always been a big fan of hers! When I found out that she recently had a baby girl, Jax, I had to go back and watch all of her videos related to her pregnancy. Her and her husband, Leon, are absolutely hilarious and have the best chemistry – you can tell from the beginning that they are going to be fabulous parents, and then when you see them both interacting with Jax, it becomes even more clear that they are incredible! Carly is also extremely honest, and when I was first battling my severe anxiety during my pregnancy, I turned to Carly’s videos as a source of reassurance because she speaks so openly about all of her emotions and feelings throughout her journey of motherhood. She is even more open on her Instagram stories, and she is not afraid to cry if she is frustrated or sad about something, or just having a hard day in general. She is also a total force to be reckoned with in the gym, and her pregnancy workouts have totally blown me away and made me feel so encouraged to get into the gym every day to keep up my physical and mental health. Carly is without doubt the type of fit and fabulous mother I want to be!

★ LoeppkysLife 

The channel LoeppkysLife follows Delilah and her young family. She has two children under two years old, and I particularly became interested in her content when I found out she was a fellow Canadian, since it is so helpful to get information about hospital systems and things of that sort that are actually relevant to my own experience. Delilah’s vlogs are especially nice because she is so down-to-earth and genuine – she is, like Carly and Sarah, totally honest about her emotions and does not shy away from admitting if she’s having a hard time or is feeling frustrated and depressed. She’s not trying to portray this perfect veneer of motherhood, but at the same time, her affection for her children is obvious and they are clearly so enamoured with her. It’s also so cute when her daughter decides to take over the camera and vlog for herself, and you just get this sweet picture of a humble and realistic family! I feel like I could be friends with Delilah in real-life because she so kind. And, her Instagram content is absolutely beautiful because her photos all have a really curated, gorgeous style – definitely a mother I will be following throughout my own journey as a parent!

Honourable Mentions

My husband and I mainly watch the three content creators mentioned above, but we do find the time to sprinkle in videos from two other channels as well: Aspyn and Parker and Colleen Ballinger. Content from both of these channels always brings a huge smile to our faces! Colleen is absolutely hilarious, and while my husband also really likes her Miranda Sings persona, I appreciate being able to see her real side in her interactions with her newborn son. She’s unfailingly honest as well and tells it like it is (she was super honest about her son’s colicky phase and how heartbreaking that was for her), and that’s something I think is really valuable in any content directed at new mothers. Aspyn and Parker are also incredibly endearing, and Aspyn in only a few weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy, so it is really nice to see what she is going through in real-time as I am also experiencing it all myself.

One thing I try not to do, as I watch videos from all of these YouTube channels, is compare my exact experiences to what these ladies are going through or have gone through, because I know every pregnancy is different and no two babies are exactly alike. That being said, it has been very comforting to watch other young mothers go through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth and come out the other side with these gorgeous, lovable babies. I get more and more excited about my baby boy’s arrival with each YouTube video I watch – truly, September cannot come soon enough!

Do you have any recommendations for other similar YouTube channels I should subscribe to? I’d love to hear!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Why Game of Thrones Is NOT A Good Show ~ Reacting to Season 8, Episode 5

❄ Winter came…and nothing happened. ❄

I want to start this post off with two disclaimers.

The first is that there will obviously be spoilers ahead, as I react to and review season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, which aired last night on HBO. If you haven’t seen this episode, I strongly suggest you stop reading this post now.

The second disclaimer is that I do not consider myself a Game of Thrones fan. I started watching it about 5 years ago, when I met my boyfriend and he urged me to watch it with him. I have seen every single episode since then, but I have never bought into the hype and, on the contrary, I have actually vehemently argued (mainly with my boyfriend, turned husband) about how the show is actually not really that good and is certainly not the best show of all time, as most fans like to say. Keep in mind that I have a Master’s degree in English Literature, so I like to think I know a thing or two about storytelling. That being said, I recognize that Game of Thrones just wasn’t my cup of tea from the beginning, since I have never been a huge fan of the fantasy genre…this didn’t stop me from pointing out its flaws throughout the years, though (much to my husband’s dismay and annoyance!).

Now, because I’m not a fan of the show, you can expect my review of last night’s episode to be scathing, so if that’s something you think you might find offensive or upsetting, again, I suggest you stop reading this post now. If you want to argue about anything with me in the comments below, I’m totally open to that, but please remember that these are just my opinions, the opinions of someone who doesn’t really care about the show all that much and probably has no authority whatsoever to speak about it, but wants to anyway. So I’ll repeat, if you’re prone to getting offended if someone criticizes your faveee show eveeer GOT (trust me, I get it, I feel the same way when someone criticizes Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre), then please stop reading here!

My major criticism of Game of Thrones has always been the fact that it does not treat character development well at all. My husband’s rebuttal to this argument is consistently that the show is about world building and is more focused on creating this incredible fantasy setting than each individual character’s growth and development. Fine, that’s fair enough, and as someone who has never been interested in the fantasy genre (I have never read Harry Potteror Lord of The Ringsand probably never will), I can see how I automatically had a bias against Game of Thrones. HOWEVER, I still don’t think it’s fair to ignore the fact that the character development in Game of Thrones is very weak for a number of reasons… 1) For a show to be called the “greatest show of all time” by fans around the world and to actually warrant that claim, I believe it needs to check all of the boxes. It needs to excel at world building, sure, and definitely have a strong plot, but it also has to have incredibly dynamic and complex characters. Game of Thrones, in my opinion, does not have this, and I will explain why below, in my more detailed critique of last night’s episode. 2) So many of the characters on Game of Thrones are beloved by all sorts of viewers of all ages and walks of life, and people have invested a lot of their time and energy in watching these characters progress on this 8-year journey. What bothered me the most about last night’s episode is that a lot of what viewers invested in, a lot of the growth and learning that the characters were supposed to have done, was completely undermined and reversed. I will go into greater detail in a moment, but it rubbed me the wrong way to watch characters, after 8 years, do things that were not in line with who they were supposed to have become. That is, in my opinion, not only lazy writing but also extremely hurtful to fans who have devoted so much of themselves to these characters. It is almost insulting, as a viewer, to learn that everything you invested in with a character was all for nothing. It’s plainly embarrassing, to be honest, and I think the writers should be ashamed of several of the decisions they’ve made in this final season. Again, I myself am not a diehard fan of the series or a lover of any particular character, but even I was frustrated and disappointed by what went down last night.

So, without further ado, here is my detailed review of season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones. I will mostly be breaking my comments down by character because my approach to this review is to look at how certain characters acted in ways that were, quite frankly, out of character, and how this undermined basically all 7 previous seasons of the show and made them utterly irrelevant and pointless.

The White Walkers and the Night King

These comments aren’t strictly about last night’s episode, but they do lead into my discussion of another character on this list, so please bear with me. In my opinion, season 8, episode 3 of Game of Thrones (aka The Battle of Winterfell) was one of the worst episodes I have seen in this series. This partly has to do with the fact that it was wayyy too dark to properly watch, as a billion people have noted before me, but it has more to do with the fact that an entire storyline that was built up for several seasons disappeared with one stab of a dagger. Literally.

Now, okay, I get that the white walkers had to be defeated in order for the actual game of thrones to take place, BUT I don’t see how there can be absolutely no consequences of the fact that they existed in the first place. Arya stabs the Night King, he dies and so do all the white walkers with him, and then…that’s it. Nothing else happens. They have a party in the next episode to celebrate their victory, and a few, VERY MINOR characters are killed. Big freaking deal. I was hoping that the fact that Daenerys and Jon lost a lot of soldiers would end up being significant in the battle against Cersei, but lo and behold, when we get to episode 5, that proves not to be the case as Daenerys obliterates King’s Landing without any issues. So basically, to sum up, the entire Battle of Winterfell was pointless except for the fact that it undermined a plot point that seemed extremely crucial and as though it would be devastating to the characters but was, in fact, not.

Also, the fact that the white walkers and any threat they posed have totally disappeared makes the fact that Branis the three-eyed raven…to use my favourite word again…pointless. Bran had absolutely NO role in killing the Night King and the fact that he knew all this stuff proved to be unhelpful. Fans will probably argue that Bran had to be the three-eyed raven so that he could reveal Jon Snow’s true parentage…but Sam also read that exact same information in a book, so sorry, no. Bran is the biggest waste of space that I have ever encountered in a TV show or book, and it’s simply laughable that the writers have made the fact that he’s this all-knowing history buff seem important. I’m 100% over this character and the entire white walker storyline, and I’m mad that I was ever tricked into thinking it would be something cooler and more significant than it was.

Jon Snow

Aka the world’s biggest idiot and TV’s flattest character. I don’t really have anything to say about him other than that he’s stupid…and I want to punch him in the face for it. In last night’s episode, he finally realized that Daenerys might not be the best ruler of the 7 kingdoms. Congratulations, Jon, way to finally figure that one out! My money’s on him to be on the Iron Throne at the end because if Game of Thrones has taught me anything, it’s that the good guy, who also happens to be as boring as a plain white sheet of paper, will always win.

The Hound

An utter waste of a character who actually could’ve been interesting. I’ll go into my rant about Arya in a minute (get ready!), but what I found most upsetting about how The Hound’s storyline ended last night is that he continued to be obsessed with his ultimate revenge plot against his brother, The Mountain, rather than realizing that he could’ve done so much more as a human. He convinces Arya to return home without killing Cersei, and she thanks him. I thought (wishful thinking, for sure) that Arya was thanking him because The Hound was saying that he was going to take over her revenge quest and kill Cersei himself. That would’ve been cool, right? It would’ve implied that he valued his strained and unconventional relationship with Arya and felt a true attachment to her. Well actually what happened is that The Hound comes face-to-face with Cersei and his brother, The Mountain, and LETS CERSEI WALK DOWN THE STAIRS BESIDE HIM, without stabbing her or anything! He literally lets Cersei walk away, unscathed!!! This is all so that he can get the revenge he has always wanted, despite the fact that I would’ve thought he would grow a little from the ample amount of time he spent, through 8 seasons, with Arya. He knows how important killing Cersei is to Arya, after hearing her recite the names on her revenge list over and over, and yet he is so singularly obsessed with one childish act of vengeance that he doesn’t even consider taking the opportunity to kill the queen, something that EVERYONE has been trying to do. It just goes to show that any development The Hound has gone through was for nothing, since he hasn’t changed whatsoever from who he’s always been. I could almost forgive this if it didn’t happen with a few other characters during the episode as well…

Jaime and Cersei Lannister

If these characters aren’t the biggest disappointment in Game of Thrones history, I don’t know what is.

Let’s start with the simplest criticism: Cersei, this badass female ruler who has been through so much and always managed to scrape through, dies by being crushed by rubble. No final showdown with Daenerys. No conversation with Jon Snow or Arya, who represent a family that she single-handedly ripped apart. No comeuppance of any kind but also no unexpected, villainous victory. Just a heap of rubble. Fabulous! So very glad she was one of the female pillars of strength on this show. -_-

But never mind Cersei, whose death was the epitome of anticlimactic…let’s talk about her brother Jaime, one of two examples I will cite here of character “development” gone horribly wrong. Jaime starts off as a bit of a pitiful character, obsessed and in love with his twin sister, Cersei. He then goes through a whole bunch of stuff, notably losing his hand and his ability to be a great fighter, only to return to Cersei and start sleeping with her again. Okay, that seems lazy to me, but at least when he became reacquainted with Cersei, he did seem to start realizing how evil she is and he ultimately was bothered enough by this to leave her and go fight in the Battle of Winterfell. It felt like, finally, he had a head on his shoulders and was starting to make some wise decisions. He gets to Winterfell, helps in the world’s most disappointing battle, and then becomes romantically involved with Brienne who he has actually had chemistry with throughout the series. This is all pretty good…until Jaime decides to leave Brienne and go back to King’s Landing to save Cersei from Daenerys.

What in the actual ****? I tried to console myself last week with the thought that Jaime was probably going back to Cersei to kill her, and he was just playing Brienne and all of us with his speech about being “hateful” like her. I could not accept the fact that this character lost his hand and his identity, started to see his terrible sister for who she really was, decided to begin a relationship with a character who actually has some substance to her…all to turn around and revert back to the person he was in episode 1 of season 1. Hell no, not possible.

Except, that it was. In last night’s episode, Jaime returned to Cersei, brought her down to the crypt where they would both die (yes, in a heap of rubble) and made a final vow of undying love to her. Now try to tell me that Jaime Lannister isn’t a HUGE waste of a character! He actually could’ve done something cool and profound like, for example, KILL CERSEI, but instead, he does a total 360 back to the pathetic character he once was. Any growth he achieved throughout 8 seasons was completely undermined, as he literally could’ve stepped out of the tower after pushing Bran out the window, sat in an empty room for 8 years staring a wall, and made the exact same decisions he made in last night’s episode. Honestly, I wanted to bang my head against a wall for several hours after watching him and Cersei die that way…and I don’t even like the show! I can’t imagine how insulted fans of Jaime’s character must feel because it was absolutely pathetic. Have I said that word enough times yet?

Euron Greyjoy

Why does this character even exist? Every single thing he has done in this final season, and indeed on the whole show, could’ve been done by another character instead and it wouldn’t have mattered. Anyone could’ve killed that dragon. Anyone could’ve stabbed Jaime Lannister (and in fact, someone more profound should have!). But it all had to be done by Euron freaking Greyjoy… Why? What is the point of his storyline if he’s just going to die in the end with no consequences whatsoever. How much of my time can be wasted on this ****ing nonsense, Game of Thrones, HOW MUCH?!?!

Arya Stark

I hate Arya Stark with a burning passion. I’ve never really liked her because, to be honest, I found her whole journey to become this faceless assassin EXTREMELY BORING. I was told, though, that there would be some sort of significance to it, and I kept hearing people say how cool it was that she had grown into this cutthroat fighter. I admit, it was unexpected that she was the one to kill the Night King and I thought surely she was in for even greater things after that.

Nope. Arya spends most of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones crying and running away. That’s definitely in line with her character, right?

Wrong. Arya’s storyline had to have had the absolute WORST outcome in last night’s episode. She travels with The Hound literally to Cersei’s door, only to turn around and run home like a freaking coward. She is actually standing in the room that Cersei passes into only moments later, when The Hound somehow convinces her to go back to safety at Winterfell and give up a revenge plot she has been OBSESSED WITH for 8 years, since she was a tiny girl. We’ve already established that the whole white walker plot was pointless, but you mean to tell me that Arya spends 8 seasons becoming this crazy good fighter only to stab the Night King? She doesn’t even get to enact revenge on Cersei even though she is A ROOM AWAY FROM HER?!?! This is absolutely absurd and probably the worst writing choice I have ever encountered in my life!!!

What is even more frustrating is the fact that the viewer isn’t even helped to understand Arya’s decision to turn around and walk away. If she had had a change of heart back in Wintefell, maybe spoken to Sansa and realized that revenge isn’t a good idea and that, after killing the Night King, she should settle down and enjoy time with her family, then fine, I could maybe (MAYBE!) buy it. But for her to go all the way to King’s Landing and nearly come face-to-face with Cersei and then be convinced by a few lame words from The Hound to turn around is completely ****ing ridiculous! It is just plain insulting and made me feel stupid for ever having invested any time (albeit it meager) in her character. She turns out to be nothing but the same sad little girl she was in season 1, crying her way through life. What an utter waste of a character who had such potential…it’s truly painful to consider what she could’ve been!

I’m too exhausted to rant any more about this show because that would only mean wasting more time on it. Suffice it to say that I am unimpressed and highly doubt that the final episode will do anything to make me feel better.

The main question I’m left with going into the last ever episode of Game of Thrones is…

Why did I waste so much of my time on this damn series???

JNG

Girl with a Green (and Freaking Frustrated!) Heart

It’s A… Prince Charming! ♔

This is just too much of a coincidence… Or could it be Fate?

I’m not one to piggyback on someone else’s good news, but in this particular case, I simply couldn’t resist!

As some of you may already know, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced yesterday that they have welcomed their new baby BOY into the world. I’m a huge fan of all things royal (that’s pretty transparent on this blog, I’m sure!), and I was so excited to hear this news yesterday. I would’ve been interested anyway, but my excitement was intensified by the fact that I found out, just over a week ago, the gender of my own baby (who is due in September).

I’m having…

*drum roll please*

…a baby BOY!!!

That’s right, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won’t be the only ones with a little prince running around their household, because as of this Fall, I too will have a Prince Charming on my hands.

I think this is such a wonderful coincidence, and definitely made me ten times more excited to be having a little boy, because the fashion inspo I am going to get from Harry and Meghan’s child will be unreal. Haha! 😉

But on a more serious note, my husband and I are both thrilled and overjoyed that we are having a boy. A lot of people have asked me if I’m disappointed (which I think is pretty weird because I don’t know how you can be disappointed with the gender of your baby as long as it is healthy), but I honest to goodness am not! When I was in high school, I went through a phase where I pictured myself with a male child – this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had just read The Time Traveler’s Wifefor the first time and loved the dynamic between Henry DeTamble and his mother. (Sidenote: Is the scene in the movie adaptation when Henry sees his mother on the subway, while time traveling, and tells her, “Your son loves you very much.” not utterly adorable?!?!) Whatever the reason, there was a long period of time when I just felt certain I would have a little boy of my own one day, and since I have always only wanted one child (my husband is also on board with this, as an only child himself), I never really entertained the idea of or envisioned having both a boy and a girl. Obviously, over the years I reminded myself that there is a 50% chance of having a baby of either gender, and I knew I would be equally happy with a girl, but I do think it is kind of special and magical that my first daydreams about my own child always starred a dark-haired and adorable boy.

And no, before you ask, I didn’t pick out a name for my little boy back in high school because I always found it so hard to feel connected to any male names (although I did entertain the name Henry for awhile, naturally). Now, 10 years later, my husband and I do already have a name picked out for our baby boy which I highly doubt will change, so we’ve already started referring to him by name and have spent some time each night picturing what he will look like and how he will act and how terrifying but incredible it will be to raise him. I will probably share our name choice with you all sometime soon, so stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, I wanted to share the picture my husband and I put together to announce the gender of our baby to our friends and families on social media. Ironically, we went with a royal theme (no surprise there!) which seems all the more fitting now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their equally amazing news. ♔♔♔

If you have any guesses of what you think the name we chose is, let me know in the comments – I’d be so interested to hear!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Two Christmas Books and a Love Story ~ #JNGReads

This week has been crazy and stressful and trying for me, but somehow I managed to finish 3 novels (one of them entirely in one sitting!).  Below are reviews for what I read this week, to get me in the Christmas spirit!

Check out the bookstagram I share with my best friend, Emerald & Opal, to see more bookish photos like this!

One Day in December by Josie Silver

This novel lost momentum towards the second half…or, maybe I’m the one who lost momentum.  In any case, I enjoyed this story but I just felt that the first half, when Laurie and Jack are young and are first coming to terms with the fact that they have a connection but cannot be together, was more touching than the latter half. Really, as soon as Oscar entered into the mix, my interest started to wane a bit, and I found Jack and Laurie to be a bit less endearing as they grew older.  However, overall I found this story to be very entertaining and there were definitely many moments when my chest felt tight and my heart was racing. I even had faint tears in my eyes at times, because for whatever reason, I felt like I could really picture Laurie and her big, sad but hopeful eyes, and could feel her pain and agony at loving a man she could not have.

I would certainly recommend this novel as a Christmas read.  It didn’t necessarily blow me away from start to finish, but it had enough moments that were touching and the story was a lot more mature and intricate than I expected for a chick lit. novel.

❥❥❥.5(out of 5)

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

Karen Swan is one of my favourite authors, and so, because I didn’t love this one, I don’t want to say too much about it. I was having a rough week while reading this, so I don’t know if my feelings toward it have to do with the book or me. In any case, I WILL read more of Karen Swan’s books (I have 3 unread on my bookshelf right now) in the future!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Love Story by Erich Segal

What possessed me to read this incredibly sad novel before Christmas?  I truly have no idea.

I should mention that I have wanted to read Love Story for many years.  I remember distinctly watching bits and pieces of the movie on TV one day when I was in high school with my mom.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of the movie (I am intending to properly watch it now that I’ve finished the book), but I have held onto the feeling that I should read the book ever since encountering the movie.  I knew the book would be sad (that much, I remembered from the movie), but I am a hopeless romantic so I figured that at some point I had to read the novel literally called Love Story.

It wasn’t at all what I expected, to be honest.  It was as sad and heart-wrenching as I thought it would be, but I had no idea that it was told from Oliver’s perspective and I was not expecting to be so drawn in by his character and narrative voice.  I was kind of thinking that he would be some vapid rich kid, but it turns out that he is a man full of heart and sensitivity.  Jenny is as hilarious and sassy as I thought she would be, and my only criticism is that the book was very short and the love story was quite condensed and much less fleshed out than I would’ve assumed it would be given how popular it is and how beloved the film adaptation is.  But, having said that, I was able to finish the entire novel in one sitting, so that is definitely a testament to how enjoyable and easy it was to read about Oliver and Jenny.

The ending is heartbreaking and sudden, there’s no doubt about that, but overall I must say that I am really glad I got around to reading this one and I think it is the perfect read for a Sunday afternoon curled up under the covers with the person you love.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Love & Gelato ~ #JNGReads

I am having seriously mixed feelings about Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch!

This situation is giving me major Anna and the French Kiss vibes, which I’m not sure I like. A bit of backstory on this: Anna and the French Kiss is a very popular and much-loved YA novel that I had a very controversial opinion about because…well, I really did NOT like it. You can read my impassioned (and very annoyed) review of it here. Anyway, suffice it to say that although I wanted to LOVE Anna and the French Kiss because it seemed like it would be right up my alley, I didn’t, and I was super disappointed…almost inconsolably so! 😉

Let me start by saying that my reaction to Love & Gelato is nowhere near as violent. I didn’t hate it by any means! But, I just felt, especially toward the end of the novel, like something huge was missing. I still can’t put my finger on it, but I am going to try to write out a list to hopefully wrap my mind around it.

The Good Stuff

🍦 Gelato ~ In my humble opinion, there was not enough gelato eating in this novel for it to be part of the title, but any mention of it did make me smile because, quite simply, I adore ice cream!

🍦 Reference to Roman Holiday ~ Aka the GREATEST movie of all time! Enough said.

🍦 Lina (the main character) wasn’t super annoying! ~ She was nowhere near as insufferable as Anna from Anna and the French Kiss, and although I didn’t think she was nearly developed enough in some ways (more on this later), she was pretty endearing.

🍦 FLORENCE ~ I am OBSESSED with Florence and have been ever since I visited it 4 years ago. Talk about the most GORGEOUS place on Earth!!! I have been dying to go back, and this novel certainly made me nostalgic. Although, that being said, I did have some problems with the role Florence played in the novel…but more on this in a moment.

A photo of me in Italy because…why not?!

🍦 Ren ~ Super cute and not an annoying love interest! Barely a love interest at all (more on this below – are you also getting the sense, like I am, that every PRO is also a CON here?), but some of his lines were super witty and made me chuckle.

The Lacklustre Stuff

🍦 Poor Character Development ~ I finished this almost 400 page novel feeling like I barely knew the characters at all, and that was a real shame. Coming off two fantastic reads where I became super attached to the main characters in the same number of pages (Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson and Beautiful by Christina Lauren), I was slightly annoyed that I finished Love & Gelato and felt like I didn’t know Lina or her mother any better than I did at the start. I didn’t sense any profound character development, and I think this was a missed opportunity because Lina in particular has a lot going on in her life and she could’ve grown immensely. I also felt that her relationship with her (newly found) father wasn’t focused on nearly enough, and it would’ve been nice to seem them bonding for longer than a handful of pages. I just think Lina could’ve progressed and learned so much about herself, and I definitely think that was the intention of the novel, but it fell flat for me.

🍦 Insta-Love ~ Okay, I’m not the type of reader who breaks out in hives anytime insta-love happens in a novel, but I could certainly do without it. In the case of Love & Gelato, I just couldn’t accept it. Ren and Lina are friends for about 5 days before Lina starts declaring that she is IN LOVE with him. It’s one thing to develop a close friendship or even become infatuated with someone within a few days (some people are just kindred spirits, I get that) but to say you’re IN LOVE is a bit much. Hey, I’m all for love at first sight when done properly, but this was just a bit over the top, maybe because Lina’s declaration kind of comes out of nowhere and the passage where she starts talking about being in love with Ren is written in a super awkward way, in my opinion. I also have no idea what the purpose of Thomas was, except maybe to sort of establish a love triangle, although that didn’t even work and wasn’t fleshed out enough!

(Sidenote: I fully realize that Roman Holiday is kind of an example of insta-love as well…BUT I have a feeling I would fall instantly in love with Gregory Peck too sooo…?!)

🍦 The Diary ~ What, may I ask, was the purpose of Lina’s mom’s diary? I truly have no idea! At first, it seemed like a cool idea that Lina’s mother sent her old diary to Florence for Lina to read when she arrived, but by the end of the entries, I was left feeling that they were so juvenile and poorly written. Although some secrets about Lina’s mother’s life were revealed through the diary, I personally would’ve rather read about Lina exploring Florence and becoming her own person, rather than reading somewhat lazily articulated diary entries from her mother. Also, the profound takeaway from the diary wasn’t all that interesting to me, and it sort of, again, took away from a great relationship that was budding between Lina and her father, Howard. I just thought the diary was an utter waste of pages, if I’m honest.

🍦 FLORENCE ~ How do you have a travel novel set in Florence and not write more about…Florence??? This is probably what boggled my mind the most – Lina spends very little time in Florence, considering she has just moved there. Sure, we get a mention of the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo and popular landmarks like that, but we get no scenes of Lina exploring the restaurants and cafés of Florence, and she spends more time running around than getting to know the locals or enjoying her surroundings. I would’ve loved to read more about Lina growing accustomed to the culture and falling in love with the city, but instead, we’re taken on this journey of “discovery” that, again, wasn’t very interesting to me.

🍦 All the TYPOS!!! ~ I swear, there was one (either grammatical or spelling) on like every single page. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and it seriously hindered my reading flow…but maybe I’m just being nitpicky with this one?! Super frustrating though!

I don’t know, I was disappointed by this novel overall because it wasn’t nearly as sweet and sentimental as I hoped it would be. I would still recommend it as a quick beach read, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it and there are so many better YA novels out there, if you ask me.

Some Quotes from the Novel I Liked (…to end with the positive…)

You may be slow to warm up, but once you do, you light up the whole room.

“Sometimes I feel like my time is divided into two categories: time with X, and time spent waiting to be with X.”

“‘And I’ve never, ever, ever thought of you as anything more.’

Does it count as a lie if you’re denying something you’ve only fully admitted to yourself for about a minute? Also: One too many ‘evers’ there. But I was going for believable.”

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Wedding Date ~ #JNGReads

GRRR!!!

This is the sound of frustration, of dashed hopes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Fifty Shades

“‘Enlighten me, then.’”

*This “review” will include my thoughts on the Fifty Shades series as a whole, including a discussion of the film adaptations.*

How to put into words the way I feel about the Fifty Shades series? I don’t even know where to begin.

I should start with a short description of my personal experiences with the series…

I first attempted to read Fifty Shades of Grey when I was in my second year of university. I say “attempted” because I got through very little of the book before refusing to read any further. I’ll let you in on a little secret: at that point in my life, I was pretty inexperienced in the ways of love and intimacy. I hadn’t had my first kiss yet (yes, it’s true, that wouldn’t come until the summer AFTER my second year of university), and I didn’t know very much at all about interacting intimately with the opposite sex. I was as innocent and naïve as Miss Anastasia Steele, and my first attempt reading Fifty Shades of Grey was so abysmal because I was filled mostly with fear, uncertainty and anxiety about every aspect of Christian and Ana’s relationship. It just wasn’t the right time for me to encounter such a graphic, shocking novel, and I remember actually being disgusted and close to a panic attack when I read the scene where Christian and Ana have sex (I should probably get used to not using euphemisms when talking about this series, eh?) for the first time. I just couldn’t stomach it, so for the first time in my life, I DNFed a book.

Fast forward to two years later, when I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree. I was a bit more experienced at this point (although nowhere near where Ana is by the end of the first novel), so I decided to revisit Fifty Shades of Grey from a more, shall we say, mature perspective. I finished it within days and moved onto Fifty Shades Darker very quickly. I never went on to Fifty Shades Freed because, being totally single at that point, I found it hard to relate to Ana as she was preparing to get married. But, I had read the first two novels in the series without incident, and I felt wiser and more knowledgeable because of it. I would learn about a year later that I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I thought, but in that moment after finishing Fifty Shades Darker, I felt accomplished and like I had been let into one of the world’s greatest secrets. I guess you could say that I was curious about these things that existed in society but that I wasn’t yet a part of. I was, no doubt, craving some sort of intimacy and physical connection myself that I had yet to find, and I devoured the book more out of wanting to learn than anything else.

“That means I’m competing with Darcy, Rochester, and Angel Clare: impossible romantic heroes. Here’s the proof I needed. She’s an incurable romantic, like her mother – this isn’t going to work.” ~ Grey

Were these two books literary masterpieces? Absolutely not. Don’t misunderstand me please…I am a lover of Charlotte Brontë and I knew the difference between a cheesy, cliché erotic romance and the classic romances of times past. I wasn’t comparing Fifty Shades to Jane Eyre or anything of that nature whatsoever, and I scorned E.L. James’ allusions to Victorian novels because my somewhat pretentious English Lit. major self was offended that she would even utter the name Brontë in her text. I’m now much more versed in the contemporary romance genre and I appreciate its merits, but of course, I always knew the difference between it and those literary classics that have been revered for centuries. That being said, what Fifty Shades offered curious JNG that Jane Eyre did not was detail…it provided me with a glimpse into what happened to Jane after she married Rochester, what would happen to me one day, what came after that first kiss I had finally had. My curiosity, my yearning to know more of intimacy in some capacity, was…sated.

Then I met my now husband, and we started a relationship that blew my mind in so many ways. It was my first relationship of any kind, and as you can imagine, many other firsts came with that. Believe me, Fifty Shades was faaar from my mind when presented with a real, live man to call my own, but of course, I did at least know a thing or two about intimacy because of that popular series that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

What complicated things a bit, though, was the release of the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades. I went to see it with a girlfriend in the theatre, and although I had my own boyfriend and wealth of experience by that point, I was still shocked and disturbed and uncomfortable. I couldn’t figure out why I could apparently read about all these acts, and do some of them, and then not witness them on screen, but something about the movie really put me off, and I left at the end in utter panic, texting my boyfriend frantically out of confusion and uncertainty. The issue was (and my boyfriend was quick to identify this and help me through it) the representation of a relationship unlike anything I had ever had or seen: a BDSM relationship that I wasn’t ready to see for myself. Now, I’ve come to understand through more encounters with these sorts of novels and through a better understanding of sex in general, that Christian and Ana don’t necessarily do a BDSM relationship properly…but at the time, it was my only frame of reference, and while reading about it was one thing, seeing it played out before me was quite another. Christian’s urge to possess Ana, her willingness to submit to him, her lack of confidence and pride in herself, all made me very uncomfortable. I left the movie, had some confused and emotional discussions with my boyfriend about all I had seen, and then tried to put it behind me.

Two years later, I was even wiser and more knowledgeable, but this time because of my own experiences, because I had grown to understand myself, develop my own confidence and preferences. I was moving closer and closer to the woman I am today, and something told me that I could handle watching Fifty Shades Darker…so off to the movie theatre I went. And, I’ll be 100% honest, I LOVED this movie! Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but for some reason, I really enjoyed it, and I’ve seen it probably a dozen times in total by now. I can’t really explain what I like about it, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this intimacy is established between Christian and Ana that finally isn’t just physical. It reminded me, in some ways, of my own relationship, and I was touched by the idea that only the people in a relationship can fully understand it. I liked the concept that people in a relationship necessarily have secrets, these private feelings and preferences that they hide from the world and keep only to each other. I had experienced that firsthand myself, that “You and I vs. Everyone” mentality, and I thought it was depicted well on screen. Fifty Shades Darker is still the movie I turn on when I’m bored at home on a Friday night, and I’m happy to say that I also watch Fifty Shades of Grey sometimes, without any anxieties or uncertainties.

Anastasia Steele, what am I going to do with you?

So, when I stumbled upon Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey told from Christian’s perspective) in the bookstore a week ago, I felt that it was time for me to try reading the series again, this time as a married woman with more confidence, self-assurance and self-respect than I have ever had in my life. Much of the novel annoyed me, and I still didn’t like the rhetoric of possession and inequality. I was frustrated all over again with Ana’s innocence and her lack of self-esteem, and I hated Christian at many points. But, I felt that I understood the characters and the concepts so much better (even if I do still think they do BDSM very wrong!), and so I was able to enjoy the novel as a source of entertainment. I appreciated that I had issues with it, because I found that I thought about all those old anxieties from the past in a new light, but I also found myself enjoying the novel for its own sake, as a cheesy, light romance. I had grown a lot since my very first reading of the novel, and the experience of reading Grey was more a recognition of my own growth and understanding of myself than anything else.

Maybe it’s totally absurd to have this extreme of a reaction to a series like Fifty Shades, but I’ve never been able to control how I feel, especially when it comes to novels. The idea of Fifty Shades will always make me a little sad and wistful, maybe because of the intimacy it portrays and how overwhelming and all-encompassing I know that can be. But, whatever the reasons for my strange attachment to this series, Fifty Shades had a hand in my own awakening…and for that, well, it will always have some sort of place in my heart.

❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

An Enchantment of Ravens ~ #JNGReads

Okay, I think I can condense my review of Margaret Rogerson’s book An Enchantment of Ravens into one sentence…

This novel is the literary equivalent of an hour and a half long feature film that you wish was made into a 4-hour miniseries instead.

An Enchantment of Ravens was a great novel, it truly was. I would’ve gone so far as to say it was an excellent novel, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was just so darn short. At 295 pages, this novel is exactly what I said: a movie that would’ve been better as a TV show…a burger that didn’t come with fries on the side…ice cream in a cup, not a cone. What I mean by all that is that this novel got good, it fully got going, and then it ended. Just when you’re starting to become interested in the plot and invested in the characters, just when you’re taking the last bite of that burger and realizing you’re still hungry, just when you’ve taken the last lick of that delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream and are excited to crunch on the cone…it’s over. The end – nice knowing you, see you later!

Seriously, there isn’t much to An Enchantment of Ravens because it is such a tiny story. However, Rogerson also packs this impressive and intricate world, these unique and fierce main characters, these hilarious and endearing side characters, and this explosive adventure plot into a book that really is nothing more than a novella. My main problem with An Enchantment of Ravens is that I just needed more time: more time to get to know Isobel and Rook, more time to familiarize myself with the world they lived in, more time to visualize their life-threatening circumstances…more time with them in general. I found myself starting to really love and feel connected to Isobel and Rook around page 220, only to realize that there were only 75 pages left of my journey with them. It’s not even that An Enchantment of Ravens is too poorly paced, because I never felt like I wasn’t seeing things I should have or that any plot points were missing per say – instead, I simply felt like every single scene, from Isobel meeting Rook and painting his portrait, to their battle with the ultimate villain (trying to avoid spoilers here!) at the end, could have been expanded, fleshed out further and more painstakingly described. While Rogerson’s descriptions of nature and the fairy world are detailed and lush, and in many places made my skin crawl as I imagined the rot and decay she described in the summer court that was turning rancid, her treatment of particular scenes and conversations and events was too rushed. This is most obvious any time there is a fight scene of any kind – Rogerson seems to describe each moment in rapid succession, literally as if her audience is watching the scene and the camera is moving from one image to the next. But the thing is, we aren’t watching it, we are reading and so we need time to visualize everything, to make a picture of it in our minds, settle into that picture and then let the action unfold. It felt to me on several occasions like I was struggling to keep up with Rogerson, like my mind was flitting from one image to the next too quickly for me to get a grasp on any single one or see the bigger picture. Again, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the images she was creating – on the contrary, I would’ve liked to spend more time within them.

Further examples of this rushed feeling came any time there was dialogue, particularly between Isobel and Rook. I sincerely liked both of them and I enjoyed their relationship, but I felt like, once again, their conversations were written with a cinematographic quality in the sense that they were so fast-paced and short that I never really got a sense of their tone of voice. I sensed chemistry between them, but the focus of narration moved too quickly away from their dialogue and banter to allow me to really revel in that feeling. This ultimately left me feeling like I wasn’t fully connected to or friendly with the characters, and I was especially disappointed by this when it came to intriguing side characters like Isobel’s aunt Emma and her sisters March and May who were so quirky and adorable, but whose emotional connections toward Isobel were somewhat glossed over and then flitted away from. So much happened in An Enchantment of Ravens that it all just happened in such a mad, dizzying blur for me.

Maybe the best comparison I can give is to relate my experience of reading An Enchantment of Ravens to my experience watching a movie and a TV show that are equally full of action. An Enchantment of Ravens is like the book equivalent of Zack Snyder’s movie Batman v. Superman – there is A LOT going on in that movie, so much that it all becomes an incoherent mess by the end. Sure, if you take a single scene and watch it in isolation, it’s well crafted, enjoyable and easy to follow. But when you cram a bunch of really overwhelming and busy scenes into one film, it all becomes a bit muddled until your left in the conclusion not knowing what the heck even happened. Then, take for example the Netflix/Marvel TV show Daredevil – there’s just as much action as in Batman v. Superman, the story is just as wide in scope, and yet because it unfolds slowly over an entire TV series, it feels for the viewer like they have truly gone on a journey, like they have lived in that world and resided with the characters. It feels more organic and natural, and I would argue that viewers of Daredevil will have a lot more to say about it and reflect upon afterwards than they would after watching Batman v. Superman, most of which will just go right over their heads and be forgotten. An Enchantment of Ravens is a more action-packed version of the Victorian novel that has been adapted into a Hollywood film production rather than a slow-burning BBC miniseries…it is a waste of a good story.

Margaret Rogerson has talent, there’s no doubt about that, and overall I enjoyed An Enchantment of Ravens. Unfortunately, though, I think that fantasy novels need to be massive tomes to be successful because there is too much to establish in terms of the world and the heroes and heroines, along with the adventure-driven plot, to condense it all into a small package. So, while I would recommend An Enchantment of Ravens as a super quick fantasy reader, I felt it had much more potential.

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Stardust ~ #JNGReads

“The events that follow transpired many years ago. Queen Victoria was on the throne of England, but she was not yet the black-clad widow of Windsor: she had apples in her cheeks and a spring in her step, and Lord Melbourne often had cause to upbraid, gently, the young queen for her flightiness. She was, as yet, unmarried, although she was very much in love.”

~ Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Bless you, Neil Gaiman, for that paragraph alone!

Stardust is a remarkably pleasant and enjoyable fairytale by acclaimed and beloved author, Neil Gaiman. As a fan of fairytales of all kinds, from Disney’s versions of tales such as Beauty and the Beast to ancient poems detailing the adventures of Sir Gawain, I found Stardust to be thoroughly entertaining and I would highly recommend it as a quick but fun and adorable read to young adult readers, as well as older readers with a youthful and fantastical spirit.

I should mention that I have never read any other works by Gaiman. I was encouraged to read Stardust by my brother, who recently became a big fan of Gaiman’s work after reading American Gods. My brother thought that American Gods wouldn’t really be my cup of tea, however, so he passed Stardust over to me as soon as he finished it. My husband recently devoured and loved Gaiman’s graphic novel “Sandman”, and so he too was excited for me to delve into Gaiman’s catalogue. There is no doubt that Neil Gaiman is a literary genius, with a versatile writing style that is equally impressive and awe-inspiring, and Stardust was certainly a well-written, well-constructed and imaginative work that I believe deserves a high rating for its uniqueness and creativity, as well as its flow and easily digestible structure.

Having said that, while I was not familiar with Gaiman’s writing before picking up Stardust, I had seen (albeit years ago) the film adaptation of this fairytale. Normally I would hesitate to pick up a book after seeing the movie version because I often find the movie clouds my judgment and perception of the original written text if I do this, but in the case of Stardust, I felt that I had seen the movie so long ago (when I was in high school) that it made sense to read the text and then revisit the movie. I was sure that I had forgotten enough of the movie to make the book interesting to me in its own right. And that is, in many ways, true – there were several aspects of the tale that I had forgotten entirely, a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all, and the things I did remember from the film (such as the ending, for example) were altered and different enough in the book that I found I could enjoy the written story in and of itself. Nevertheless, there were elements of the movie that I did have some memory of, which I found lacking in the story – for the first time ever, it seemed to me that the film adaptation delved more deeply into the histories and backgrounds of certain fascinating characters, such as the witch and the sky-ship captain (played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro in the movie, respectively), and I felt while reading that I only had a half-formed, very weak understanding of these characters. I also felt that in the movie version, the relationship between Tristran Thorn and the star Yvaine is fleshed out better and more organically and naturally. I almost felt as though, although the book was definitely entertaining and enjoyable, there was some sort of spark missing from it.

I’ve read a few reviews on Goodreads that implied that for these reasons the film adaptation of Stardust is better than the book…I wouldn’t go that far! I think that in this particular case, one really must look at the movie and the book as two totally separate entities. The book is, according to Gaiman’s own admission in the Introduction, a tale he sat down to write spontaneously and probably completed in a few hours. It’s almost the outline of a tale more than a story itself – it serves as more of a summary, a rubric for a fairytale that has immense room for expansion. I think that’s what the film adaptation did: it took this very short, tiny novel and fleshed it out, imagined scenarios and events in the peripheral that Gaiman certainly hints at but doesn’t delve into himself, and it made those real, depicted them in a way that honours and pays homage to Gaiman’s actual text but also gives it more depth and life. The movie is, then, more of a love letter to the book than an adaptation of it.

With all that said, I really did enjoy Stardust very much, and I am glad that I read it. I do absolutely think I’ll read more of Gaiman’s work, particularly in other genres to get a sense of his versatility. Overall, I would call my reading of Stardust an unequivocal success!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart