Pre-Baby Book Reviews ~ #JNGReads

Happy Hump Day, dear Readers!

I’m back this evening with a whole bunch of book reviews. I have to be honest, my intention was to hold onto these reviews and post them as part of bigger, themed entries with reviews for a few other books I’m hoping to read soon…but then, it hit me all of a sudden that my baby boy could come any day now (read my blog entry about not so patiently waiting for him here) and at that point, I might very well forget about posting these reviews I’ve had in my “back pocket” altogether. I have already posted them on Goodreads – that’s usually the first place I update as soon as I’ve finished a book, so if you’d like to join me over there, I’d love to chat books anytime!

Anyway, without further ado, here are some reviews for a bunch of books I’ve read recently. I very much hope that, even when my baby decides to join us, I’ll be able to continue reading and reviewing whenever I have a spare moment.

Help Me by Marianne Power

I feel very conflicted about Marianne Power’s memoir of sorts about her time spent reading self-help books and attempting to better herself because of them.

On the one hand, I really did like Marianne’s voice. I found her funny, relatable and bubbly. I appreciated her frequent use of exclamation points (every sentence in my own text messages ends in one), and I thought that, despite her discussion of her depression and her quite constant putting down of herself, she came across as positive and optimistic. She seems like the type of person I could easily be friends with because she came across as, overall, very endearing and lovable.

But on the other hand, the discussion of each self-help book was tedious and annoying to me. I’m not really a self-help person myself, and although I’ve spent this year trying to come to terms with my anxiety, I haven’t actually picked up any cliché books like the ones Marianne does. I’m not trying to come across as stuck up or anything, but I do believe there are problems with a lot of self-help books out there, and they are similar to fad diets in the sense that it’s easy to become enamoured with them and jump on the bandwagon, only to go careening off it mere months later. Marianne recognizes that as well, which I really appreciated (otherwise, this book might’ve verged on insufferable), but she also does buy into a lot of the books when she is reading them, and that can be kind of frustrating as a reader who is a bit more…well…cynical and pessimistic, I suppose. I just couldn’t buy into everything Marianne was reading, and it made it hard for me to relate to her in the moments when she was buying into it all. It made me want to tell her, like her friends and family members do, to snap out of it and focus on reality instead, and my inability to do that through the pages of a book was hard for me.

Like I said, though, I continued to be a fan of Marianne from the first page to the last and I did find myself rooting for her. I just don’t know that I found there to be anything profound about this book as it almost read like a diary. It was personal and very raw in points, but it wasn’t a self-help book in itself, and so it didn’t help me on my own journey of understanding my anxiety at all. Not that I really expected it to, but it was certainly a lot more about Marianne’s experiences and life than I expected it to be, although that ended up being the thing I liked best about it, I think.

And, as I mentioned, Marianne does go through a really rough period of depression at one point of the book and she is blatantly and bravely honest about it. I respected that immensely and it was definitely the portion of the book I was able to engage with the most and take the most from. The quotes below are a good sampling of what Marianne talks about in this section, and I found myself re-reading them several times because they seemed to describe my own feelings as if Marianne was inside my head.

“‘I’m just tired,’ I said. Tired. How many times had I said that word when I didn’t know what else to say? When I didn’t know how to say I’m lost, I’m scared, I’m lonely, I feel like I’m losing it…?”

“I have always been prone to getting down. It starts so gradually I don’t notice it. I start waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of non-specific panic and waking up in the morning with a feeling of dread and anxiety. Bit by bit this grows until it feels like the day – and the world – contains nothing but cliffs for me to fall off.”

“I thought it was normal to feel like the bottom of your world was falling out every day – I thought that was just how people felt. You just had to try harder, keep going, hope that one day it would get better. Also, being diagnosed as depressed was code for being a failure. For not being able to nail this life business.”

Okay, that all sounds really negative and makes it seem like this book is a big downer, but it really isn’t. Despite facing incredible lows, Marianne is able to feel happy a lot of the time and the book does end on an optimistic note. But, it’s also realistic and Marianne is honest about the fact that she might not feel happy every single day and that her whole life hasn’t been magically transformed, and that is alright. Having moments of joy and gratitude are sometimes enough.

Overall, I enjoyed Marianne’s writing style a lot and I would be interested to read her work as a journalist because I think she has a really witty voice. I perhaps didn’t love the subject matter of this book, but I did grow to like Marianne very much, so that made it a successful enough reading experience for me.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) 

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

I have never read The Odyssey. 

I am not a particular fan of Margaret Atwood…which, yes, does make me a bad Canadian, thanks for asking. 

But, The Penelopiad I thoroughly enjoyed! I read it entirely in one day. It would’ve been one sitting if I didn’t have obligations to attend to. I highly recommend this one as it might be the best Atwood work I’ve ever read. It was short but felt profound; it had many meaningful messages about what it means to be a woman (overshadowed and overpowered by a pompous but important man) and a wife, but was easy to digest. Overall, a GREAT read!

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

I thoroughly enjoyed The Kiss of Deception, despite some obvious problems with it. I have to admit right off the bat that the story is a slow one and very much feels, by the end, like a precursor to bigger things to come in the rest of the series. Other reviewers have mentioned that the plot is very repetitive, and this is certainly true as it outlines main character Lia’s day-to-day life working as a waitress in a small town in minute detail. However, for some reason, I still found the story incredibly enjoyable to read and, when I sat down with it, I found myself turning the pages rapidly. It is true that not very much happened, but it was still quite entertaining and I felt compelled about halfway through it to go to my local bookstore and pick up the other two novels in the series so that I could begin them right after finishing this one. I also grew to really like Lia as a character by the end of the story, and I am curious to see if my interest in her will only grow as I get into the next book, or if my intrigue will wan. 

Overall, although this book wasn’t fabulous per say, it was pleasant to read and I did find myself being drawn in by Pearson’s writing style and her ability to weave together a story. I am very curious to see what comes next in spite of myself.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) 

*Note: I do plan to continue this series and was intending to write a larger review of the entire thing at some point, so that is why this particular review is so short. Hopefully, I will get around to the rest of the series soon!*

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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How to Dress Like High Lord of the Night Court ~ SS Sponsored Post

Hello dear Readers and welcome to another post sponsored by my husband, SS! As you may already know if you’ve been keeping up with my posts here, my husband recently decided to read the A Court of Thorns and Roses … Continue reading

Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind” ~ The Story of Rhysand & Amarantha? ~ SS Sponsored Post

This post is sponsored by my husband, SS, who is now apparently an expert on the A Court of Thorns and Roses series and world.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my husband randomly decided to pick up the ACOTAR series a few weeks ago. You can read all about my reaction to this rather extraordinary occurrence here. What’s most adorable about the whole thing is that he has now started to think about the characters, particularly Rhysand, even when he’s not reading (I’m sure all of us fans can relate!), and really not a day goes by that he doesn’t bring up Rhys somehow and compare one of his own daily experiences to something Rhys has said or done.

The other day, SS came home from work and told me I had to listen to the song “Nevermind” by Leonard Cohen. Granted, I have heard it before (I actually saw Leonard Cohen in concert years ago and was familiar with the fact that the song was used as the theme for the second season of the TV show True Detective), but SS wanted me to take a closer listen to the lyrics and think about how they described Rhys’ experiences when he lived Under the Mountain with Amarantha. I have to be honest, at first I really thought it was a stretch…but then I actually started listening and could really see where SS was coming from. The song is beautiful, more of a poem melodically spoken to instrumental music as is typical of Cohen’s style, and I really did get a sense of enclosure and claustrophobia from it, this feeling of needing to escape something or someone. Then, as I honed in on the lyrics, I did start to think about Rhys being trapped Under the Mountain and having to conceal his true feelings and identity, as well as forget (as much as he could) his friends and his home. I’ve included a few excerpts of the lyrics below, that SS hand-selected, and I do actually think they relate quite strongly to what Rhys describes as his experiences and struggles when he speaks to Feyre candidly in A Court of Mist and Fury. 

The war was lost

The treaty signed

I was not caught

I crossed the line

I was not caught

Though many tried

I live among you

Well disguised

I had to leave

My life behind

I dug some graves

You’ll never find

The story’s told

With facts and lies

I had a name

But never mind

Your victory

Was so complete

That some among you

Thought to keep

A record of

Our little lives

The clothes we wore

Our spoons our knives

The games of luck

Our soldiers played

The stones we cut

The songs we made

Never mind

Never mind

I live the life

I left behind

There’s truth that lives

And truth that dies

I don’t know which

So never mind

I could not kill

The way you kill

I could not hate

I tried I failed

This was your heart

This swarm of flies

This was once your mouth

This bowl of lies

You serve them well

I’m not surprised

You’re of their kin

You’re of their kind

Never mind

Never mind

I had to leave

My life behind

The story’s told

With facts and lies

You own the world

So never mind

I live the life

I left behind

I live it full

I live it wide

Through layers of time

You can’t divide

My woman’s here

My children too

Their graves are safe

From ghosts like you

If you’d like to listen to the song yourself, we recommend the lyric video linked here: “Nevermind” by Leonard Cohen.

What do you think? Has SS officially lost his mind and succumbed to his obsession with Sarah J. Maas’ series? Let us know in the comments below!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

✳✳✳ How It Feels When Your Husband Reads Your Favourite Series ✳✳✳

Last weekend, I woke up gently to the sound of pages turning beside me in bed. I kept my eyes closed for a few glorious seconds, reveling in the smell of well-worn and well-loved paper, and imagined what beautiful novel the pages might belong to. Then, it hit me: if I had my eyes closed, how could I also be reading? I couldn’t, and so that must mean that someone else was reading beside me.

Knowing that my husband isn’t much of a reader of books (graphic novels of the likes of Neil Gaiman and podcasts and Ted Talks are more his style), I immediately jolted upright, wondering who had intruded into my bedroom. It was then that I saw that very same husband of mine sitting up in bed with headphones in his ears and a book on his lap. After scrutiny of what I could see of the cover, I realized that he was reading the novel A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. My heart nearly exploded in that moment.

That’s right – my dear husband and father of my soon-to-be-born child had decided to start reading the ACOTAR series that morning. Not being much of a reader as I said (in his defense, English is his second language so he’s always been a bit of a slow reader and has found that frustrating throughout his life), he decided the best approach was to read my copy of the novels while simultaneously listening to the audiobooks to keep him on pace. He explained all of this to me after I managed to lift my jaw from the floor and ask him what he was doing with my book. He said that he had been wanting to get into reading fantasy for a really long time, and thought this would be a good series to start with because he knew how much I loved it and wanted to discuss it with me. My heart grew about ten sizes and I’m pretty sure I was the living, breathing version of the heart-eye emoji as I gazed down at him. 😍😍😍

Now, here we are a week later and he is just about to finish A Court of Mist and Fury. Imagine how fun (and funny) it has been for me to sit beside him, reading my own book, and hear his reactions to a series that is extremely special and dear to me. His running commentary first started towards the middle of ACOTAR when he started to feel “suspicious” of Tamlin and like he was a bit too much of a “cocky bro”. He then met Rhysand and decided that he was far more interested in him than Tamlin. He did remember me gushing over Rhys and so I think he had an inkling that there was going to be a big romantic shift at some point, but I found it hilarious when he started comparing himself to Rhys and talking about how he too likes to convey an unruffled and overly confident persona when faced with tough situations (ie- just like when Rhys is Under the Mountain and mouths off occasionally to Amarantha, seemingly without a care in the world). I do believe that there are many similarities between my hubby and the epic High Lord of the Night Court, but I can admit that I’m probably a bit biased…but, of course, I fed into his comparisons willingly and enthusiastically.

As he got into ACOMAF and did decide that Tamlin was a total knob, my husband started to compare the way Rhys rules Velaris and manages his Inner Circle to the way he manages at his workplace. He actually called me from work a few days ago to tell me about a meeting he had with his team, and he literally said the sentence, “Yeah, the way I approached the issue was basically how Rhys would have a discussion with Cassian and Azriel…” And I just said nothing for a couple seconds and then was like, “Oh, of course it was, baby!”

Now that he’s almost finished ACOMAF, he’s 100% invested in Rhys and Feyre as a couple and as rulers, and he is itching to get to some battle scenes (Just you wait, man, just you wait!). He’s also begun planning his ACOMAF-inspired tattoo (Could I love this man any more? I didn’t think so, but apparently I can!), to commemorate his reading experience. One particularly funny thing is that he has been quite critical, of all things, of the steamier scenes in the book, claiming that if Rhys were such a “god” in that department, he would know to do things a bit differently. I’ll spare you all the NSFW details of his rants, but suffice it to say that my husband feels that this specific talent is where he and Rhys deviate…making me, according to him, quite the luckiest woman in any world, fictional or otherwise.

Anyway, sorry for the long Sunday post, but I just wanted to get down my thoughts and feelings about my husband delving into one of my favourite series of all time…something that I never in a million years thought I would witness. It has been a romantic, entertaining and hilarious experience so far and I can’t wait to see how he fairs with ACOWAR and ACOFAS! And, when he exclaimed to me a few chapters ago that he “totally ships Feyre and Rhys”, all I could think was, “You and me both, babe…but never as much as I ship me and you!”

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

End of July Round-Up ~ #JNGReads

Happy almost-Friday everyone!

A long weekend is coming up here in Toronto, which means lots of time to spend outside, hopefully blazing through a few books I have on loan from the library.

I was originally holding onto the following reviews to post when I had a few more ready because I’ve actually finished another two books in the days since reading these ones. However, those two books are both part of the Beautiful series, and when I saw that I could borrow all but one of the remaining books in the series that I haven’t yet read from my library last night, I decided it would be a better idea to post all of my short reviews of the Beautiful books in one mega-post.

So, for that reason, I’m offering two reviews here of books that I finished at the end of July and enjoyed well enough. If you’re looking for a relatively entertaining chick lit. to take to the beach with you or a fantasy novel to distract you on these hot days, these just might be the ticket!

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

I don’t quite know how to feel about Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke. I was originally very intrigued by the novel when I came across it at my local bookstore, and I instantly requested an e-book version of it from my library. The synopsis seemed perfectly sweet and romantic, the ideal summer read, and I felt that I would surely enjoy it because of its allusions to Shakespeare and one of my favourite concepts, Fate. I also am a fan of reading my horoscope, although I don’t do so religiously, and I thought the plot of someone altering horoscopes to send a particular message sounded fun and unique.

However, the novel turned out not to be what I was expecting whatsoever. For one thing, it was written in a much more lofty style than is customary for romance novels of this variety, and while I think that can sometimes be a very good thing and there is no reason why a novel has to bend to the clichés of a specific genre, Darke’s writing was a bit too flowery for my liking (this coming from someone who is notoriously verbose) and the whole book read, in many ways, like a horoscope entry with its mystical language. I also found myself thinking, only about 200 pages into the novel, that it was altogether too long. It lacked a bit of direction in my opinion because, rather than focusing exclusively on the main characters Nick and Justine and building chemistry between them, it flitted around to different minor characters and examined how they were affected by the horoscopes Justine constructed. This, again, was a good idea in theory, but in execution I found it made the story harder to follow, as it seemed to jump around a bit haphazardly and was then wrapped up too quickly and neatly. I do have to say that I thought it was cute how Darke chose to write some sections from the perspective of a dog named Brown Houdini-Malarky, but then, at the same time, I also found this incredibly strange and a bit out of place. I felt the same way about one section written from Heaven, which again seemed to bring in the concept of religion in a way that was unnecessary and didn’t fully align with the focus on astrology.

More than anything, I found it hard to like Star-Crossed because I really didn’t like Justine or Nick. Nick, I was totally indifferent towards because he’s an utterly bland character who doesn’t really have much of a personality at all and seems not to have any agency over his life or any decision-making power. Justine was, however, extremely annoying to me because she did make many decisions throughout the novel, but she always seemed to be making the stupidest ones imaginable. And I don’t just mean altering the horoscopes of the magazine she works for, which is obviously unethical; I mean all of the other decisions she makes, even after she is caught and given another chance not to do anything unprofessional again. She is also a bit full of herself, if you ask me, because she goes around correcting signs and menus that have spelling errors, and she comes across as very pretentious. I just found it really difficult to relate to her and I almost didn’t want her to come out on top at the end of the novel because I didn’t feel she deserved it. She sort of bothered me as a character and is not someone I would ever root for romantically, which is a major problem in this sort of novel, if you ask me.

Overall, I wanted more from Star-Crossed and I found myself slogging through it toward the end, just wanting to be done. It wasn’t terrible, but it isn’t the first book I would recommend if a friend asked me for an entertaining read to take with her to the beach, as there are many other books of this genre that I feel are executed much better.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and will absolutely be reading the next installments in this fantasy series!

This is a fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly entertaining read, that doesn’t feel heavy in any parts. When I had the chance to pick it up, I felt like I raced through the pages rapidly, and the alternating perspective (from Laia’s narrative to Elias’) was very easy and exciting to read. There weren’t any real lulls in the story, and I turned the pages a lot faster than I have when reading other novels in the last little while. That being said, when I was away from the book, I found myself thinking about what had happened in the plot and realizing that not very much had actually occurred. It was almost as if, every time I sat down to read, I got no further into the plot even if I was pages and pages ahead of the last time I read. This could be down to the fact that the plot is quite contained, focusing mainly on the Four Trials to determine the new Emperor and Laia’s spy work and pursuit to set her brother free from prison. Although the text is over 400 pages long, the focus is not very vast, and so it feels like not a lot of progress or movement forward is being made. However, as I said, my reading experience was very enjoyable and I got swept up in the story really easily, so I wasn’t too bothered by the fact that there wasn’t much momentum. What it made me think, ultimately, is that this is a very good first book in a larger series, but wouldn’t work as a standalone because it is mostly concerned with setting the stage for events and intrigues to come.

Overall, I was impressed by An Ember in the Ashes and, like I said, I got through it quickly when I was able to find the time to sit down with it. I was fascinated by pretty much all of the characters, from Izzi to Cook to Helene to the Commandant, and I am very interested to see how the rest of the story unfolds over the course of the additional novels.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Once Upon A River ~ A New Victorian-esque Favourite ~ #JNGReads

Once Upon a River is an absolutely fabulous read, and Diane Setterfield is an author that every fan of Victorian literature must get acquainted with.

I’ve enjoyed Setterfield’s writing since I first encountered her novel The Thirteenth Tale and was immediately sucked in by her Dickensian style. I would have to say, right off the bat, that Once Upon A River is closer in feel to Setterfield’s second novel, Bellman & Black, which I adored but which I know some readers found too slow and not plot-driven enough. Having said that, I think the beauty of Setterfield’s novels are that they are usually a slow build and greater emphasis is placed on creating an atmosphere and a feeling of warmth and curiosity in the reader than delivering a cheap, quick thrill. If you’re looking for a suspenseful, edge of your seat drama, then Setterfield’s catalogue might not be for you…but if you’re looking for a subtle page-turner full of magic and intrigue, then it certainly is!

I was a bit nervous going into Once Upon A River because I’ve found myself getting distracted from reading very easily in the last few months and I just wasn’t sure if something this meandering would be able to hold my attention. But (and full credit to Setterfield’s ability to weave a tale here), I was drawn in from the very first chapter and actually found myself reading with a flashlight in bed at 2:00am one night, much to my husband’s dismay. Again, this isn’t a traditional page-turner in the sense that a mystery or crime fiction novel would be, but Setterfield evokes this sense of wonder and astonishment in the reader that makes it impossible not to want to go along for the ride down the river Thames with her. There are a lot of magical and fantastical elements to this tale as well which made it feel very reminiscent of a fairytale, but at the same time, nothing about the plot was overly far-fetched or unbelievable, and I found myself buying into every explanation Setterfield put forth without hesitation. Even her most skeptical characters also come around to believing in some magic by the end of the novel, and it was nice to see that acknowledgement that sometimes aspects of life are beyond reasonable explanation and that is okay.

This novel also felt very similar to one of my absolute favourite novels of all time, Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Reading Once Upon A River actually made me want to pick up all nearly 1,000 pages of Our Mutual Friend for the THIRD time, but then I thought maybe I should finally crack open the spine of Bleak Houseinstead. In any case, Once Upon A River uses a style that reminded me of Our Mutual Friend to introduce characters slowly and focus on them in great detail but only at times and in ways that were significant to the overall story. The cast of characters in Once Upon A River, although not quite as large as that in Our Mutual Friend, is vast, and it is very fulfilling to see how each character, even those most minor ones, ends up being important by the conclusion in some of the most unexpected ways. Setterfield is also very accomplished at, like Dickens, dropping small hints about a character’s beliefs or history throughout the novel so that the reader is able to string together some ideas about the role they will eventually play in the greater story. And, even the villainous characters like Robin Armstrong and Vincent Nash become somehow pitiable because they are so complexly articulated. I also appreciated that almost every character ends up with their own “Happily Ever After” because what Victorian trope is more wonderful than that, and I am particularly pleased with how things concluded for Rita and Daunt.

One final theme that I will mention is that of childbearing and child rearing, which is a huge focus in Once Upon A River. Naturally, given the fact that I am currently entering my third trimester and will be having my first baby in a few months, I found it pretty coincidental that so much of the story of Once Upon a River surrounds motherhood and what it means to carry a child, give birth to it and raise it. Obviously standards were very different in the Victorian era, so I’m sure I’ll have an easier time in labour than a lot of the female characters, but to hear them occasionally discussing what it feels like to be pregnant and how wonderful but also frightening that can be really resonated with me. There was also so much love and appreciation for children in the novel, and that was especially nice for me to read about because it got me very excited for the road ahead of me. I think any parents or soon-to-be parents would take a lot from the novel for this reason.

Once Upon A River is a must-read in my opinion, although I would probably recommend starting with Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, which is a bit more traditionally entertaining and will give you a sense of her writing style before delving into something a bit more leisurely and Dickens-inspired.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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

❄ Winter came…and nothing happened. ❄

I want to start this post off with two disclaimers.

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

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

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

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

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

The White Walkers and the Night King

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

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

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

Jon Snow

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

The Hound

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

Jaime and Cersei Lannister

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

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

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

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

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

Euron Greyjoy

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

Arya Stark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JNG

Girl with a Green (and Freaking Frustrated!) Heart

The Wicked King ~ #JNGReads

An·ti·cli·mac·tic /ˌan(t)ēˌklīˈmaktik/ (adjective): The Cruel Prince series

Okay, I’m sorry, that was snarky of me, I admit. But honestly, The Wicked King was the very definition of MEH.

Everyone and their best friend is gushing about The Wicked King on Goodreads and Twitter, and I’m just sitting on my couch with the book on my lap, having just finished it, legit confused af.

Am I missing something? Someone please help me because I dearly want to be sucked into this series! Is there something wrong with me? Did I maybe get a faulty copy of the book? Do I also have a faulty copy of The Cruel Prince? Do I need new glasses? WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION FOR THIS?

Nothing happens in The Wicked King. I’m sorry, but it is the least exciting and suspenseful novel I have read in a long time. People were hyping it up as this insane adventure so I was flipping through the pages looking forward to all these twists and turns…and then I realized I was on the LAST PAGE and barely anything had happened! As with The Cruel Prince before it, I felt that The Wicked King spent too long setting the scene for…absolutely nothing to happen! It’s like a book that leads up to…nothing. I can’t even say that I found the ending to be a cliffhanger because at that point, I didn’t care about it whatsoever.

Also, everyone is always ranting and raving about Jude and Cardan and their “chemistry” and again, I’m all like, You mean those characters who spoke to each other all of three times throughout this entire story? Sexual tension? During a handful of sentences spoken to each other? Okay, I must really be missing something! I still can’t figure out if Jude and Cardan actually had sex, so maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention or something. *facepalm*

So, anyway, let’s just say that I was underwhelmed by this book. And sure, maybe I’ll read the third book in the series out of curiosity and with this absurd hope that it will be more exciting than the first two…but realistically, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

But, since I generally like to think I’m a nice person, let’s end on a high note, shall we? Here are some quotes from the novel that I actually liked because, after all, it wasn’t all bad!

Quotes I Liked from The Wicked King

“There is only now. There is only tomorrow and tonight and now and soon and never.”

– I admit, I have zero idea what this quote means because if you actually analyze it, it seems like a huge contradiction…but I like how it sounds sooo…

“The Folk doubtlessly learned this lesson long ago. They do not need to deceive humans. Humans will deceive themselves.”

“I have never been so much alone, and I have never had to play a role for this long. I feel hollowed out, diminished.”

“‘I am your creature, Prince Balekin,’ I say, looking into his eyes and lying with my whole broken heart. ‘Do with me what you will. I am yours.’”

❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

JNG’s 2018 Reading Round Up

Happy New Year everyone, and thank you for joining me as I round up my reads (the good and the bad) of 2018!

You can find more bookish photos of me and my best friend on our bookstagram, Emerald & Opal!

I have to start by saying that I actually somehow managed to read 75 books this year!!!  I don’t mean to brag, but this is a pretty remarkable feat for me because I only set my Goodreadsgoal at 50 books, and what with starting a new job that has kept me extremely busy and has limited my lunchtime reading, and considering the fact that this was my first year being married and so it included a honeymoon when I didn’t read at all, I don’t know how on Earth I managed to surpass my goal by 50%.  But honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of myself because back in university, sure I did a TON of reading and probably read around 75 books a year, but most of those were selected for me by professors and were required course readings. This year, though, I chose all 75 books, carefully curating exactly what I wanted to read and when, and I did write at least a short review (and often a very long one) for every single book.  I would easily call 2018 my most successful reading year ever!!!

With that said, I want to take stock of all the books I read in 2018.  I was originally intending to use the same “awards system” I established in 2017 to detail the best and worst of what I read in specific categories, but my reading turned out to be a bit eclectic and all over the place this year, so I felt like I should simply mention some standouts from various months of the year and explain why I was most connected to or infuriated by each one.  I also should mention that I’ve found in the last few years, and probably particularly in 2018, that my ratings have become incredibly nostalgic and sentimental – somehow, I’ve evolved into this person who, despite having a Master’s in English, can’t seem to rate books based on rigid or strict criteria.  Instead, I always and without fail assign stars to books based on how they make me feel, based on whether or not I get all warm and fuzzy while reading them and based on how many characters touch me profoundly and become friends to me.  Perhaps this isn’t the most consistent or sophisticated way to evaluate books, but I just can’t help it!  Ever since I was a young girl, reading has been an escape for me, and although sometimes school got in the way and made it more of a job, I’ve finally gotten back to a place where I am reading purely to entertain and enjoy.  Reading is, in that way, my life’s greatest salvation…and if that means I give a smutty romance novel or a far-fetched YA fantasy 5 stars every once and awhile because it made me smile on an otherwise trying day, well, that’s just fine by me!

January 2018

  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman – This was (*gasp*) the first Neil Gaiman text I ever read, and it really set the tone for many of my other reading choices in 2018.Without doubt, Neil Gaiman is the author I am most proud to have finally read in 2018, because he really is a genius and can write so many styles and genres, that it just blows my mind!  My husband is also a big fan of Gaiman’s graphic novels, and we ended up watching the recent TV adaptation of American Gods together in like all of one day, so reading Gaiman is something I can bond with my husband about as well, even though he doesn’t read novels and I’m not a huge graphic novel fan.  Definitely was missing out by not having Neil Gaiman in my life prior to this past year!
  • 99 Days by Katie Cotugno – I was not a fan of this book at all, and it was my first real disappointment of 2018. Trust me, unfortunately there would be many more before the year was through.

February 2018

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This book was FABULOUS and was the first book of 2018 that really blew me away! I was sort of astonished by it, particularly because I had read several of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books prior and was surprised by the change in tone with this book to something a lot more serious.  Huge fan of this read!
  • Snotgirl – Like I said, I’m not a big fan of graphic novels, but for some reason I fell in love this year with Snotgirl. I read the first two volumes this year and just adored the art style, even if the story seemed a bit all over the place.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – This is the first book of 2018 that I thought I didn’t give my all to, and it made me wish I were back in school. This is a dense and powerful novel and I knew instantly that I would have to revisit it someday to fully comprehend its beauty.
  • Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren – I did not like this book that much and I was super disappointed by my first foray into Christina Lauren’s catalogue…but wait, they would soon do a complete 180 for me, so stay tuned!
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I had some seriously complicated feelings toward this book because it was so easy and quick to read but struck me as very offensive.I still have yet to watch the film adaptation because I was just so over the story after reading it!

March 2018

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman strikes again! I should mention that this is probably my favourite Neil Gaiman book I’ve read to date.

April 2018

  • Summer at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan – I finally picked up the sequel to Christmas at Tiffany’s, a favourite of mine, and adored it! I would go on to read many more Karen Swan books in 2018…and unfortunately, towards the end of the year, she did a 180 for me but in the opposite direction of Christina Lauren…
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I am officially obsessed with him!

May 2018

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas – Talk about reading as an escape…here, I got the chance to revisit some of my best book friends, and despite how short the novel was, I loved every single moment of it.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – This was another huge disappointment of 2018. I had this book on my To-Read List for years, and when I finally got around to reading it, I was like Waaah?!?!  Very upset about this one!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – And thus began my journey into the world of Aelin…… I did take a brief break halfway through reading the series, but truly, this series shook me and has without doubt been the highlight of my 2018 reading journey!

June 2018

  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson – I read two books with this exact same title in 2018.This was the first and I loved it and am looking forward to reading more of Matson’s books very soon!

July 2018

  • Beautiful by Christina Lauren – And here it is, the first 180 of 2018: after being unenthused by Dating You / Hating You, I picked Beautiful up super cheap at the bookstore and blew through it. It made me feel warm and so happy, and was a definite favourite of the summer months!
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman – Another major disappointment and one that I had on my To-Read List for so long too. I still have no idea what all the hype is about – and believe me, I wish I did!
  • The Greek Escape by Karen Swan – Loved this one, although not as much as Summer at Tiffany’s

August 2018

  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight – Book #2 with this title and I thoroughly enjoyed it as well!
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – I’m reading this book out loud to my husband and we still haven’t finished it, but it is extremely well written and is another testament to how incredible Gaiman’s talent is!

September 2018

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – This book broke me and the review I wrote of it is my favourite review I have ever written (and possibly one of the shortest too)!

October 2018

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – This book also broke me, and although a lot of readers have called it torture porn, I really liked it and found it very moving.I don’t regret reading this one whatsoever.
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas – I still can’t talk about this one. I just…can’t.

November 2018

  • Roar by Cecelia Ahern – This was the worst book I read in 2018. I hate to be mean, but it was just way too simplistic and on the nose and cliché.  I was vehemently not a fan of this!
  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – But then again, I really wasn’t a fan of this one either. It was my first try at reading a Morton novel and I regret that I didn’t pick up one of her other books because I’ve noticed that a lot of her fans were confused by this one.  It truly was all over the place.

December 2018

  • The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan – 2018’s second 180 came when I struggled with this novel, even though it was written by an author I adore. But, I guess we can’t always love everything someone writes (unless they’re Neil Gaiman apparently)!
  • Jane by Aline Brosh McKenna & Ramón K. Pérez – I ended 2018 by reading a graphic novel adaptation of my favourite book of all time, Jane Eyreby Charlotte Brontë. And while it didn’t wow me, I was happy to return to some old friends at the end of a long year.

So that’s about it from me.  If you chose to stick around and read this entire round up, thank you so very much!!!

Now, I better get back to my first book of 2019…no time to lose!

xo

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

A Soothing Balm to Remedy Another Mediocre Reading Experience ~ #JNGReads

Just a quick update on this Sunday night!

I recently finished two novels.  The first, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, I found to be very disappointing, dry and confusing.  For that reason, I decided to move right into re-reading an absolute favourite novel of mine, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, which, needless to say, took my heart in its clutches yet again.  Short reviews for both of these novels are below, if you’re at all interested.

Thank you for reading, as always! xo

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Oh dear.

I really wanted to like this book because I’ve been hearing about Kate Morton for so long and truly expected to be touched by her work. But, I had a lot of trouble following the threads of this story, and while certain chapters were interesting and touched me (such as the ones about Elodie in the beginning and those devoted to Juliet and her young children), I just didn’t ever feel that engrossed in the plot and I found my mind wandering on several occasions. Sadly, I think this story was just too disjointed, and the things that were promised, like romance and suspense, were sorely lacking. There also was no real sense of resolution, particularly with characters like Elodie and Jack, and I found myself confused as to the point of all of the characters. This story didn’t need to be as complex as it was and probably would have been easier to follow, better written and more enjoyable if characters like Elodie, Jack, Lauren, Ada, Leonard, Juliet and Tip were excluded (not to mention unnecessary side characters like Pippa, Alastair and Penelope). Basically, I wonder why, if this book is called The Clockmaker’s Daughter, it didn’t simply stick to her storyline and call it a day?!

Pretty disappointed with this one, unfortunately!

❥❥ (out of 5)

 

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

(Reading for the second time.)

Somehow, I thought that re-reading this novel, knowing what would happen, might make it a little easier…and yet, I feel like I could throw up right now at the end of it.

Somehow, knowing what Rhys is to Feyre from the beginning made their courtship, his evident uncertainty and longing throughout, that much more agonizing and heart-wrenching.  Somehow, remembering what would occur in the final chapters, how their bond would be severed (even if not truly), made me at once anxious and terrified to get to the end. Somehow, getting to spend more wonderful time with characters I have grown to love and think about almost every single day since encountering them for the first time made saying goodbye to them again, just moments, ago that much harder.

Re-reading a favourite book isn’t always easy, I guess…but somehow, sometimes, it just feels necessary.  It feels like coming home after a long day to a couch by a fireplace, in a townhouse surrounded by snow and night, and sitting curled up beside a dear old friend.

This novel touched my heart last year when I read it for the first time, and as my heart ached last weekend, I knew it was the one balm I needed to revisit.  For that, it will always get infinite stars (oh, how fitting!), from me.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart