A Busy Day of Reading and Watching ~ New Recommendations!

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

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins

This song relates perfectly to this YA novel…

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

***********

Doctor Thorne

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

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

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

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

***********

Fleabag

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

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

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

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

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

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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

An Enchantment of Ravens ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

If We Were a Movie ~ #JNGWatches & #JNGWeds

Why would anyone have a Christmas wedding?

Isn’t that time of year busy enough already?

Welcome to wedding month here at The World of my Green Heart!

That’s right, my wedding is only ONE MONTH away, and it’s high time to hunker down and let all you dear Readers in on some of the details of my Big Day. Obviously, once the day has come and gone, I’ll be posting pictures like mad and discussing exactly how it went…but, there are also a few aspects of the planning process I’d like to discuss with you all before I tie the knot. So, with that in mind, I’ll be publishing wedding-inspired posts from now until the wedding day, amongst my regular book reviews and literary posts.

Let’s start off by addressing those questions above, which I’ve heard on a semi-regular basis ever since I started planning my Christmas wedding. I get it, people – Christmas is a stressful time for some. I personally don’t get it because I don’t see how anyone could be sad or frustrated at such a beautiful time of year, but fine, I accept that there are a lot of people who do. Why they think they can criticize my wedding is beyond me, but I’ve grown a thicker skin in recent years than I expected I ever would, so to the “haters” I say, Bring it on!

That being said, it is a valid question in some regards – having a Christmas wedding is quite unique, so I do always like to offer an explanation for why I have ALWAYS wanted a Christmas wedding…

Much of it stems from my love of the Victorian era, no doubt about it. Very few people know this, but Queen Victoria (my one true queen, forever and always) and her beloved husband Prince Albert were the two monarchs that popularized the celebration of Christmas, as we know it today. Many of the traditions they established were of German origin, which makes sense when you consider that both Albert as well as Victoria’s mother were German, and these very traditions became popular worldwide in the 1840’s and 1850’s. If you don’t believe me that we still follow the Victorian model when celebrating Christmas to this very day, you need only look so far as the nearest Christmas tree: Prince Albert was the man who brought the Christmas tree to Britain, so we have him to thank for the décor and atmosphere we so appreciate in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

But, I’m not going to lie, I developed this urge to have a Christmas wedding long before I ever read my first Victorian novel (which was, naturally, Jane Eyre). It all started back when I was in early high school and began religiously (considering I’m not religious at all, I am using that word consciously) watching Hallmark movies every Christmas. A lot of people find these to be the cheesiest movies on the planet, and that’s totally fine…but ever since I watched my first one, I was totally captivated! Yup, everything ends up happy, every single time. Yup, the characters are pretty simple and have relatively drama-free lives. Yup, True Love prevails, always. What is there not to love about that? These movies follow basic plot structures and archetypes, but if you actually sit down to analyze them, you’ll see that many of these structures come from the Victorian novel genre, in which the story ends with a marriage or a happily ever after union, and all the strife and stress is replaced by the most ideal and romantic love that ever existed on this planet. How is a Hallmark movie very different from Jane Eyre? It isn’t, I would argue, and perhaps my penchant for Victorian tales is not so difficult to figure out after all, considering my forever love of the Hallmark movie genre.

With all that said, I want to leave you with a list of my all-time favourite (until next year, anyway) Hallmark/TV Christmas movies. I sincerely believe that my fiancé and I have a romance like something out of one of these movies, and so what better way to celebrate it than with the most epic Christmas wedding?

The Very Best Hallmark/TV Christmas Movies

(Long live the Hallmark Channel!)

  1. Merry Matrimony
  2. December Bride

~ These two movies both star Jessica Lowndes, who is beautiful but also absolutely adorable and sugary sweet. I kid you not, they were the inspiration for much of the décor of my wedding – poinsettias and evergreens, holly and mistletoe, reds and greens and golds. I made my fiancé watch both these films recently and I told him, “See that…that’s the wedding we’re going to have!” And we seriously are!

  1. A Bride for Christmas

~ The name says it all. Again, this movie features a wedding (I doubt that’s a spoiler at this point) which features a giant and absolutely gorgeous Christmas tree! A large Christmas tree smack dab in the middle of your wedding venue? Why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait, I did…all because of this movie!

  1. The Mistletoe Promise

~ This movie is a bit funnier, wittier and sexier than your average Hallmark movie. The two main characters don’t really believe in love and aren’t looking for a serious relationship…but of course, we all know that’s not going to last long!

  1. A Holiday Engagement

~ If this movie doesn’t make you cry, particularly when the main character sings, then you’re heartless…or just not a Christmas softie like I am. In any case, this is one of my fiancé’s favourite Christmas movies.

  1. Love You Like Christmas

~ This is another of my fiancé’s favourites, which we only discovered recently. I myself am also particularly fond of the storyline where a hardworking protagonist realizes that they’re giving too much of themself to their career and decides to slow down a little and open themself up to love.

  1. A Christmas Kiss

~ There are at least three movies in this “series” that I know of, each of them revolving around an unexpected Christmas kiss which I am 100% down for! These movies are a lot of fun!

  1. Holiday High School Reunion (aka Christmas Crush)
  2. A Crown for Christmas
  3. A Royal Christmas

~ Rachel Boston, Danica McKellar and Lacey Chabert can do no wrong as leads. Enough said. Watch anything they’re in ASAP!

  1. Once Upon a Holiday

~ A recent favourite of mine that I unexpectedly found on Netflix and LOVED! This is a bit of a role reversal, where the female lead is the royal and she falls in love with a man that is not royal. It’s freaking AWESOME and Briana Evigan and Paul Campbell are absolute PERFECTION!

This list could seriously go on and on because while writing this post, I swear I thought of about 10 other movies you should all watch. But, let’s start with this (substantial) list, shall we?

Go grab a cuppa hot cocoa and get crackin’! And let me know what you think of these films below…

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Return of Queen V ~ #JNGWatches

Long may she reign.

You all didn’t think the trailer for the second season of ITV’s popular drama Victoria would come out without me writing a blog post, did you?  I hope not, because if you know me well, you’ll know that I’ve been waiting for this trailer for half a year, desperately wanting to know what will happen next for Queen Victoria and her dashing Prince Albert.

I was more than a little obsessed with Victoria when it originally aired (I even wrote reviews of every single episode, the first of which you can read here), mainly because it encapsulated absolutely everything I look for in a television show and story!  It was gorgeously rendered, visually intoxicating, expertly acted, dramatic, funny and entertaining!  It was a class act production, from the sumptuous costumes to the jaw-dropping sets to the extraordinary acting talents of Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell and many others.  I was blown away by the entire thing, and so happy to see the Victorian era and this impressive, modern-minded queen coming into the spotlight.

The first season ended on a great note, with Victoria giving birth to her first child and grappling with what it means to be a wife and mother while simultaneously being a queen.  This is an interesting dual identity to explore and it is clear from the season two trailer that Victoria’s struggles with domesticity will be emphasized and interrogated.  The trailer does suggest, though, that this season will be even more romantic than the first (if that’s even possible because the first one was an absolute romantic masterpiece!), and it seems that Victoria and Albert’s marriage will not only be put to the test but will also grow stronger and more solidified as they face issues together as a strong family unit.

Okay, so let’s get into this.  I’m going to break apart some of the things I noticed from this dense trailer, the things that stood out to me and that I am most excited for…

(Sidenote: this probably marks my 15th time watching this trailer in the last day…it is totally addictive and there is just so much to take in!)

  • First of all, can I just say that the music in this trailer is perfection?! It sounds very similar to the title theme of the show (which is also absolutely gorgeous and is actually my alarm clock tone) and so has very Victorian instrumental notes, but then it becomes clear that it is a modern song and I think this juxtaposition of the Victorian imagery with this contemporary music emphasizes the fact that this show is modern in many ways and that Queen Victoria’s story can easily be applied to and enjoyed in the 21st century.
  • The imagery and aesthetic is breathtaking for this entire trailer. I like that it focuses solely on Victoria, and on other characters in relation to her, and the way the camera focuses on her and creates beautiful pictures/almost portraits of her is really romantic and gives the reader a warm and intimate feeling.  We are watching Victoria in her most personal moments and it truly does feel like we know her, like we are friends with her or living through her, even in such a short trailer.

“Do you remember kissing me here before we were married?  Everything was simpler then.” ~ Victoria to Albert

  • Oh yes, Victoria, we remember…talk about one of the most romantic scenes of season 1! Having said that, I love how soft and gentle Jenna’s voice is here, and I love that is it clear that she is not only reminiscing on the start of her romance with Albert, she is also a little bit wistful and depressed.  It is clear that she wishes to go back to easier times, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out throughout the season and in her relationship with her daughter.
  • Also, it has to be said that Victoria’s black, crushed velvet dress is probably the most beautiful dress I’ve seen on this show so far! Totally jealous!
  • I love how often Victoria’s hair is down in this trailer, especially in that moment where she is walking with her horse and Albert. It harkens back to Albert’s statement in season 1 that he likes when her hair is down because she is unbound and seems more human and less of a queen.  It’s nice to see that she is allowing herself to be a woman, and not a monarch, in quiet moments with her husband.

“You will always be my beloved.” ~ Albert to Victoria

  • Trust Albert to swoop in and say something ridiculously adorable and sexy right when it seems like Victoria is feeling emotional and vulnerable. Be still, my heart!
  • It’s fascinating to think that the show is going to explore elements of postpartum depression, and how debilitating this must feel for Victoria, considering that she is a queen and is meant to be strong and powerful. I like that the show is willing to delve into mental health issues, and I have no doubt they will do so with grace and tact and that it will add a very interesting layer to Victoria’s character.
  • When the music picks up and all these images are swirling together, particularly Victoria’s corset being adjusted and her in different social situations, like riding and at dances…just wow! This section of the trailer is so artfully done and it encompasses so much without being overbearing.

“To be a queen, I must rule.  Yet to be a wife, it seems I must submit.” ~ Victoria

  • I feel that this is a struggle that women still face: how to be a wife and mother and still enter the workforce, have dreams and goals and talents. This is undoubtedly a tough position to be in, probably more so if one is a monarch, and as a young woman about to get married herself, I am very interested to see how Victoria manages this split identity.
  • I don’t even want to know why it shows Victoria in mourning clothes. I’m not ready to go there just yet!

“God had nothing to do with it.” ~ Victoria

  • I love that Victoria’s sassy nature is coming out again this season, and I also think it will be interesting to see her get frustrated with her family members once again, particularly her mother. She is very in tune to what people say and think, and I am eager to see her deliver some powerful speeches and one liners again.
  • Did Victoria throw something at Albert? Yes, it appears so!  Haha, I love it…that will be an amazing and dramatic scene to see!  (And I should say that this was my fiancé’s favourite moment in the entire trailer.)
  • That last image of Victoria waving like the true queen she is…exquisite!

I have no doubt that this second season of Victoria is going to be spectacular!  Here’s hoping ITV and Masterpiece release a few more teasers in the months to come.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The White Queen – #JNGReads

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory is a novel that I am quite confused about and am finding difficult to review. This is partly because I don’t even know that it should be classified as a novel, and the writing style and structure doesn’t really fit exactly within my knowledge of the genre of historical fiction.

I picked up The White Queen because of my eagerness to read another novel in the series it is part of, The White Princess. I recently came across photos for the new TV series based on The White Princess, and I immediately wanted to watch it, but I knew that it would be a better idea to read the book first. I then remembered wanting to watch the series The White Queen as well, and since I knew that it was also based on one of Gregory’s novels, I decided to read it first, watch The White Queen, and then move onto the story of her daughter, the White Princess.

Well, after finishing The White Queen, I am still eager to watch the TV adaptation and read The White Princess, but I do have to admit that The White Queen was not written at all how I expected it to be. My only other experience of Gregory’s writing was in reading her more famous book The Other Boleyn Girl, as well as The Virgin’s Lover, which comes a few books after the story of the Boleyn sisters. I read both of those novels when I was in high school, and I remember enjoying them immensely. I’ve always liked historical fiction, both when it comes to literature and to other types of media like movies and TV, and I do know that I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and The Virgin’s Lover very much because they were addictive and highly entertaining and transported me straight to regal England. The descriptions and scenes were vivid and detailed, and I felt immersed in the lives of the characters. I know that much of Gregory’s storylines and the interactions between her characters were fictionalized, but I also felt like I achieved a better understanding of the time period she wrote of and I actually did feel like I learned many things about the history of England and some of its most famous monarchs. Amidst all of that though, I did grow attached to the characters, their struggles and anxieties in trying to maintain power and authority, and I felt as though I had an invested interest in their lives and their tragedies and triumphs.

With The White Queen, things were a bit different, and I feel that all I received really was a history lesson. This is largely due to how the novel is written. In The White Queen, Gregory adopts a style where she basically summarizes a great deal of information into not so many pages. I honestly don’t think there was even much dialogue in The White Queen, and when there was, it was incredibly simplistic, to the point and often very dry. (Sidenote: I will say that the last quarter of the novel featured much more dialogue, and the conversations between The White Queen and her daughter Elizabeth, the future White Princess, were quite tense and interesting – but I don’t know that they made up for the lack of dialogue and connection between the characters in the first three quarters of the novel.) Gregory does a great job of running through the events of Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s reign and marriage to King Edward, but it is unclear why she even chose Elizabeth to narrate the story because there is nothing unique or outstanding about Elizabeth’s voice. At times, it felt as though I was reading a history textbook, devoid of bias or personal interest, and this just didn’t seem to jive with the fact that Elizabeth does in fact have a distinct role and influence in her husband’s reign. At the same time that the story was written in textbook style, however, it was also missing any concrete facts or hard-hitting details; Gregory glossed over a lot of gritty, nuanced historical information, and instead summarized battles and feuds in a handful of pages or less. She does cover a remarkable number of years in her story, but there isn’t any real character development throughout because we never really get to hear her character’s speak or see them in action. Instead, it is almost as if we are being told a story in conversation, as if anecdotes and events are being recounted to us without depth or any real insight into the causes and factors behind and surrounding them.

I have also read several reviews on Goodreads in which fellow readers said that they found The White Queen to be very repetitive, and I definitely have to agree with that assessment. Certain phrases were repeated, verbatim, within mere pages, and Gregory mentioned characters’ titles constantly, almost as if she needed to remind the reader every time a person was mentioned, who exactly they were. The main characters appear so frequently, though, and the novel is only just over 400 pages long, so I found it very unnecessary to read that George was the Duke of Clarence or Thomas was Elizabeth’s Grey son on every other page. It just made my reading experience that much more tedious. Gregory also goes so far as to repeat ideas over and over, particularly when Elizabeth is reflecting on the politics of her husband’s reign and her royal position. It is almost as though we are witness to the constant obsessing that Elizabeth does, but because she never adds anything new to her reflections, this is more frustrating than insightful. However, despite all the repetition (which I sort of think is just be evidence of lazy writing), Gregory’s tale does flow very nicely, and once you get into the hang of reading it, it is very easy to get through many pages in one sitting. It’s somewhat of a strange paradox when you think about it, and perhaps the fact that Gregory’s writing is so repetitive makes it that much less complicated and easier to blast through rapidly. Who knows?

The thing that makes it so difficult to review The White Queen, though, is that I still found it really interesting and enjoyed reading it, in spite of its many flaws. It was definitely frustrating to get so little information about specific characters and to feel as though historical details were being diluted and washed over, while at the same time having some phrases and ideas incessantly repeated, but I still did find myself entertained as I read. It’s true that I didn’t have any strong emotional connection to any one character, but I certainly wasn’t dreading reading more of the book, and on the contrary, I found that when I did have a moment to sit down and read it, I got through many pages quite quickly because of the smooth and fluid style.

The best I can say, I guess, is that The White Queen is an average novel. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, especially because I remembered Gregory’s style to be more rich and opulent. But, I do think it will make an incredible TV series because there is so much subject matter to be treated and there are so many dialogues I can imagine coming out of scenes that Gregory somewhat flitted past. I’ll certainly be interested to watch The White Queen, and I do still intend to read The White Princess to see if Gregory perhaps developed a more detailed style and a knack for getting inside the minds of these particular characters later in the series.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

God Save the Queen – #JNGReads

victoria

My second read of 2017 is already under my belt, and we’re not even halfway through January. That’s 2 out of my Goodreads goal of 18 for the year down – go me! Right on schedule.

I’ve just finished reading Daisy Goodwin’s historical fiction novel Victoria. Now, it’s a well-known fact that I am a huge fan of both Victorian literature and the monarch who gave her name to this era, and I did in fact watch the entire ITV series Victoria when it was released. So, for that reason, this was a bit of a strange reading experience for me. I normally make it a point to never read a book after seeing the film or TV adaptation. The only time I ever did that (until now) was in high school, when I had to read Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s for a Writer’s Craft assignment. Obviously I was already very familiar with the classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn, and I found it extremely difficult to fall in love with Capote’s tale because I was constantly comparing it to the film version. I also read that Capote really did not like Audrey in the role of Holly Golightly, but I could not stop myself from picturing her as I read, so I feel like I never had a natural, authentic reading experience. I just wasn’t able to fully appreciate Capote’s text and prose, and it has been one of my least favourite literary texts ever since.

I desperately did not want the same thing to happen with Goodwin’s Victoria. I absolutely ADORED the ITV series of the same name, so I was equally eager and wary to read the literary equivalent. I was at once afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell out of my head when reading about Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, as well as desperate to have a chance to continue experiencing the story that I fell so in love with while watching the TV show. I have to say that, now that I have finished reading the novel, I am still very conflicted about whether or not I am happy that I had watched the TV series prior to reading the story. Part of me wishes that I hadn’t because the plot was much less surprising given the fact that much of the dialogue was taken directly from the show and many of the scenes paralleled each other. On the other hand, the novel did go into greater depth during the most significant scenes, and if anything, I felt that it added subtle details and intricacies to the moments from the series that I was most fond of. It’s really hard to rate Victoria for all these reasons – I feel like I can’t quite judge it on its own, as a novel in its own right, and I think that is unfortunate. But, I did still thoroughly enjoy it and I finished it rather quickly because I was so connected to the characters and so eager to revisit them.

The novel was also different from the series in one important respect: (SPOILER ALERT) it ends with the scene in which Victoria proposes to her beloved future husband, Prince Albert. If you’ve seen the ITV series, you’ll know that it goes on after this particular moment, to investigate the early days of Victoria and Albert’s marriage, until they have their first child. I really do love Albert and I think his relationship with Victoria was very significant historically, so I preferred the second half of the TV series because Albert was featured in it. Having said that, the first half explores Victoria’s relationship with Lord Melbourne (Lord M as she likes to playfully call him), and that was lovely to watch unfold as well. There was undeniable chemistry between the two characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them engage in a quasi-romance that was at once forbidden and intoxicating. The novel Victoria delves into this relationship between Queen V and Lord M much further, and we are given a lot more insight into the internal feelings and emotions of each character. While I was disappointed that Albert wasn’t introduced until around 315 pages into the novel (it is only 400 pages in total, so Albert is barely in it), I also found it interesting to get a closer look at a relationship that was sort of overshadowed towards the end of the TV series. I do like Lord M very much, and although I know the romantic aspects of his relationship with Queen Victoria are highly fictionalized and not really grounded in historical fact at all, I still did enjoy getting a closer glimpse into what Lord M might have felt for his much younger monarch and friend.

My experience reading Victoria was undoubtedly pleasurable, despite all the qualms I mentioned above, and probably what I liked most about it was witnessing the young Victoria begin her reign. This moment in her history is treated rather quickly in the series – although Victoria’s struggles in being a young, female monarch are constantly treated, we do tend to focus more on the romances she engages in (or at least, I did while watching). The novel was different in that it thoroughly investigated several scenes in which Victoria is forced to stand up for herself, assert her authority as a monarch and develop her own voice. These moments are wonderful to behold, and they gave me such inspiration as a young woman in the working world, developing her professional career. I latched on to several quotes from these points of the novel because they reminded me that Queen Victoria was a remarkable and revolutionary monarch and still serves as an important role model for young women in a world still very much dominated by men. I loved witnessing Victoria stand up to Sir John Conroy and her uncle the Duke of Cumberland, and I cheered for her whenever she was grounded and strong. She was admittedly somewhat childish and immature at times, but it was also fascinating to see her develop from a petulant adolescent into a more self-assured and self-aware leader. I think this aspect of the novel was more exciting and engaging for me than any of the romantic bits, and for that reason, I would highly recommend Victoria to teenage girls, particularly those in high school, who may be in the market for a powerful role model.

“she would start as she meant to go on.”

“‘It is time that people stopped seeing me as a little girl.’”

“‘I am tired of being treated as a young lady without a thought in her head.’”

To conclude my review, I have to be perfectly honest and say that I preferred the TV series to the novel Victoria. That may be due in large part to the fact that the TV series is visually astonishing – the costumes, the sets, the actors are so remarkable and it is a series that I don’t think I will ever forget. Goodwin writes with a very cinematographic style, and you can clearly tell that she is imagining and picturing each of the scenes she writes, so I think they come across as already being made for the screen. I do believe that the two mediums go hand in hand, though, so I would certainly say that if you view this novel as a companion to the TV show and engage in enjoying the two together, the experience will be very pleasurable.

❥ ❥ ❥ (out of 5) for the book alone

❥ ❥ ❥ ❥ ❥ (out of 5) for the book as a complement to the TV series (admittedly my favourite TV series of all time)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Crown – #JNGWatches

Good evening Dear Readers and welcome to 2017 at The World of my Green Heart!

My apologies for the extreme delay in posting, but time got away from me over these holidays, since my last blog entry. I’ll mention a bit more about this in tomorrow’s post (yes, that’s right, you’ll be getting two posts in a row to make up for my absence!), but I was specifically kept away from my computer by SS who happened to have 10 days off of work over the holidays. We were able to spend all of these 10 days together – he is right beside me as I write this very text – and I just couldn’t find time to get onto my laptop or even to read. I am finding the time now, though, and I am happy to say that I have many ideas for posts that will be coming very soon! I’m also thoroughly enjoying my current read, Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, so I am certain that I will be finishing it within the next few days, as I get back to work and my lunchtime Starbucks reading routine. I’ve set myself a goal of 18 books in the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge, and what with my full time work schedule and spending every weekend with SS, I think I will be keeping myself pretty busy trying to read a book and a half every month for the next year. Wish me luck!

Anyway, let’s get to the subject of today’s particular post. I’m a fan of the monarchy – actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m a fan of Queen Victoria but that doesn’t mean that I’m an expert on English history by any standards. I know a lot about the Victorian era in terms of literature and culture, and I am a collector of facts pertaining to the queen who gave this time period her name, but that doesn’t mean I know much about King Henry the VIII or Queen Elizabeth I or even the current reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. While I woke up ridiculously early in second year university to watch the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I’m not a super fan of the Windsor family really. I appreciate their existence and I like the idea of royal families, but I don’t know much about the current family that inhabits Buckingham Palace.

You can’t imagine, however, just how many people have asked me if I’ve seen Netflix’s new original series The Crown. In theory, it makes perfect sense that they would be shocked that it took me this long to get around to watching it – I’m very vocal about my love for Queen Victoria, so it stands to reason that I would also be interested in (or even obsessed with) Queen E II. I’m not though, so I didn’t feel the same passion to watch The Crown that I did when I watched ITV’s drama Victoria. Not even close, to be frank. But, the phenomenon that is this Netflix series certainly intrigued me, so I sat down this past week and blasted through all 10 episodes with SS.

I have to say, I really did enjoy it. Like I said, I don’t know much about Elizabeth’s reign, specifically the beginning of it in the early 1950’s, and I did learn quite a lot about the economic and social climate of the mid-20th century. Having said that, I did find many parts of the series, particularly the more political bits involving the government at Downing Street, to be a touch boring and hard to follow. While John Lithgow put in a formidable and admirable performance as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, I still didn’t love the parts where he and his fellow politicians were discussing the laws of England. It didn’t seem all that relevant to me and I found it hard to keep track of their issues, concerns and preoccupations.

What I did really enjoying about the series, though, was the relationships it explored, and the way in which the characters within these relationships were portrayed. In terms of more minor characters, I became very fond of King George, particularly during the flashbacks that were used after his death early in the series, and I also became fascinated by his brother, the former King Edward VIII. The conflicts that these men experience, due largely to the pressures of being royalty, are quite surprising, and I was interested in King Edward’s relationship with the divorced woman he chose over his throne. These were elements of English history that I had no idea about, and I felt the brotherly relationship between George and Edward was really nicely portrayed and explored. The same can be said for the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret. Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby play these roles to perfection, and each dialogue they engage in is full of masterfully measured tone and body language that suggests a discomfort and jealousy between the two sisters that I hadn’t previously expected. Their relationship becomes more and more complicated as the series progresses, and as Margaret becomes open about her relationship with a divorced man, and it is very interesting to see the internal tension that Elizabeth experiences as she must choose whether to be a good sister or a responsible queen. I was on the edge of my seat during many of the conversations between these two characters, and I think Foy and Kirby had great chemistry and were very believable as sisters who both love and resent each other.

The breakout star of the series was, for me, Matt Smith as Prince Philip. Wow, that man was something else! I’m not a Doctor Who fan at all and I’ve actually never even seen an episode, but I know a lot of people who are very fond of Matt Smith, and now I can see why. He’s a fabulous actor, and his portrayal of Philip was so surprising to me in every way! Maybe I don’t know enough about the real-life Prince Philip, but I was shocked to find that he is portrayed as a bit of a playboy in The Crown. His one liners are witty and totally unexpected, and he comes across as quite immature and difficult to deal with most of the time. Smith gives Philip an element of the juvenile, but he is also arguably the most memorable character. The scenes between Elizabeth and Philip are uncomfortable and fascinating, and I am very eager to see how their relationship develops over the next several seasons. It’s interesting to watch a series where we know exactly what the ending will be: Elizabeth and Philip will live into their nineties and remain married. What makes this series unique is that it takes the inevitable and complicates it, providing us viewers with a glimpse into the dramas that resulted in the present we are so familiar with.

There’s no doubt that The Crown is a good piece of television, and I’m not surprised that it is nominated for several Golden Globes. My prediction is that it will win many, and I was hoping to see an award for Matt Smith myself, which doesn’t seem like it will be possible considering that he wasn’t even nominated (an outrage, in my opinion, unless I’m missing something and he was in fact nominated…?!). I would, in any case, highly recommend the series because it makes for an intriguing and dramatic watching experience. It is definitely binge worthy!

Let me know in the comments below if you get around to watching it and what you think.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen – A Belated #ManCrushMonday / #JNGWatches

We interrupt our usual talk of True Love and Victorian romances to bring you a little something different…

Remember months ago when I was home sick from work and I binge-watched the Netflix/Marvel original series Jessica Jones?  That was the first time I had ever binge-watched anything; I’m not really the type to sit for hours and watch TV and I’ve always liked the format of watching shows on a weekly basis.  I believe this style of television watching helps to build anticipation and get the viewer excited.  With Jessica Jones, though, something was different: I felt this growing interest, a sort of craving developing to know what would happen next, and as quickly as possible.  I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones, both the character and the show she gives her name to, and I would highly recommend this viewing experience to those who not only enjoy superhero fiction, but also to viewers and readers who appreciate strong female characters with feisty and defiant personalities.  Jessica is very complex, and I think it is high time we had more female protagonists like that on our television screens.

Having said all this, I don’t know why I resisted watching the other extremely popular Netflix/Marvel series Daredevil.  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have because there was no chance I wasn’t going to love it…but I kept telling SS that I wasn’t interested in watching it, that I just didn’t think it could blow my mind like Jessica Jones did.  Consider me corrected.

Daredevil is an absolutely PHENOMENAL series!  I think that sums up my reaction to both seasons 1 and 2 quite nicely, but let me go further and give you some reasons as to why I enjoyed it so much.  It is truly (and it is very similar to Jessica Jones in this way) unlike any other superhero movie or television show I have encountered.  The episodes are such high quality, and the acting was superb.  What impressed me most of all, though, was that the action wasn’t simply gratuitous: the fight scenes were beautifully shot and were little works of art in themselves, and I was fascinated by how the choreography allowed the viewer to embody the character of Daredevil for a time.  I believe they did an excellent job of referencing his blindness in these scenes, and of making the viewer feel how disoriented and fatigued he often became.  It was a very unique approach to filming these scenes that in movies usually become cheesy and annoying.

It wasn’t just the choreography and the style of shooting that got me hooked though; I was truly impressed by the stellar acting, as I mentioned before.  I think each and every one of the main characters were complex and well-developed, but I have to give huuuge props to Charlie Cox who was a serious surprise for me.  I had only ever encountered Cox in the movie Stardust previously, and while that’s a great movie, he isn’t exactly superhero material judging by that film.  Imagine my surprise when he totally encompassed the roles of both Matt Murdock and his crime fighting counterpart, Daredevil, or the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.  His glorious abs notwithstanding (although, let’s be honest, I’m pretty obsessed with them now), Cox embodied the aura of a superhero who is not at all arrogant, who is truly a hero in every sense of the word.  He is quiet, contemplative and a little lonely, and that comes across strongly in Cox’s portrayal of his inner turmoil and his fear of letting his closest friends down.  He isn’t an arrogant superhero by any standards, and that was so refreshing to see after recently encountering characters like Deadpool and Dr. Strange whose egos seem to sometimes get in the way of their productivity.  I know this is inherently a part of Matt’s character, but I particularly loved how Cox emphasized his goodness, his desire to maintain his humanity and morality, even amidst the evils he witnesses.  His main focus, as Elektra rightly notes at the end of season 2, is to maintain peace and safety in New York, and he devotes himself not to becoming famous, an idol for the masses, but instead to looking after the people around him, his fellow citizens, who struggle and live in fear on a daily basis.  He is, in many ways, more of a martyr than a vigilante, and that is an interesting concept to investigate and get swept into.

Of course, as I said, the supporting cast is also incredible, and honourable mention must be given to Élodie Yung and Jon Bernthal for their portrayals of Elektra and Frank Castle/Punisher respectively.  In particular, Yung made me hate the character of Elektra, and the way she was influencing Matt, so much that I went on several rants about it…so obviously, that’s some good acting right there.  I really do have to mention the stand-out star, though: Vincent D’Onofrio was absolutely brilliant as season 1’s primary villain Wilson Fisk (who also goes by the name Kingpin, which was news to me, but is apparently very significant to diehard Daredevil fans).  D’Onofrio was an absolute force to be reckoned with as Fisk and his acting gave me chills on several occasions.  SS realized how much I had come to like the character, so he bought me a POP figurine of Fisk, along with one of Matt, to keep on my dresser.  I stare at these guys everyone morning and am reminded of a television series that I was almost too stubborn to watch.  Boy, am I glad I came to my sense and gave it a chance!

daredevil-and-fisk

Watch Daredevil everyone!  I urge you to delve into this truly engrossing series.  You’ll become addicted quickly, and you won’t regret it.  And be sure to dive right in before The Defenders comes out next year…and gives us a chance to see Daredevil and Jessica Jones in action together.  What could be better?!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart