The Dinner List ~ #JNGReads

“A change of plans, a subway reroute, a rainstorm in the forecast for a summer picnic.”

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle was not at all what I expected…and I mean that in the best possible way.

I’ve had this novel on my To-Read List for a very long time now, after spotting it in Indigo, being drawn in by the bright yellow cover (apparently this is a colour that really works for books, because I’ve read a ton of yellow books recently!) and the cute caricature of Audrey Hepburn on it. Of course, like most women (and probably men too) out there, I’m an Audrey Hepburn fan, and so I just had to read the synopsis for this book. The premise, that a woman named Sabrina has a birthday dinner with the five people, both living and dead, who have had a profound impact on her life, seemed really intriguing and unique to me, and I instantly put it on my Goodreads list to read in the future. For some reason, I don’t remember what, I didn’t pick up the book that day, and I actually didn’t buy it until 4 days ago.

I am so glad that I did because this book is not at all what you would expect from reading the blurb in the inside cover. I was expecting a run of the mill chick lit. novel about how Sabrina is having trouble getting over he ex-boyfriend and uses this dinner to evaluate her feelings for him and rekindle their romance. Instead, The Dinner List is so much deeper. It is a story that, yes, investigates Sabrina’s relationship with Tobias by alternating between narration of the dinner and an exploration of their 10 years together. However, The Dinner List goes beyond this seemingly cliché plot to delve into notions of loss and regret. Sabrina’s story becomes about much more than her romantic relationship as she is forced to come to terms with her feelings toward a father who abandoned her at a young age, as well as toward her best friend who has moved on to an entirely new life of marriage and motherhood that Sabrina feels both jealous of and unable to come to terms with. Sabrina must evaluate all of her relationships, all of the connections that have made her into the woman she is, to ultimately determine the kind of life and love she wants moving forward. She must wrestle with her devotion to fate and actually poke and prod at relationships she has otherwise taken for granted and been reluctant to think critically about, namely her love story with Tobias.

There is, also, a twist in this story, which I will not mention (it would ruin everything if I did) and which utterly crushed me. When my husband turned from the TV and looked at me curled up on the couch beside him, my head buried in this book and tears streaming down my face, he knew it was going to be a novel I would rave about when I was done. And it’s true, I am a really big fan of books that are full of strong emotions. The Dinner List was not a novel I was expecting to be profound and moving and touching, but it really was, and I cried about 3 more times after this initial incident, thinking about how easy it is to take life and love for granted and how dangerous that can be. I can’t say I felt satisfied by the ending, but that’s mainly because I wanted to know more about how Sabrina would proceed and what she would do next – I craved more from the ending, which is a sure sign that the story was a good and incredibly engrossing one!

What was most exciting to me about The Dinner List, though, is that it introduced me to a new writer in Rebecca Serle that I am very eager to follow. Serle’s writing style really spoke to me, and I loved the way she structured her narrative, weaving past and present effortlessly. I also loved her manner of writing dialogue because it was so easy to read, so fluid, and it honestly felt as though I was sitting at the dinner table with Sabrina and her guests. It can sometimes be hard to read scenes that are mostly conversation between characters, especially if the dialogue feels forced, fake and constructed, but I didn’t feel this way at all about The Dinner List, and I instead felt very much like I was sucked into the evening as if I were a participant myself. Serle also has a knack for writing about emotions in a way that is not over the top or silly, but is perfectly indicative, in my opinion, of how twenty- and thirty-something people feel about love and friendship nowadays. Her take on relationships felt very modern to me, and even her descriptions of Sabrina’s struggles with work and money felt realistic and human. I seriously have the impression that Serle is a great, young voice in contemporary literature, and I am eager to pick up some of her young adult novels and watch out for any adult fiction she writes in the future.

“Here is what I remember him saying: Kindness before honesty.

We are taught that honesty is the most important quality. Tell the truth. Do not lie. Etc. But there are so many instances when honest isn’t kind. When the kinder thing to do is to keep what you have to say to yourself.”

All in all, The Dinner List was a hit with me and I’m going to pass it along to my mom straightaway…which means it is a really good one! I’m so glad that I finally had the chance to pick this one up!

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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JNG’s 2018 Reading Round Up

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

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

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

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

January 2018

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

February 2018

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

March 2018

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

April 2018

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

May 2018

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

June 2018

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

July 2018

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

August 2018

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

September 2018

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

October 2018

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

November 2018

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

December 2018

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

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

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

xo

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Two Christmas Books and a Love Story ~ #JNGReads

This week has been crazy and stressful and trying for me, but somehow I managed to finish 3 novels (one of them entirely in one sitting!).  Below are reviews for what I read this week, to get me in the Christmas spirit!

Check out the bookstagram I share with my best friend, Emerald & Opal, to see more bookish photos like this!

One Day in December by Josie Silver

This novel lost momentum towards the second half…or, maybe I’m the one who lost momentum.  In any case, I enjoyed this story but I just felt that the first half, when Laurie and Jack are young and are first coming to terms with the fact that they have a connection but cannot be together, was more touching than the latter half. Really, as soon as Oscar entered into the mix, my interest started to wane a bit, and I found Jack and Laurie to be a bit less endearing as they grew older.  However, overall I found this story to be very entertaining and there were definitely many moments when my chest felt tight and my heart was racing. I even had faint tears in my eyes at times, because for whatever reason, I felt like I could really picture Laurie and her big, sad but hopeful eyes, and could feel her pain and agony at loving a man she could not have.

I would certainly recommend this novel as a Christmas read.  It didn’t necessarily blow me away from start to finish, but it had enough moments that were touching and the story was a lot more mature and intricate than I expected for a chick lit. novel.

❥❥❥.5(out of 5)

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

Karen Swan is one of my favourite authors, and so, because I didn’t love this one, I don’t want to say too much about it. I was having a rough week while reading this, so I don’t know if my feelings toward it have to do with the book or me. In any case, I WILL read more of Karen Swan’s books (I have 3 unread on my bookshelf right now) in the future!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Love Story by Erich Segal

What possessed me to read this incredibly sad novel before Christmas?  I truly have no idea.

I should mention that I have wanted to read Love Story for many years.  I remember distinctly watching bits and pieces of the movie on TV one day when I was in high school with my mom.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of the movie (I am intending to properly watch it now that I’ve finished the book), but I have held onto the feeling that I should read the book ever since encountering the movie.  I knew the book would be sad (that much, I remembered from the movie), but I am a hopeless romantic so I figured that at some point I had to read the novel literally called Love Story.

It wasn’t at all what I expected, to be honest.  It was as sad and heart-wrenching as I thought it would be, but I had no idea that it was told from Oliver’s perspective and I was not expecting to be so drawn in by his character and narrative voice.  I was kind of thinking that he would be some vapid rich kid, but it turns out that he is a man full of heart and sensitivity.  Jenny is as hilarious and sassy as I thought she would be, and my only criticism is that the book was very short and the love story was quite condensed and much less fleshed out than I would’ve assumed it would be given how popular it is and how beloved the film adaptation is.  But, having said that, I was able to finish the entire novel in one sitting, so that is definitely a testament to how enjoyable and easy it was to read about Oliver and Jenny.

The ending is heartbreaking and sudden, there’s no doubt about that, but overall I must say that I am really glad I got around to reading this one and I think it is the perfect read for a Sunday afternoon curled up under the covers with the person you love.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Little Life ~ #JNGReads

It is hard to describe how reading A Little Life made me feel.  This novel is, to sum up 800+ pages in a single word, sorrowful.  There is nothing optimistic about this novel, there is no bright, shining kernel of truth that makes the trauma and sadness easier to swallow.  It is a novel full of pain and suffering, and one that almost wallows in it, not trying to lift the reader into any more positive circumstances.

I now understand more fully a word my professors in university often used to describe literature and our reactions to it: visceral.  I always knew in theory that a visceral reaction to a text implied great emotion and feeling, and meant that the reader had temporarily put aside their more intellectual assessments to let feelings overwhelm them.  I have always been this type of reader – one who favours emotion over logic, who prefers to talk about how I feel about a novel rather than dissecting it with scientific vigour – and I was always so happy when lectures in my English classes tended toward sentimentality rather than structured analysis.

But I don’t know that I’ve ever been quite so touched by a novel as I was by A Little Life.  Don’t get me wrong, I have read my fair share of upsetting novels in the past – The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson immediately comes to mind, and it does, actually, have a similar narrative style to A Little Life – but I haven’t read one so moving and painful in quite some time.  A Little Life follows the friendship of four men, but it zeroes in pretty quickly on the relationship (romantic and otherwise) between Willem and Jude.  Jude, as many reviewers before me have noted, is the heart and soul of the novel, though, and much of the text is devoted to investigating Jude’s childhood traumas, including a whole host of disgusting circumstances that made me physically nauseous to read about.  Reading Jude’s story is not for the faint of heart, especially as it documents in graphic detail horrific stories of childhood sexual abuse, and it is downright hard to read at points.  So many times, I felt like I wanted to stop reading, to put the book down, and yet I didn’t because for whatever reason I felt compelled to keep going.  That is surely a testament to how talented Hanya Yanagihara is as a writer, and there is no doubt that the prose flows and is highly poetic and beautiful.  There is such a jarring contrast between the subject matter and the gorgeous words Yanagihara uses to describe the events…but the result is that the reader is urged to move forward and, ultimately, does, even despite every instinct not to.

There’s not much I can really say about A Little Life without repeating myself endlessly (it is painful, sorrowful, sad, depressing, traumatic, serious, touching, heartbreaking…blah blah blah), so I’ll just leave it at, it’s brilliant.  Many reviewers have disagreed, and that is totally fine, but for me, it was a moving experience in every way and I feel like a better person for having read the story.  I am proud that I’ve read it as I feel it is a modern work of great literature, a contemporary classic, and I truly can’t find any fault with Yanagihara’s writing or characterization or pacing or any of it.  Yes, many readers have felt that the novel is too long and a bit repetitive, but I am a lover of Dickens and John Irving, and so I am used to meaningful repetition, to long novels that say much and say it so well.  So, I cannot fault Yanagihara for writing a large novel because, the bottom line is, she wrote a great one.

I would urge anyone who is okay with deep, thoughtful and heavy literature to pick this one up because it is a read you won’t soon forget.

“[H]e was worried because to be alive was to worry.  Life was scary; it was unknowable.  Even Malcolm’s money wouldn’t immunize him completely.  Life would happen to him, and he would have to try to answer it, just like the rest of them.”

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Assassin’s Blade ~ #JNGReads the Throne of Glass Series

Check out the bookstagram page I share with my best friend, Emerald & Opal, to see more photos like this!

I feel like it’s time to finally put some thoughts on paper about a series that has recently taken my life by storm: the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I recently finished reading the novella collection The Assassin’s Blade, which serves as a prequel to the series itself, and just before that, I finished Empire of Storms, which pretty much destroyed me. The only current novel in the series that I have left to finish is Tower of Dawn…that is, until the new novel is released in October. Considering that I am just about caught up in the series, I figured it was about time for me to say a few things about the series, through the lens of having just finished a prequel that made me think a lot about my journey with these characters.

Having said all of this, there may be some minor spoilers ahead for the entire Throne of Glass series, so please bear that in mind.

Probably the single most impressive thing, in my opinion, about the Throne of Glass series is the development of the characters and their relationships with one another. This is what has led me to write this review after reading The Assassin’s Blade because so much of that collection brings to the forefront just how far the characters have come by the time we reach Empire of Storms. In The Assassin’s Blade, we see Celaena Sardothien in a way that, having come as far as Empire of Storms, we haven’t seen her for some time. She is back to being Adarlan’s Assassin, an overly confident sassy-pants who is obsessed with refinement, comfort and her physical appearance. She comes across as a bit vapid, I’ll be honest, but there is also evidently some fight in her and a great deal of strength. She isn’t exactly likable though, and in many ways she’s the true opposite to someone like Feyre of Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses in that Celaena is a bit…well…spoiled.

Reading about this version of Celaena (believe me, there are many “versions” of this character) reminded me of my initial reaction to Throne of Glass which, to be honest, wasn’t a novel I loved. Although the series certainly picked up for me, it wasn’t until I hit Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows that I started to feel any affection for Celaena…and at that point, she had already become an entirely different character and reassumed her rightful identity as Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. I’ve noticed that Maas tends to like to do this with her characters, forcing them to make a total 180 shift, and Celaena certainly does that when she embraces the fact that she is the lost queen of Terrasen and accepts the responsibility associated with that. Aelin is similar to Celaena in some ways – she is fierce, cunning and skilled – but she is also so very different in that she is truly selfless. That much is clear by the (devastating!!!) end of Empire of Storms, and this transformation gave me not only a respect for Maas’ writing and creativity, but also for Aelin as a character. She has quickly become one of my favourite fictional heroines.

But how do we, as readers, reconcile the Aelin we know (and, in my case, love) by the end of Empire of Storms with the Celaena we found to be a bit of a mean girl in Throne of Glass and The Assassin’s Blade? Well, I think this is where the true power of the Throne of Glass series as a whole becomes clear. The series is the story of both Aelin Galathynius and Celaena Sardothien, and it is important to remember that these women are the same person. Who can say, though, that they have not changed at all over the years? Isn’t it normal for a person to grow and develop, especially in the face of trauma and adversity? So, why should Aelin/Celaena not undergo this same process – and why should older, wiser Aelin be judged for the actions and attitude of younger, less world-weary Celaena?

It was remarkable, to me, to see Celaena all over again in The Assassin’s Blade after journeying so far with Aelin. It really made me reconsider Celaena’s entire personality because I was much more sympathetic toward her while reading The Assassin’s Blade than I was when I first encountered her in Throne of Glass. That’s surely due to the gift of hindsight, but knowing what Aelin would go through in Empire of Storms, the sacrifices she would be forced to make by the end, I felt so sad for Celaena because I knew what was ahead in her future, from the salt mines of Endovier, to horrible battles against grotesque enemies, to…an iron mask and iron chains and an iron box that I’m still not even close to ready to talk about. Of course, Aelin also finds a lot of love (and heartache too) along the way, and it is glorifying to remember that she will eventually meet Rowan and share some beautiful moments with him…but everything is tinged with a bit of unease and melancholy, in the full knowledge that Celaena Sardothien, who puts so much time into her outfits and her hair and her nails, will very soon reach a point where none of that will matter even remotely.

Maas is a master of creating characters that stick with you. She made me, the reader who has never picked up Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, into a fantasy lover just by creating heroines that touched me so profoundly and made me care. Aelin is one of those heroines, no doubt, and I’ve found myself thinking of her nonstop, especially after finishing Empire of Storms, which literally haunts me. I assume that Maas’ intention in releasing The Assassin’s Blade was to make her readers reconsider Celaena from a whole new perspective, and to me, she achieved the mark and then some. I was heartbroken for future Aelin, but still uplifted for former Celaena, knowing that she would become this fearsome and fascinating and awe-inspiring woman to behold. That ride, that journey of watching a woman come into her own, was remarkable.

And, perhaps I’m over-reading things and wearing my English MA glasses for this one…but were there an absurd number of references to iron chains and doors in The Assassin’s Blade?! That cannot be coincidence, can it? Not cool, Sarah J. Maas, not cool!

Song Recommendation:

I feel this song accurately represents Aelin’s journey as a character…and so I’ve been listening to it non-stop – haha!

*College & Electric Youth – A Real Hero*

 

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

5 Sentence Reviews ~ Summer #JNGReads

FALL IS HERE!!!

Okay, so technically Fall hasn’t officially begun yet, but there is a distinct chill in the air here in Toronto, and I wore a long-sleeved shirt yesterday for the first time in months…and life is good!

With this transition in seasons happening, I figured it was time to finally put an end to my summer initiative and share my 5 sentence reviews with you (you can read the post where I explain all about my plan to write these types of reviews here).

Before I get into the reviews, I do want to reflect on what I learned by challenging myself to write shorter, more succinct reviews for the final weeks of the summer. It was definitely both easier and harder to write smaller reviews. In some cases, I was relieved because I hadn’t liked or hated a particular book enough to go on and on about it; if I felt indifferent toward a book, I found a 5 sentence review to be the perfect length to get my thoughts out there and not grasp at straws for profound things to say. However, in a few cases, I really struggled to write a 5 sentence review because I just loved the book I had finished so much that it felt impossible to contain all of my feelings in just 5 sentences. In two cases, I verged from my strict 5 sentence rule to write reviews that were a bit more specific to the novels, and I actually really did not like one of these novels and absolutely ADORED the other one. I found this very telling because it made me think that 5 sentence reviews are not necessarily a bad idea, but that any sort of rigidity toward review writing is.

So, to sum things up, I think I will continue to occasionally write shorter (if not exactly 5 sentence) reviews, in cases where I don’t have too much to say about a book and writing a huge review about it would be purely self-indulgent. But, in cases where I feel very passionately, one way or the other, about a book, I will stick to my tried and true method of ranting and/or raving to my heart’s content.

Here you have it…the reviews for all of the books I have read recently…

THANK YOU FOR READING!!! xo

Origin by Dan Brown

Origin is a novel that I struggled with until about 3/4 of the way into it, and that failed to capture my attention from beginning to end in the same way that Dan Brown’s other novels have in the past. Perhaps this is my own fault and my personal reading preferences and interests have changed, but for whatever reason, I was unable to truly get into Brown’s story in Origin and I found my mind wandering as I read because I was not all that interested in most of the characters and found myself bored by any chapters that didn’t directly follow protagonist Robert Langdon and describe his “quest”. My interest was only really piqued in the final 100 pages of the novel, when Langdon and his companion Ambra Vidal started to actually piece together their friend scientist Edmond Kirsch’s discovery about human existence and destiny, and prior to these revelations and the solving of the story’s “mystery”, I didn’t really feel any eagerness to sit down with the novel. For that reason, I would have to say that Origin is my least favourite of Brown’s novels, mainly because the pacing felt off and the plot didn’t seem to kick off until well into the novel, or indeed, until it was almost concluded. That being said, Brown’s stories never fail to provide a variety of interesting facts on subjects as diverse as religion, science and pop culture, among others, and I still finished the book feeling that I had learned a lot…and so my time was not at all wasted in the end.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff was a pleasant enough collection of correspondence, but I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. I do tend to like an epistolary story every now and then, and I was excited to delve into this book that I had heard so much about and had on my To-Read List for so long, but I just found in the end that I wasn’t wowed by it. Helene seems to be very sassy and witty, which I liked, and Frank and his colleagues at Marks & Co. bookshop are very sweet and made me nostalgic for my many trips to England, however I felt the collection was missing that extra bit of intimacy and emotion I was hoping for. When I compare it to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I read a few months ago, I find that 84, Charing Cross Road just misses the mark a bit because it won’t stay with me or leave a lasting impression on me, and I doubt I’ll remember or think of any of the people in it months from now. Overall, 84, Charing Cross Road is a sweet read, and one that can easily be finished in one sitting, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, in my opinion.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

The Greek Escape by Karen Swan

Karen Swan is a marvel and I will read absolutely anything she writes! I went into this novel expecting a run of the mill travel romance and instead I got a surprisingly exciting thriller, fast-paced and full of intrigue. I was also met with a cast of complex and interesting characters, and although Chloe wasn’t my favourite heroine of all time, I immediately related to her job as a lifestyle manager to very high end clients (I also have a job where I meet with clients daily) and her age (I am also 26) and her overall life (I also live in a big city like New York, albeit it Canadian). There was lots for me to connect with in this novel, as there always is with Swan’s stories, but here I was even more blown away by the intricate plot and mystery as well as the heart-pounding romance. I would highly recommend this as a beach read, a cottage read, a plane read, whatever…just read this book!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

“How quickly does a fire fanned and fed by friends grow tall.”

The Passion of Dolssa is really an incredible book, full of rich descriptions and imagery, truly unique characters and a highly emotional plot. I was very familiar with the historical aspects of this novel before even reading it because I happen to have written an essay when I completed my Master’s degree on Julian of Norwich and on terminology used by nuns in the eleventh and twelfth centuries to describe Jesus as a lover or husband, and so Dolssa’s passionate, almost sexual “relationship” with Jesus was not at all a surprise to me. What did blow me away about Julie Berry’s novel, however, was the characters she so richly created, namely Botille and her sisters Plazensa and Sazia, and how fierce, strong, loyal and unafraid they were. I was truly astounded by these remarkable females, and although the plot was quite contained in terms of place and timeframe, I found myself becoming utterly swept up in it and I was actually on the edge of my seat while reading, wondering what would happen to Botille and Dolssa and their loved ones. Something about The Passion of Dolssa just touched me very viscerally, and I would highly recommend it as a well-crafted work of historical fiction.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

This book is good…but I expected it to be better. Although I found myself occasionally getting swept up in the narratives of both Serina and Nomi (sidenote: I did appreciate the alternating points of view), for the most part, I didn’t feel that the plot was fast-paced enough. I expected to get really emotional about the characters, to really feel for them and worry for them and to be on the edge of my seat throughout all 300 pages, but I just wasn’t and I think that comes down to the fact that much of the novel is spent with Serina and Nomi thinking about how awful their situations are without a lot happening to propel them forward. I appreciate that sometimes a novel is supposed to be very contained, but I think Grace and Fury was just too focused on a short period of time for my liking. In any case, I’d probably be inclined to pick up the next book in the series, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to do so.

❥❥❥(out of 5)

 

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

This is another book that I thought was good…but not great, and not as good as I expected it to be. There’s no denying that the writing was beautiful and that Winman certainly has a way with words. However, when I picked up the book (mainly because of its gorgeous cover) and read the synopsis, I expected to be moved, to become very emotional and heartbroken, while reading it, and that simply didn’t happen. I will say that I enjoyed the second half of the novel, which was told in first-person narration from the perspective of Michael, much better, but overall I found it too difficult to connect to any of the characters, and particularly to care about or feel sympathy for Ellis. Not a disappointment, per say, because as I said, the prose was lovely…but definitely not all I was hoping for, especially from the last book I needed to read to finish off my 2018 Reading Challenge.

❥❥❥(out of 5)

 

Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

Since You’ve Been Gone is a sweet and enjoyable novel that I would highly recommend as a summer read! Truth be told, there’s not much to it as the plot is quite contained and the timeframe is quite short. Having said that, I felt really drawn to Holly as a narrator and found her voice to be witty and unique, and I found myself swooning over Ciaran at several points, which is always a must for me from any romantic hero. This wasn’t the best chick lit. novel I’ve ever read by any means, but it was a wonderful respite on my subway rides home from work and when I was curled up on the couch in the evenings, and I really don’t think there’s much more you can ask for from a summer book companion than a fun journey with some nice characters! I would definitely be inclined to pick up another story by Anouska Knight in the future.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

Love… From Both Sides by Nick Spalding

Love… From Both Sides is definitely one of the funniest novels I’ve read in awhile, particularly because it had me laughing out loud in my local Starbucks. That being said, it was also a novel that made me feel incredibly conflicted and confused…and this is down to the fact that although certain scenes were excruciatingly hilarious, other lines and passages seemed, to me, borderline offensive. It’s difficult for me to reconcile the fact that I couldn’t stop laughing at times when I read this book with the opposing fact that entire sections of it made me cringe because they felt overtly stereotypical, and in some cases almost sexist (I am thinking, for example, of Jamie’s description of Clare, the “chunky lass” he works with…a description I found VERY unnecessary and uncalled for!). I still don’t know how to feel about this novel because if it weren’t for the fact that some of it rubbed me totally the wrong way, I would’ve been ranting and raving about it and probably given it 5 stars. For that reason, I can’t be sure if I would recommend it because you certainly need to have a thick skin and a very particular sense of humour to find 100% of it enjoyable.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens

I LOVED LOVED LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

To be clear, I am definitely the target audience for The Victorian and the Romantic because I have a Master’s in English and I specialized in Victorian literature…and of course, like most academics, I considered for many years going on to do my PhD. I myself was interested in the works of female authors in the 19th century, mainly Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell, and so I knew I would relate personally to Nell Stevens’ recounting of her time studying Victorian literature – but what I didn’t anticipate was that so many of the lines she wrote would seem as though they were plucked straight from my own head. This is very much a memoir for a specific reader, one who is in love with classic literature but also disillusioned by the idea of studying it in a clinical, scientific manner, and not everyone will follow or relate to Stevens’ thoughts and frustrations. I did, however, and so I would certainly be inclined to read more of Nell Stevens’ work…and to be honest, I wish we could sit down for coffee and have a good rant, haha!

My Favourite Quote

“‘I’m not cut out to be an academic…I don’t think I care enough about the sorts of things academics care about….I like reading the writing of writers I love, and I like reading about writers I love. But I’m not sure I have anything additional to say about them. I think I’m more of an appreciative fan than a critic.’”

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler

When I was in high school I would’ve devoured this novel…and to be honest, I did even now.

Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies was the quintessential YA summer read, and it immediately brought me back to my experiences reading novels like Gossip Girl and The A-List back in high school, when I would speed through pages in the cafeteria before the first bell rang for class. I’m probably a bit too old to be reading a book about a high school senior who does an internship at a fashion magazine in New York over summer vacation, but I was so swept up in the voice of narrator Harper that I didn’t even care – she was too fun, witty and down-to-earth not to want to spend time with. This novel is simplistic and straightforward, and admittedly the ending is a bit rushed and a lot “Happily Ever After”, but everything about the plot was exciting and entertaining, and it was the sort of book you could easily finish in one sitting, under a big sunhat on the beach. If you’re looking for a novel that is flirty and just plain FUN, this is definitely your best bet!

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

 

The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash

Things I Liked:

– Any and all mention of Paris, one of my favourite cities on the planet. Reading this brought me right back to my honeymoon in Paris, and I certainly needed that during a stressful week!

– The fashion!

– Bonnie : I don’t know how I would’ve reacted to what she went through, but I admired her poise and strength, and her composure at such a sad time. I doubt if I would handle that sort of infidelity so well!

– Antonio : I only wish there was more of him and less of certain other characters (more below).

Things I Didn’t Like:

– The plot, focused on infidelity and secrecy…this is a topic I struggle with and find it VERY hard to read about! An affair will basically ruin a book for me, and this book had more than one.

– Sammy : I don’t want to spoil things, but yeah, see the point above.

– Matthew : Don’t even get me started on this topic. He is, in my opinion, a total scumbag! (My apologies if this offends anyone, but I’m sensitive on this subject, and that’s just a personal opinion on my part.)

– Rachael : Kind of a big deal to not like the main character in a novel, but she was really hard for me to like at all. She came across as selfish and self-serving (yes, even despite what she did for her mother), and I did not appreciate her self-victimization. Compared to Bonnie, she had so much less integrity.

Honestly, I’ll leave it there lest I start to rant…but suffice it to say that Paris got all the stars in this case.

“‘Paris isn’t always great at first impressions. It’s the details that get under your skin.’”

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

I need to not talk to anyone about this novel for approximately the next 100 years.

My grandchildren will come to me one day and say, “Grandma, did you ever read the Throne of Glass series?” And I will reply, “I’m not ready to talk about it.”

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

 

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Perfect Nanny ~ #JNGReads

I must admit from the start that there will inevitably be SPOILERS about The Perfect Nanny in this review. It’s difficult to talk about the plot or premise at all without them, so if you’d like to go into the novel not knowing anything about it, do not read any further. It should suffice for me to say that I am in an utter fog now, having just finished it…I don’t really know what to say, but here goes nothing…

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani is an absolutely chilling read.

I first came across this novel on Instagram, where the cover enticed me to find out more about it. Depicting a blue and white, Peter Pan collared shirt, the cover suggests that this story will have something to do with false appearances. The buttons are done up too perfectly, the shirt is too crisp, the blue too clean, the white too pristine…there is something behind this perfect façade that cannot be quite so immaculate.

I then read the tagline for the novel, which was on the cover of the book in this particular photo I was looking at on Instagram. It turns out that this tagline is in fact the first phrase of the novel, which sets the tone for what is to come…

“The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”

My blood ran cold when I read that line, and yet I was intrigued enough to put the novel on my To-Read List. When I saw it in Chapters a few days later, my fate was sealed – I purchased it, started reading it that very same day, and have now finished it, two days later.

As I said before, The Perfect Nanny is haunting, disturbing, disgusting, heartbreaking, terrifying… It is so many horrific things that it is almost impossible to describe. It’s not that graphic, to be perfectly honest, and yet there is this underlying sense of discomfort from start to finish, this anxiety on the part of the reader because we know how things are going to turn out, and it turns our stomach not to be able to look away from this inhumanity, the horrible tragedy of it all. Slimani is a masterful storyteller, and by choosing to begin her novel with the conclusion, the deaths of the two little children whose simple, adorable lives will then be described minutely, she draws the reader into this web of nerves and unsettled fears, she forces the reader to keep watching, to assume the status of voyeur, to accept this incapacity to change a thing coupled with this inability to look away.

Slimani also writes in such a literary style, and although the phrases are clipped and concise and not overly descriptive, she paints this blurry, hazy picture of a life that could belong to anyone. As a reader, we can put ourselves into the role of any of these characters, because Slimani leaves enough room for interpretation, of actions and events, of thoughts and desires. There is much that seems to be written between the lines of Slimani’s narration, there is mystery in the scenes she paints so vaguely and in such a simple style. It is almost as if Slimani is presenting us with an allusion to an occurrence, rather than a picture of the occurrence itself. Events are veiled just enough to keep them interesting, and yet the characters are left raw and exposed, open to criticism and hatred and contempt. Slimani’s story is heavily a character study, and so the plot points themselves fade seamlessly into the background of the text, leaving these complicated characters at the forefront, and helplessly open to the reader’s scrutiny.

It is not only the so-called “perfect nanny” who is open for examination. Slimani leaves all of her characters bare, from the parents Paul and Myriam who mean well but are tragically blind to the strangeness around them, to the “perfect nanny” Louise’s daughter and husband, to the friends and colleagues of Paul and Myriam who are just as oblivious as they are. There is so much to unravel and investigate within the very few pages of The Perfect Nanny (it is, after all, only 228 pages in total), and the reader is left at the end with this disturbing feeling that no conclusion whatsoever has been reached, that nothing has been solved, that things are more muddled and confusing and upsetting than they were even in the beginning, when that first phrase “The baby is dead” is declared.

What is abundantly clear, though, is that the children, Mila and Adam, are innocent. They are children, and so they are at once frustrating and endearing, loud and serene, hyper and soothed, but always, always lovable. The reader is left, at the end, with this overwhelming feeling of sadness that, because of a nanny’s obsession and the inability of two parents to fully comprehend the depths of her despair and illness, two totally innocent children have been made to suffer. That is an awful feeling to be left with, and yet it makes the novel truly unforgettable and so poignant and important.

I feel that there is a lesson somewhere in The Perfect Nanny, and yet I can’t quite grasp what it is. Not being a parent myself, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to raise a child, let alone more than one, and yet I can imagine that it would be very difficult to leave one’s children with a nanny or a caregiver. And yet, for so many families, there is no other option, when two incomes are required, and no relatives or friends are available for babysitting. At the same time, though, it seems that Paul and Myriam are blind to many of Louise’s abusive behaviours toward the children, both emotional and physical, and although they occasionally become wary of her actions, they fail to do anything about the situation that strikes them as odd. So who is to blame for this horrible crime? Surely Louise because she is the perpetrator, the child murderer…but could the circumstances of this travesty not have been avoided? I just don’t know. Like I mentioned, I feel as though Slimani is trying to make a statement with The Perfect Nanny, she is trying to offer a moral, and insight to the reader…but I just haven’t uncovered what it is yet. And perhaps that’s just it: maybe each reader is supposed to have a slightly different interpretation of the events and the characters? In any case, what I do know for sure is that The Perfect Nanny is well-written, deep and hard to swallow, and it is not for the faint of heart.

“Adam is dead. Mila will be too, soon.”

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Wish You Were Here ~ #JNGReads

“Rules are for people with the luxury of time.”

Wish You Were Here is the first novel I’ve read by Renée Carlino, and I finished it quicker than most other books I’ve read. This has everything to do with how it is written and just how easy it is to read and get into. After this reading experience, I can confidently say that I would without doubt pick up another book by Renée Carlino, and soon.

I have to admit that I picked up Wish You Were Here 1) because I have been meaning to read a book by Carlino for awhile; and 2) because the main character’s name is Charlotte, a name which I am particularly fond of. I didn’t know anything at all about the premise of the book when I picked it up, and while it probably wasn’t the best book for a new wife to read, it ended up being a truly touching, heart-warming and uplifting story. At first, during the initial 100 pages of this 300-page text, I have to say I was a bit frustrated and annoyed by Charlotte and her immaturity and lack of direction. As the novel progressed, though, I began to see this remarkable change in her character that was subtle, extremely realistic and simply human. Charlotte’s evolution is one of the best depictions of character development I’ve read in a very long time; Charlotte’s personality sort of does a complete 180 during the story, and yet it feels very natural within the context of her life experience. I found her journeys with both Adam and Seth to be touching, and full of just the right amount of complication, confusion and romance to be totally believable. Although Charlotte’s story and her connections to both Adam and Seth (in different ways) are extraordinary and unique in many ways, they are also, as I said, incredibly human, and so it is easy for the reader to buy into them.

I also really enjoyed the secondary cast of characters in Wish You Were Here, particularly Charlotte’s best friend Helen and her brother Chucky. Again, the evolution of Charlotte’s relationships with these two characters was very well done, and I fully enjoyed seeing her reevaluate her dependence on Helen and her dislike for Chuck. All three characters become much more adult throughout the course of the novel, and this solidifies the texts overarching message that love is the strongest force on Earth for bringing people together and bridging the gaps between people.

“Love is a wordless secret; it’s an inside joke.

Only the two of you have to understand it.”

It would be really hard to say anything about the plot of this story without spoiling it, so I’m going to avoid doing that and keep this review relatively brief as a result. Suffice it to say, I blasted through Wish You Were Here because it is written in such a feeling and emotional manner that I just didn’t want to put it down, couldn’t bear to let it leave my fingers for too long. It does feel somewhat like reading a screenplay in that the dialogue is fast-paced and the scenes are very cinematographic in description and quality, but Carlino fleshes out her characters so well and focuses on a short period in their lives, so the plot never feels rushed or overwhelmed. It is honestly just perfectly constructed and structured, and I don’t have any criticism whatsoever. It is a very very good book, and I’d highly recommend it to those who love romances that aren’t cliché or heavy-handed and that are raw and emotional and of the highest quality.

I’ll end now with a few more of my favourite passages from the novel, because I think that this is the best way to entice you all to pick up Wish You Were Here. It’s impossible to put into words why this book is so great…I think you just have to delve into it for yourself to understand why!

“‘Have I asked you to marry me?’ he said sleepily. We were back on.

‘Every day,’ I replied.

‘Well…’

‘I always say not yet.’

Adam was dozing off and slurring when he said, ‘Why?’

I’m certain he was asleep when I finally replied, ‘Because I don’t want you to stop asking.’”

 

“‘What are they like? Our children.’

‘Happy. That’s all we wished for. We put our love first and it just spilled over into them and now they’re happy.’”

“He took my hands in his and said, ‘No more fear.’ He kissed my knuckles. ‘Promise me. Promise me that you’ll go on and take everything you want, take what you deserve.’

‘I promise.’ My throat tightened and tears fell from my eyes.

I looked down at Adam, who arched his eyebrows and then gestured toward the winged man and said, ‘I’ll have my eye on you.’”

 

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Book Thief ~ #JNGReads

Here I am, reading another book that I feel utterly unqualified to review. This one I mostly read, and just now finished, on days when I’ve been battling a horrible flu, so forgive me for any incoherency in this review. That being said, I feel that it was almost fitting that I read this novel during a period of sickness, when I was on the verge of hallucination and could almost walk alongside the narrator through the scenes he described.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a novel I wish I had read in high school. This is not to say that it is juvenile in any manner – quite the contrary – but what I mean by saying this is that The Book Thief feels to me like the sort of story that should be experienced by students very early on in their educations. It would’ve been oh so fitting for me to delve into this particular novel during my grade 10 History class, when I first properly learned what the Holocaust was and what that term meant, and I wish I had thought to pick up The Book Thief around the same time I read The Diary of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel’s Night. The reason that I wish I had been exposed to the story contained in The Book Thief at a time when I was learning all about Hitler’s reign, genocide and World War II is that The Book Thief takes an approach to discussing the Holocaust that is unlike any I have previously encountered.

Of course, Zusak’s story details the wrongful persecution of the Jews living in Germany and many other countries in Europe during Hitler’s reign. Through the character of Max Vandenburg and many other nameless Jewish people, Zusak offers a heart-wrenching depiction of what it meant to be Jewish in Nazi-occupied Germany, of what it meant to hate Hitler, to feel unjustifiably condemned by him, and to live your life secluded in a dark basement for years on end. There are allusions to the grotesque concentration camps and to the suffering of 6 million innocent people. There are references made to the intense hatred and anguish that these innocent people felt toward a man who chose to call himself “leader”, and who was blindly followed. There are certainly moments of horror.

But, what Zusak also chooses to do in The Book Thief, and what I thoroughly appreciated from my role of reader, was emphasize the suffering and turmoil of many innocent German people, those citizens who equally despised Hitler, who were similarly condemned by him, and who met their own tragic ends. Zusak chronicles the life of a German girl, Liesel Meminger, and her relationship with her German foster parents and her German best friend, all the while highlighting the fact that these characters despise Hitler, yet feel powerless to stop or combat him. Certainly Liesel’s foster parents do their best to fight the Nazi regime, particularly by taking Jewish man Max Vandenburg into their basement and harbouring him safely there. However, when Liesel’s foster parents, and her best friend Rudy and his parents, attempt to stand up to the Nazi regime in any meaningful way, they are also persecuted, whipped, beaten, sent away from their families. Although it is made clear many times in the narration of The Book Thief (more on the particular narrative style in a moment) that Liesel and her family members and friends will never suffer in the same horrific way as the Jewish people, they also face their own tragedies and awful, painful deaths. There is no optimism in this tale, and yet the reader is made to understand that Nazi-occupied Germany was Hell not only for the Jews who lived there, but also for the quiet, unsuspecting German people who wanted nothing to do with Hitler and his bigotry and prejudice.

“[Liesel] wondered how many letters like that were sent out as punishment to Germany’s Hans Hubermanns and Alex Steiners – to those who helped the helpless, and those who refused to let go of their children.”

“‘When they come and ask you for one of your children,’ Barbara Steiner explained, to no one in particular, ‘you’re supposed to say yes.’”

Personally, I can’t say I ever gave much thought to what it would feel like to be a German citizen living during World War II. I have, on numerous occasions, read novels that made me empathize and sympathize with the Jewish people who were oppressed, but I never took the time to think about how it would feel to be an innocent German citizen, one who loves and has a kind and gentle heart and must watch as their country is made into a living Hell for so many people. There must have been so much shame and disgrace and desperation in that, and I truly appreciated that The Book Thief offered me the chance to get into the minds of some of these German citizens, to realize just how hard it was for them to witness what their “leader” was doing, how hard that must’ve been to stomach. It also made me question myself and my own convictions: would I have had the courage to open my home to some of the Jewish people, like Hans Hubermann did? If I was a child at the time, would I have been able, like Liesel, to become friends with a Jewish man and risk my life just to say Goodbye to him and hold his hand one last time? Like Rudy Steiner, would I choose to skip my Hitler Youth classes and defy the doctrines and regulations of the time, risking being whipped and beaten and persecuted? I will never ever know, and it is a serious privilege to not have to consider these questions because of the dumb luck of being born in a different time. The Book Thief challenged my perceptions and assumptions, however; it forced me to sit down and think about the people whose perspectives I hadn’t previously considered, and for that reason, it was a highly educational, life-altering and poignant read. This is why I would recommend that any and all high school students read this novel, while learning about the destruction of World War II.

Apart from being a profound and influential text, The Book Thief is also very well written. I don’t know if this is a spoiler (forgive me, but I don’t think it is since you learn about this on page 1) but Zusak chooses Death as his narrator for the story, and in my opinion, this was a perfect choice. Zusak’s Death is much less sinister and horror movie-esque than one would expect, and Death actually tells the tale of Liesel and her loved ones with such sentimentality and feeling that it is impossible not to be drawn to him as a narrator. I found myself empathizing with Death in many ways, as he described having to take away the souls of so many innocent people during World War II. Death is a sympathetic and tortured character in The Book Thief, and it is clear from the start that he hates his job, hates Hitler, hates war and wants nothing at all to do with suffering. It is really interesting to view the events of the Holocaust from this perspective, to see the endless pain and agonizing devastation from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator who is at once complicit in the tragedy but wishes he could be removed from it. Death speaks of Liesel so lovingly that it is hard not to feel sorry for him, it is hard not to wish that he could be exempt from his job, particularly in the moments when it affects Liesel the most. I’m struggling to remember if I’ve ever read a novel narrated by Death before (I feel like I must have, but it escapes me at the moment), but regardless, I can confidently say that Zusak does an excellent job of using Death’s narration as this means to toy with his readers’ emotions and force them to look at the concept of death itself from a totally new vantage point.

I hope some aspects, at least, of this review made sense, but as I said, my reading of The Book Thief was a rather hallucinatory experience. Whether that is because I was feeling sick or because the novel is written in such a hard-hitting, unrestrained manner is hard to say. It seems that Zusak wants to hit right at the reader’s heart, and yes, mine has been weakened recently due to cold and fever…but I have a feeling that even if I was at my strongest, The Book Thief would’ve penetrated right to the depths of my human soul nevertheless.

“I have hated the words and

I have loved them,

and I hope I have made them right.”

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

*Although this novel does deal with very mature themes and is vulgar at times, I highly recommend that it be read by high school students everywhere!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart