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

The Grisha Trilogy – #JNGReads

My foray into the genre of young adult/new adult fantasy continues with my completion of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo…

This trilogy comprises the novels Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising, all of which follow the story of Alina Starkov, a powerful Grisha (a sort of magician) who learns through a traumatic near-accident that she possesses the ability to summon light. Henceforth referred to as The Sun Summoner, Alina is given Saint-like status among the citizens of her home of Ravka, and she is pursued endlessly by characters like The Darkling, Nikolai “Sturmhond” Lantsov and a figure known as the Apparat, all of whom wish to control and make use of her unique powers. She is aided in her quest to bring peace to Ravka, at any cost, by her childhood best friend Mal, and by new friends she meets along her travels, such as Genya (a fellow Grisha with remarkable talents for tailoring and altering physical appearance, and by far one of the most fascinating characters in the series), Baghra, Tamar and Tolya. It’s pretty easy to get a detailed synopsis of all three of these novels online, so I won’t go into any more detail than that, but suffice it to say that Alina’s life goes from ordinary to dramatic and dangerous in the span of a few short chapters.

I don’t normally read all of the books in a series at once (in fact, I think that before this year, I hadn’t read an entire series from start to finish since reading the Twilight series when I was in grade 11), but it is something I’ve been doing a lot lately. The Grisha Trilogy came onto my radar a few months ago when I was buried deep in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas – I was looking for something to fill the void that I knew would inevitably be left by Feyre and Rhysand, and I noticed rave reviews on Goodreads of both Maas’ other series, Throne of Glass, as well as of Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Thinking it was a good idea to get some distance from Maas’ writing style and some variation in what I was reading, I put the Grisha Trilogy on my immediate To-Read list. In a wonderful twist of Fate, my fiancé went out a few days later to Chapters and bought me 9 different books (he’s amazing, I know!), including the entire Grisha Trilogy. Once I finished a few novels that I had been waiting to read for awhile, and put some distance between myself and the ACOTAR series, I was reading to dive right into Bardugo’s world.

And, it is quite a remarkable world! From the first pages of the book, when the reader is faced with an impressive and imposing map, it becomes obvious that the tale will literally span an entire world that Bardugo has painstakingly created. Based on Russian culture, this world encompasses multiple kingdoms and involves many cultural and political structures that are both recognizable to readers and yet extremely unique and well-executed. Most notably, Alina finds herself a reluctant Saint figure, and she is constantly overwhelmed by the religious fanatics that follow and worship her. Class struggles are also prominently explored, particularly because Alina is an orphan and was raised in the lower class as a member of the First Army, prior to discovering her Grisha powers and achieving elite status. There is a noticeable divide between the soldiers of the First Army, who are human, and the Grisha of the Second Army who practice the Small Science, and prejudice is a theme that Bardugo explores subtly but at length. Bardugo’s world is intricate, fleshed out and realistic, and there is no doubt that she spent a great deal of time not only creating human culture but also envisioning unique terrains and environments (her description of the Shadow Fold alone, and its various creatures such as the volcra, is detailed and thorough).

Bardugo’s characters are undoubtedly the most engaging part of the series, though, and it is because of the characters that I chose to wait to write a review of the entire series, rather than writing individual reviews of the books within it. The main reason for this is that I was not a huge fan of any of the characters (except for The Darkling – more on this later) after reading the first book. I think Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series is largely to blame for this because I found myself constantly comparing Alina to Maas’ main character, Feyre Archeron. Probably it wasn’t the best idea to read the Grisha Trilogy so soon after finishing the ACOTAR series, and I must admit that, if it weren’t for the fact that I had all three novels of the Grisha Trilogy sitting in my house, I may not have actually moved onto the second novel so quickly after the first one. I definitely would have finished the series at some point, but the first novel did not make me that eager to dive into the second right away, which is totally different from my experience of Maas’ trilogy, where I actually rushed out to buy the next two books in the series because I was so shaken by the first. As I said, this difference is mainly due to the striking differences between the two main characters of each of these series – where Feyre is strong-willed, vocal and fierce, I found Alina to be quiet, meek and far too self-conscious. For most of the first novel, Alina doubts her powers and Grisha status, and when she does finally begin to accept that there hasn’t been a mistake (how could there be, since the power did in fact come from her body?), she continuously laments the fact that Grisha are normally born naturally beautiful and she is just plain and unspectacular (in her own eyes, at least). It became tedious to constantly read about Alina’s self-esteem issues, especially because I was hoping to see her develop some internal strength and purpose from her Grisha status – this was her chance to become extraordinary for her talents and abilities and amass confidence from what she has to offer, rather than how she looks. Unfortunately, I found that Alina made it to the end of the novel without ever truly growing or achieving any sort of force or strength of character. Even worse than that, she continued to pine over her childhood friend and crush, Mal Oretsev, who I found to be boring, stereotypical and one-dimensional. He didn’t grow or develop much as a character, either, during the first novel, and I found this very frustrating. (I should say that his character grew on me by the conclusion of the final novel, but I still only really felt as connected to him as I would to any plot device, designed to propel the main characters forward and challenge and interrogate them.)

Like I said, if it wasn’t for the fact that the second novel was sitting on my bookshelf and staring me in the face, it would’ve taken me a lot longer to pick it up after finishing the first novel. I was intrigued by the world and by one character in particular, but I was struggling to like Alina or to feel empathy for her. That all changed with the second novel however, and I think I’m in the minority when I say that the second novel was so much better than the first one for me! Finally, FINALLY, Alina starts to get a sense of direction and purpose, and she has a clear vision for what she hopes to accomplish in Ravka. More importantly, she decides to go after that vision and future, and she becomes defiant in the face of obstacles, and is noticeably more strong-willed. Although she has her internal doubts and fears, as a reader we are called to sympathize with her difficult position of power, and Alina seems much more developed and intricate than she did in the first novel. She also begins to realize that her power is a huge responsibility, and this begins to affect her relationship with Mal in complex ways that are surprising and welcomed. Alina becomes much more of a force to be reckoned with in the second novel, and this continues into the third when she truly comes into her own, begins to hone her powers and becomes a real adversary for The Darkling, who has otherwise commanded and overpowered her at every measure.

Seeing Alina grow into a strong female character is very gratifying, and it also opens her up to have some very interesting interactions with male characters that I found altogether MUCH more complex than Mal. These two male characters, and the way they challenge Alina, were the highlight of the series for me. The first of these characters is Nikolai “Sturmhond” Lantsov, a prince turned pirate (or, in his words, “privateer”) who seeks to take over the throne of Ravka from his ailing father. Nikolai is truly unlike any character I’ve encountered in a long time – he is cocky, over-the-top and witty, and he reminded me in many ways of Henry Higgins with his sharp tongue and unruffled demeanour. He challenges Alina to help him bring peace to Ravka, and their fast repartee is one of the elements of the second and third novels that really stuck out to me. Nikolai is not weak or soft-spoken, and so he forces Alina to use language as a weapon. He teaches her so much about how to be a ruler and what her obligations are, and their relationship is heated and sensual in ways that shock and test Alina.

Despite Nikolai’s strong presence, there is no character in the Grisha Trilogy quite like The Darkling, a “man” who is at once ultimate foe and forever friend. His literally physical as well as emotional connection to Alina is the crux of the entire series: will Alina submit to her powers and join forces with the Grisha whose powers complete hers, or will she choose peace over tyranny? The Darkling is such a complex character in that he is intoxicating but also dangerous. Everything about him draws Alina, and the reader, in and yet there is a latent insanity and desperation to him that is terrifying. The strongest scenes of the entire series, in my opinion, are those when The Darkling and Alina visit each other through their complicated bond – their conversations and interactions in these scenes are fiery and flirtatious, but there is also so much that is alluded to and so many layers of personality that they each peel off of each other. Alina’s powers make her thirsty and hungry for control and dominance, and it is The Darkling who perhaps sees her most clearly, for who she truly is, and encourages her to embrace the fact that she is unlike any other Grisha in history. Although he is a villain in many senses, he is also the only character to let Alina be free in the sense of allowing her to fully use and exercise her powers. This fact is paradoxical because in trying to set Alina free in this way, The Darkling must capture her – to fully give into her powers and abilities, Alina must submit to The Darkling’s master plan for Ravka, which is much less peaceful and inclusive than she would hope. The series becomes all the more complicated as Alina struggles with her inherent desire to be with The Darkling and her simultaneous fear of him, and it is very engrossing to watch this struggle play out as Alina herself becomes more self-assured.

Overall, I would highly recommend this series, as it became much better as it progressed. I always appreciate when a series is not just a series for the sake of it, when the second and third installments are meaningful and add something to the fictional world that would otherwise be lacking. This is definitely the case for the Grisha Trilogy, and while it is not my favourite trilogy that I’ve read this year, it is still certainly a fun ride! If fantasy novels are meant to be an escape, then this is the quintessential fantasy series, and the ending of the final novel was satisfying and utterly rewarding!

A few of my favourite quotes from the novels…

“The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we’d shared, for the love I’d felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again. That grief flooded through me, dissolving a knot that I hadn’t known was there….I’m sorry I left you so long in the dark. I’m sorry, but I’m ready now.

“‘I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him.’”

~ Shadow and Bone

“‘I’m not going to apologize for being ambitious. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m the best man for the job.’”

“‘I’m not a symbol…And I’m tired of being used as a pawn.’”

Stop it…You’re not some scared little girl anymore, shaking in her army-issue boots. You’re a Grisha, the Sun Summoner.

“‘I have loved you all my life, Mal…There is no end to our story.’”

~ Siege and Storm

“‘For all my talk of vows and honor, what I really want is to put you up against that wall and kiss you until you forget you ever knew another man’s name. So tell me to go, Alina. Because I can’t give you a title or an army or any of the things you need.’”

“‘He watches her the way Harshaw watches fire. Like he’ll never have enough of her. Like he’s trying to capture what he can before she’s gone.’”

“‘You are all I’ve ever wanted…You are the whole of my heart.’”

~ Ruin and Rising

  • Shadow and Bone ~ ❥❥❥❥
  • Siege and Storm ~ ❥❥❥❥❥
  • Ruin and Rising ~ ❥❥❥❥❥
  • The Grisha Trilogy (overall) ~ ❥❥❥❥.5

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

High Lady

High Lady

“Night Triumphant – and the Stars Eternal.” ~ A Court of Wings and Ruin Sometimes you get so obsessed with a book that it starts to slowly take over aspects of your entire life. Welcome to my world. These obsessions … Continue reading

Forever Favourites ~ A Court of Mist and Fury & A Court of Wings and Ruin ~ #JNGReads

I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t think I can talk about it at the moment.

Today, I’ve decided to take the role of curator rather than reviewer. It would be very easy for me to go on and on ranting about why Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series is so brilliant…but none of it would be coherent whatsoever. Read my initial review of the first novel in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses itself, and you’ll see why. I could barely form logical sentences upon finishing that one, and now, after spending another month immersed in the world of Prythian, journeying beside Feyre and Rhysand…well, I have nothing concise or legible to write. My brain is basically mush and has been since I finished the third novel in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin, this afternoon in the Starbucks steps away from my home. Never mind that – my heart is mush. The story was touching on so many levels, the chapters towards the end were mind-blowing and heart wrenching, and I think what has me most emotional of all is the fact that it’s all over. I was lucky in that I picked up this series when all three novels were already completed and released, so that I could read them in rapid succession – I say that I was lucky because I didn’t have to wait months or even years before continuing on Feyre’s path with her, and yet, in some ways, I don’t feel lucky at all. I didn’t have to wait, but I also didn’t get to wait. Everything happened so fast, it was an utter whirlwind – I first entered Feyre’s world less than two months ago, and then I lived and breathed in it, got down in the trenches beside her, and now, after so short a time literally but so long and involved a time figuratively, my adventure has come to an end. And yes, I can reread the series endlessly for the rest of my life, but it will never be new for me again, and that is a sad and somewhat nauseating fact.

But, as I said, I don’t have anything productive to say about this series, nothing at all that hasn’t been said by other readers before me. So, instead, I am choosing to present to you some of the quotes I marked during my reading experience, those moments that truly touched me and that I will carry around with me for the rest of my reader’s life. These passages speak for themselves – no commentary is necessary – and it is my honour to present them to you as evidence of why the ACOTAR series is so one of a kind and enthralling. So much of what makes the series incredible is the way that Maas narrates through Feyre, the cadence and rhythm and actual poetry of Feyre’s inner musings and ruminations. It is so very easy to feel as though you are becoming a part of her consciousness, becoming her dear friend and confidante.

A note before all that though: I gushed and raved about A Court of Thorns and Roses the novel after finishing it, and I still think it is brilliant. However, A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin have so much more to offer, the world grows so much larger and becomes more all encompassing, and I must admit that I fell in love with the series when I was in the midst of the second novel. I have to say it: I am Team Rhysand all the way, but not because I am comparing him to Tamlin or because I don’t believe in Feyre’s love for Tamlin and the connection they had. No, I am Team Rhysand, I am so enamoured with that High Lord of the Night Court, because he is Feyre’s true match, because he is her soul mate in every sense of the word, because he lifts her up, literally gives her wings and forces her to battle her demons, raise her voice, stand tall and become the defiant, strong and remarkably inspiring woman she is destined to be. I mentioned in my last blog post that being a man’s mate, for me, as a woman about to be married, means not succumbing to him, being submissive, subservient, quietly protected. For me, it means standing tall, being his protector as much as his protected. Choosing a mate, for me, means finding a man who will support me and who will stand in my corner as I fight my own battles. And Rhysand does just that for Feyre – he makes her his High Lady because he believes in her power, her ability to handle herself, and because he treats her as his true equal, as she rightfully deserves. What’s more, he helps her through her struggles with anxiety and depression, he urges her out of her shell and gives her the space and security to rebuild herself, stone by stone, until she is healed and whole again. As someone who suffers from anxiety and relies heavily on my own mate to navigate through it on a daily basis, I appreciated how gently but affectionately Rhysand helps Feyre through her traumatic experiences. This sort of relationship, of mutual trust and respect, is what we all need as an example in today’s society.

I offer to you, now, the passages in A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin that utterly took my breath away…

A Court of Mist and Fury

*“‘You are no one’s subject….I will say this once–and only once…You can be a pawn, be someone’s reward, and spend the rest of your immortal life bowing and scraping and pretending you’re less than him…If you want to pick that road, then fine. A shame, but it’s your choice…But I know you – more than you realize, I think – and I don’t believe for one damn minute that you’re remotely fine with being a pretty trophy for someone…’”

*“Feminine, soft, pretty. I hadn’t felt like those things in a long, long while. Hadn’t wanted to.”

*“I tried not to flinch away from meeting his stare. ‘She’s mine…And if any of you lay a hand on her, you lose that hand. And then you lose your head…And once Feyre is done killing you…then I’ll grind your bones to dust.’”

*“If I hadn’t been already in love with him, I might have loved him for that – for not insisting I stay, even if it drove his instincts mad, for not locking me away in the aftermath of what had happened yesterday.

And I realized – I realized how badly I’d been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I’d been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.

Rhys’ eyes darkened, and I knew he read what I thought, felt. ‘You might be my mate,’ he said, ‘but you remain your own person. You decide your fate – your choices. Not me. You chose yesterday. You choose every day. Forever.’”

A Court of Wings and Ruin

*“I wasn’t sure I’d been born with the ability to forgive. Not for terrors inflicted on those I loved. For myself, I didn’t care – not nearly as much. But there was some fundamental pillar of steel in me that could not bend or break in this. Could not stomach the idea of letting these people get away with what they’d done.”

*“‘And you are High Lady of the Night Court.’

‘Indeed she is.’

My blood stopped at the voice that drawled from behind me.

At the scent that hit me, awoke me. My friends began smiling.

I turned.

Rhysand leaned against the archway into the sitting room, arms crossed, wings nowhere to be seen, dressed in his usual immaculate black jacket and pants.

And as those violet eyes met mine, as that familiar half smile faded…

My face crumpled. A small, broken noise cracked from me.

Rhys was instantly moving, but my legs had already given out. The foyer carpet cushioned the impact as I sank to my knees.

I covered my face with my hands while the past month crashed into me.

Rhys knelt before me, knee to knee.”

*“It’s all right, Rhys soothed. This place cannot hold you.”

*“I do not let you do anything…You are your own person, you make your own choices. But we are mates – I am yours, and you are mine. We do not let each other do things, as if we dictate the movements of each other. But…I might have insisted I go with you. More for my own mental well-being, just to know you were safe.

*“‘You do not fear…You do not falter. You do not yield….Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.’”

*“I would have waited five hundred more years for you. A thousand years. And if this was all the time we were allowed to have…The wait was worth it.”

It speaks for itself, right?

A Court of Mist and Fury: ❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

A Court of Wings and Ruin: ❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

My Literary Maidens

Apologies are in order…big time!

I am so so sorry that I have been MIA on the blog for almost a month. Trust me, I get it – this is no way to show my appreciation for all you lovely readers!

However, allow me to promise you that a giant, mammoth of a book review is on its way VERY soon. If you follow along with me on Goodreads, or if you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I’ve been buried deep in the world of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series for quite a while now. That’s the reason for my lack of posts – I’ve been so enthralled with my reading, so eager to delve into my book and not put it down for the entire night, that I haven’t actually had anything else to review (although I know this is no excuse, considering I could’ve offered you some lifestyle posts in the meantime – massive apologies again!). I even chose to skip right past writing a review for the second novel in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, because I just wanted to blaze right into the third book instead. And, I did exactly that – I am about two hundred pages away from completing A Court of Wings and Ruin, and my heart is already breaking at the thought. I have so enjoyed living in this world, with Feyre and all of her friends, and I simply do not want it to end. Hence why I have been reading extremely slooowly, savoring every last sentence and image and adventure.

Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time – and I swear, a book review of the entire ACOTAR series is on its way.

Having said that, when I realized a few days ago that I haven’t posted anything here in almost a month, I was horrified! I knew I had to get something out to you, and I also knew that I needed to exercise my writing muscles again, lest they get out of practice. So, on to a bit of a different topic… Here is another wedding-related post for you all…

“You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”

~ Pygmalion

Left to right: Lady Camille, JNG, Lady Courtney and Lady Kailah ❥

I count myself well and truly lucky to have some of the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for. My three best friends, my maidens, my bridesmaids, are among the most inspiring, beautiful and kind women I have ever known, and not only are they a constant source of pride for me, they also treat me with this unwavering respect and love. At times it is overwhelming to fully comprehend how loyal and dedicated they are to me and to our friendships, and they have each been the most incredible helpers throughout my wedding planning experience so far. To borrow from the idea presented in the quote above, my bridesmaids treat me like an absolute queen and make me feel so remarkably special, and I will forever be grateful for that. I cannot wait to return the favour at each of their own weddings! (Note: You can read a detailed post introducing and describing each one of my bridesmaids here.)

Not a single thing in the world could persuade me to change the three women I selected as my bridesmaids because they are the most perfect women that ever walked the planet. Having said that, there is one thing that could persuade me to increase their number – to add a few more ladies to my maiden fold – and that would be if my three favourite females from literature could jump out of the pages of their individual works and become real-life women. I recently found myself thinking about this, wondering which three heroines I would select to join myself and my bridesmaids in all of the wedding planning and events. And, there was absolutely no question – three literary heroines popped into my mind without hesitation, and I truly believe each of these women would fit in so well with my three best friends because they are all quite alike. I like to think I keep very good company, and I believe that even these women of the fictional world would adore my real-life bridesmaids instantly, and vice versa.

~ So, here we have it, my selections for My Literary Maidens (in no particular order, of course). ~

Jane Eyre

“Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien—I forgave him all…”

Was there any doubt that Jane Eyre was going to be on this list? Well, there shouldn’t have been. Jane Eyre is the one literary character that I will always owe so much of my personality, my morals and my convictions to. If I wasn’t such a chicken, I’d already have this Charlotte Brontë inspired tattoo on my skin that I’ve been dreaming up for years now, because that authoress is someone I will forever be indebted to. Jane Eyre, and the novel named after her, taught me so much about love, about soul mates, and about sacrifice. She presented a strong and dignified example to me at the most critical time in my life, when I was just leaving high school, and her story emphasized to me that it is possible to find an all-encompassing love that consumes but does not overcome you. Jane Eyre taught me that love is not an easy road, that there are countless obstacles on the way to finding it and also within a relationship, but that True Love means forgiveness, it means being strong enough to stand up for your love, to fight for it. To have Jane Eyre stand beside me on my wedding day would mean having a true role model in my midst, it would mean acknowledging that fortitude is an aspect of True Love that I will always apply in my own life.

Clare Abshire

“I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a novel that I also read when I was finishing up high school, and it is without doubt on par with Jane Eyre in my green heart. Clare Abshire is a source of undeniable inspiration in that novel, if only because she is constantly waiting for her love (time traveler, Henry DeTamble) to come home to her. Clare puts up with a lot of turmoil and tragedy in her relationship with Henry, and she faces every obstacle with unfailing resolve and impenetrable will. She is the very definition of a strong woman, and she has always been a model for me of how to overcome jealousy, uncertainty and insecurity. Clare is so confident in Henry’s love for her that she doesn’t let the little things, like ex-girlfriends in his life, or even the big things, like his regular absence, to get to her. She has a lot to face and get through in loving Henry, but she tackles each situation with a calm that is utterly remarkable. Clare Abshire taught me that love means being patient, it means waiting for The One and then hanging onto him through thick and thin, being his rock, his anchor. To have Clare Abshire stand beside me on my wedding day would mean acknowledging that True Love really can conquer all, and that the right love will survive all obstacles of time and distance.

Eliza Doolittle

“Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can’t take away the knowledge you gave me….Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself.”

I admit, it was a bit trickier for me to come up with my third literary bridesmaid…but only for about two seconds. Then, it dawned on me, what better bridesmaid to have than the original flower girl, Eliza Doolittle of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Eliza isn’t your classic romantic heroine whatsoever, and that’s what makes her a character that taught me so very much about love and relationships. I read Pygmalion for the first time after starting university, but I’ve been a fan of My Fair Lady since I was something like 6 years old, so Eliza Doolittle has always been a mentor to me. And what a remarkable and unique woman she is – Eliza Doolittle is a woman who does not stand down, who is not flattened or trampled on by any of the men around her. Although she is fond of her professor Henry Higgins, she refuses to have her personality muddled or diluted by him, and she is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Her main objective throughout the entire play is to better herself, to lift herself up in society, and while her pseudo-partner Higgins assists her on her journey and gives her the tools to be a better version of herself, she is the one who gets down and dirty, who battles every day with society’s expectations and uses her indomitable will and strength to get ahead and make a name for herself. Eliza Doolittle is one of the strongest female characters that exists in literature, and that comes from her defiance of societal norms and her desire to question and interrogate the social structures around her. To have Eliza Doolittle stand beside me on my wedding day would mean acknowledging that True Love does NOT mean losing your identity or becoming a mere domestic goddess. It would mean acknowledging that being a woman in love, being a wife, does NOT mean giving up on your dreams or stifling your passions. It would mean proclaiming that the right husband, the right partner, will give you wings to fly and build your own name, for yourself.

With friends like these, how could a girl go wrong? My three real-life best friends and my three fictional ones are the pillars of my personality, the puzzle pieces that go together perfectly to make me into the woman I am today, the one that my fiancé fell in love with. Without each of them, I would be nowhere close to who I am at this moment, and I am so honoured that each of them will play a part in my Big Day…because believe me, I plan to make Jane and Clare and Eliza a real presence on my wedding day, even if they can’t be there in person…so stay tuned for posts about that in the future!

See you all again very soon, I promise!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Truly Unexpected Favourite ~ A Court of Thorns and Roses ~ #JNGReads

What on Earth did I just read?!?!?!

I rarely do this. I rarely sit down and write a review only moments after finishing a book, especially if it’s after 10:00pm on a weekday, but this time, I just couldn’t resist.

I am in shock – complete and utter, mind-bending, soul-altering shock – from what I experienced. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow.

I have to admit, I was expecting to enjoy Sarah J. Maas’ novel A Court of Thorns and Roses. Read the description of it, online, on Goodreads, anywhere you can find it – it is a novel right up my alley: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a strong and defiant heroine, battling it out against unique and terrifying villains, all in the hopes of saving her beloved. Sign me up. My only source of hesitation when picking up the novel was its genre – fantasy is not my thing whatsoever (Unpopular opinion time: I struggle to get through episodes of Game of Thrones that my fiancé finds incredible and heart wrenching, because I find that show DULL!), and so I had this feeling that I would like ACOTAR, but that I wouldn’t love it.

Well, I was freakin’ wrong on all accounts, and I am more shocked than anyone about it (except, perhaps, for my fiancé who can’t believe that a book of high fantasy had me gasping and writhing on our couch). Holy ****, I don’t even know how to describe what I’ve just experienced. This book is INCREDIBLE and I LOVED it!!!

Okay, how to put into words the emotions that are currently swirling in my chest… I have no idea. I need to try to be calm and rational about this, but it is so so hard, and if you’ve heard of ACOTAR at all or read any reviews, you’ll know why I’m so shaken. It is just that good. Like I said, I was NOT expecting to react this strongly or be this sucked into a fantasy world, but Maas’ writing is so intricate and detailed and consuming that I couldn’t stop myself from being overtaken. And more than that, I am completely overwhelmed by the story – it delivered every possible emotion; I felt horror and fear and anxiety and joy and love; it was romantic and funny and suspenseful and terrifying. It was everything, absolutely EVERYTHING that literature and fiction should be because it effortlessly transported me to another world. I was so enveloped in Feyre’s world that I almost forgot where I was at times, that I was able to ignore my real-life anxieties and obligations and go on a wonderful and awesome adventure. This, this, is what reading is all about!

Alright, let me try to properly articulate what I loved about A Court of Thorns and Roses… Everything!!! No, focus, be more detailed than that…

~ I loved the world, the setting. This surprised me more than anything. As I mentioned, I’m not one for all that fantasy stuff, and although I don’t mind reading about a fairy every now and then, I can’t say that I crave entering mythical or magical lands all that often. Having said that, Maas creates a world that is recognizable and relatable, but tinged with just enough magic to make it intriguing. Fantasy truly is the perfect word for it because I felt like Prythian was the ideal place to live, full of human comforts and familiarity, but also laced with wonders and immense beauty. I totally felt like I was living there because Maas’ descriptions were so breathtaking, and to be frank, I’d like to head back there right now.

~ I loved Feyre. I’ve heard criticism of her, and I’ll admit that I was SUPER annoyed when she couldn’t figure out the simplest riddle in all of existence, but she kick assed and I loved it! She is a strong, defiant and utterly brave female character, and she is about a million times more resourceful and resilient than her male counterparts. This is the type of female character that we need in this day and age, and when things got ridiculously intense at the end of the novel, I was on Feyre’s side every step of the way. I think she made all the right decisions, and I was in awe of her heart and her passion. I like to think that I’m similar to her in many ways, in my loyalty above all things, and she really did inspire me to stand tall and walk with my chin held high under all circumstances. Go Feyre!

~ I loved Rhysand. This is probably shameful, but this is where I’m at by the end of this epic novel. I don’t understand Rhysand, I have no real idea what he’s up to or what’s going on, but I like him. He’s mysterious and I just know that he’s misunderstood and has a kind heart way underneath his pale skin, and I’m sorry, but any time I sense even a bit of Mr. Rochester in a male character, I’m going to fall for him. It’s complicated, definitely, but I feel like something good is happening between him and Feyre, so I’m just going to go with it. He was there for her when it counted, when no one else was, and for that, I give him points. And, also, this scene…I mean, come on, I didn’t stand a chance…

“The pain shot through my bones again, and through my increasing hysteria, I heard words inside my head that stopped me short.

Don’t let her see you cry.

Put your hands at your sides and stand up.

I couldn’t. I couldn’t move.

Stand. Don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing you break.

My knees and spine, not entirely of my own will, forced me upright, and when the ground at last stopped moving, I looked at Amarantha with tearless eyes.

Good, Rhysand told me. Stare her down. No tears – wait until you’re back in your cell.

….Good girl. Now walk away. Turn on your heel – good. Walk toward the door. Keep your chin high. Let the crowd part. One step after another.

I listened to him, let him keep me tethered to sanity…”

~ I wanted to love Tamlin. I think I was supposed to love him, but in typical Victorian heroine fashion, I let a more interesting male character distract me. Tamlin was bland, if I’m honest, and he didn’t really do much of anything. Even his “romantic” interactions with Feyre weren’t all that spicy or intoxicating. However, I understand that it was important for him to be the likable good guy in order for Feyre’s willingness to die for him to be believable. If anything, though, I saw him as more of a plot device to get Feyre Under the Mountain, and that was just fine – but, the fact is, I’m not enamoured with him and I’m more interested in Feyre’s personal journey in the coming books than with her relationship with him.

~ I loved this entire reading experience. I can’t emphasize enough that A Court of Thorns and Roses delivers exactly what every reader should want: a true escape. I was whisked away to an entirely different realm and I was absorbed for every single second of my journey. The final third of the novel is full of such suspense and agony and uncertainty that I was actually shaken and left totally unnerved. I found it hard to concentrate on anything else, or even to sleep, because I kept dwelling on Feyre’s dilemma – it was that intense.

This reading experience was passionate for me, all encompassing and profound, and I am so glad that I decided to buy the second and third installment of the series this past weekend so I can dive back into the story right away. There must’ve been flaws with this novel, I’m sure there were, but I can’t even think about them because I’m too overjoyed and excited about how intricate the story was and how many new friends I’ve made in its pages. This reading experience was simply breathtaking, and I would highly recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses to any reader that wants to get away for awhile and be consumed by a world both different from and yet satisfyingly similar to our own.

On to the next novel – but seriously, I’m cracking open its spine tonight!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ A new favourite!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Reluctantly Charmed – #JNGReads

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill is a pleasant, charming read, and was the last book I needed to finish to complete my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. In hindsight, I set my goal pretty low, planning to read only 18 books in 2017, and the fact that I accomplished my goal within the first four months of the year is testament to the fact that most of the books I’ve read recently have been light, fun and airy. Reluctantly Charmed, in that way, was a very fitting end to my Reading Challenge, because it is quite possibly one of the airiest novels I’ve ever read. Now, I don’t mean that as a criticism whatsoever – it is true that O’Neill’s story is quite simplistic and is written in a straight forward and uncomplicated style, but if you are a fan of chick lit. with a unique twist, then this would absolutely be the book for you. Although it isn’t jam-packed with twists and turns and complex plotlines, it is the quintessential garden read, the perfect book to read in a park, under a tall, full tree, with an iced tea in hand.

I thoroughly enjoyed Reluctantly Charmed and I probably would’ve given it a 4-star rating, until I reached the last 100 pages. At that point in the novel, about 3 quarters of the way through when the main conflict was being revealed, my interest started to wane and I became a bit bored with the story and the characters, a touch restless and ready to be done with it. Prior to that point though, I found the story to be lovely and the adjective I used before, charming, is probably the best way to sum up the entire novel. Set in Ireland and heavily drenched in folklore and fairy culture, Reluctantly Charmed really did a perfect job of creating a distinct ambiance and feeling. It was so clearly set in Ireland, and you could feel that in every page because of how the characters spoke and the descriptions of the environment and the references to magic and fairy stories. The Irish setting was subtle though, and it was never overpowering to read descriptions of the country or its people – I do have to say that my favourite part of the novel was how clearly and powerfully Irish culture figured in all of it.

I also enjoyed reading from Kate McDaid’s perspective, and I found her to be an endearing character. However, I found that her clear narrative voice did become a touch diluted in those last 100 pages of the novel, and perhaps that is because this marked the point when Kate began to believe in the fairies. It sort of felt as though Kate got to the conclusion of believing in The Seven Steps her ancestor left to her and acknowledging her connection to the fairies in Ireland without doing any real soul searching or without any internal observation or reflection. All of a sudden, Kate remembered her fairy friend from her childhood and she accepted that her ancestor was in fact a witch, but this all happened almost as soon as she set foot in the rural town of Knocknamee, almost as if leaving Dublin caused her to open herself up to magical possibilities. That is all well and good and actually makes a lot of sense considering that Knocknamee is the site of the fairies in The Seven Steps Kate publishes, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit more internal monologue from Kate actually marking her change in feelings toward the magic around her. Overall though, I enjoyed reading from Kate’s perspective and she was a fun character to follow.

What bothered me about the last 100 pages of the novel, I suppose, is the fact that Kate’s voice and the overall storytelling style started to become a bit too mundane. In the rest of the novel, Kate has such a witty, comical personality and when she narrates, this personality really shines through. I found that, as soon as Kate made it to Knocknamee, her narration was less engaging and enjoyable to read, and even her romance with Hugh seemed to be watered down and less exciting than it was when Kate was at her office in Dublin. I think maybe O’Neill intended for Kate’s narrative style to change slightly toward the end of the novel because she is becoming tired and her journey is slowly starting to take some of her strength away from her, but again I think some introspection on Kate’s part would’ve clarified that and made the reader empathize with her a touch more. I also found the ultimate resolution with The Seven Steps to be a bit frustrating, because I desperately wanted the fairies to be good and innocent, for Kate’s sake. I was enchanted throughout the novel by the idea of fairies inhabiting Ireland, and to give them a sinister, evil edge at the very end of the story sort of felt dishonest to me. In a way, I was rooting for Kate to believe in the fairies all along, particularly when she was reluctant (which was for most of the novel, as the title suggests), and to see her finally believe and begin to embrace her history and connection to the fairies only to then have her almost punished for that trust seemed like a huge let-down. For that reason, I had to reduce my rating of the book because it just left me disheartened, especially compared to how cute and fun the story was in the beginning.

Ultimately, I would recommend Reluctantly Charmed as a quick and easy spring or summertime read. It was nice and not at all stressful to get swept up in, and I think that many younger adults would probably really enjoy the magical realism elements and the quirkiness of the narrator.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Tale as Old as Time – #JNGWatches

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

here’s where she meets Prince Charming

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

~ Belle

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

~ Beauty and the Beast ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Thousand Pieces of You

I’ve finished reading my most recent foray into the Young Adult genre, A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray.

Let me start by saying what so many other readers have said before… The cover of this novel is gorgeous! The artistic, almost watercolour depiction of 2 cities merged is truly unique and mesmerizing. It is what drew me to the book originally and even several of my colleagues commented on how beautiful it was.

A Thousand Pieces of You

But, there is that age-old adage, Don’t judge a book by its cover, and unfortunately, I think it is true of A Thousand Pieces of You. The novel wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t as totally intriguing and creative as the cover would suggest; it was an interesting and different storyline, but it still felt distinctly juvenile and that is a real shame to me.

The premise of the novel was very cool: Marguerite, the daughter of two brilliant scientists, travels between multiple dimensions, trying to catch her father’s murderer. Along the way, she gets to live some really different lives, some futuristic and others more rustic. She’s even a member of royalty in one. The cornerstone of any YA novel, a love triangle, is present, and Marguerite does get to develop a fascinating, multi-layered relationship with her parents’ student Paul. This all makes for a fun ride, and one that I did finish rather quickly because I found the writing style easy to get through and enjoyable.

However, there were moments when I felt that this novel was almost insulting to the reader’s intelligence a little. YA novels are often criticized for being simplistic, and I do NOT believe that is true or fair at all; I have read some brilliant and very powerful YA novels that really touched me. I do feel, though, that any time a book dabbles in science fiction, it can be tricky. There are just too many plotholes that can emerge and too many variables that are open to being left unexplained. That would be my one main criticism of A Thousand Pieces of You: it didn’t explain the science behind interdimensional travel thoroughly enough. Details about how it all happens logistically, why some memories linger and others don’t, were glossed over too quickly. For example, it didn’t make sense to me that when Marguerite awoke in Russia, she would be fluent in Russian; does a person’s knowledge of language remain in their original body even if their memories are overtaken by a different version of them? Furthermore, Paul and his fellow student Theo were able to too easily understand the science of very advanced dimensions, such as one where everyone lived underwater, almost as if they retained memories from the versions of themselves that lived in that dimension. But at the same time, some geographical knowledge and all memories were still missing for them. It also didn’t make sense to me that Marguerite could do a bunch of water-related scientific calculations seemingly at random, while simultaneously admitting that nothing about this new dimension was consciously familiar to her. I want to believe that all will be explained in the future novels in this series, and I do hope for that.

The novel did also end on a cliffhanger, with absolutely none of the major conflicts specific to this story resolved (such as whether or not Marguerite will confront Wyatt Conley). Again, I’m assuming this will be investigated in future novels.

Having said all that, I did enjoy A Thousand Pieces of You. It was a fun summer read and a perfect respite from the heavier literature (an Austen and an Atwood novel) I just finished. And there were some romantic moments which were lovely for the warmer summer days. I’ll leave you with one of my favourites…

“I meant it when I said I didn’t believe in love at first sight. It takes time to really, truly fall for someone. Yet I believe in a MOMENT. A moment when you glimpse the truth within you. In that moment, you don’t belong to yourself any long, not completely. Part of you belongs to him; part of him belongs to you. After that, you can’t take it back, no matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you try.”

❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Green Dwarf – A Study of Young Charlotte, Part IV

The Green Dwarf

The End.

I have now finished reading every work by Charlotte Brontë that I can get my hands on. Her novels have been my old companions for years, her poetry took me no time to delve into at all, and now I have come to the end of my study of her juvenilia, the short stories and novellas she wrote in her teenage years. I’ve recently written detailed reviews of The Secret, The Spell and The Foundling, and today I’ll be documenting my thoughts on The Green Dwarf, written down as I was in the process of reading.

I have to say, I had higher hopes for The Green Dwarf, probably because it’s green. I really hoped that it would be my favourite of the four juvenile works I own, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. I found that there were too many loose threads, too many moments of seemingly random narration that I couldn’t make sense of. The plot jumps around a lot, and although everything is pretty clearly connected at the end, the process of reading isn’t all that smooth because of the various stories that don’t seem totally related initially.

But, let’s not forget that this is a novella by Charlotte Brontë, and so I loved it even if it wasn’t my absolute favourite. The style is so totally Charlotte that I enjoyed the cadence of the sentences, and I appreciate that Charlotte puts such intricate detail into each of her characters. The novella tries to accomplish a lot, and it delivers a few surprises in the end, so overall, I did enjoy it. I just preferred her other novellas and stories to this one.

Here are my notes, written while reading The Green Dwarf:

  • Charles Wellesley is this story’s narrator too (along with The Spell) = he has been sick and this explains why he has not written in awhile = mirrors CB’s life because she was away at Roe Head School.
  • a random and slow start = what does Charles’ day have to do with the story the synopsis describes?
  • reference to feud between Charles and Captain Tree (narrator of The Foundling) = CB writes as two enemies, depending on her mood I suppose.
  • Marquis of Douro (Arthur, Charles’ brother = also Zamorna) is featured! = antipathy between the two brothers.
  • “Of course, Bud, according to the universal fashion of storytellers, refused at first…” = Wellesley is planning to tell story told to him by Bud, not “in the original form of words…but strictly preserving the sense and facts.” = some artistic license to the narrator.
  • conversation between Bud and Gifford is so random! I have no idea what it has to do with the story in the synopsis!
  • Lady Emily Charlesworth has enormous potential and mental faculties BUT, as a woman, she is doomed to be married and focus on pretty, feminine accomplishments. “…that’s the way of all women. They think of nothing but being married, while learning is as dust in the balance.”
  • anecdote about Napoleon is VERY random and out of place! So far, the structure and trajectory of this story confuses me immensely!
  • Lady Emily = “Her form was exquisitely elegant, though not above the middle size…” = another small but beautiful woman.
  • episode of boy selling his soul to the devil is very random (if that’s even what’s happening) and seems unnecessary = lots of moments in the story do not “fit” together!
  • Lady Emily’s lineage is confusing and inconsistent = is Lord Charlesworth her only relative or is Bravey her uncle, as CB indicates in the passage about the African Olympic Games?!
  • S’death visiting Colonel Percy = another random, loose thread to the story.
  • “Rogue – Percy, I mean…” = another narrator reveals a character’s true identity = is Colonel Percy none other than Alexander Rogue (Marquis of Douro/Zamorna’s enemy from The Foundling)?
  • detailing of history of Ashantee tribes and prince Quashie is evidence of Charlotte’s admirable commitment to creating vast backgrounds for each of her characters – and keeping them all straight! However, this divergence from the main plot seems very random and it is hard to tell where in chronology it belongs!
  • “It may now be as well to connect the broken thread of my rambling narrative before I proceed further.”
  • details of Duke of Wellington’s war with Ashantees seem so out of place in this “love story” = they could form a different work altogether!
  • the threads tie up rather conveniently and too quickly…BUT then CB has some surprises in store! [SPOILERS!] = Colonel Percy is in fact Zamorna’s enemy Alexander Rogue! = and Andrew (main character’s servant, the green dwarf) is Captain Tree (Charles Wellesley’s enemy and the narrator of The Foundling).

To sum up my thoughts on the story, I have to say that the surprises at the end were worth the journey. It’s a small text, amounting to just over 100 pages, and so it is definitely a fun and light ride that reveals much of Charlotte’s experimentation and growth as a writer.

My final comment on Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia will be to rank the stories in order of my preference…

4) The Green Dwarf

3) The Foundling

2) The Secret

1) The Spell

I would definitely recommend any and all of these texts to true fans of Miss Brontë! It is fascinating to get into the mind of the young Charlotte, and it develops an intimacy between the reader and this formidable Victorian author that is valuable beyond words.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart