Cruel Beauty ~ #JNGReads

Reading Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was one of the strangest reading experiences I have ever had. I knew I would really struggle to write a review of the book as I was reading it because I knew I’d never be able to fully remember or encapsulate just how weird and confused it made me throughout my reading experience. For that reason, about a third into the story, I decided to start making notes about what I was thinking and feeling as I read, and these are the notes I will present to you as my “review” of sorts. I have to say, I am still 100% confused by this novel because I don’t at all know how to make sense of the plot or the characters or any of it. I am not at all confident in my rating (which you’ll find at the end of this review) because in all likelihood it was heavily influenced by how emotional the ending of the story was and doesn’t take into account how bland and utterly confounding parts of the plot were. But, that being said, I think the purpose of reading is to challenge oneself, and this novel was undoubtedly a challenging one because it forced me to consider what elements I believe make for a great story. Is it a complex plot, or can those sometimes become too ambitious and convoluted? Is it complicated characters, or can they sometimes tend toward hypocrisy and create frustration? Is it a romance that is all encompassing, or can those sometimes become over-the-top and melodramatic? Is it an ending that leaves you raw and uncertain? I can’t say I know any of the answers to those questions, but Cruel Beauty most certainly has all of those things – it was at once vast and overly ambitious, beautiful and annoying. It is a contradiction in so many ways…and yet…I didn’t hate it…or at least, I don’t think I did.

My Thoughts As I Read

As of pg. 125

– Nyx’s internal monologue is grating because her character is not complex enough. She ruminates on the same issues over and over (very redundant!), for example hating her sister and father and aunt and lusting after Shade. However, her monologue never actually leads her anywhere!

– The writing style seems all over the place and is disorienting. Some aspects of the plot are poorly explained, for example the concept of Hermetics and the demons and why the sky is paper… Huh?!

– I really like Ignifex BUT there isn’t enough of him so far! I find Shade boring so I want more Ignifex!

So far, this is at 3 stars for me = no emotional connection or investment on my part yet, but I am still hopeful and intrigued.

– Things I want to learn more about at this point in the novel: 1) Ignifex’s bargains; 2) Ignifex’s past lives; 3) demon lore/explanation of when Ignifex came into power to be more fleshed out

As of pg. 144

– Although the “final prince” storyline is not very fleshed out and not at all well explained, I am so curious in spite of myself!

pg. 164: Literally within the span of one page, Nyx talks about hating and loving Astraia. Just when you think she is growing, either for good or evil, she backtracks. ANNOYING!

– Then an allusion to Ignifex’s masters that gets dropped…when do things come together?

* I will say, Hodge paints the rooms well, like the dripping wet library…BUT her references to mythology are too frequent, jarring and heavy handed.

* I feel like Hodge has a lot of good and intriguing ideas BUT she tries to cram too many of them into one book and it makes the plot feel heavy and cumbersome.

– I will say, I do love how Ignifex talks. I do feel that he has a distinct voice. He is unique from any main male characters I’ve encountered in a while; weirdly, he reminds me both of Josh from The Hating Game and Rhysand from ACOTAR…but he still isn’t quite as intriguing as either of them!

– Finally, a moment that had me slightly breathless and emotional, when Nyx and Ignifex were under the true sky, lying together in the grass, I’m a sucker for simple romance!

pg. 192: Oh lord, Nyx’s internal monogue is sooo repetitive!

As of pg. 238

– Things are finally getting A LOT more interesting. Codes are being cracked and lore is being explained. A romance is blossoming! This is what I wanted from page one…but is it too little, too late?

~ “And I was his delight and he was mine.” ~

– VERY reminiscent of Jane Eyre.

– I’ve read reviews that say that Nyx and Ignifex’s banter gets less witty and entertaining as they fall in love, and with that I must agree. What a shame!

As of pg. 269

– I like Astraia way better than Nyx actually! At least she has conviction and is more of a fighter. Honestly, I am 100% more intrigued now than I have been at any point before this.

– Nyx is so confusing! She will always love Ignifex and yet she is resigned to hurting him…but her mind flip-flops so easily and constantly. CHOOSE ONE THING AND JUST STICK TO IT! It is hard to keep up with her!

As of pg. 300

– I still feel like I barely understand who the Children of Typhon and the Kindly Ones are. I feel like everything will remain unexplained.

~ “I kissed him back like he was my only hope of breathing.” ~

– Okay, that quote is a good one!

……

WOAH! This ending is actually breaking my heart because I hate it when a lover loses her memory and is separated from her beloved! Could this redeem the whole story?

As of The End

– Okay, WOW! That ending was gorgeous and haunting and heart wrenching and dark and convoluted yet so simple. It sort of made the whole messed up story worthwhile because it was strangely beautiful and moving, that image of love holding on for dear life. I think it redeemed the whole novel for me. Wow! The most confusing reading experience I have ever had!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

How do you even make sense of that? Like, do those notes even make any sort of sense? I have no idea! Truly, this book is just so utterly baffling – if I think too much about it and try to sort my feelings out, I think I might go crazy. I think this book is designed to make you go crazy as a reader – it’s like, you know that movie Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise that literally made no sense but was oddly brilliant and impossible to look away from? Yeah, that’s the film equivalent of Cruel Beauty. It was like impossible to decipher but impossible not to want to.

ARGH! I. Just. Do. Not. Know. *siiiiiigh*

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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The Dead Husband Project ~ #JNGReads

“Rare to see people so raw, so exposed, reality stripped bare like that.”

I really don’t have much to say about The Dead Husband Project…because it is brilliant and anything I say about it will pale in comparison to what it actually is.

I picked up Canadian author Sarah Meehan Sirk’s collection of short stories on an absolute whim. I hadn’t heard of it, or her, before seeing the book in Chapters one day and being taken by the gorgeous cover, dark black sprayed with beautiful flowers of rich reds and blues. I wasn’t intending to buy a second book on this day, but I turned to my fiancé and said, I have to have that book – look how beautiful it is! Little did I know that the words inside were even more beautiful.

Short stories are not easy to write…believe me, I’ve tried. There is something so difficult and daunting about writing a short story, about trying to create a vast story that will fully engross a reader in a very limited amount of pages. Each word in each sentence of a short story is so very important because there aren’t that many of them available to tell a particular tale, and the short story writer must have a grasp of language akin to that of a poet – words and images must be chosen with the utmost care and never wasted. There are extremely few writers, in my opinion, who have mastered the short story genre, who have been able to make me feel things in the span of 40 pages that most 400 page novels have not, and these are the writers that I have always revered and looked up to, that I have tried to emulate in my own writing. Munro. Gallant. And now, Sirk.

Sarah Meehan Sirk is a genius. Her writing absolutely blew me away. When I’ve reviewed short story collections in the past, I’ve given ratings to individual stories, but I can’t do that in this case. Suffice it to say that there are not enough stars on Goodreads or on the planet to rate The Dead Husband Project. It is, for me, at the caliber of Munro’s Runaway (quite possibly the greatest short story collection ever published), and considering that it is Sirk’s first publication, I am incredibly eager to see what she will produce next. I would be really hard-pressed to pick a favourite story from The Dead Husband Project because literally every single one touched me and left me awe-struck. Sirk’s subjects are at once creepy and realistic, her protagonists flawed in character but flawlessly characterized. There are stories that are so inexplicably bizarre that you can’t help but ruminate on them for hours after finishing them, and there are those that are so sad and heart wrenching that you want to forget them as soon as you flip the last page. There is such vivid and pure human emotion in these stories that it is both painful to read them and impossible not to. Sirk knows something that few others do about human nature: she knows how to inhabit it, how to get into the minds of the most varied and peculiar personages, and she is clearly comfortable exploring sentiments that most humans try to ignore or deny.

If I had to pick stories that stood out from this collection (not favourites mind you because, as I said, I loved them all), well I wouldn’t want to because they are all so heavy hitting, but I could. “Barbados” haunted me for miles after I exited the subway, where I read it. It left me breathless and anxious and scared. It made me feel like my past could and would come back to snatch me up and suffocate me, as it does for so many of Sirk’s main characters. It made me afraid of former versions of myself and of the probably foolhardy decisions they had made. “In the Dark” left me raw and vulnerable. It painted such a true and realistic portrait of anxiety that it made me introspective. It forced me to examine my own anxieties and fears, and view them from an outside perspective, one that was a little less understanding and a bit more cynical. It made me see what other people, those who aren’t quite as compassionate and don’t live inside my head, might see when they look at me. “The Date”…that story I find very difficult to talk about. It left me feeling physically ill and petrified. My severe childhood fear of robots notwithstanding, this story opened my eyes to the dangers of technology, to the tumultuous and traumatic future we might all be headed towards. It made me look at love differently, it made me consider new forms of love that might spring up in decades to come, and the new forms of acceptance they will require and necessitate.

Reading The Dead Husband Project left me irrevocably changed. I am a different human for having read it, not necessarily better but in no way worse. The best description would be to say that it damaged me, it scraped me down to the core, it turned me inside out and made my heart race with exhilaration and nerves and excitement. It was one of the most all-encompassing, disturbing and visceral reading experiences I have had in recent years, and it has left me with much to contemplate.

The Dead Husband Project is not for the faint of heart because it will shock and overwhelm you. But, oh, is it ever worth it because it is one of the most riveting and powerful pieces of literature I have ever encountered. An absolute must read!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Wrath and the Dawn ~ #JNGReads

I was about to give The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh 4 stars, but then I just couldn’t do it.

I did absolutely enjoy the story and many aspects of the novel, which I will outline below, but there were an equal number of things that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around and didn’t exactly like. I am a bit disappointed in this because so many reviews I read of the novel were very complimentary, but I can see why readers would love the story and find it engrossing and intoxicating, so I can’t say that I don’t understand the hype. What I will say is that, for me, there were a few more problems with The Wrath and the Dawn than I would’ve liked, so that made it hard for me to give it an above average rating.

I think it’s easiest if I list the things I really liked about The Wrath and the Dawn and then the things I really didn’t, so you can see what I mean. When you break it down to the number of amazing vs. disappointing elements, I believe it is clear why I settled on a 3 rather than a 4-star rating.

What I Really Liked About The Wrath and the Dawn:

  • The Culture and World Building ~ I am half Lebanese myself, and while I adore Middle Eastern food and culture and am marrying a Persian man, I can’t say that I have ever read a novel set in the Middle East. Ahdieh undoubtedly creates a rich and sumptuous world in The Wrath and the Dawn and Khorasan is a kingdom I could easily visualize and get swept up in. Ahdieh’s descriptions of the Middle Eastern clothing, food and landscapes are detailed and intricate, and I found it very fun to try and picture Caliph Khalid’s palace and the various outfits that Shahrzad wore. My mouth also quite literally watered at the descriptions of the food (see the quote below – this is food that I am very accustomed to eating at my own family gatherings!) and I think that in this day and age, we need more Middle Eastern settings to stand out in pop culture and literature. I fully commend Ahdieh for creating such an engrossing and vivid world for her story.

“Soon, platters of food were brought before them – steaming, buttery basmati rice with bright orange saffron staining its center, surrounded by lamb in a savory sauce of dates, caramelized onions, and tangy barberries; skewers of marinated chicken and roasted tomatoes, served alongside chilled yogurt and cucumbers; fresh herbs and lavash bread, with rounds of goat cheese and sliced red radishes splashing brilliant colors against a polished wood backdrop.”

  • The Truly Strong Female Character, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran ~ Having just finished Stalking Jack the Ripper, I was in need of a defiant and self-respecting female character. (I’m sorry, but I believe Audrey Rose was sorely lacking in that department and you can read my review of Stalking Jack the Ripper to find out why.) Shahrzad al-Khayzuran is very confident, but she is also human and open to changing her opinions. She isn’t arrogant or narrow-minded and I appreciated the fact that she grew and developed very much throughout the novel, particularly in her relationship with Khalid. I liked Shazi a lot, and I found all of her dialogues, especially with her handmaiden Despina, to be super witty and entertaining.
  • The Man that Lets Her Be Strong ~ I also always appreciate it when a male character encourages his female counterpart to be strong, to harness her power and to grow her self-esteem. Although it was touchy at first, Khalid truly does become a character that pushes Shazi to be better and gives her the opportunity to challenge herself and become the queen she is meant to be. This is a truly amazing interaction to behold between the two main characters.

“‘Do better than this, Shazi. My queen is without limitations. Boundless in all that she does. Show them.’”

“‘Shahrzad al-Khayzuran! You are not weak. You are not indecisive. You are strong. Fierce. Capable beyond measure.’”

~ Khalid to Shahrzad

What I Didn’t Love About The Wrath and the Dawn:

  • The Instalove ~ It made very little sense to me how Shazi and Khalid just fell in love all of a sudden, and I feel that comes down to a failing with the pacing and storytelling in The Wrath and the Dawn. It seemed really abrupt that Shazi went from wanting to kill Khalid to saying that he is the air she breathes. I’ll get into more detail about this in a second, but in the very beginning of the narrative, very little dialogue or interaction between Shazi and Khalid is shown, so it sort of comes across that they become attracted to one another and fall in love instantly, all in the span of one night when they leave the palace to have some fun together. This annoyed me a bit because I was expecting this scenic and very romantic relationship that sort of never happened, in my opinion, and was very rushed.
  • The Disjointedness ~ This sort of relates to the Instalove idea: I felt that the plot of The Wrath and the Dawn was somewhat disjointed and lacked focus. The novel is supposed to be about Shahrzad volunteering to be Khalid’s bride and saving herself from being murdered at dawn (as all of Khalid’s other wives are) by telling him stories that will pique his interest and then will lead to affection on his part. This concept is fascinating and could make for a totally unique love story…but for whatever reason, Ahdieh chose to abandon the concept very early on in the story. As readers, we watch Shazi tell Khalid two or three stories, and then it is alluded to that she tells him more, but we never witness it, so it feels like the entire crux of the novel is ignored. We also never see Khalid fall in love with Shazi through her stories, and this sort of made me feel jilted or like the story was incorrectly branded and marketed.
  • The Scattered Nature of the Storylines ~ In the same sense that the narrative of The Wrath and the Dawn felt very disjointed, the plot came across as incredibly scattered to me. I think that Ahdieh tried to accomplish too much in one novel, and rather than honing her focus on Shazi and Khalid and their quest to understand each other and explore what ruling Khorasan together can mean, Ahdieh chose to explore side plots related to Shazi’s father Jahandar and her childhood sweetheart Tariq. While this created some conflict in regards to her growing feelings for Khalid, it also came across as drama for the sake of it. The same is true of the conflicts between Khalid and the ruler of the neighbouring kingdom, Parthia – I believe it would have been enough to explore further how the people of Khorasan feel about their seemingly malicious and monstrous boy-king, rather than adding in a conflict with another territory entirely.
  • The Random Tidbits That Go Unexplained ~ Following on the previous point, Ahdieh mentions a lot of ideas that are never explained. The whole novel seems to be one big cliffhanger because so much of the characters’ development is left to be done. For example, Shazi and her father Jahandar’s magical abilities are never explored (What was with the burning book and the magic carpet?), Despina’s pregnancy and her pseudo-relationship with Jalal is left entirely unresolved, and Shazi’s younger sister comes across as a huge and important character in the first few chapters, only to disappear midway through the story. The final 20 pages of the novel are also very frustrating in that they are not only a cliffhanger, but they also introduce some elements to the story that were not present before and that aren’t explained at all, such as why Jalal would want Shazi to leave Khorasan forever after he encouraged her romance with Khalid, whether or not Khalid knew that Khorasan was going to burn, and the notion that Jahandar, who up until this point seems unfailingly loyal to his daughters, failed them as a father for their whole lives. I wanted desperately for the end of the novel to blow me away and solidify that 4-star rating, but is just did not! If anything, it confused me more and made me feel less inclined to pick up the sequel.

It makes me sad, but it really looks like I didn’t like more about The Wrath and the Dawn than I liked. Having said that, it wasn’t a dreadful or tedious read, so I would probably still recommend it as one of the slightly better young adult novels I have read recently. All in all, though, The Wrath and the Dawn was, for me, mediocre at best.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Stalking Jack the Ripper ~ #JNGReads

No one is more disappointed in this book, or in my reaction to it, than I am.

I desperately wanted to love Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, and really I should have. It is the exact sort of historical fiction novel that would normally be right up my alley: a look at Victorian London during the tumultuous time of Jack the Ripper’s reign, as told by a young woman struggling to break free of societal norms and pursue science, forensics and academia. Doesn’t that sound like something I would absolutely love, as the intense and passionate pseudo-Victorian I am? Shouldn’t I have felt a strong connection to the narrator and protagonist Audrey Rose Wadsworth, especially considering that I have often imagined myself living in the Victorian era and have fancied that I might be a bit of a badass amateur detective too? Well yeah, all of that is true…but for whatever reason, I could not connect to Audrey Rose (on the contrary, I found her extremely annoying – more on that to come), I was not at all attracted to or intrigued by her love interest Thomas Cresswell, and I found it very difficult to follow what little action there was in the plot. Argh, I am actually so frustrated because I feel that this novel had such potential considering the awesome premise, but it just totally failed on every account for me – to be perfectly honest, I could barely keep my mind from wandering as I read and Maniscalco’s writing style and Audrey Rose’s voice in no way captured my attention.

Honestly, what a mess – the novel probably isn’t that bad in theory and I know my opinion is really unpopular, so there are a ton of people who really loved this story, but I just could not get into it, no matter how hard I tried. And that makes me so sad! Reading Stalking Jack the Ripper was, for me, a very similar experience to reading Anna and the French Kiss earlier this year. Anna and the French Kiss is a novel that so many readers absolutely adore and rave about, and my expectations were so high when I picked it up. That’s what made it even more disappointing when I found myself getting seriously annoyed by Anna and hating her crush St. Clair. I wanted to love them, but that meant that I felt like I was constantly trying to force myself to find the story enjoyable. And I don’t think you should ever have to force yourself to love a book…that sort of excited feeling should come naturally!

If I’m being truthful, I disliked Stalking Jack the Ripper for the same reasons I disliked Anna and the French Kiss: I found the narrator and female lead to be insufferable and insipid, and I found her love interest to be flat and boring. That really is an unpopular opinion because I have read so many reviews where readers said Audrey Rose was fierce and inspiring and Thomas was swoon-worthy…but I’m just left thinking, Huh? What did I miss?

Allow me to go into why I disliked each of these characters so that you don’t think I’m an immature reader who just felt like hating on a popular novel. Let’s start with Thomas – he is the absolute most bland love interest I have ever encountered, except for the previously mentioned St. Clair. I truly do not get Thomas’ appeal whatsoever. He’s supposed to be this freakishly intelligent, Sherlock Holmes type character, but all of his deductions are seriously lame. It’s like he’s grasping at straws half the time when he deduces anything about Audrey Rose, like, for example, saying that her mother must have died and her relationship with her father must be strained because she plays with the ring she always wears. Like what? Or that she must’ve been visiting Bedlam Asylum because she has rust stains on her hands. I was seriously confused by Thomas’ train of thought for about 95% of the time he was present in the novel, and it felt like Maniscalco was trying desperately to make him resemble Sherlock Holmes but failing miserably because, let’s be honest, she isn’t Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle, so how could she possibly replicate those sorts of thought processes? I don’t know, it all felt like a poorly done parody to me, and I didn’t even find Thomas’ attempts at flirtation to be that intriguing because it felt like it was coming out of nowhere. One minute he’d be focused on his allegedly brilliant thoughts and then he’d come out with a very weak flirtatious line about Audrey Rose’s lips or something equally cliché. I mean, colour me bored and unimpressed…I read most of his dialogues with Audrey Rose with one eyebrow raised, thinking, Where on earth is this even going? In my opinion, Audrey Rose and Thomas had absolutely 0 chemistry, and I think the novel simply did not need a love interest for Audrey Rose because she would’ve had the exact same adventure in every way without Thomas. Why are love interests always gratuitously slipped into young adult novels for the sake of it? I’m done with it…make the love story interesting and productive or don’t put it in at all please!

Having said that, Thomas had one funny line in the novel that I actually liked…ONE line in 320+ pages. *sigh*

“‘It’s been as pleasant as a fast day in Lent, gentlemen.’” ~ Thomas

Okay, on to Audrey Rose, one of the most annoying and air-headed protagonists I have ever encountered. I’m not going to go into detail about how she literally stumbles on every clue toward solving her case without any actual effort or agency – other reviewers have done that better than me, so be sure to check out their reviews on Goodreads. What I will say is that everything about Audrey Rose seemed to be a huge contradiction. She is the actual definition of the whole “The lady doth protest too much” idea. Basically, Audrey Rose wants to study science, she wants to be part of the male dominated profession of forensic science, she wants to attend classes and make a name for herself. That is great, totally encouraged, go you, Audrey Rose, girl power! However, what irked me to no end is the fact that Audrey Rose goes on and on about how, despite being into science, she still loves the finer things in life while simultaneously criticizing others for loving those finer things. Don’t misunderstand me: I am all for Audrey Rose being a badass serial killer hunter and still wearing makeup and pretty dresses and drinking fine tea. Trust me, I am that person who likes wearing pink frilly blouses to hard rock concerts; if anyone gets having multiple layers to one’s personality and a variety of different passions and interests, it’s me. But what got to me is that Audrey Rose will talk about wanting to be able to wear makeup and pretty dresses while using her brain, but then go on to look down upon her female peers who wear makeup and pretty dresses. Audrey Rose is, quite frankly, a snob because she seems to have this idea that if a woman is going to be girly or prim and proper, she is wasting herself because she isn’t pursuing something seriously academic. But really, this is the exact same thing as people implying that Audrey Rose can’t be a beautiful woman and be a scientist: BOTH of these things are stereotypes and BOTH of these reactions are caused by prejudice and judgment. If a woman wants to use her brain to become the best party thrower in Victorian England, that is her right, but Audrey Rose seems to think this is not a worthwhile enterprise, so she criticizes it to no end. It would be one thing if Audrey Rose was totally against the luxuries of being of a higher class…maybe then it would make sense for her to criticize the women around her because she is doing everything in the name of science and intelligence…BUT this isn’t even the case because Audrey Rose herself states that she loves being of a higher class on multiple occasions, so it comes across as her being super conceited and thinking that only the way she goes about being of a higher class is the right way. It’s just pompous and came across as super annoying to me! I got to the point where I wanted to punch Audrey Rose in the face a few times for being so judgy – she was actually more of an asshole than characters like her Aunt Amelia who were supposed to be the old-fashioned, judgmental ones.

Anyway, I identified a few quotes where Audrey Rose was being particularly judgmental and stuck up, and I’m going to include them below, lest you all think I’m just being rude! Obviously, any text is open to interpretation, so maybe I’m just being touchy about all this, but it got to me and seriously hindered my reading experience.

  • “‘You speak as if you’d like to throw away your good name and swash the decks yourself.’” = So apparently, if science isn’t a person’s chosen profession, Audrey Rose is going to scorn it. Let’s say her brother Nathaniel did want to give up his high class to become a sailor…would that be so bad? Audrey Rose seems to think it’s worthy of mockery. And obviously she doesn’t like the idea of giving up lavish luxury very much herself.
  • “‘Their biscuits are my favourite for tea,’ I said.” = In the middle of a murder investigation, all Audrey Rose can think about is how good certain biscuits are when she has her tea. Talk about first world problems!
  • “I couldn’t control my lip from curling at his ability to ignore the cesspool of filth that had been wiped all around the glass. God only knew what kind of disease he was potentially being exposed to.” = When visiting a bar in the lower class area where many of Jack the Ripper’s victims were found, Audrey Rose can’t help but focus on how dirty and unsightly everything is…because that should really be the major concern of a detective who is meant to be helping the lower class people, not being disgusted by them!
  • “gathering my skirts like silent witnesses” = I’m sorry, but this is the worst simile ever! Does that idea even make sense?
  • “Her hair – somewhere between caramel and chocolate – was twisted into an intricate design about her crown. I’d love to fashion mine in a similar way.” = Oh, so you do love looking beautiful, eh Audrey Rose?
  • “If only life’s problems could be solved with a frilly dress and a pair of slippers. To hell with the world around us, so long as we looked our best.” = This is a great example of Audrey Rose being a pompous ass – her tone is so sarcastic and mocking, but this is only pages after she’s talking about how she wants to try out a hairstyle like her cousin’s. I mean, come on – can’t she be a little more accepting, the same way she’d like others to be? No, instead she is an actual snob!
  • “Here I was, playing dress-up while Uncle was in the asylum and a murderer was butchering innocent women.” = I don’t think you can have it both ways, Audrey Rose! Yes, you can be beautiful and smart, but you can’t criticize people for loving the finer things to the point of obliviousness and then do the exact same thing yourself…because it is ANNOYING!

Ugh, I am so over this novel! I am really mad that I didn’t like it, and I am 100% frustrated by the fact that I didn’t seem to get this novel. What an utter disappointment!

“‘There’s nothing better than a little danger dashed with some romance.’”

Agreed…but sadly, this book has NEITHER!

I’m really tempted to give it 1 star…but I’m not a heartless guttersnipe, so I’ll bump it to 2 because it was at least a quick, short read and Audrey Rose’s outfits sounded pretty. UGH!

Also, if you’re looking for a book that does everything Stalking Jack the Ripper attempts to do but better, read A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro!

❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green (and VERY Disappointed) Heart

JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #4

Apologies are in order (I feel like I apologize a lot on this blog, for missing posts, eh?)…I missed my Weekly Round-Up last week, but I promise I have a great excuse! Last Sunday, I fully intended to write up … Continue reading

Nine Women, One Dress ~ #JNGReads

 

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen is an absolutely darling short novel, and one that I wavered between giving 4 stars and 5 stars to. I eventually settled on a 4-star rating, for reasons that I will discuss below, but if I could’ve given it 4.5 stars on Goodreads, I definitely would have. It was just lovely!

Nine Women, One Dress chronicles several different love stories, from both the female and male characters’ perspectives. It is written in short bursts of text which resemble newspaper or magazine columns (complete with hilarious and fitting bylines), and this style was both unique and perfect in the sense that it allowed Rosen to tackle many different narratives without overwhelming the reader or taking away from the artful simplicity of her tales. The book almost felt like a collection of short stories in that it was easy to get through and a quick read, but what was wonderful about it was that the short narratives continued and several characters were revisited on multiple occasions, so that their stories were told both in snippets and anecdotally, but also completely. I liked the fact that I got to see many of my favourite characters from the novel frequently, but also that my reading experience wasn’t bogged down by details of them in their daily lives that were irrelevant or didn’t propel the main plot forward. I was looking for a light read after finishing a hulking John Irving novel, and Nine Women, One Dress was exactly what I craved. I powered through it, and honestly I could’ve read it even faster if I didn’t take as many breaks in between chapters, to sip on my tea or break off another piece of the chocolate bar I made a companion to my reading time on many nights while immersed in this story. It is just the quintessential coffee shop novel, the perfect read for an evening spent in the city, with a hot drink and a great view of skyscrapers and the gentle hustle and bustle. It is a novel that screams I ❤ New York…or any other great city (like, as an example, Toronto)!

Although it is a small book, weighing in at only 257 pages, I did get really into the lives of some of the characters in Nine Women, One Dress. My favourites would have to be Natalie, a Bloomindale’s shop assistant (Sidenote: I really need to visit Bloomingdale’s one day!) and movie star Jeremy/Stanley, as well as Private Investigator Andie whose job I found so interesting and whose issues with romantic boundaries I found endearing and realistic (haven’t we all obsessed over and pseudo-stalked a love interest in our lives?). I also had a particular soft spot for the romance between Arthur and Felicia, which brewed quietly over many years and finally reached its impressive romantic climax…it was totally adorable to watch this slightly older couple discover their long-buried feelings for one another! Many of the more secondary characters were also witty and a lot of fun to spend time with, particularly Sophie, the new graduate who uses Instagram fame to her advantage to land her dream job. Each of the characters were very down-to-earth and human, and I could easily pick out people in the crowded Starbucks I sat in while reading parts of this novel who I could imagine slipping into one of the storylines. Rosen really does seem to pick people out of an average crowd and make them into her subjects, and that makes it very easy to relate to and root for her characters.

Having said all that, I couldn’t give this novel a full 5-star rating for two main reasons. One is the chapters focusing on Medina Karim, whose self-proclaimed title is “Shireen’s Levelheaded Sister”. Medina and Shireen are young women living in Paris who struggle with their religion, Islam. Because they wear burqas as part of their religious custom, they wrestle with their desire to explore fashion and express themselves physically. While I thought it was a clever idea to include a commentary on religion in the novel, I did feel that Rosen tended to oversimplify these issues a little and focus too much on feminist stereotypes. I appreciate what she was trying to do and the statement she was trying to make, but I worried that maybe she wasn’t using the right medium to do so. The novel seemed altogether too short, and the chapters were not detailed enough, to enter into a proper discussion of religious belief and adherence and its limitations. I just felt that these chapters and this narrative was a touch out of place – if Rosen had spent more time truly delving into the matter and examining her characters more closely or giving them more space to speak and express themselves, I think her arguments would have been more successful.

I also, ironically, could not give the novel a full 5-star rating because I felt that it was too short. I know that is a bit paradoxical because I just finished saying how lovely it was in its quickness, but what I’m trying to say is that, when I compare Nine Women, One Dress to the 5-star novels I’ve read in my life, or just this year, it falls a bit shy of the mark. Only a touch shy, mind you, but it simply wasn’t the most outstanding or incredible rom-com I read this year. For that reason, I felt the need to distinguish it from clear 5-star favourites of mine like The Hating Game and Christmas at Tiffany’s – but, as I said, I would give it 4.5 stars if I could!

All in all, I would highly recommend Nine Women, One Dress as the perfect holiday read (whether that holiday is in the summer, on a beach, or in the winter, by a warm fire, it still works)! It is airy, fun and very cute, and it was a truly enjoyable experience to read it! Plus, isn’t that cover just gorgeous?!

*Final Note: I didn’t take the time to keep track of the women interacting with the little black Max Hammer dress mentioned in the book’s title, so I have no idea if there really were nine women…having said that, I’m sure that there are and a less lazy reader would probably be able to say for sure! Haha!

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Dickensian Second Coming

“The chain of events, the links in our lives – what leads us where we’re going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don’t see coming, and what we do – all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious.”

One does not embark on reading a John Irving novel lightly…

Is Avenue of Mysteries my favourite John Irving novel? No. Is it still worthy of a 5-star rating? Is it still better than 99% of the books I’ve read in my lifetime? Yes…because it is a John Irving novel.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am a writer and an avid reader because of John Irving. He is one of my all-time favourite authors in the world, and I am absolutely and consistently blown away by each and every novel he writes. He quite frankly is the modern day Dickens; somehow he has managed to write 14 novels, all with vastly different characters and plots but with a distinct Irving style that is sharply recognizable and unlike anything any other authors have put out. Irving is a truly unique voice in literature, and he painstakingly crafts narratives that are sweeping and vast, but with these minute details and intricacies that he reveals with enviable patience and calculated insight. Honestly, a John Irving novel is not a book you can pick up flippantly, or decide to read just for the hell of it – you have to be prepared, emotionally, physically (his books are looong and heavy, especially if you have them in hardcover!) and mentally to embark on a journey that will sometimes be tedious and daunting but will definitely be rewarding!

In his long and established career, John Irving has produced some incredible novels. My personal favourite is A Prayer for Owen Meany, a novel that I actually read twice in the span of one month when I was in grade 12. That novel changed my whole life – it gave me this drive and determination to become a writer because I felt this desire to make something as brilliant as Irving did. I know now that I will most likely never achieve that, but John Irving has always been on this pedestal for me because he is the absolute pinnacle of everything I find impressive and enthralling about literature…he is everything I have ever wanted to be as a writer myself.

John Irving cares about his characters and his stories. I read once that he actually writes all of his novels out by hand, which I have major respect for – as I said, he is thoroughly connected to the stories he creates, and he is committed to delivering tales that are massive in scope but intimate in description. Irving at once provides readers with the idea that they have been on a lifelong journey with his characters, while simultaneously making them privy to the tiniest, most private thoughts of those characters’ minds. Somehow he manages to both create stories that are HUGE and very very small. He is a true genius in that sense, and his characters are more real and fleshed out than some of the actual people I know.

I’m lucky enough to be getting the chance to see John Irving in person at the beginning of September, at one of my favourite buildings at my former university, and this is what encouraged me to pick up Avenue of Mysteries this past week. I actually bought the book when it first came out, in 2015, so needless to say, it has been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for quite some time. That’s because, like I said before, you have to be in the proper mood to read an Irving novel. It’s the same as with Dickens – you don’t just pick up a Dickens novel off your shelf randomly because it’s such a huge commitment and you know it will take so much effort and brain power to read. John Irving novels are the same – you have to be ready to read something incredibly dense, but to also read between the lines. John Irving reveals things out of order, a tiny snippet at a time, and so you have to be ready, as a reader, to pick up the pieces and patiently wait for everything to come together.

With that in mind, I’ll say that Avenue of Mysteries is a remarkable novel…but then again, every John Irving novel is. Having said that, Avenue of Mysteries is not the John Irving novel I would rush out to recommend to others because it somehow didn’t feel that concise or cohesive. It felt a bit scattered to me, from the beginning, and I think that only readers who are familiar with Irving’s style and appreciate how disjointed his narratives can sometimes be will be able to appreciate Avenue of Mysteries. In many ways, I felt that it harkened back to Owen Meany (for example, Juan Diego’s sister Lupe distinctly reminded me of Owen Meany, from the way she spoke to her sometimes flawed premonitions about the future), but it wasn’t as polished of a novel. I understood that Irving’s focus was the inconsistency of dreams and memories, and I know he intended to make the novel feel like a real mind fuck for the reader (excuse my harsh language, but can anyone think of a synonym for “mind fuck”?), but I just can’t help but feel that if you don’t know Irving, you won’t get this novel at all. I wasn’t disappointed by that because I do believe I know Irving and I didn’t struggle with this text for that reason, but at the same time, I think Avenue of Mysteries is a bit less accessible and generally appealing than other Irving novels. It feels like a novel written by Irving for diehard fans of Irving!

Again, I will state that Avenue of Mysteries is brilliant, in its Irving-ian way. This also means that it’s pretty brilliant in a Dickensian sort of way too, and once again, I was struck by just how similar to Dickens’ style Irving’s is. At the same time, Irving is not playing an imitation game; he’s not trying to emulate Dickens’ style, he just writes in the same sort of style naturally, and seemingly effortlessly. I can pinpoint one aspect of Irving’s style that is so Dickensian in nature: his repetition of concepts associated with his characters. Juan Diego is never simply Juan Diego – he is always “Juan Diego, dump reader”. Edward Bonshaw is never just Edward Bonshaw – he is always “Edward Bonshaw, the parrot man” or “Senor Eduardo”. Irving creates these characters with unique facets and talents and personalities, and then he labels them, and constantly reminds the reader of these labels so that they become intimate friends and allies of the characters. However, Irving is calculated about when he chooses to use these epithets – he reiterates them at crucial moments, in the middle of specific paragraphs, in order to remind his reader of particular pieces of his characters’ identities at moments when they are most relevant and significant. Nothing is coincidental or random in an Irving novel, and this is something Dickens does too, particularly in his largest novels like Our Mutual Friend, and it creates the sense that, as an author, he knows his characters better than he even knows himself. Irving somehow manages to recreate this sort of feeling without seeming to steal from or cheat Dickens. I’ve never known a writer to so closely resemble one from the past the way Irving does Dickens. And then, of course, there’s the fact that his novels are very verbose (which is something that I clearly appreciate and can relate to as a writer)! There are times when reading an Irving novel that you have to stop and ask yourself, What is he trying to say? And then you can rewind, unpack, dissect and finally move on…it is a process that takes time and an inherent love for literature of the most literary kind. Reading an Irving novel is not, ever, an easy task…but then, the best things in life often aren’t the easiest, right?

I recommend that everyone read an Irving novel in their lifetime, but I also know that very few readers will. He’s certainly not for everyone, and Avenue of Mysteries is the ultimate example of that – it is a novel that you will either really love or absolutely hate because it is everything an Irving novel is on steroids…it is the most Irving-est of all the Irving novels. I for one LOVED it, but then again, I love anything and everything Irving touches.

My Favourite Quote from Avenue of Mysteries

“‘What did the Virgin Mary ever actually do? She didn’t even get herself pregnant!’” ~ Lupe

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ If it’s by Irving, it will always get 5/5 from me!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

What’s The Buzz? The Most Underrated Books (…in my opinion!)

Recently, I was on Goodreads, about to add a fellow reader with similar bookish interests to mine as a friend when I was bombarded by his Friend Request Question. I think these questions are a lot of fun (I set one for my profile too) because it gives you a chance to immediately get to know the person you’re becoming friends with, and gain some insight into their reading habits and preferences. I also enjoy answering these questions because they get me thinking about my own love of books and different genres that I’ve encountered.

This particular Goodreads user’s question was very challenging, though! It asked:

What underrated book would you recommend?

For the life of me, I could not think of an underrated book to recommend, which struck me as really peculiar! I don’t think my reading preferences are all that cliché or common, and while I definitely enjoy checking out buzzworthy books, I also like to pick up novels that are more obscure and not as mainstream. Nothing came to mind when I was faced with this question, however, and so I decided to dig into my Favourites Shelf to garner some ideas…and in so doing, I discovered a bunch of underrated or unappreciated (in my opinion!) novels that I thought I should be listing and recommending here on my blog as well. I was reminded of a bunch of stories I read that I haven’t seen many other people picking up, and it struck me as a darn shame! So, with that said, here is my list of a few underrated or less popular books that I ADORED and recommend to anyone who’s looking for something new and unexpectedly awesome to read…

Poignant and Timely Non-Fiction

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, to be perfectly honest, but one book that totally blew me away was Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. This could have a lot to do with the fact that my fiancé was born in Iran, but I think it has more to do with Nafisi’s very unique approach to non-fiction: she describes her struggles, and those of many women living in Iran, through the lens of various literary works she secretly read during her time living in the Middle East. It was absolutely fascinating to rediscover novels I had read and enjoyed through the eyes of a woman living in a much less liberal and open-minded society, and I learned a great deal about Persian culture and the troubled Iranian government through the guise of literature.

Acclaimed Theatre

There is no play out there that has touched me as much as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Yes, I know this play is extremely popular and critically acclaimed, but I would say that it is underrated because I just don’t know of many readers who rush to pick up theatre. I have never been more moved by a story than I was by Angels in America though, and it touches on such a variety of topics like religion and sexuality and politics, that there is truly something in it for everyone! There are so many great lessons to be learned from this text and I am convinced that anyone who picks it up and delves into it becomes a better person for it!

Perfectly Paced Short Stories

There’s no doubt that Alice Munro is the ultimate short story writer, and she is undoubtedly my favourite. However, I am equally a fan of fellow Canadian short story writer Mavis Gallant, and her collections Montreal Stories and Varieties of Exile are forever favourites of mine. Gallant’s style is very similar to Munro’s in that she focuses on the ordinary and mundane, but highlights the extraordinary and interesting about it. She takes the most everyday activities and characters, such as a woman commuting to work on the subway, and infuses them with a special quality that immediately connects the reader to them. Plus, her use of language is gorgeous and very similar to Munro’s, so if you are a fan of Alice Munro, I guarantee you will love Gallant’s short fiction as well.

Poetry from the Distant Past

Poetry is probably the literary genre I have the least amount of experience with, and most of my reading of poetry has been for literature courses rather than for pleasure. Having said that, I have encountered some truly EPIC poems in my day (I’m think of a certain Paradise Lost, as an example) and one of my favourite, lesser appreciated long poems is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This is the quintessential medieval tale, with references to King Arthur and his valiant Knights of the Round Table, and although I had to study it for a class, I absolutely fell in love with the tale and with the adventure and, of course, with chivalrous Sir Gawain. This is definitely a fun one and it is so easy to get swept up into the tale!

Tear-Inducing Children’s Lit.

Why not throw a picture book on this list? Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is a story I grew up having read to me and is probably the first book I ever encountered in my life. It is touching and moving and lovely, and I swear, everyone needs to read it to their kids. It’s a classic, in my opinion!

Hard-Hitting Young Adult Lit.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, EVERYONE should read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. It treats the same subject matter as Thirteen Reasons Why, but, to me, is a far superior novel. It is deep and engrossing, and the main character Sam Kingston is easily relatable but also hopelessly flawed. I can’t say enough good things about this novel, and the film adaptation (starring Zoey Deutch) is equally good! If you only pick up one book from this list, make it this one!

Heartbreaking Romance

If I say too much about The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris, I will cry. It is a tearjerker in every sense of the word, but it is also a uniquely structured and stylized romance. The way it is written makes it truly stand out (by focusing on telling the stories of different first kisses between the two main characters), and I have it on my list of favourite novels of all time…considering that I’m a big rom-com reader, this should tell you something, since it clearly stands out!

Midnight Mystery

Although The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is technically a Victorian novel, it is the ultimate mystery that I think rivals stories told my Agatha Christie and more contemporary mystery writers. It is a story that instantly draws the reader in, with its family politics, deceptions and unreliable narrators, and there are so many different narratives that it never gets boring. The reader is swept up in a mystery that is genuinely difficult to solve, what with all the competing theories swirling around between the many characters, and it is a truly fun and suspenseful ride. I adore this novel and I’ve read it several times…knowing the end result doesn’t even phase me because the ride is the best part!

Haunting Historical Fiction

I’m going to label The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson a historical fiction novel, although it also contains fantastical elements and is a contemporary novel, so really it fits into three categories. Whatever genre it is, it is without doubt one of the best novels I have EVER read, and this is all down to the remarkable narrator. He’s so flawed, complex and complicated, at once detestable and so loveable, and I was so moved by this novel that it has left a permanent mark on my heart. It’s an emotional and troubling story, but it is so worth the read because it will truly blow you away! HIGHLY recommend this one!

Crazy Classic

Jude the Obscure is one messed up novel…but what else do you expect from an author like Thomas Hardy? I have a lot of favourite Victorian novels, and there are other novels by Hardy that I prefer, but Jude the Obscure is totally underrated in that barely anyone reads it, as far as I know. Readers are more inclined to pick up Tess of the D’Ubervilles (and with good reason, of course), but they forget about Jude entirely even though it seems to be Hardy’s darkest novel. Honestly, I can’t even explain some of the crazy stuff that happens in this book, but it is just so dark and gothic and really worth picking up if you’re into classics.

And finally…

Oh Canada!

Being the extremely proud Canadian I am, I had to include an underrated Canadian novel on this list, and I chose The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Montgomery is best known for Anne of Green Gables, and I have huge respect for that story, but in my opinion, The Blue Castle is just better. It is more adult and sophisticated, and it also features this indomitable and fierce female character, Valancy Stirling (what a great name, eh?), who I instantly fell in love with! She actually became a role model for me and I admit that I think about her often when I’m in social or professional situations that require me to have a bit more backbone than usual. I don’t think many readers know about this novel and that is a serious shame because it is at once hilarious and profound and entertaining. And, talk about girl power, because Valancy knows how to hold her own, no matter who she is up against…I LOVE IT!

Let me know in the comments below if you plan to pick up one of these underrated novels…or if you already have, let me know what you thought and if you too would recommend it!

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

It Ends With Us ~ #JNGReads

This has been a year of me reading books that I don’t feel qualified to review.

It started when I read Thirteen Reason Why earlier this year. Although I have suffered from anxiety since my early high school days, I have never felt such all-encompassing depression that I have contemplated suicide. I could not relate to Hannah’s emotional or mental state while reading the novel, and while that did not affect my overall enjoyment of it whatsoever (I do not feel it is necessary to identify with a character in order to connect with them or enjoy reading their story), it did make me feel like I had no place reviewing the novel or giving it a numeric rating. The novel wasn’t my favourite for many reasons, mainly because of how it was written, but I didn’t feel like I could actually critique it because of how important the subject matter was and how imperative I believe it is that everyone, particularly teenagers, read the story.

How do you review something that you think everyone needs to read, even if you didn’t love it and for reasons far more significant than enjoyment?

I still haven’t figured out the answer to that question, and I certainly didn’t have it when I read the novel It Happens All The Time just a short while ago. That was another novel that dealt with such important subject matter as rape and consent, and I felt totally inadequate reviewing it, considering that I have been lucky enough to never find myself in the positions of the main characters. Again, I felt that the subject matter was so poignant and timely that every reader should pick up the novel, but I didn’t absolutely love how the story was articulated or how the characters’ narrations were portrayed.

Now, here I am again, trying to review a novel that just shouldn’t be reviewed. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover is so much more than a romance, and I’m actually thinking that it was a mistake to choose this as my first experience of Hoover’s writing. As far as I know, Hoover is an established and much loved romance writer, but It Ends With Us is apparently a departure from her usual style and genre. In this novel, Hoover decides to investigate the more complicated, complex and tragic side of a relationship, and the romance between the two main characters takes almost a backseat to their struggles.

I should warn you all that SPOILERS are ahead. If you don’t want to have any idea of what happens in It Ends With Us before picking it up, I urge you to stop reading this review here.

It is nearly impossible to talk properly about It Ends With Us without mentioning that it focuses on domestic abuse. Not only is domestic abuse a huge part of the upbringing of the main character and narrator, Lily Bloom, it also becomes a component of her own marriage to Ryle Kincaid. This is where the novel becomes both heartbreaking and profound – Hoover chooses to not just write an average, mundane, cookie-cutter romance; she chooses instead to focus on the nitty gritty of an abusive relationship, and investigate the emotions that a woman being physically and mentally abused would endure. There are a lot of romance novels out there, but very few that do something interesting, that actually talk about important topics, and Hoover totally turns the romance genre on its head and does a complete 180 with it.

I wholeheartedly respect that and I found her treatment of domestic abuse fascinating and enlightening. I love and appreciate novels with grey area – my favourite characters are the ones who are not simply black or white, good or bad, perfect or irrevocably flawed.

“‘There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.’” ~ Ryle

There was not a moment in the novel that I thought that Lily should leave Ryle, just as there was not a moment when I thought she should not leave him – I had no idea what Lily should do because although I tried my hardest to put myself in her position, I simply could not. My experience and identity as a reader is limited in that way, and so I could sympathize with Lily’s circumstances and wish that she would find happiness, but I could not decide for her. That is the most hard-hitting aspect of It Ends With Us; Hoover expertly and subtly comments on the notion that people are far too easily inclined to judge others, to pronounce opinions on other people’s situations without having any real idea of what it is like to properly be in them. There are many people out there who would say of a woman in Lily’s position, Why doesn’t she just leave him? There are many people who would blame Lily for not walking away earlier, for not standing up for herself. But how many of those people have lived through a relationship like Lily and Ryle’s? How many of them have had to rip themselves away from the person they love, even if they know it is technically the right and most healthy thing to do? Hoover teaches us all, her readers, her audience, to critique less and support more, to be there for others without trying to control them, to practice compassion rather than judgment. I respect so much that Hoover has chosen to use her popularity as a romance writer to draw attention to an issue that is far too often overlooked and misunderstood by society at large.

Having said that, the reason why I find it so hard to traditionally review It Ends With Us is because there is one aspect of the story that bothered me a little bit (only enough to lower my necessary Goodreads numeric rating by 1-star, mind you). This particular detail is the aspects of the novel pertaining to Lily’s somewhat romantic relationship with Atlas, her first love. While I definitely do NOT think Ryle’s jealousy was justified or was an excuse for his treatment of Lily, I did feel that Lily’s interactions with Atlas and her reminiscing on her teenage relationship with him, both before she began dating Ryle and during her marriage, took away from the poignancy of her story with Ryle. Hoover’s decision to oscillate between scenes in which Ryle and Lily develop their relationship (both positively and negatively) and scenes of Lily thinking about Atlas and being confused by her lingering emotions for him frustrated me on many levels. I felt that the storyline with Atlas took away from the gravity of Lily’s situation with Ryle in that it drew attention away from the severity of what she was going through. It almost trivialized how difficult her life became after Ryle’s most horrible incident of domestic abuse because Lily’s admission that she wished she could easily feel something for Atlas without so much stress and trauma and confusion surrounding her brought the story back into a traditionally romantic domain that I wished it would severe all ties with. It just overall toyed with my emotions in that I was feeling hurt and scared for Lily but then hopeful that her and Atlas would “get together” in the traditional sense – it didn’t feel right to have these thoughts, which is thankfully something that Lily recognizes as well, but I found myself wishing that Atlas wasn’t even part of the equation. I ironically struggled more with the romantic moments of It Ends With Us than with the powerful moments because I grew to accept that it was not a generic romance novel and so it frustrated me to be offered tokens of romance novel stereotypes amidst such deep and meaningful subject matter. I don’t know if any of that made sense, but I feel that if It Ends With Us began and ended only with investigating Lily’s relationship with Ryle, it would’ve felt slightly less disjointed and would’ve made me feel more consistently emotional and heartbroken.

I’ll repeat, though, that It Ends With Us is still extremely poignant and important in that it is NOT just a romance novel. It is so much more and it is a book that I would undoubtedly recommend to women, and encourage them to pass on to their mothers, their daughters, and their friends.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

*One more note… I went for a run partway through reading It Ends With Us, and a song came on my iPod that made me think of Lily. It was the song “Night So Long” by the band Haim from their newest album Something To Tell You – the deep and powerful instrumentals and the haunting harmonies made me picture Lily taking a walk in the dark, contemplating her emotions and her future. The lyrics also seemed to resonate with her experiences in the novel, so I thought I would share a few here…

“In loneliness, my only friend

In loneliness, my only fear

The nights end

Then I say goodbye to love once more

No shadow darkening the door

Until your memory is gone

The night, slow, long…”

~ “Night So Long”, Haim

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart