October 27, 2015

#SoRatherBeYoung: The Unknown & Unfamiliar

Estelle and I are teaming up to celebrate the books that turned us into readers with "You Make Me Feel So Young." In each post, we'll be highlighting three books: one joint read that we both loved growing up and then we'll each pick a book for one another (something we loved that the other one hasn't read yet).
Joint Pick: ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell | First Published: 1960 

More Than You Know: Island of the Blue Dolphins is inspired by the true story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, Juana Maria. I've always been fascinated by that fact, but I was even more intrigued to learn that archaeologists believe that may have found Juana Maria's cave. There was previously no known habitation on the island, so it was a very exciting discovery! And how cool to find relics from her life?!

Memories are Made of This: Unlike with Harriet the Spy, I felt like I was a little more familiar with Island of the Blue Dolphins... although I still couldn't have shared a play-by-play of the plot. I definitely remembered that this was the story of a girl who was living alone on an island off the coast of California. I knew it was the story of how she'd survived, but I forgot that she was surrounded by people when the book began!  

Second Time Around: I really enjoyed re-reading this book! It was never a favorite for me growing (mostly because I wasn't drawn to survival stories), but I did have fond memories of it. That being said, I didn't remember how sad and serious the book is. As a child, I think I was captivated by the the setting and fascinated by the things Karana had to do to survive. It was more of an adventure story than anything else! As an adult, I think I was more connected to the emotions in the story. I saw Karana's grief after losing her family and community, and I recognized her isolation in a way I didn't as a child.

You Can Take My Word for It, Baby: I would definitely read this book to my kids! I read an article after finishing the book criticizing its portrayal of the Aleuts, so I'd want to make sure that I kept that in mind while reading it. I think problematic books can still be worth reading, especially if you out them in the proper context. I know it's not a perfect read, but I think it has a lot to offer and would fascinate young readers!
Estelle's Pick for Me: THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND | First Published: 1958

Do You Know Why? I'm sure Hannah was shocked to know a historical fiction was one of my favorites of childhood but it's true. I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond for summer school reading; it was one of those assignments that never felt like one. (The best kind.) Accusations, new beginnings, and one very, complicated situation = so much to discuss. (Probably why it was a school pick for so many.) I hope Hannah finds it as memorable as I did. - from Estelle

Can't You Just See Yourself: I remember hearing about this book as a kid, but I'm pretty sure that I thought it was actually about witchcraft so I wasn't interested in reading it. What a mistake on my part! I'm guilty of exactly what the people in Kit's Connecticut community were guilty of - making assumptions about something without knowing much about it. Let me tell you, I would have loved this book as a kid. It's right up my alley!

I Give You My Word: I absolutely loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and I'm so glad Estelle chose it for me to read! As Estelle said, there's so much to discuss with this book. From a pure reading standpoint, it was such an engaging and enjoyable book. I have no doubt that I would have been hooked as a kid. But you know what's even better? It's such a layered and nuanced story. I loved every single character - the strong heroine, the captain's son, the mysterious Quaker woman, the lonely little girl... In addition to the plot and characters, I adored the setting and the historical detail. I literally can't think of anything to critcize!

Before the Music Ends: I cannot believe that I didn't read this book as a kid. If I ever needed proof that preconceived notions can keep you from incredible things, this book is it! This is a classic for a reason, and I can see why it's often taught in school. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing out. And if it's been a while since you read, I'd definitely suggest revisiting it. I think you'll find even more to love!

Have you read either of these books? What do you remember? 
Comment or join the conversation with #SoRatherBeYoung.

October 26, 2015

Book Boy Roulette

Once upon a time, we were all texting about the men of Sarah J. Maas. As you might know, it's almost impossible to choose a favorite... but we definitely each have one. In arguing our case, we realized how much fun it was to compare our taste in book boys. And so, we bring you Book Boy Roulette. 

AlexaRachelKelly and I are collaborating to present a collection of our favorite book boys. We're looking at several series with some seriously swoonworthy guys and forcing ourselves to pick ONE favorite from each. There are 12 series total - three on each of our blogs - and we'll share why we picked our favorites for the three series featured on our post.

And we want to hear from you! Do you agree with our choices... or does another fella have your heart?
 Series #1: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers
Books in the Series: Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart

This was a tough call because I love Duval, but I knew I had to give my heart to Beast. I don't know if it's because I loved Sybella's story a little more - or just because these two characters are so perfectly matched - but Beast was one of the highlights of the series for me. He's fierce and loyal and more than a little dangerous, but he's also a safe haven for the people he loves. I swooned when Sybella said, "It is a raw and uncomfortable realization that Beast is partly behind this newfound will to live. Not for him, but because he reminded me of what life has to offer. He lives life so joyously - it is impossible not to want that joy for oneself." OH, MY HEART.

  Series #2: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Oh my goodness, Cricket Bell. Talk about seriously swoony! He's a good dresser, a comical inventor, and he's got that whole cool nerd vibe totally down. And I absolutely loved him! He's the epitome of the nice boy next door, and I was rooting for him from the first moment he appeared. I know people generally freak out of Etienne St. Clair (though I love that Rachel and Alexa are mixing it up with their love for the artsy Josh!), but Cricket will always have my heart. He's adorable, he'd make you cool stuff, he'd get along with your parents... and he's the kind of guy that would make you say, "And if I'm the stars, Cricket Bell is entire galaxies." DYING.

 Series #3: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I loved Sam and Chaol, but there could never be anyone for me but Rowan Whitethorn. I'm sorry, but he's just too perfect! When I first met him in Heir of Fire, I was put off by his gruff attitude and his tough exterior. But I was also intrigued because I could tell there was more to him than meets the eye! Although, I certainly wouldn't be complaining about his looks... Rowan is definitely more of the strong and silent type, which is just fine with me. I'd echo Aelin and say, "I claim you, Rowan Whitethorn. I don't care what you say and how much you protest. I claim you as my friend." But, you know, replace friend with TRUE LOVE because DUH.

***

And now, one last question I have to answer:
Who is your #1 book boyfriend?

Gilbert Blythe will always be my first (and forever favorite) book boyfriend. He's practically perfect in every way, as Mary Poppins would say. I recently re-read the entire series for the Return to Green Gables event that I co-hosted with Rachel and Alexa, and it reminded me of all the reasons I love this character. He's faithful, kind, smart, handsome, clever... I could go on! He (and his romance with Anne) taught me so much about love, too. I completely agree with Anne's declaration, "I don't want marble halls and sunbursts. I just want you."

Don't forget to read Alexa's, Rachel's and Kelly's posts, too!

October 21, 2015

“Nothing on earth could’ve kept me away.”

Every Word by Ellie Marney

Release Date: September 8, 2015 (US)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Pages: 352 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Series: Every #2
Add on Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
James Mycroft has left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents seven years ago... without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his "partner in crime."

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behavior -- not that Mycroft's ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him... and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble. 

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator, and the deaths of Mycroft's parents... Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events - or will she lose him forever? Sparks fly when Watts and Mycroft reunite in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen sleuthing duo.

Thoughts on Every Word
Hopefully, I've already convinced you to read Every Breath. Or maybe you're smarter than me and you read it months ago (which, technically, I did too but never reviewed it). EITHER WAY, it's time to discuss the sequel (a book that is also deserving of your attention and devotion). Four reasons it's EVEN BETTER than the first book:

1. The flight.
When I was thinking about the reasons I loved this book (and how to condense them into a list - with alliteration!), I immediately thought of two things: the setting and what we learn about Mycroft. I've combined them both on this bullet point, and I'll start with the first aspect of it. After learning about a car accident in London that's eerily similar to the one that killed his parents, Mycroft leaves for England to investigate.

I didn't expect the change in setting, but it worked perfectly. I studied abroad in Oxford one summer, so I loved how the setting felt so familiar. Plus, it was so nice to see Mycroft return to the place he called home. The setting became so important to the mystery - and to Mycroft's past - but you'll have to read to find out more!

So, that's the first (and more literal) flight: the one from Australia to England. And then there's the second (and more figurative) one: the way Mycroft is trying to run from his past. You'd think that returning would mean that he's finally ready to face what happened to his family, but that's not really the case. He's pouring himself into the mystery and logic and hiding from the pain and loss he experienced. There are hints of that side of him in the first book, but it becomes much more prominent in Every Word. It made this a sad read at times - but one that was so worth it, too. Seeing him wrestle with his past was difficult!

2. The friendship.
In my review for the first book, I talked a lot about the romance. And while it's present in Every Word, I became more impressed with Rachel and Mycroft's friendship. When Mycroft leaves for England, he does so without saying goodbye to Rachel. She is, understandably, furious. But she's also scared. She knows how much he's struggling, and she's worried that he won't be able to handle returning to the scene of his greatest nightmare.

Despite her anger at him, she decides to follow him to England... even though she knows that he will likely reject her when she gets there. Because he's hurting, he might lash out and hurt her. He won't want her there, but she knows that he needs her. And as his friend, she has to show up. No matter what, she wants to be by his side. I didn't think I could love this couple more, but clearly I was wrong! I love that they were friends before they became anything more - and that Rachel still makes that a priority. I respected her so much for it!

3. The fear.
You can't have a Sherlock-inspired story without a little mystery! The mystery in Every Breath was a smaller one, at least in my mind. It didn't impact many people, and it was essentially over once it was solved. But the mystery in Every Word is bigger. It's an entire continent away, involves the theft of a rare (and incredibly expensive) book... and seems to be tied to a larger organization. There's more going on here than meets the eye! And honestly, it made this book more nerve-wracking for me.

It felt like there was so much more at stake - and so many more people involved! I was never sure what was going to happen next, and I was thrilled that the book kept me on my toes. It made me so nervous for these characters that I've grown to love, but I was also glad that the mystery seemed to have more depth and breadth. Although part of the case was solved in this book, I know there's more to come in the next one...

4. The feelings.
You didn't think I was going to ignore the romance, did you? I may have appreciated the friendship in this book, but I was definitely dying over the heightened emotion in this story. There were so majorly swoony moments in this book, but there were also many that absolutely broke my heart. There are a few scenes in particular that just... AHHHHH. I can't. My poor little broken babies! These two may have some questionable kissing timing (seriously, y'all, your lives are in danger), but I didn't mind. Their chemistry is just the best!

Aside from the romance, it felt like a more emotional book overall. I was laughing one minute and frantically turning the page the next. Every Word kept me on my toes, which is exactly what I wanted. I'd say my heart can't take much more, but I want every last bit of emotional overload. I'm committed to these two!

So Quotable
"I have seen the aftermath of death, the incredible mechanism of the body laid bare, and I know now that each person is a kind of miracle. A spark nestles like a bird inside our chests, so deep that we can't find where it lives, but it is everything. It's what makes us dream and think and feel and laugh and sing. And it is a mystery, and it is mundane, and, above all, it is fragile. Any moment could be our last."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

October 14, 2015

"You need me to be your Watson."

Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Release Date: October 14, 2014 (US)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Pages: 353 pages
Source & Format: Won from Lisa; Hardcover
Series: Every #1
Add on Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft's numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft's passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn't right -- and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder. 

While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he's busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion's den -- literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again...

Thoughts on Every Breath
You want me to convince you to read Every Breath? THIS IS A THING I WILL DO. Let's begin.

1. The Sherlock!
I've never read any Sherlock Holmes (HUSH), so I can't compare this to the original. I can, however, compare it to the movies and the TV show (which someone should have told me to watch sooner. YOU ALL FAILED ME HERE.). Here's what all three of these things have in common:
  • A MURDER MYSTERY
  • An eccentric genius with questionable social skills
  • A loyal sidekick with endless amounts of patience
  • Lots of sass and sarcasm
Here's what the book has that every other Sherlock adaptation was clearly missing: KISSING. Other than the main characters and the fact that it's a mystery, I don't know if there are other nods to the inspiration... but there might be! Why don't you pick it up for yourself and find out?

2. The setting.
Every Breath is set in Australia, which added so much to the story. I loved the slang (even when I didn't always know what it meant!) and the way the setting played into the story. I could imagine myself there with Watts and Mycroft, which made it all the more frustrating when I looked and realized NOPE STILL SITTING AT HOME.

3. The sleuthing.
I don't read a lot of thrillers or mysteries, but I do occasionally find myself drawn to the genre. I don't like unnecessary gore/violence or stories that make me scared out of my mind, so Every Breath was the perfect mystery for me. It's a little dark and definitely foreboding, but I never felt like I needed to look over my shoulder or turn on all the lights. However, it is gripping and left me guessing until the end. I had SUSPICIONS, but I will not tell you if I was right. It's not the most complicated mystery, but it was an enjoyable one. Plus, I loved watching Watts and Mycroft work things out, even when it got them into trouble.

4. The swooning.
If you like sparks and sexual tension and slow burn and surprise kissing, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. I loved the friendship between Watts and Mycroft. I love how Watts has seen Mycroft at his most vulnerable and isn't scared away. They butt heads sometimes, but they're there for each other when it counts. If a brooding, eccentric genius doesn't sound like your type, just wait until you meet Mycroft. And I have a feeling you'll love Watts from the very first page. They're great individually, but TOGETHER THEY ARE MAGIC.

So Quotable
"You don't have to pretend with me, you know." He reaches out and tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. His expression is so open and honest I feel it like a sucker punch. "I used to pretend, all the time, so I can spot it a mile away. If you're feeling shit, then just say so. I don't need to know the reason, it might be none of my business—"

"I'm feeling shit."

October 13, 2015

The Throne of Glass Book Tag


Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and I recently fell in love with Brittany’s The Lunar Chronicles Book Tag, and it inspired us to create a tag for our favorite series - Throne of Glass! We haven’t seen this around the blogosphere yet, and we thought it would be a fun way to celebrate the recent release of Queen of Shadows. We had so much fun coming up with the categories, and we hope you have just as much fun filling it out. To participate, just answer the questions and tag a few friends to join in. We can't wait to see your answers!


Lysandra | A book with a cover change you loved
I considered highlighting a cover change in a series, but I decided to focus on hardcover to paperback change that I loved. I discovered The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum when it was already out in paperback, and the cover is what first drew me to the book... Well, the cover and then the first chapter! When I realized how much I loved the book, I bought it in hardcover, too, but I definitely prefer the paperback cover.

Abraxos | A book that’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside
I stumbled upon a copy of These is My Words by Nancy Turner at the used bookstore and was intrigued by the summary. After looking it up, I was even more impressed by its ratings! But I wasn't a fan of the cover or the title, (though they fit the book in a way), and I judged it for both. And that's a shame because the story inside is phenomenal. It's one of my all-time historical fiction favorite books -- and love stories!

Erilea | A series with great world-building
The world in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor was unlike anything I'd ever read before. It was strange and a little bit creepy with the winged strangers, human teeth, otherworldly monitors and mysterious errands. And yet, I quickly fell in love with it. I once described it as "brilliantly imagined and gorgeously depicted," and that's certainly fitting. And the audiobooks brought it to life even more!


Rifthold | A book that combines genres
I'm not typically a huge fan of books that combine historical and contemporary fiction, but The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes is definitely an exception. I loved portion set during World War I, and it was probably my favorite aspect of the novel. But I was also very engaged in the modern storyline, especially in trying to figure out how the two timelines were connected! It's perfect for fans of both genres.

Damaris | A book based on/inspired by a myth/legend
I immediately thought of Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen when I got to this question! Based on the legend of Robin Hood, this book was a delight to read. The series focuses on a secondary character from the original story but with a fun twist - the male character is a girl in this version! I didn't know much about Robin Hood or his band of Merry Men before I started reading, but I definitely wanted to after I closed the last page. So epic!

Kaltain Rompier | A book with an unexpected twist
The problem with talking about a book with a twist is that I 1) don't want to spoil anything for future readers and 2) don't want to set expectations for certain books. So, I thought I'd pick a book that's likely familiar to most readers at this point: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. When I read it for the first time, I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea how the games would end, and I definitely wasn't expecting it to be this way.


Assassin’s Keep | A book with an unreliable narrator
There was no doubt in my mind that my answer for this question had to be the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. It took me some time to get into the first book, but I soon became hooked on the unique narration and writing style. I enjoyed seeing the world through Juliette's eyes, even though I knew that I could never quite trust her observations. In fact, my review for the last book focused on perception and unreliable narrators.

Asterin Blackbeak | A book that’s got SQUAD GOALS
Like Alexa, I wanted to choose Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas for this question... because who wouldn't?! But, since I was trying to avoid the series for this tag, I decided to highlight Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. It might be a slightly unconventional choice, but it's one of the first books that comes to my mind when I think about friendships. I love how these characters are there for each other in good times and bad!

Terrasen | A book that feels like home
I decided to interpret this question somewhat literally, so I'm choosing Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The book is set in Atlanta, Georgia, which is where I was born and raised. I read this classic in middle school and fell in love with it. I recognize it's flaws more as an adult than I did as a child, but I believe it's possible to love problematic things... just like I love the state of Georgia, even though it's far from perfect.


Aelin Ashryver Galathynius | A book with the power to destroy you
I feel like I'm always talking about The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan, but I can't help that it's the answer to everything! I absolutely adore these books, and they definitely have the power to destroy your head and your heart. I was an emotional wreck when I finished the last book! Brennan lives on the tears of her readers, as you're sure to find out... But trust me, they're totally worth it for so many reasons!

Manon Blackbeak | A book that intimidated you 
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett definitely intimidated me when I saw it sitting on my shelves. Clocking in at almost 1,000 pages, this book is a BEAST. Plus, it's set during the Middle Ages, which is definitely a time period that I don't know very much about. But once I finally sat down with the book, I lost myself in the story and became so attached to the characters. I'm glad I got past my fear and finally read it.

Rowan Whitethorn | A book that makes you swoon
I have no doubt that Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center will make you swoon. Unless, you know, you're immune to FEELINGS. I read this book earlier this year and loved it so much that I read it again two weeks later. Yes, it's that good. I couldn't get it out of my head! It wasn't quite what I expected, but in the best way. This guy is firmly in my list of top ten favorite book boys, and the romance was so memorable and satisfying.


Chaol Westfall | A book that challenged you to see things differently
While there are many books that have challenged (and changed!) my views, The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith seemed like the perfect pick for this question. This decorating book is based around the idea that "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." As a someone who is afraid to start something for fear it won't be perfect, this helped me see my home (and other experiences) differently. There's beauty in imperfection!

Fleetfoot | A book that you received as a gift
Cassie gave me A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller for my birthday last year, and I fell in love with it. I've always been a fan of historical fiction, so this book was right up my alley! I loved the time period, but it was the focus on art and the suffrage movement that really captured my attention. I always consider it a success when a book leaves me dying to learn more about history, and that's exactly what happened with this one!

Eye of Elena | A book you found right when you needed it
I was going to pick a book that had a lot of personal meaning to me, particularly at the time when I read it, but then I realized there was a different way to interpret this question. So, I chose It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane because I read it earlier this year when I was in the middle of a HUGE reading funk, and it totally snapped me out of it. I read all 500 pages in one sitting after work - it was that addicting!

Hope you enjoyed! I tag:
and anyone else who'd like to participate!

October 10, 2015

Return to Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery Recommendations


As Anne Shirley has said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." While every October holds its own special charm, this one is all the more precious because it holds something I've been looking forward to for ages: Return to Green GablesAlexa from Alexa Loves BooksRachel  from Hello, Chelly and I wanted to celebrate this kindred spirit, so we've got some fun things in store for you! Be sure to visit all of our blogs during the next week as we pay tribute to the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.

I'm sad that we've come to the end of this lovely celebration! I've loved celebrating my favorite heroine and the world in which she lives, and I'm so thankful for the two kindred spirits that made this event so much fun! For this final post, we're sharing further reading recommendations. Rachel's sharing fiction for Anne-lovers, Alexa's highlighting related non-fiction and I've recommending other books by L.M. Montgomery that you should consider. There's something for everyone in our posts today, so prepare your TBR!


1-3. Emily of New MoonEmily Climbs and Emily's Quest - After finishing the Anne series for the first time, I was in desperate need of another heroine to love! Although they share a few similarities, these series are very different overall. Emily is more reflective of Montgomery's personality, and I believe the books are more serious in tone (if I remember correctly). In the first book, you'll meet Emily Starr. She's an orphan sent to live with her mother's snobbish relatives, and she's miserable at first. But, like Anne, she soon begins to make friends and charm everyone with her imagination. A big focus of the series is Emily's desire to be an author, so it follows her writing journey (which I always loved). My one complaint about this series? The romance was very unsatisfying!


4. The Blue Castle - MY FAVORITE. Seriously, I absolutely love this book! It's my second most-read Montgomery (after Anne of Green Gables, of course). Valancy Stirling is 29, unmarried, and lives with her overbearing mother and meddling aunt. She's always done exactly what she's told, but shocking news from the doctor causes her to rebel against her family. You'll have to read to discover what happens next!

5-6. Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat - I think I read this series after the Emily books, and I remember being surprised by them. Pat is quite a different heroine! I believe I found her a bit unlikeable when I first met her -- though I enjoyed many of the secondary characters. These books revolve largely around Pat's love for her home and her desire for her life to remain exactly the same. Of course, you know that can never happen. 


7. Magic for Marigold - This book follows a young girl named Marigold throughout her childhood. If I remember correctly, this book is a series of stories and episodes from Marigold's life, which reminded me a bit of Rainbow Valley. Marigold is an imaginative young girl, and you get to follow her many adventures and mishaps.

8. Jane of Lantern Hill - Jane has grown up with her mother, her grandmother, and her aunt. In the absence of her father, she's always believed that he's dead. When she learns that he's alive and well, she gets the change to spend a summer with him on Prince Edward Island. She dreams of reuniting her parents in a new home!

9. A Tangled Web - Like The Blue Castle (and the later Anne books), this is a more adult novel for Montgomery. When Great Aunt Becky dies, her family begins feuding over who will inherit her prized possession: a legendary heirloom jug. But the owner won't be revealed for a year, and the family is in for a surprise when it's all over...

Well, there you have it! Nine books by L.M. Montgomery that you should read after finishing the Anne of Green Gables series. I hope you've found something that interests you! Montgomery has an extensive backlist, including numerous short story collections. If you're a fan of her work, there's so much for you to explore!

And now, it's time to say goodbye to Return to Green Gables. If you're already a fan of Anne, I hope we reminded you of all the reasons she's so special... and if you've yet to meet her, I hope we've convinced you that it's time you do! There's no one quite like Anne, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

October 9, 2015

Return to Green Gables: From Fiction to Film


As Anne Shirley has said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." While every October holds its own special charm, this one is all the more precious because it holds something I've been looking forward to for ages: Return to Green GablesAlexa from Alexa Loves BooksRachel  from Hello, Chelly and I wanted to celebrate this kindred spirit, so we've got some fun things in store for you! Be sure to visit all of our blogs during the next week as we pay tribute to the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.

For today's post, I'm talking about the delightful movie adaptations of these beloved books using the format of my Tune in Tonight feature. I had so much fun putting it together, and I hope you enjoy!

The Stats

Length: 199 minutes | 230 minutes | 185 minutes
Genre: Drama | Family | Romance
Director: Kevin Sullivan
Buy on Amazon

The Story

At the turn of the century on Prince Edward Island, Matthew Cuthbert and his sister Marilla decide to take on an orphan boy as help for their farm. But they get an unexpected jolt when they're mistakenly sent a girl instead: Anne Shirley. Anne's a dreamer with an unusual point of view, far removed from Marilla's pragmatic ways, and it's only on trial that Marilla agrees to keep Anne...if Anne can keep out of trouble, only Anne has a positive genius for it. As Anne falls into a series of scrapes (and off a roof), makes a bosom friend, searches (and finds) several kindred spirits, Matthew and Marilla discover that their lives have become a great deal richer, now that Anne is at Green Gables. +

The Stars

Megan Follows as Anne Shirley
Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe
Schuyler Grant as Diana Barry
Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert
Richard Farnsworth as Matthew Cuthbert

The Sneak Peek


The Sell

They don't compare to the books, but I'm a HUGE fan of these movies. The first, Anne of Green Gables, generally follows the first book in the series. The second, Anne of Avonlea, combines some material from Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars - as well as introducing entirely new characters and storylines. And the third, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, basically came out of nowhere. I'm going to share five reasons I love the movies in general, but the first two are definitely my favorites. I enjoy certain scenes in The Continuing Story, but it drives me crazy that the story deviated from the books so much.

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1. It's fun to see these beloved characters on screen!
These movies are perfectly cast! Megan Follows embodies Anne Shirley so completely that I always picture her in my head now when I read the book... and sometimes I hear her voice. Jonathan Crombie is another favorite because he really brought to life Gilbert's charm and intelligence. I absolutely love the moments he's in a scene, and sometimes he'll catch my eye even when he's in the background. I just can't help it! And Richard Farnsworth and Colleen Dewhurst made me love Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert even more than I already did. It's fun to see many of the secondary characters, too! I particularly love Rachel Lynde and Katherine Brooke. 

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2. Although they don't completely follow the books, they still capture their spirit.
As a fan of the books, I'm not a fan of all the changes they made in the first two movies. In Anne of Green Gables, they're relatively minor since the plot is basically the same. Anne of Avonlea, on the other hand, is pretty different from the books. And, as I noted, The Continuing Story really bears no relation to the books. But where the movies truly succeed, in my opinion, is in capturing the spirit and emotion of the books. I love watching the movies just as much as I love reading the books, and that's the most important thing. They bring me so much joy that I end up forgetting all about nitpicking the differences. 

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3. Anne's (mis)adventures are absolutely hilarious.
Anne Shirley has a knack for getting into trouble. Although, as she tells Marilla, it's never the same thing twice. At least she learns from her mistakes! It's really fun to read about her scrapes, but it's even more enjoyable to see them come to life on screen. With the raspberry cordial incident, for example, it's pretty funny to see Anne get Diana (accidentally) drunk. There are so many other moments - like Anne cracking her slate over Gilbert's head or being rescued in the lake after her boat sinks or losing her temper with Mrs. Lynde... One of the reasons I loved these movies when I was younger was because I couldn't wait to see what Anne would do next.

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4. They'll make your heart happy.
Honestly, these movies just make you feel good. Whether I'm laughing at Anne's dramatics or crying over a beloved character's death, it's so satisfying to watch these movies. If I'm feeling sick or sad, this is what I turn to for comfort. I can never get tired of seeing Anne find a family -- and fall in love. You could watch these movies with your whole family (even though I could never get my brothers on board), and I adore their wholesomeness. There's a charm to this world, and I can't get enough! I bonded with two of my best friends in high school over our love for these movies, so they win points for bringing people together, too.

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5. The romance will make you swoon, even though it's better in the books.
Of course, I had to end with the romance. If you read my post the other day, you should have seen that coming. I'm so obsessed with this couple! I think there are elements of the love story that are stronger in the books, but I can't deny that these movies absolutely make me swoon. There are some scenes in these that aren't in the books (including little things like the moment above), but you'll hear no complaints from me about them. I'll take all the lovey-dovey stuff I can get. I'm so thankful the casting for these two was so absolutely perfect! And while I'm not crazy about The Continuing Story, I do love some of the romantic moments in it. 

The Snippets


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Anne Shirley: "Plum puffs won't minister to a mind diseased in a world that's crumbled into pieces."
Marilla Cuthbert: "Well I'm glad to see that your dented spirits haven't injured your tongue."

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Anne Shirley: "Our friendship, it won't ever be the same now. Why can't he just be sensible instead of acting like a sentimental schoolboy?"
Marilla Cuthbert: "Because he loves you."
Anne Shirley: "He loves me? I can't know why."
Marilla Cuthbert: "Because you made Josie Pye and Ruby Gillis and all of those wishy-washy young ladies who waltzed by him look like spineless nothings."
Anne Shirley: "Marilla, he's hardly my idea of a romantic suitor."
Marilla Cuthbert: "Anne, you have tricked something out of that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up the Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me? He picked you up everyday in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don't toss it away for some ridiculous ideal that doesn't exist."

The Soundtrack

I didn't realize there was a score available for these movies, and I was delighted when I discovered them while preparing this post. I found this playlist on Spotify with all of them combined, and I can't wait to listen!



Rachel is looking at Anne covers, and Alexa is traveling to Prince Edward Island.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final day of our celebration!

October 8, 2015

Return to Green Gables: Favorite Places


As Anne Shirley has said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." While every October holds its own special charm, this one is all the more precious because it holds something I've been looking forward to for ages: Return to Green GablesAlexa from Alexa Loves BooksRachel  from Hello, Chelly and I wanted to celebrate this kindred spirit, so we've got some fun things in store for you! Be sure to visit all of our blogs during the next week as we pay tribute to the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.
1, 2, 3
1. The White Way of Delight
"The 'Avenue,' so called by the Newbridge people, was a stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle." - Anne of Green Gables

2. Lake of Shining Waters
"Below them was a pond, looking almost like a river so long and winding was it.  A bridge spanned it midway and from there to its lower end, where an amber-hued belt of sand hills shut it in from the dark blue gulf beyond, the water was a glory of many shifting hues - the most spiritual shadings of crocus and rose and ethereal green, with other elusive tintings for which no name has ever been found. Above the bridge the pond ran up into fringing groves of fir and maple..." - Anne of Green Gables

3. Green Gables
"Anne dropped to her knees and gazed out into the June morning, her eyes glistening with delight. Oh, wasn't it beautiful? Wasn't it a lovely place? Suppose she wasn't really going to stay here! She could imagine she was. There was scope for imagination here... Anne's beauty-loving eyes lingered on it all, taking everything greedily in; she had looked on so many unlovely places in her life, poor child; but this was as lovely as anything she had ever dreamed." - Anne of Green Gables

4. Echo Lodge
"Around the next turn they came in sight, not indeed of a palace, but of a little house almost as surprising as a palace would have been in this province of conventional wooden farmhouses, all as much alike in general characteristics as if they had grown from the same seed... The house was a low-eaved structure built of undressed blocks of red Island sandstone, with a little peaked roof out of which peered two dormer windows, with quaint wooden hoods over them, and two great chimneys." - Anne of Avonlea

5. Old St. John's Graveyard
"Old St. John's is a darling place. It's been a graveyard so long that it's ceased to be one and has become one of the sights of Kingsport... There's a big stone wall and a row of enormous trees all around it, and rows of trees all through it, and the queerest old tombstones, with the queerest and quaintest inscriptions. You'll go there to study, Anne, see if you don't. Of course, nobody is ever buried there now." - Anne of the Island

6. Patty's Place
"Just on the crest, where Spofford Avenue petered out into a plain road, was a little white frame house with groups of pines on either side of it, stretching their arms protectingly over its low roof. It was covered with red and gold vines, through which its green-shuttered windows peeped. Before it was a tiny garden, surrounded by a low stone wall... The whole place might have been transported from some remote country village; yet there was something about it that made its nearest neighbor, the big lawn-encircled palace of a tobacco king, look exceedingly crude and showy and ill-bred by contrast." - Anne of the Island

7. Windy Poplars
"And the third and last is Windy Poplars, right on the corner, with the grass-grown street on the front and a real country road, beautiful with tree shadows, on the other side. I fell in love with it at once. You know there are houses which impress themselves upon you at first sight for some reason you can hardly define. Windy Poplars is like that... In short, it is a house with a delightful personality and has something of the flavor of Green Gables about it." - Anne of Windy Poplars

8. House of Dreams
"This is a little white house on the harbour shore, half way between Glen St. Mary and Four Winds Point. It's a little out of the way, but when we get a 'phone in that won't matter so much. The situation is beautiful. It looks to the sunset and has the great blue harbour before it... It is about sixty years old - the oldest house in Four Winds... I understand that there was some romantic story connected with its building, but the man I rented it from didn't know it." - Anne's House of Dreams

9. Glen St. Mary
"Her heart sang all the way because she was going home to a joyous house... a house where every one who crossed its threshold knew it was a home... a house that was filled all the time with laughter and silver mugs and snapshots and babies... precious things with curls and chubby knees... and rooms that would welcome her... where the chairs waited patiently and the dresses in her closet were expecting her... where little anniversaries were always being celebrated and little secrets were always being whispered." - Anne of Ingleside

10. Rainbow Valley
"In daytime the Blythe children liked very well to play in the rich, soft greens and glooms of the big maple grove between Ingleside and Glen St. Mary pond; but for evening revels there was no place like the little valley behind the maple grove. It was a fairy realm of romance to them. Once, looking from the attic windows of Ingleside, through the mist and aftermath of a summer thunder-storm, they had seen the beloved spot arched by a glorious rainbow, one end of which seemed to dip straight down to where a corner of the pond ran up into the lower end of the valley." - Rainbow Valley

Visit Alexa's post and Rachel's post for more lists of favorites,
and check back tomorrow for three fun features!

October 7, 2015

Return to Green Gables: "I just want YOU."


As Anne Shirley has said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." While every October holds its own special charm, this one is all the more precious because it holds something I've been looking forward to for ages: Return to Green GablesAlexa from Alexa Loves BooksRachel  from Hello, Chelly and I wanted to celebrate this kindred spirit, so we've got some fun things in store for you! Be sure to visit all of our blogs during the next week as we pay tribute to the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.
Many of my expectations and ideas about romance were formed while reading the Anne of Green Gables series, even though that was never the focus of Anne's life. I didn't fully realize it at the time, but I can see it so clearly now that I look back. From the first moment I fell into Anne's story, I adored Gilbert Blythe. He was my first literary love, the ideal hero, the character that raised the bar and set the standard. No one else would do. It wasn't until I re-read the books that I realized my love goes deeper -- that it extends to every fact of his relationship with Anne. And that's what I'm going to talk about today.

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Anne's best friend, Diana Barry, is the first person in the series to mention Gilbert. She tells Anne that he's returning to school after visiting his cousins all summer and slyly mentions that he's "aw'fly handsome" and "teases the girls something terrible." Anne concedes that he's handsome, but she's not too impressed with his manners after he winks at her! He appears to be a bit of flirt -- leaving every girl swooning -- except Anne. 
Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly, because Anne was at that moment totally oblivious not only to the very existence of Gilbert Blythe, but of every other scholar in Avonlea school itself... Gilbert Blythe wasn't used to putting himself out to make a girl look at him and meeting with failure. She SHOULD look at him, that red-haired Shirley girl with the little pointed chin and the big eyes that weren't like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school.
Gilbert isn't used to being ignored, so he turns to teasing to get her attention. But tugging on her braid and whispering "Carrots! Carrots!" doesn't result in the reaction he expects. Anne reacts with a vengeance by smashing her slate over his head, a scene that's always been one of my favorites. And it sparked the beginning of a grudge that sometimes seemed as though it would never end. Gilbert tries to apologize, but Anne won't even acknowledge his existence. This continues for ages! Thus, I learned my first lesson about relationships:

Love stories don't always get off to the right start.

Is it any wonder that I became a fan of hate-to-love romances? That I became obsessed with books like Pride and Prejudice? It's one of my favorite romantic tropes, and I know where that love originated. But it's something that spilled over into life, too. It taught me that first impressions aren't always right, that your feelings for people can change and that holding a grudge can prevent you from recognizing good things right in front of you. 

Two years later, Anne is forced to speak and interact with Gilbert when he rescues her after she's stranded in the pond because her boat has sunk. Once more, he apologizes for his past mistake. And though Anne hesitates, she is firm in her resolve to hate him forever. She has let bitterness and resentment take root, and she's unable to see Gilbert for who he is now. As a reader, you're desperate for Anne to reconcile with Gilbert at this point. The rift has gone on long enough -- and you know that Anne is missing out by rejecting him. And that was my second lesson about romance:

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You can't see someone clearly when your vision is clouded by bitterness. 

Anne taught me that the holding on to a negative feeling about someone will never bring peace. Bitterness creates a wall between people -- it divides and conquers, if you will. If you allow it into your heart and nurture its presence, you are only hurting yourself. It's something I've seen over and over again in friendships, in family relationships, and in my marriage. If I hold on to bitterness, I will look at people differently. Anne has the satisfaction of feeling powerful in her ability to snub Gilbert, but there's a hollowness to it. Restoration is never the result of being right. And little does she know, she's shunned someone who has so much to offer.

You see, Gilbert is smart and ambitious. He works hard and does well in school, and his success pushes Anne to be better, too. He challenges her, even when he doesn't realize he's doing it. They begin to compete with one another in school -- neither of them holding anything back.
There was open rivalry between Gilbert and Anne now. Previously the rivalry had been rather onesided, but there was no longer any doubt that Gilbert was as determined to be first in class as Anne was. He was a foeman worthy of her steel. The other members of the class tacitly acknowledged their superiority, and never dreamed of trying to compete with them.
And that's when I understood my third thing about romance:

A person worthy of your affection will treat you as an equal.

One of the things that I always loved about Gilbert was that he competed with Anne academically. Anne originally wanted to be first in everything so that Gilbert would feel the sting of defeat, but there was never any malice in his desire to win. Eventually, Anne recognizes what Gilbert has always known -- that there's joy in "a well-won victory over a worth foeman." And half the pleasure is in the effort it takes to get there.

The world often communicates to girls that their value lies in being pretty. Why attract people with your brain when you could use your body? But that's the opposite of what happens in this love story. When Anne regrets her refusal to forgive Gilbert, she's often thinking about the fact that he's someone she could truly talk to:
She could not help thinking, too, that it would be very pleasant to have such a friend as Gilbert to jest and chatter with and exchange ideas about books and studies and ambitions... But she thought that if Gilbert had ever walked home with her from the train, over the crisp fields and along the ferny byways, they might have had many and merry and interesting conversations about the new world that was opening around them and their hopes and ambitions therein.
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He's her intellectual equal, and she recognizes it. And the best part is that Gilbert knows it, too. He could sit back and let her win in the hopes that it will earn her favor, but he doesn't. He views her as an equal and admires her intelligence, and he knows that she deserves his best. Their rivalry continues even when they're at Queen's earning a teaching license, and both are rewarded for their efforts.

After Queen's, Anne has the opportunity to go to Redmond college. She's excited to attend -- though she's dismayed when she learns that Gilbert won't be going, too. He is going to begin teaching in Avonlea to earn money because his father can't afford to send him to college. Then, something happens that causes Anne to make the difficult decision to postpone Redmond. She must teach now, too, but where? And that's when something amazing happens:
"I guess you're going to teach right here in Avonlea. The trustees have decided to give you the school." 
"Mrs. Lynde!" cried Anne, springing to her feet in her surprise. "Why, I thought they had promised it to Gilbert Blythe!" 
"So they did. But as soon as Gilbert heard that you had applied for it he went to them—they had a business meeting at the school last night, you know—and told them that he withdrew his application, and suggested that they accept yours. He said he was going to teach at White Sands."
ARE YOU BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND MY LOVE FOR GILBERT BLYTHE? Of course, this brings me to the fourth thing I internalized about love:

Love grows out of grace and forgiveness.

I almost used the word sacrifice in the sentence above, and it would have been an accurate statement if I did. Gilbert makes a huge sacrifice for Anne. He'll have to pay to board at White Sands, which means he won't be able to save as much for college. The new school is farther away and unfamiliar -- it's certainly not a better opportunity for him. But the word sacrifice didn't seem to communicate the real beauty of Gilbert's gesture.

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Anne and Gilbert still aren't friends at this point in their lives. She's refused to forgive him time and time again, and there's no really reason he should be thinking of her. I've always heard grace defined as giving someone something that they don't deserve, and that's what I see in Gilbert's actions. Anne has rejected him, so I'd argue she hasn't really earned kindness from him. And yet he extends it anyway.

The next time Anne sees him, she immediately thanks him for his generosity. He tells her that he was pleased to have been able to help her and asks if they can be friends and if she's forgiven him. Of course, she offer her forgiveness -- and an apology of her own. And I've always been amazed by his response:
"We are going to be the best of friends," said Gilbert, jubilantly. "We were born to be good friends, Anne. You've thwarted destiny enough. I know we can help each other in many ways."
I get a little thrill down my spine every time I read this part of the book! Gilbert extends grace and forgiveness. He doesn't hold her years of resentment against her. He doesn't remind of the times she's rejected him. He asks her for her friendship and forgiveness when all she's said is thank you! He would have every right to snub her or make her feel guilty for the way she's acted. But he doesn't. Because he knows that keeping score kills any hope of love. If you want a relationship to flourish, you put someone before yourself and are quick to forgive when you've been wronged (or to apologize when you're the one who's wrong).

Anne and Gilbert begin to develop an amazing friendship. Gilbert was right all along when he told Anne that they born to good friends! And that brings me to the fifth lesson I learned about love:

Friendship is the foundation of love.

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I loved watching Anne and Gilbert's friendship blossom! They form the Avonlea Village Improvement Society together. They study together so they can stay on track to attend Redmond after they finish teaching. They talk about their dreams and ambitions with one another... even if Gilbert isn't totally forthcoming about all of his hopes for the future. They share so much with one another that it's all the sweeter when Anne begins to realize it might be something more.
Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.
Attraction and romance are important, but love stories rooted in friendship will always be my favorite. It's another romantic trope that I love finding in books. And can you blame me? When there's history and intimacy, it feels like there's so much depth to the relationship! Of course, Anne is adamant that it's only friendship she shares with Gilbert. After all, he does not look at all like her ideal man:
He must be very tall and distinguished looking, with melancholy, inscrutable eyes, and a melting, sympathetic voice. There was nothing either melancholy or inscrutable in Gilbert's physiognomy, but of course that didn't matter in friendship!
Even as a kid, I wanted to shake Anne whenever I read this passage! And so, she taught me the final thing I needed to know about romantic relationships:

Love doesn't always look the way you imagined.

I read a dating book once that talked about writing a list of everything you wanted in a future spouse. The purpose was to think about the kind of person you wanted to marry and to use that to help guide you through dating relationships. The person you're interested in only has five out of the eight qualities you desire? PASS.

While the intention was good, I think the exercise was a little misguided. It's important to think about the things that are most important to you, and they're are certainly qualities that will be non-negotiable. But sometimes what you think you want isn't always what you need. Plus, it's easy to get caught up in thinking about someone's physical appearance rather than focusing on their character. Anne illustrates this point!

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She doesn't believe Gilbert is her ideal man because he doesn't look like what she's imagined. But does someone's height or voice really matter? Anne thinks that it does, but she fails to see all the ways in which Gilbert far exceeds her romantic ideal. She's admitted that Gilbert is handsome -- he's just not what she imagined.

I think Anne was preparing for my own love story. When I met my now-husband, I immediately thought he was adorable but too short for me! At almost six feet tall, I'd always sworn I'd never date anyone shorter than me. It was one of the few rules I was not going to break, no matter how cute the guy. Of course, like Anne, I soon realized the error of my ways.
"I suppose you've gone and refused Gilbert Blythe. You are an idiot, Anne Shirley!" 
"Do you call it idiotic to refuse to marry a man I don't love?" said Anne coldly, goaded to reply. 
"You don't know love when you see it. You've tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that."
Anne taught me that you can miss out on something real by being too hung up on your imagination. I love books and movies, but I don't want to confuse them with life. Reality can be better than anything you'd have written for yourself! When you surrender the ideal, you open yourself up to things you may never have thought possible. But since this is Anne, it takes her quite a while to get there. I'll leave the rest of their story for you to discover -- and trust me, there's plenty more! Gilbert is steadfast in his love for Anne, just one more reason he's my favorite book boy, but I left all the truly romantic scenes out of my post so you can read them for yourself!

Here's a little teaser before you go,
"I don't want marble halls and sunbursts. I just want you."
I highlighted six things this series taught me about romance, but there's so many more I could have included. I'm being completely honest when I tell you that these books had a profound impact on me, even in ways I didn't always recognize. And isn't that the best kind of book? For me, the Anne of Green Gables series goes beyond simply being a good story. They changed my life -- and my ideas about love! 
While you're in the Anne mood, make sure you read
And check back tomorrow for three fun lists!
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