Six of Crows – A Mini Review ~ #JNGReads

Well, I’m certainly late to the party with this one, but boy am I glad I finally arrived!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a remarkable, suspenseful, heart wrenching and complex tale. It is without doubt one of the best books I’ve read this year, and will go down as one of my all-time favourite novels.

I don’t want this review to be too long or comprehensive because I’m planning to move rapidly into reading the second book in the duology, Crooked Kingdom. I would much rather wait until I have finished that book to write a full review of the entire series, with more thorough thoughts on the main characters. Having said that, there was something that struck me about Six of Crows and I just felt that I had to get my thoughts on it down in writing.

Six of Crows, as I said before, is remarkable – it is unlike any other novel in so many ways, such as its tone, narration and sophisticated, gothic feel. It is most remarkable, however, in its portrayal of the six characters that serve as the protagonists of the story. Wylan, Jesper, Matthias, Nina, Inej and Kaz are among the most unique, creative and well-articulated characters I have ever encountered in literature. Each one of them has such a vast and complicated personality, with a detailed history, and Bardugo’s genius truly emerges in her narrative style and the fact that she allows each of the six characters to have their own focus while maintaining consistent third person narration. It is a style that is really hard to describe, but it is almost as though the narrator, this omniscient being, decides to hone in on each of the six characters in their own turn, portraying their own internal emotions and anxieties while simultaneously pinpointing how these internal sentiments manifest themselves in outer reality and are perceived by the other characters. I can’t do the style justice by trying to describe it, so believe me when I say that Six of Crows would be worth reading just for the unparalleled narrative style.

But Six of Crows is also worth reading for sooo many other reasons, such as the suspenseful plot and the complex relationships between these six intriguing, flawed but strong characters. Kaz is by far a standout character, but what touched me most profoundly, and what I want to talk about more closely right now, is Bardugo’s portrayal of her two female characters, Nina and Inej. I have not come across such inspiring female characters in a very long time, and I have to admit that Nina and Inej have already inspired me in my own life. They have given me that little extra push I needed to be the strongest, most powerful young woman I can be, and I think we should all be grateful as readers that two female characters like this exist in a young adult novel. I, for one, will be having my future daughter (if I have one) read Six of Crows at an early age because of Nina and Inej.

Nina ~ The Confident and Curvy Grisha

Nina was the character that truly surprised me the most in Six of Crows. When she first appears in the novel, she is working in what I guess is a sort of brothel or something of that sort and she comes across as somewhat flaky and far too focused on physical appearances and superficial things. Very quickly, though, it becomes clear that although Nina is beautiful, she has many gifts as a Grisha Heartrender and is also extremely intelligent, fierce and takes no nonsense from anyone. Above all, she is unfailingly loyal, both to her lover Matthias and eventually to the Six of Crows crew, and she makes sacrifices and wise snap decisions that I really didn’t expect from her. She was just a fascinating example of the appearance vs. reality motif.

What stuck with me most about Nina was her inspiring amount of confidence. It’s mentioned several times in the novel that Nina absolutely loves sweets and food in general, and her voluptuous form is also described. This led me to believe that Nina is more of a curvy figure, and that was something that I seriously LOVED! This is a different topic for another time, but I have always struggled with my weight, body confidence and self-esteem, and no matter how many times my fiancé and my friends tell me that I have nothing at all to worry about, I can’t seem to acquire the confidence I would like to have about this particular aspect of myself. To read about Nina acting with such confidence, particularly in her interactions and when making those snap decisions, was truly eye opening for me. Nina’s body isn’t even a thing that she mentions herself or seems to think about, except in its capacity to assist her in her tasks and when she is using it to her advantage. She seems to truly love herself and take pride in exactly who she is, and all I could think while reading is, I want to be Nina when I grow up. I’m not even close to as confident and self-assured as she is yet, but I would really like to be one day.

The passage that touched me the most with regards to this idea was the following one…

“Do you never doubt yourself?” [Matthias asked Nina.]

“All the time,” she’d said as she slid into sleep. “I just don’t show it.”

Nina is the embodiment of the “fake it till you make it” mentality – and boy, does she ever make it in the end! She became one of my favourite fictional characters ever!

Inej ~ The Defiant and Daring Ghost

While Nina was most probably my favourite character in Six of Crows, Inej was the one that intrigued me the most (and that is saying a lot since Kaz Brekker is very intriguing!). In contrast to Nina, Inej is this slender, silent character that is actually given the nickname The Wraith to describe how adept she is at remaining hidden and taking people by surprise. She was raised as an acrobat, and her athleticism and the way she pushes her body to the ultimate extremes (such as climbing up an incinerator shaft, practically barefoot) is freaking insane! It is totally groundbreaking, in my opinion, to see characters like Nina and Inej working together and becoming such close friends without any competitiveness whatsoever, and it warmed my heart to see this wraith-like figure soften and begin to trust another female. I also couldn’t help but root for Inej, not only in her crazy physical feats, but also in terms of wanting her to find love and respect, and to value herself as more than simply a pawn or tool in Kaz’s missions. I think whereas Nina possesses confidence inherently, Inej truly develops and gains confidence as the novel progresses, especially in her interactions with Kaz, and that is an epic transformation to watch unfold. Although Inej never doubts herself when getting a task done or doing something physical, it is heartwarming to watch her start to believe in her own value more and become self-assured.

Inej’s newfound self-worth is most obvious in a line toward the end of the novel that I just couldn’t get out of my head…

“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”

Inej finally has the confidence to go after exactly what she wants, and she refuses to settle for anything less. I was more proud of her than I can adequately express here.

And on that note, let me finish by giving a song recommendation. I am sometimes struck by songs that I like that somehow seem to fit exactly with an aspect of a novel I’ve just read, and today when I was running on the treadmill for an hour (What can I said, Inej inspired me?!), the song “Pins and Needles” by Billy Talent came on my iPod. I’ve liked this song since high school, but as I listened to the lyrics today, I couldn’t help but think of Kaz and Inej and their complicated relationship. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I am going to include some lyrics that I think express this comparison, as well as a link to the song below. If you’ve read the novel (and if not, I urge you to ASAP!) you’ll know exactly what I mean.

From “Pins and Needles” by Billy Talent

Never understood how she could,

Mean so little to so many

Why does she mean everything to me?

Is it worth the pain, with no one to blame?

For all of my insecurities

How did I ever let you go?

******

I never walked so far on a lonely street

With no one there for me

Is it worth the pain, with no one to blame?

For all of my insecurities

How did I ever let you go?

Accept this confession!

(…I’m walking on pins and needles)

You’re not my high possession!

(…I’m walking on pins and needles)

My conscience is vicious!

(…I’m walking on pins and needles)

And I’m begging forgiveness!

(…I’m walking on pins and needles)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg-GSagBJgY

Six of Crows ~ ❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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Wednesday Words ~ Spotlight on “Sunscreen”

Hello dear Readers and happy hump day!

We’re already at the middle of the week… Can you believe it?  I’m extremely grateful for the fact that this week seems to be flying by because there is just too much excitement in my life at the moment to sit at work all day!  I’m getting restless, to say the least.

Welcome to my first ever Wednesday Words post.  I’m not going to lie to you all and pretend that this sort of post is going to become a weekly thing here on the blog, because Lord knows that I find it hard to do weekly updates, what with being torn between reading and writing reviews for the 2.5 million books I have in my room.  Having said that, I was thinking that whenever I have a particular passage or quote or song lyric I’d like to share, I’m going to try to do it on a Wednesday (what can I say, I’m a fan of alliteration!) and go into greater depth analyzing the quote in detail.  So, look out for more Wednesday Words posts in the future (if not consistently)!

Today’s spotlight is on a song that I recently stumbled upon in this great Spotify playlist called “Your Favorite Coffeehouse”.  I’m new to Spotify – I have an iPod which I update regularly, so I never felt the need to use the Spotify app – and I am loving it!  Although my iPod is great for listening to music at the gym or on the subway, it doesn’t allow me to discover new music or artists, and I find it hard to listen to music for too long with headphones, so I wanted a means of listening to music out loud from my work computer.  Spotify allows me the perfect opportunity to do that, and I’ve already found a bunch of new songs that I am really fond of and would’ve never heard otherwise.  It also has some great playlist collections, like the Coffeehouse one which is absolutely brilliant, and I was able to save entire albums from artists I adore, like HAIM (Something To Tell You is THE album of the year, in my opinion) and Bruce Springsteen.  I swear, there is nothing Spotify doesn’t have and I love having all this music at my fingertips!

One of those amazing and new (to me) songs is called “Sunscreen” by Ira Wolf.  I have to admit, I know nothing about Ira Wolf.  Although I saved a bunch of her other songs on my Spotify account, I haven’t gotten around to listening to them just yet…because I have been listening to “Sunscreen” on repeat ever since I first heard it.  Honestly, I made a playlist called “On repeat…” with just this one song so that I can listen to it over and over, uninterrupted.  It is just the loveliest little song – so romantic and simple and easy to listen to that I can’t stop.  I latched onto the lyrics as soon as I heard them because they so eloquently and creatively emphasize the routine, mundane and simplistic aspects of love.  Love is about being accepted, of course, but also about having that companion who may be flawed but perfectly complements you in every way.  Love is about having someone with you for the everyday moments, for the little events and occurrences that no one else can possibly fathom or appreciate.  I think Ira Wolf hits the nail on the head with her lyrics about wanting someone to be there every single day, to support and guide her, and to put in that effort to be a true friend and lover.  The lyrics speak for themselves, so I am going to include them here and highlight the portions that touched me most profoundly.

“Sunscreen” is a beautiful song, a work of poetry put to music, and I sincerely encourage you all to have a listen!

Enjoy your Wednesday and look out for more song recommendations coming soon!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

*Note: This post was in no way sponsored by Spotify…trust me, I’m not enough of a music aficionado to have Spotify pay me any particular attention – haha!

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

JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #2

Hello and Happy Monday!

It’s a holiday here in Toronto, so I decided to postpone my Weekly Round-Up until today to give you a full picture of what I accomplished this week. I’ll be following the same format I used last week, and this was an incredibly productive weekend where I was actually able to finish three books and write reviews of them. I was so happy with this and I really feel like my commitment to reading has picked up a lot this year! Last year, I struggled to balance working full-time, commuting, spending time with my fiancé (we were living apart) and reading in the evenings. My only reading time came during my lunch breaks and my evening bus rides. I was quite worried, when I moved in with my fiancé and started walking to work, that without an evening bus commute, I wouldn’t be reading very much at all. But, as it turns out, I’ve been spending more time than ever reading, and I’m actually zipping through books as quickly as I used to in school – this is all down to the fact that my fiancé and I have this amazing routine where we go to the gym right after work, make dinner and then spend the entire night (hours on hours) reading beside one another on our plush, gold couch with steaming teas. My fiancé is big on reading graphic novels, and he gets so excited about reading beside me and pausing to tell me bits and pieces of his stories, and this offers me so much time to delve into my own fictional worlds. I’m obsessed with this new routine of ours, and honestly, I get really grumpy and annoyed if anything at all happens to interrupt it!

Anywho, on to my more formal update for this week. Here is a reminder of the topics I will be discussing in today’s Weekly Round-Up…

  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 •

At the moment, I’m about 20 pages into Graeme Simsion’s contemporary novel The Rosie Project. I’ve been taking this one slow, since I started it yesterday, because I spent a lot of time reading on Friday and Saturday, so I just want to slow down my reading a touch. Having said that, I don’t know how I feel about this novel just yet. I know I’m not very far into it at all, but I can already tell that I’m not really connecting to the narrator, Professor Don Tillman. I should say that I am not at all a fan of the show the Big Bang Theory, and I’ve heard Tillman being compared to the character Sheldon Cooper, so I am a bit wary of that. But, I’ve been meaning to read this novel for a long time, so I’m going to plug through it and give it a chance. Hopefully, it ends up surprising me!

• Recently Finished •

This past weekend, I finished three books in total, two of which I started and finished within a day. The three novels were Shooting Scars and Bold Tricks by Karina Halle and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. You can read my detailed reviews of them here and here.

• What’s Next •

That is a darn good question! I really have no idea what I’m going to read after finishing The Rosie Project, and this is NOT for lack of physical books around me. I have about 20 books sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up. Some of them are standalone, contemporary novels. Others are massive fantasy series. I have no idea what my plan is, or when I’m going to get through all of these. I’m thinking, though, that after finishing The Rosie Project, I may read one more standalone novel, and then delve into the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. I think that will allow me to put a significant dent in my contemporary literature pile, but then get back into the fantasy realm that I’m missing a little bit. One thing I do know for sure is that I want to finish off the year reading a classic, and I’ve already decided that my December read will be Bleak House by Charles Dickens. So, if all goes according to plan, by the time I get married, I will be deep into Bleak House – I think that’s fitting considering I’m having a Victorian-inspired wedding!

• Quote of the Week •

This week’s quote comes from a song, rather than a work of literature. I’ve been listening to Sia’s song Helium nonstop for the last little while, and I absolutely love it! It reminds me so much of my relationship with my fiancé, and it is the song I always rush to put on at work whenever I’m feeling the least bit anxious or depressed.

“But even Superwoman sometimes needed Superman’s soul /

Help me out of this hell /

Your love lifts me up like helium.”

• Song of the Week •

Naturally, my song choice of the week is Sia’s Helium. Having said that, my fiancé and I recently signed up for a Spotify account, so that has made sooo much music available to us! This past weekend, we’ve been obsessed with listening to the soundtrack for the musical Hamilton, and I’m literally addicted to it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius (okay, everyone knows this already, but I felt I should restate it), and if I had to select one favourite song from Hamilton, I’d go with Helpless because it is adorable and harkens back to all these incredible love songs from the 50’s. I LOVE it! Everyone needs to listen to this soundtrack! (I’m actually currently listening to it, as I write this, and My Shot is such a catchy song too – it is just way too difficult to pick a favourite!)

• Photo of the Week •

My favourite photo of this week is another one my fiancé took of me during our bookish photoshoot a couple of weeks ago. I originally thought this photo was too ridiculous to post and that it was a bit embarrassing, but after I put it on Instagram, so many people complimented me on it that I started to see it as cute and endearing. And really, my whole inspiration for it was to look like Eliza Doolittle, balancing books on her head in the hopes of becoming a dignified lady, as paradoxical as that may seem!

• JNG’s Weekly Wish •

My wish for this week is that it will go by quickly. I have so many fun plans for next weekend already, including going to a Greek food festival downtown and celebrating my mom’s birthday, and I just can’t imagine sitting at my desk for hours and daydreaming about freedom. I’m also going out tonight with my fiancé and my dad – we’re heading downtown to see the WWE’s Monday Night RAW live. I am actually so excited about this because I LOVE wrestling and I grew up watching Monday Night RAW with my dad, so I cannot wait to be watching it live, in such a big venue (I’ve been to see WWE wrestling at a smaller venue in Oshawa, but this is Monday Night RAW we’re talking about)! Amidst all this excitement, and considering that my wedding is just over four months away, I really am over work – but I mean, aren’t we all, especially on long weekends? And all things considered, my job and work environment are pretty awesome…so maybe my weekly wish should be that I’ll feel inclined to complain less…???

Enjoy your Monday everyone! I know Mondays can be tricky days, but isn’t it nice to get a fresh start every week? Let’s all try to embrace it!

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Somewhere – #JNGWatches & #JNGListens

“There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air, wait for us, somewhere.” – West Side Story

This is a subject I don’t really want to talk about, but I feel I have to.

I am one of the extremely privileged FEW who has never had to deal with severe racism. I’m thoroughly Canadian, born and raised, and I have never been discriminated against because of my culture or physical appearance or anything of that nature. But, we’ve all been following the news lately, and racism is a very prevalent part of our society’s culture. In Canada, I think we’re a bit better off, but every now and then there are those stories of people facing prejudice and hatred because of the place they were born, the beliefs they ascribe to, the clothes they wear, any number of things. I’m not qualified to speak about these specific issues because, like I said, I’ve never been in the position to be discriminated against in this way. However, I can state my opinion, which is that racial, religious, discrimination of any kind is wrong, horrible and detrimental to our overall society and well-being.

This past Monday night, I watched West Side Story in its entirety for the first time ever. It is my mom’s favourite musical and has been since she was a child, and although I’ve always been familiar with the songs and the story (especially considering that it was derived from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), I can’t say I’ve ever seen all of the scenes of the movie adaptation. On Monday, when I stumbled upon the film on Turner Classic Movies, I sat myself down and watched all of it…and ended up crying a few times along the way. Now, I should say that I’m not really a crier – a movie has to be downright depressing to get me to shed a tear. I’m much more likely to cry while reading a book because I’ve journeyed with the characters for longer. Anyway, something about West Side Story really got to me. Maybe it’s the fact that Maria doesn’t die at the end like her counterpart Juliet and is instead forced to live without her newfound love Tony. Or, perhaps and probably more likely, it’s the fact that Tony dies for absolutely NO GOOD REASON. Discussions about gun violence are prevalent enough nowadays that I don’t have to get into that. But what I do also find ludicrous is that Tony is murdered in cold blood simply because he is hated by another group of people. The Sharks despise the Jets, the Puerto Ricans and the “real Americans” just can’t get along, and so a young man with his entire life, a fine future full of love and happiness ahead of him has to die. This seems utterly senseless to me.

Like I said, I’ve never faced true discrimination. I’m incredibly lucky in that way. But, I have experienced hatred and racism and prejudice on a smaller scale, even within my closest circles. There are a lot of people in this world who refuse to accept those who don’t think exactly like them. My father, mother, brother and I are pretty open and honest about our beliefs and this isn’t always easy for us because not everyone, sometimes not even those people who are supposed to know and love us best, chooses to respect our opinions. Furthermore, my fiancé is from the Middle East, as is my mom’s family, and that carries its own difficulties and sources of misunderstanding. It’s all a little pathetic in my opinion because I pride myself in being open-minded under all circumstances – I was raised to never be judgmental. But fine, I can handle if someone wants to judge and criticize me – I just think it’s sad and is going to ruin what little peace and dignity there is left in our world.

What am I trying to say here? Well, I’m not trying to get all preachy, although it seems like I have. All I want to say is that I watched West Side Story this week and I loved it…but I also hated it, because fiction has become far too real recently, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is learning from the stories around them anymore. And in that sense, I think the readers of all sorts of fiction are starting to fail themselves these days.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Black Hearts – #JNGListens

If you follow along with me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that midway through this week I started quoting lyrics from some popular rock songs. These lyrics were selected from the songs played by two of my favourite rock groups at the concert I went to exactly a week ago. Obviously, you’ve heard it here time and time again, I’m a huge fan of concerts – I love the experience of watching my favourite musicians perform live and witnessing their artistic genius come to life before me. I’ve attended MANY rock concerts, but I’ve mostly only seen male artists (such as my all time favourite, Bruce Springsteen, quite recently). I’ve been desperately wanting to see a specific list of female rock stars for the longest time, and last Sunday I was able to check two groups off my Concert Bucket List.

Joan Jett and the BlackHearts Heart Concert

Last Sunday, I got to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts open for Heart.

Now, I know a lot of people find it funny that I like these particular artists so much, considering that most of their music was released before I was even born. I absolutely love all of their songs, though, and I chose to select my #JNGListens quotes for this week from two of my favourite songs.

“Yeah, my, my such a sweet thing

I wanna do everything” – Crimson and Clover, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

“Come on home, girl

He said with a smile….

Try to understand…

He’s a magic man” – Magic Man, Heart

Although these two songs are definitely my favourites by Joan Jett and Heart, I have so many other favourites that I can sing along to as well, such as I Hate Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett), Alone and What About Love (Heart). What I didn’t expect, however, was for the songs to be performed so well. Joan Jett has an incredible presence: she’s naturally really badass, but she also comes across as genuine and excited to engage her fans. As for Heart, Ann Wilson has an amazing voice and she sang effortlessly. Nancy Wilson is a great guitarist, and it was so cool to see these females get a crowd so excited and engaged. I loved the fact that the rock music was just as hard and edgy as if a male artist was performing (and why shouldn’t it be?), and I had fun dancing and singing along for hours.

This is my first of what I hope will be many concerts showcasing female rock bands. Next on my list is definitely Pat Benatar – what can I say, I love my 80’s music! 😉

❥ ❥

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Once Upon a Dream – #JNGListens

~ “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream….

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do,

You’ll love me at once / the way you did once upon a dream.”

~ Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

I’m posting this week’s #JNGListens entry a touch early because I have plans for another blog post this weekend. I realized when I was thinking about and mapping out these two posts that they treat very similar themes, and so I thought, why not post them both in one weekend…but that, of course, takes some manipulation and some strategic moving around of my regular #JNGReads / #JNGListens post. So, instead of getting my quote selection of the week on Sunday, I’m delivering it up to you all today. And stay tuned for another blog post later this weekend as well!

Today’s quote, or I should say quotes, is a long set of lyrics from the song Once Upon a Dream, featured in the popular Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Now, I have to admit, I’m not a huge Sleeping Beauty fan in the least – honestly, I find the story a little bit boring (the main character is, after all, asleep for most of the action) and I’ve never been overly fond of the older Disney movies – the old-school animation creeps me out a little. But, for whatever reason, when SS and I were staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto last weekend, this was the song that was stuck in my head on repeat, and I couldn’t stop humming it for the whole weekend…and actually, yes, I am listening to it right now.

Why was I so touched by this song? I think it may have something to do with the book I just finished reading and was in the middle of last weekend (Spoiler Alert: this is what my second post of the weekend will be about), but I think it was also largely due to the fact that my mind was totally preoccupied with my incredible boyfriend. SS’s birthday just passed on Tuesday, and so I’ve been ridiculously grateful for and totally in awe of his existence for the entire week, beginning with our hotel stay last weekend. There is a moment every single day where I am stunned into silence by the fact that such a perfect (for me at least! haha), caring, loving and genuine man exists and that Fate or the Universe or whoever decided to gift him to me. I feel lucky beyond words for this.

And, I suppose, the song Aurora (the original Sleeping Beauty) sings about her Prince Charming spoke to me because of my (healthy, I promise) obsession with and overwhelming love for SS. I found myself listening to the song and thinking, like Aurora, that I must’ve encountered SS before, that he must’ve been a fixture in my forever green heart long before I sat across from him at our university. (Sidenote: You can read the story of how we met here.) I never expected to meet him on that day, and I don’t think I consciously thought throughout the exchange, Oh, this is him! This is the man I’ve been waiting and longing for! But, when I think back on the events, I remember that there was something between us as soon as we locked eyes on each other: there was a definite spark, that feeling of warmth and fuzziness I’m always going on and on about. I just knew, in an instant, that I had to give him my number when he asked. I didn’t know anything at all about him, but I felt comfortable and at ease, and I never had a single doubt about my interest in him. I was intrigued from the start.

Why is that? Listening to Aurora’s song has helped me arrive at an answer to the questions I’ve been asking myself for more than two years now: Where did SS come from, how did he find me and why did we have such a profound and irresistible connection? I want to say, especially based on the quote above, that I’d already met SS, in a dream, a fantasy, in the world of my imagination. I’d seen him somewhere before, in my romantic mind’s eye, and I was searching for his physical embodiment, for his representation in the real world, for years and years without even realizing it. If there is such a thing as soul mates, which I think there is, SS must be mine, because my heart recognized him before my mind even did. And isn’t that what Aurora is talking about? She’s dreamed about her prince for so long that she knows him at first sight, and she knows exactly what he’ll do: love her purely and without limit.

I think that we are meant to meet certain people in our lives and Fate has a large hand in bringing them to us or us to them. But I also think that there’s something to be said for human instinct, for that love-at-first-sight sort of feeling. Maybe we’ve met all the people we’re supposed to know and love in our dreams before…and seeing them in real-life is only an extension of the wonderful and fantastic world of dreaming?!

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

“That was The River.” – #JNGListens

*Note: This post was written on Wednesday, the day after the Bruce Springsteen concert in Toronto, so my reaction and reflections were fresh and immediate.*

I’ve gushed about Bruce Springsteen here on the blog many times before. I’ve talked about how amazing I think his music is, how much fun it is to go to his concerts with my father, and even about how much he reminds me of a certain Victorian literary hero I’m quite fond of. I’ve used lyrics from his songs several times on Twitter as part of my #JNGListens posts. But, one thing I haven’t had the opportunity to do is write a detailed post about the experience of going to one of his concerts, about the sheer brilliance and scope of a 3-plus hour performance by a veteran rocker. There’s nothing quite like being in the room with a seasoned performer, one who doesn’t need any frills or gimmicks to get the crowd excited.

This Tuesday February 2nd, I had the chance to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform for the sixth time in my life. Obviously, I enjoy Springsteen concerts more than a little, and I’ve even travelled to Hamilton and Buffalo with my dad to see the exact same performance, during the exact same tour, multiple times. I would say that the Wrecking Ball Tour concert in Hamilton was hands down, without doubt the BEST concert I have ever seen in my life – and I’ve seen a lot of concerts, from boy bands like One Direction (NOT ashamed!) to hard rockers like ACDC. But, there’s just something about a Springsteen concert that’s unlike any other show you can go to. Like I said before, the man doesn’t use or need frills for the show to be enjoyable; his music speaks for itself, and nothing portrays that more than the fact that, on Tuesday, Springsteen sauntered casually onto the stage with the lights on in the beginning of the show, not even using any introductory music or huge light show or anything like that. He didn’t need it because we were all just excited to see him and hear him, and unlike so many artists nowadays, Springsteen’s voice, lyrics and artistry are enough to make the show spectacular. No cheesy dance moves required!

I do have to include a little disclaimer here though: The River is not my favourite Springsteen CD. That accolade would have to go to the album Magic, which I know is not as popular as some of his more iconic CDs (I’m thinking Born in the U.S.A. as an example), but which I think is totally brilliant and a true masterpiece. I could listen to the CD over and over, and I actually have done that in the car many times late at night. There’s nothing quite like listening to Radio Nowhere while driving on the highway!

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed The River Tour 2016! The River isn’t Springsteen’s most cohesive or thematic album, but it has some really catchy and touching songs. My favourite is probably Out In The Street, because lines like the one below are just so relevant to life:

“When I’m out in the street / I talk the way I wanna talk.”

– Out In The Street, Bruce Springsteen

During the concert, I also experienced a new appreciation for certain songs on The River that I hadn’t really paid attention to when listening to the CD. Springsteen’s performance of Point Blank was incredible, toned down and moving, and I would have to say that my favourite performance of the night was Drive All Night, which is a new frontrunner for my affections on this album.

The River is a 2 hour CD in itself, but of course, Springsteen didn’t stop there, and he still performed an hour long encore. During this incredible spectacle, Springsteen finally played one of my all-time favourite songs, Brilliant Disguise. This song basically sums up why I love Springsteen so much: it is pretty much a poem. And it’s a really well written poem at that. Brilliant Disguise tells a story, one that isn’t necessarily uncommon but that is treated with a unique clarity and honesty by Springsteen. I’ve known every single lyric since I was in high school, and it was so special to see Springsteen perform it live. It was definitely a Bucket List moment.

Basically, this concert gets a 10 out of 10 from me, as would any Springsteen concert. This man, even as he gets “older”, is a force to be reckoned with, and probably any person who appreciates true songwriting ability and commitment to art would follow this man down to any river he chose. He’s just that good.

Springsteen #1 Springsteen #2

Springsteen crowd surfing because he’s basically a god.

Springsteen crowd surfing because he’s basically a god.

My weekend advice: Get out in the street everyone, and listen to some Springsteen as loud as you can!

JNG

Girl with a Green (Rocker) Heart

my green heart

The Holidays – #JNGListens

Happy Holidays Dear Readers!

I know there are technically 5 more days until Christmas, but let’s be real, the holidays are already in full swing…especially because so many different religious holidays have already happened and secular Christmas is booming!

I’m personally beyond excited for work to be done, family to be over and delicious food to be on the table! I also love presents…giving them, and okay, also receiving them, and I am so excited for the multiple exchanges that will take place in the next few days! I have tons of holiday plans, from family dinners to date nights with my boyfriend to a trip to Niagara Falls to celebrate New Year’s Eve! It’s going to be a crazy, whirlwind of a season, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Because of the Christmas chaos (which I love beyond words), I’m probably not going to be posting many #JNGListens or #JNGReads quotes on Twitter for the next two weeks…but I figure everyone deserves a vacation, and you all will forgive me. I’m hoping to write a few blog posts in the coming weeks, but I’m not sure how regular and routine they will be, so this is my apology-in-advance post. I will have tons of updates once the holidays are over though!

And, despite how busy everything will be, I am planning to post many more pictures of Christmas trees for the #JNGChristmasTreeSeries on my Instagram, as well as many photos of my holiday activities! I’ll leave you with two of these photos now, as well as a festive quote for your enjoyment!

“It’s the holiday season…”

Downtown Christmas Eaton Centre Christmas

Happy Holidays to you all! ❤

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart