The Best and Worst of Assigned Reading

I was organizing my bookshelves yesterday and came across a lot of books I had to read back in high school. I saw those I remembered fondly and those I wish I had never been forced to read. There really was a mix, and it seemed every year brought at least one book I couldn’t stand to read. I thought I’d share some of the standouts, both the good and the bad.

Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee DivakaruniMy favorite book was Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I read this one freshman year as a summer reading book and have loved it ever since. I think I liked it so much because it is the kind of book I would have picked up from the bookstore to read on my own. The characters were deep, and the plot was engaging. This was definitely a great choice. I would caution you not to read the sequel as I feel it takes away from this one too much. You don’t want the magic of this book ruined for you in any way.Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor

Another book I enjoyed was Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor. It was one of those books that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise so I was glad I had to junior year. It was one of those strange yet interesting books that had me thinking. And learning about all the subtext and everything made it that much more interesting.

Beloved by Toni MorrisonThe absolute worst book I was forced to read was Beloved by Toni Morrison. I still shudder every time I think about this book or see it on my shelf (I really should take it off because I’m never going to read it again). I couldn’t even tell you what it was about except that I couldn’t stand it. It was torture to read.Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Another terrible book I had to read but ended up being glad I had was Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I had to read this before junior year as a discussion book. I couldn’t stand the main character which made for a long read. I was however grateful I read this as it was the book I ended up writing an essay about on the AP Lit exam. It was the only book that I remembered well enough that fit the question. I scored well enough to get out of Freshman Comp in college so I was thankful.

So there they are, the best and the worst. Did you have any books you absolutely loved or ones you cannot even stand the sight of you had to read in high school or college for that matter? I want to know!

The Little Lady Agency and the Prince

The Little Lady Agency and the Prince by Hester BrowneThe Little Lady Agency and the Prince by Hester Browne is the final book in her Lady Agency series. Melissa Romney-Jones is back in London, newly engaged and trying to figure out what is going to happen to her agency once she moves to Paris to live with fiancé, Jonathon Riley. In the meantime, she has taken on one last big client, the prince of a small country who needs to straighten out his ways if his grandfather and his family are going to be able to reclaim their castle.

Prince Nicolas von Helsing-Alexandros is overly flirtatious, and the epitome of a spoiled rich man who believes he can do whatever he wants and get away with it. Melissa, bedecked in her blonde wig and the ensuing persona of Honey, certainly has her work cut out for her with Nicky. But as she works to bring out the gentleman in him, she finds herself becoming pulled in by his charm. And when her longtime friend and flatmate starts spending most time with a woman Melissa set him up with, she doesn’t know what to feel.

I loved Melissa in this final novel. She was just as witty and engaging as ever. I found her a little more vulnerable in this one too. She finds herself torn between three men, and I think she makes the right decision in the end even if I was left wanting more. An epilogue would have completed this book for me.

Nicky is engaging as well. I liked seeing his transformation from sleazeball to vulnerable to gentleman. It was nice to see that these characters have layers and can change and grow. I think Melissa grew a lot in this book. She is finally able to stand up more for herself and what she wants. She is such a heartwarming character that you can’t help but root for her. Excellent series!

A Game of Thrones

WARNING: This post might contain spoilers for the books and TV series.

I thought I’d write a post about this series since the season finale for season 2 of Game of Thrones just aired this past weekend. I’ll talk about the books first and then go into my thoughts on the TV show.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. MartinI first started reading George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice series about a year and a half ago. I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Indiana when my uncle suggested I check out this series. He and my cousin had been having a discussion about what the Seven Kingdoms are (still have no idea….no can seem to agree on anything), and I became intrigued. My uncle lent me the first book, and I was through it pretty quickly. It was easy to get drawn into the story. There’s so much going on, and each chapter focuses on a different character so you get to see a bit of everyone.

Certain characters started to stand out to me, and those were the chapters I looked forward to the most. These characters (Arya, Jon, and Tyrion) have remained my favorite through the series although I feel as if a couple of them have become lost to me in the latest book which is really frustrating, but I’ll come back to that a little later.

The plots are engaging and being able to see the “bad” people having good qualities, and the “good” people having some pretty major faults makes it so that each person is incredibly dynamic. There are a few people that you want to shoot in the head that I don’t see having many if not any redeeming qualities.Arya Stark A Game of Thrones

I flew through the second and the third books, loving every moment. And then I got to the fourth book. I could barely get through the fourth book. I had to push myself to read it as George R.R. Martin thought it would be useful to not only introduce a million more plots but a million more characters. For those of you who don’t know, there are already too many characters to keep track of as there is. I found myself forgetting who people were, especially those whose names changed…. I didn’t much like that.

Then the fifth book came out, and I was excited because I would get to read about all the characters I loved which were completely left out of the fourth book. This is where I got a bit angry. My favorite characters started losing Tyrion Lannister A Game of Throneseverything that made me like them in the first place. By the time I finished this book, I had barely anyone I was rooting for anymore. Some strange stuff went down in the fourth and fifth books, and I couldn’t trust anything I read anymore. People came back from the dead, and people suddenly had different names, and it was a bit of a mess. My uncle has decided that he can’t read them anymore because he’s just so disappointed, and I don’t blame him. I’m on the fence myself. We shall see when the next book comes out if I feel like it will be worth reading or if I will just be left disappointed.

Now that the TV series has just finished its second season on HBO, I thought I’d give my thoughts on how it compares to the books. I think the character portrayals are done very well. The cast is excellent. There were a few characters I pictured differently such as Sir Jorah whom I pictured as being older and less good-looking. I think the show does the books justice considering the large amount of information in the books. I do think they could Jon Snow A Game of Throneshave left out the sex and the gore and been fine. Some things they left out of the series which are fairly significant later on so I don’t know how they are going to adapt that. The books also give more information behind some things that I know people who haven’t read them are confused about. For example who burns Winterfell? In the books it’s clearly stated that Roose Bolton does it, but with the show the burning comes out of nowhere and with no culprit.

A lot of things were changed from the books that will make things that are supposed to happen later on much more difficult. That’s a bit frustrating to me. Especially the Jon/Halfhand killing scene. I thought that was poorly done. Very poorly.

Regardless of all this, I will continue to watch until I can’t anymore (either by choice or because George R.R. Martin hasn’t completed the next book).

What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you read the books? Seen the series? Both? I really want to know what you think!

The Little Lady Agency in the Big Apple

The Little Lady Agency in the Big Apple by Hester BrowneThe Little Lady Agency in the Big Apple by Hester Browne is the continuation of The Little Lady Agency. Melissa and Jonathon have finally gotten together. Jonathon has been moved back to New York, and Melissa reluctantly hands her agency over to her friend Gabi and her sister Allegra to spend a month in New York with her boyfriend. Melissa heads to the Big Apple hoping that she has a business to come back to.

She also worries about how Jonathon’s friends are going to react to her. Melissa is thrust right into the midst of New York, meeting person after person. She finds her vacation being taken over by a spoiled dog and a fellow British actor she snogged once back in the day. Melissa finds herself torn in all directions as she tries to juggle the people of New York, her absent boyfriend, and what might be happening to her agency back home.

I love Melissa! And I feel so bad for her because she is too nice to turn anyone down who needs her help. She ends up getting taken advantage of and being taken for granted. She finds herself in hilarious situations such as a fist fight in a park over a dog.

Melissa is a very endearing character, and I just love reading about her. Jonathon got on my nerves a bit in this one because he seemed to be trying to mold Melissa into someone she isn’t. I could feel Melissa’s frustration at times and wanted to give him a nice big kick. This was a great second book in a series. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first. The third one (The Little Lady Agency and the Prince) is great as well so don’t forget to check it out too!

The Little Lady Agency

The Little Lady Agency by Hester BrowneThe Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne was just the sort of book I needed right now. It was fun and imaginative. Melissa Romney-Jones knows her way around any social situation, and her etiquette is fit for a queen. When she gets laid off her job at a real estate agency, Melissa doesn’t really know where to go next. Her father, an arrogant and conniving politician, is calling in on the money he lent her so Melissa knows she needs to work on getting out of her father’s debt so she can be free of his overbearing ways.

After a disastrous few days at a supposed high class escort agency, Melissa decides she needs to embark on her own, and thus the Little Lady Agency is born. Melissa only needs to don her blonde wig to be transformed into Honey, the girl that will show up to functions as a man’s dates and will overhaul his wardrobe. And as Honey, Melissa can be the sexy, sassy woman she has always dreamed of being. When she starts to feel more for one of her clients, she wonders where Honey ends and Melissa begins.

Melissa is such a wonderful character. She has a heart of gold, and her subconscious nature and family problems makes her come to life in such a realistic manner. I enjoyed seeing her as honey and overhauling these men who wouldn’t know their left shoe from their right. She makes for a character you can’t help but care about and sympathize with.

Melissa really comes into her own as she deals with being taken advantage of by her ridiculous family and running her own business. Her friends, Nelson and Gabi, are great in giving glimpses of Melissa when she has her guard down. Although she comes off as strong and self-reliant, Melissa is not as confident and self-assured as she appears with her blonde wig on and her Honey persona in place.

I really did love reading this novel, and the two following in the series (The Little Lady Agency in the Big Apple and The Little Lady Agency and the Prince) which I will review in future posts. I’m so glad that I discovered Hester Browne! She really is a great and imaginative author whom I can’t seem to get enough of now that I’ve found her! If you’ve already read this book series by her, I would encourage you to check out Swept Off Her Feet and The Finishing Touches which I also greatly enjoyed!

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