Two Quick Reviews on a Sunny Sunday ~ #JNGReads

Happy Sunday everyone!

I just wanted to plop two short reviews on here today, to wrap up my reading from this week. I also managed to finish P.S. I Still love You by Jenny Han this week, and you can read my longer review of it here, if you’re interested.

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

I really enjoyed The Rome Affair, but I do have to admit that it isn’t my favourite Karen Swan novel that I’ve read recently. Although the plot was intricate, suspenseful and engaging, for some reason I just didn’t get as deeply invested in it as I did with novels like The Summer Without You and The Paris Secret. I also didn’t feel myself becoming as connected to the main character, Cesca, as I did with Cassie in Christmas at Tiffany’s (probably my favourite Karen Swan book I’ve read so far). If I had to compare this book to the others in Swan’s catalogue, I’d say it’s on par with The Greek Escape in that it was full of surprises, but not an absolute standout for me.

The Rome Affair also felt very similar, in my opinion, to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s acclaimed novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Indeed, the premises of the two novels are almost identical, and the only real difference for me was that I liked Elena of The Rome Affair far less than I liked Evelyn Hugo. Elena comes across as infuriatingly guarded and deceitful and it is extremely difficult to warm up to her, and I think that is one of the factors that made me feel less connected to the book overall. That being said, I did still enjoy The Rome Affair immensely because Karen Swan’s quintessential writing style is still present and it always manages to whisk me away immediately.

I would definitely recommend The Rome Affair as a great travel read, something perfect to pack in a carry-on or beach bag. However, if you’re looking to get a true taste for how marvelous and magical Karen Swan’s writing is, I’d recommend starting with something like Christmas at Tiffany’s instead.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Love Letters of Great Men and Women edited by Ursula Doyle

This collection was, unfortunately, very disappointing to me. I picked it up randomly a few years ago and never got around to reading it, and I can’t say that I was really anxious to pick it up, but I did think it would be a lot more compelling and romantic than it was. My main issue with the collection is that I did not consider most of the letters to actually be love letters – on the contrary, most of them were very generic, and although I would’ve expected more from some of the great poets and writers included in the just over 300 pages, I found that the majority of the letters failed to touch me in any way whatsoever.

Oddly enough, I found myself most interested in the biographies and short histories of each letter writer more than the actual letters themselves. However, I found that in most cases, the histories barely related whatsoever to the actual letters, and one seemingly minor person that was mentioned in the vast history of a writer’s life could end up being the recipient of the chosen letter without me having any idea why. I did find that I learned quite a bit from the biographies, though, so they were worth reading in that sense.

One thing that also surprised me is that I found myself moved by letters written by people I had never even heard of, more so than by letters written by figures I was familiar with. For example, I bookmarked letters written by Daniel Webster and Pierre Currie on the men’s side, and Mary Hutchinson, Claire Clairmont, Clara Wieck and Rosa Luxemburg on the women’s side without having ever heard of them prior to picking up this collection. For some reason, their letters had more of an impact on me than any others, and as you can probably surmise from this list, I found the letters written by the women included in the book to be much more emotional and interesting than those written by the men.

I will say that I was very entertained by reading the letters by Maria Branwell (mother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë), as well as Queen Victoria. Maria’s letters sounded almost like they could’ve come from the pages of Jane Eyre (which I guess makes a lot of sense, in that her writing style is very similar to Charlotte’s), and Queen Victoria’s letter of grief after Prince Albert’s death was one of the most memorable of the entire collection and one I was particularly interested in. (Sidenote: I did find myself wondering, though, why none of Charlotte Brontë’s letters to her French professor Monsieur Héger were included in this collection, since her love for him was quite well-documented and historically significant.)

All in all, I don’t know if I can recommend this collection because it just didn’t really satisfy me in any way. I feel that I could’ve found many of the historical details myself through a quick Google search, and the letters just weren’t interesting or profound enough to make picking up this specific collection seem all that worthwhile, sadly.

❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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P.S. I Still Love You ~ #JNGReads

Unfortunately, I have to say that I was not a fan of P.S. I Still Love You. My feelings toward this YA novel were really disappointing because I remember reading the first book in the trilogy, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, around 2 years ago and liking it a lot. I distinctly recall that my husband and I were sitting in our favourite Starbucks location downtown and it was a beautiful summer day, and I blasted through the book in one sitting. It was endearing and adorable and I really liked the Covey family and the unique bond between the three sisters and their father, and I thought the premise of the story was very interesting and unique and a lot of fun.

Sadly, I cannot say the same thing for P.S. I Still Love You. To summarize what I’m going to go into more detail about in this review, this sequel very much felt like it was written for the sake of it. I’ve read some comments on Goodreads from fellow readers who believe that To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before should have remained a standalone, and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment because so much of the plot of P.S. I Still Love You lacked direction and felt hastily put together. For example, there was a lot of discussion of Lara Jean’s father starting to date, but this was never truly explored and no conclusion was reached at the end of the novel. John Ambrose, as a potential love interest for Lara Jean and competition for Peter, felt inserted as an afterthought much too late in the novel, and again, nothing really came of his connection to Lara Jean whatsoever because Lara Jean and Peter end up in exactly the same position at the end of the novel as they are in at the beginning. There are so many side characters that seem to fall by the wayside as well, particularly Margot and Josh, and even the deeper exploration into Genevieve’s character and her personal struggles seems rushed and nonsensical. The plot just felt cobbled together and like a mishmash of ideas that might’ve theoretically been interesting but in execution were not.

I also did not remember Lara Jean being so juvenile, but she came across as extremely childish in P.S. I Still Love You. I truly had trouble believing she was 16 years old, and I don’t see many high school students actually enjoying reading this novel because Lara Jean is too naïve and innocent. I’m not saying that teenagers always need to be depicted as sophisticated or overly mature, but I really got the sense that Lara Jean was modeled more after a middle grader than a high school student, and while her obsession with fashion and cooking was still really cute, it wasn’t enough this time around to fully endear me to her. The same can be said for a character I really liked in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before but found slightly annoying this time around: Kitty. The novelty of Lara Jean’s 10-year-old sister who acts much wiser than her years wore off completely in this novel, and I found myself kind of rolling my eyes anytime Kitty said something witty or sarcastic. I don’t think she’s fleshed out enough or given enough attention in the plot, and she instead comes across as a random source of one-liners that are meant to make the reader laugh but mostly fall just short of the mark. I really liked the Covey girls in the first book, but this time, I couldn’t warm up to them in the same way, maybe because the plot felt so pointless and made me irritated and frustrated.

Finally, I think one notion that is never fully explored but should be is the idea of how Lara Jean and her sisters grapple on a daily basis with the loss of their mom. There is a profound moment after Lara Jean has had some issues with Peter when she is crying in her room and thinking about how much she misses her mom, but rather than delving deeper into these feelings, the novel flits away from them and Lara Jean goes back to barely thinking about her mother’s death. This doesn’t really make any sense to me, and I think it would be so interesting to have the three sisters properly discuss how losing their mom has impacted their lives, especially in moments of extreme emotion. I don’t see why this isn’t something that’s taken more seriously in the novels because it seems like an excellent opportunity to explore this sort of subject matter within the YA genre.

All in all, I’d say this sequel was a miss for me. I wanted to read it because I know Netflix is making a film adaptation of it, and I found their version of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before really adorable and a lot of fun. But, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll end up reading the third book in this trilogy any time soon, if at all. All I have going through my mind right now is Genevieve’s words from the end of the novel: “‘Grow up, Lara Jean.’”

❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

2.5 Million Delayed Reviews ~ #JNGReads

 

Hi Everyone!

This might be a bit of a boring post, as it’s going to be a collection of reviews that I recently posted on Goodreads. I’ve read quite a few books lately, but didn’t feel the urge at the time of finishing them to sit down and write reviews. The other day, though, I was feeling inspired to get back to review writing because it’s something I’ve always enjoyed so much, and so I decided to find some time to sit down and write down my thoughts about the books I’ve delved into over the past few weeks. It felt really good to do this, sort of like getting back a piece of myself after a rough reading start to the year, and I am definitely feeling encouraged to continue not only reading but also writing about one of my favourite things on the planet – BOOKS! – a lot more before (and hopefully, after) my baby arrives in the early Fall!

Roomies by Christina Lauren

This was the first book I read to get me back in the swing of things and out of the most serious reading slump I have ever experienced, and it was definitely exactly the kind of book I needed. Sweet and sexy all at once, this story about a sort of arranged marriage (or perhaps I should say a marriage of convenience) was very engrossing and full of Christina Lauren’s usual charm and wit. I’ve had bad luck with like one Christina Lauren book in the past, but every other one has been an absolute page-turner, and Roomies was no exception. It was fun, funny but also had these heartfelt moments that made me feel connected to the characters in surprising and unexpected ways. Highly recommend this one as a quick and addictive summer read!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

After my success picking up Roomies, I was definitely in the mood for another Christina Lauren love-fest, so I decided to delve into one of their most beloved series. I recently read the final installment, simply titled Beautiful, and I adored it, and that made me super intrigued to go back to the beginning and the story that started it all. I remembered that my mom read Beautiful Bastard way back when and REALLY liked it a lot, so I had a feeling I would too (my mom and I have surprisingly similar taste in romance novels, awkward as that may seem!), and I immediately fell in lust with Bennett. (Sidenote: Can we address what an awesome name Bennett is for a guy?! If I didn’t already have my soon-to-be-born baby boy’s name picked out, Bennett would be up for consideration!) I also seriously gravitated toward Chloe as a strong and assertive female character who is also in tune with her wants, needs and emotions, and pretty soon lust turned to love because I was flipping the pages of this book faster than one can say “F*** me against a boardroom window, please”! 😉 Everything about this novel is, in a word, scintillating and I immediately requested pretty much every other novel in this series from my library’s e-book app. Christina Lauren definitely = romance reading at its finest!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

I’m pretty sure I decided to read this novel because it was recommended by QUEEN Sarah J. Maas in one of her newsletters; I could be remembering this wrong, but regardless, The Deal did not disappoint as my first foray into Elle Kennedy’s catalogue. This novel has a lot to do with hockey, which was kind of interesting for the small-town girl in me who actually worked for over a year at a huge hockey equipment store in Canada, and I was thoroughly surprised that Garrett came across as a developed and deep male character. I was expecting him to be flat and a bit prick-ish, but he wasn’t, and his affection for Hannah and his willingness to help her through some really serious life events is very endearing. I also LOVED the fact that Hannah is a singer because it was super cool to read about, and her progression from being reluctant to get to know Garrett to fully trusting him with all of her secrets is really nice to witness. I was a fan of this book, and quickly put Elle Kennedy’s other novels on my To-Read List.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Perfect Timing by Laura Spinella

This book was beautifully written! That’s what stood out the most for me: the fact that the prose felt almost poetic, and it gave me a warm, comforted feeling. The love story of Isabel and Aidan was definitely unexpected and unique in so many ways, and I felt instantly drawn into their story as the narrative took me into their past while simultaneously showing me their present. The sequences outlining their teenage relationship were so expertly woven into their adult lives that I never had too many questions lingering that prevented me from enjoying the story, and I felt that both Isabel and Aidan were really nicely fleshed out and complex characters. There were some seriously heartbreaking moments in this novel, but the ending is a very satisfying one, and I am extremely glad that I decided to pick this novel up on a whim at a local book sale. Definitely the sort of book to crack open on a gloomy day and get totally lost in!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Summer Without You by Karen Swan

Bless you, Karen Swan, you absolute marvel! If Karen Swan wasn’t one of my favourite authors before reading this novel (but, like, she kind of already was), then she was after I finished it. The Summer Without You is the perfect blend of suspense and romance, excitement and sheer enjoyment, and I was totally blown away by it! I wasn’t expecting to become so enraptured in the story of Rowena, a photographer spending her summer in the Hamptons, but I was immediately sucked in (as is the case with every Karen Swan novel I’ve ever read) and I just could not put the book down. I hadn’t felt this excited about a book in a really long time, and Karen Swan has such a way with words that you can’t help but be swept up in her narrative. I also love all of the details about fashion that she always infuses in her stories, but, more than that, I was blown away by the plot and how many layers there were to it, as well as how many genres it fit into. I would without doubt recommend Karen Swan to any romance lover, and this novel in particular is the PERFECT summer, beach read!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren

Hello again, Bennett and Chloe! This was a super fun and quick read, detailing a bit about Bennett and Chloe’s relationship after the events of Beautiful Bastard and I LOVED it! I read it mostly in one sitting and it was the perfect companion to the first novel, giving me that extra taste of Bennett and Chloe’s love story that I was craving. I think this is definitely a must-read if you loved Beautiful Bastard and it is so short and sweet that it’s a no-brainer to pick up.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

This was a so-so adaptation of my favourite novel of all-time, Jane Eyre. Don’t get me wrong, the premise was absolutely unique and unlike anything I’ve encountered in an adaptation of a Victorian novel (it is, after all, set in space), but something about the novel just didn’t give me that warm and fuzzy feeling that I believe any retelling of Jane Eyre should. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that none of the characters are as memorable as the ones from the original, particularly Stella and Hugo who simply lack the chemistry and nuance that Jane and Rochester have. There felt like there was something missing throughout my reading of this novel, and I have to say that I was disappointed by it because I was so darn excited to read it when I first heard about it. That being said, it was entertaining enough, and I think if it wasn’t a retelling of a timeless classic, it might’ve been more successful as an original story in its own right.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

So I pretty much loved Elle Kennedy’s novel The Deal so much that I had to put this one on hold on my library’s app immediately. While I don’t think I quite liked this story as much as The Deal, probably because a large portion of it sees the main characters separated, I really did like it and think it is a great companion to The Deal. It was nice to fleetingly see Garrett and Hannah again, but I also found myself really intrigued by Logan, and he ended up being a lot more likeable and adorable than I expected. I do think the ending was a bit rushed in that Logan’s main sources of stress were dealt with a bit unrealistically and too quickly, but considering that this is meant to be a light-hearted romance, it definitely succeeded in delivering everything it promises to. Definitely a must-read if you were a fan of The Deal because it does deliver as a “sequel”!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

My original, one-sentence review of this novel was: “Karen Swan is officially solidified as one of my favourite authors ever!” That sentence is even truer now than it was a few days ago when I wrote it. The Paris Secret, like Swan’s other novel The Summer Without You, is somehow the absolute PERFECT blend of suspense and romance, with a plot that is a true page-turner but also gives you that warm, emotional feeling inside. I loved the main character, Flora, because she has this sharp edge to her that is really nice to see in a female character, but she is also extremely sensitive and is not immune to her sometimes troubled relationships with the people around her. She is also a powerhouse in the art world which made for a really interesting and unlikely story, and when the romance finally did get going, I was already rooting for Flora in so many ways but also excited for her to finally let her guard down and fall in love for the first time. Combine Swan’s incredible and engrossing writing style with the fact that the novel takes place largely in Paris and I was hooked from page one! Karen Swan’s novels never cease to amaze me, and honestly, I feel like she is the exact sort of writer I have always wished I could be. I would love to be best friends with her and get first access to all of her new stories, and my plan is actually to read through her entire catalogue by summer’s end. BIG BIG FAN!!!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Thanks for reading, as always! ❤

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

My Body, My Choice ~ My Opinion on Abortion

There is only one thing I have done in my life that I have truly regretted, and it is a choice I made back when I was in high school (as so many of these things are). I went to a Catholic high school, and while I wouldn’t say that I was staunchly pro-life or anti-gay marriage, I was taught these sorts of opinions in my classes at school and I have to admit that I didn’t think to question them at the time. I want to say that this was because of my age or naïveté, but those are just excuses – the truth is that I was just ill-informed, and didn’t have the urge to make myself better-informed, which is without doubt very sad. One day, back when I was in grade 11 or 12, my English teacher approached me and asked if I would be willing to write an essay for a competition my school wanted to enter. I had very high marks in English, so I knew the teacher was coming to me because he hoped I would write an essay that would win the competition and bring some sort of recognition to our school in a relatively small town. When I asked what the essay had to be about, my English teacher told me that it needed to be a pro-life essay – basically an essay that was anti-abortion and argued for why abortion was wrong. I do remember feeling a bit uneasy about this, but I didn’t want to disappoint one of my favourite teachers and my entire school, so I agreed to write the essay.

That was the hardest piece I have ever written in my life. Again, it wasn’t because I considered myself pro-choice at the time (I like to think if I did, I would’ve had enough backbone and self-respect to decline writing the essay altogether). My difficulty came when I sat down in front of my laptop and realized I didn’t have any good arguments for why abortion was wrong other than, naturally, what the Bible (which I hadn’t even fully read, to be honest) told me. I wished that I never agreed to write the essay – something I wish even more fiercely now – and I wrote several drafts that were, to put it mildly, pitiful. Eventually, I turned to my dad for some guidance and he suggested I take the angle that the unborn child could turn out to be the next Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King, and focus on the lost potential that abortion precipitates. Of course, the unborn child could also go on to be the next Hitler, but we didn’t think about that too closely.

(It is worth noting here that my father is firmly pro-choice now and his opinions altered significantly at around the same time mine did.)

I really wasn’t all that confident in the essay but I ended up winning the competition. To say my teacher and my school were very proud is an understatement. When they stated that I had won over the morning announcements, I recall feeling some embarrassment, but I’m not sure if that was because of the subject matter of my prize-winning essay or because the announcement revealed me as the high achiever that I was in front of all my peers. In any case, I was then asked by the association who ran the competition to attend one of their meetings and read my essay in front of several hundred of their members. Somehow (surprise, surprise), I didn’t have the courage to turn that down either, and a few weeks later, I found myself surrounded by a room full of hardcore Catholics (as well as my parents and grandparents) reading words that I wasn’t exactly confident in.

It didn’t take long for me to investigate the topic of abortion again and come to a totally different conclusion than the one I spouted in my essay. Two years later, I was in university in downtown Toronto and was exposed to a whole lot of things I didn’t get to see or hear about in my tiny Catholic school. And I knew within months of being at university that everything I had been taught was absurd and outlandish – at that point, I became adamantly pro-choice and I have been so ever since.

When I think about it now, writing that pro-life essay, and apparently writing it pretty well, is a source of shame because it so radically conflicts with what I now know to be true. I don’t want this post to come across as accusatory of those that are religious or are pro-life for whatever reason. I am not trying to criticize these viewpoints because my main stance is that I am pro-CHOICE. This can easily become conflated with being pro-abortion, but that is completely erroneous, false and unjust. I have never professed the opinion that a woman must or should have an abortion – on the contrary, I have always believed the opposite, that a pregnant woman should be free to do whatever she chooses, whether that be to keep her unborn child or to have an abortion. I believe in the choice and in the fact that every person, male or female, deserves to be able to make their own decisions about what happens to their own body.

Obviously, abortion is a hot topic right now, hence this very post. I have recently come up against the opinion that my position on abortion should be different now that I am pregnant, and I wanted to set the record straight that my opinion has not and will not ever change. I am and always will be (PROUDLY!) pro-choice, and having a child inside of me does not alter that fact. On the contrary, it makes me more firmly pro-choice because I now realize the magnitude of being pregnant and the challenges that I face in raising a child. If a woman does not feel she is ready for that responsibility, is not in a relationship that will allow her to comfortably raise a child, or has been forced into the circumstance of pregnancy because of a horrific incident such as rape or incest, then that woman should absolutely, without question have the right to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. It is that simple and straightforward, and this is an opinion that is scientifically and medically supported. In my opinion, religion should not enter the picture here – we should be looking to doctors and medical professionals to assess when abortion is safe and allowing them to do their job, in conjunction with the circumstances of their female patients. If a religious woman (or any woman for that matter) chooses not to have an abortion herself, again, that is totally fine because, being pro-choice, I believe that woman should get to do exactly what she wants in that situation. The circumstances surrounding abortion are so subjective and so dependant on the individual woman and the scenario she is faced with, and I think it is dangerous to make blanket statements and blanket laws that apply to everyone across the board without understanding the subtle nuances at play.

I also firmly believe that no one has the right to tell me when I should become pregnant – not my family members, not my friends, not my employer and certainly not my government. My husband would have a say, certainly, but he should not be allowed to make that decision himself, without my active participation in it. Just as I believe no one can or should dictate when I choose to have a child, I feel strongly that no one should force me to have a child if I do not want it, and that is what is at stake here. I am not a politician and I haven’t read enough to know every minor detail of the laws that are being put forth recently, but I do know that the right to have an abortion is a human right. That makes this a question of human decency and compassion, and I personally cannot imagine being the type of individual who would subject a woman to carrying a baby to term that she does not want. That seems cruel and unjust to me in every sense, and I like to think that if there is a god, he or she would support those of us who protect and fight for the rights of ALL humans, not just a select few.

If this opinion offends any of you, I do apologize for that – but it may be worth remembering that your opinion may equally offend other people out there, and so no one is completely spotless or innocent when it comes to these sorts of debates. I go to bed each night feeling like a very good person because I try to be sympathetic and empathetic toward all of my fellow humans…and that is all I can really hope for when I turn out the lights at the end of a long day…

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

The Role of “Mother” ~ My Favourite YouTube Pregnancy Journeys

Hi Everyone and Happy Almost-Friday!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something I mentioned in a previous post, when I announced that I was pregnant. What’s been on my mind is the fact that, now that I am halfway through my pregnancy and my baby boy will be arriving soon, my identity and primary role in life will necessarily evolve into that of “mother” above all else. This is probably the most jarring thing about welcoming a baby into the world because, naturally, it is a total adjustment to reconfigure your mind and your lifestyle in a way that will put this little bundle of joy before everything. It’s taken me a few months to really come to terms with the fact that I am, technically, a mother even now, and to really think about what this means for my future. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s very possible that this new role of “mother” will prevent me from doing things that I used to do easily in the past, but it is absolutely certain that this new identity of mine will encourage me to reprioritize many things and re-evaluate whether my life goals and pursuits are actually that crucial or significant (as compared to caring for my child). I personally am becoming very excited to give myself completely to this next chapter of my life, and I am eager to throw myself into becoming a new sort of person, one who is a combination of the ambitious, driven woman I have also been as well as the loving, caring and nurturing woman I will have to become. I think that taking on this new role will definitely shake things up for me, and help me to realize what is truly most important in life, and this is something that I am choosing to be invigorated by rather than afraid of.

One of the things that has helped me to understand what the role of “mother” will be like and how it will differ from other roles I’ve had in my life in the past is watching the pregnancy journeys of several women on YouTube. My doctor recommended to me, when I expressed concerns about coming to terms with this altered identity, that I do things to feel bonded with my baby and to make myself excited about motherhood, and I have found that following certain YouTube vloggers on their journeys to become mothers has been extremely enjoyable for me and has helped me to understand that I can be an incredible mother and also be my own person, that I can have a fulfilling and fabulous life but also choose to put my family and my child first. I have been uplifted, particularly on days of overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty, by these women’s videos, and I wanted to share some of their information with you all in case you are interested in engaging with some of their content (and seeing their ADORABLE babies!) as well.

My Favourite Pregnancy Journeys on YouTube

★ Sarahs Day 

My husband and I are pretty much obsessed with the YouTube channel Sarahs Day which follows Sarah, her boyfriend Kurt and their adorable newborn son Fox Ocean. I literally cannot stop smiling every time I watch a video on Sarah’s channel, and her Instagram stories of Fox’s daily activities are among the cutest things I have ever seen on the Internet! What I especially appreciate about Sarah’s content is just how much joy she evidently derives from being a mother – it is truly heartwarming to watch her interacting with her baby boy, and she seems to be very happy and overjoyed to have the opportunity to be his mother. Yes, she also highlights the challenges of being a new mom and the fact that her routine (particularly as it pertains to her intense workouts) has totally changed, but she never complains about any of this and there is this underlying emphasis on gratitude throughout all of her content. It is really very inspiring to me to watch her tackle each day of motherhood with positivity and optimism and enthusiasm, and those are definitely traits I want to emulate when my own baby boy comes along!

★ Carly Rowena 

Carly is an absolute badass, and I have always been a big fan of hers! When I found out that she recently had a baby girl, Jax, I had to go back and watch all of her videos related to her pregnancy. Her and her husband, Leon, are absolutely hilarious and have the best chemistry – you can tell from the beginning that they are going to be fabulous parents, and then when you see them both interacting with Jax, it becomes even more clear that they are incredible! Carly is also extremely honest, and when I was first battling my severe anxiety during my pregnancy, I turned to Carly’s videos as a source of reassurance because she speaks so openly about all of her emotions and feelings throughout her journey of motherhood. She is even more open on her Instagram stories, and she is not afraid to cry if she is frustrated or sad about something, or just having a hard day in general. She is also a total force to be reckoned with in the gym, and her pregnancy workouts have totally blown me away and made me feel so encouraged to get into the gym every day to keep up my physical and mental health. Carly is without doubt the type of fit and fabulous mother I want to be!

★ LoeppkysLife 

The channel LoeppkysLife follows Delilah and her young family. She has two children under two years old, and I particularly became interested in her content when I found out she was a fellow Canadian, since it is so helpful to get information about hospital systems and things of that sort that are actually relevant to my own experience. Delilah’s vlogs are especially nice because she is so down-to-earth and genuine – she is, like Carly and Sarah, totally honest about her emotions and does not shy away from admitting if she’s having a hard time or is feeling frustrated and depressed. She’s not trying to portray this perfect veneer of motherhood, but at the same time, her affection for her children is obvious and they are clearly so enamoured with her. It’s also so cute when her daughter decides to take over the camera and vlog for herself, and you just get this sweet picture of a humble and realistic family! I feel like I could be friends with Delilah in real-life because she so kind. And, her Instagram content is absolutely beautiful because her photos all have a really curated, gorgeous style – definitely a mother I will be following throughout my own journey as a parent!

Honourable Mentions

My husband and I mainly watch the three content creators mentioned above, but we do find the time to sprinkle in videos from two other channels as well: Aspyn and Parker and Colleen Ballinger. Content from both of these channels always brings a huge smile to our faces! Colleen is absolutely hilarious, and while my husband also really likes her Miranda Sings persona, I appreciate being able to see her real side in her interactions with her newborn son. She’s unfailingly honest as well and tells it like it is (she was super honest about her son’s colicky phase and how heartbreaking that was for her), and that’s something I think is really valuable in any content directed at new mothers. Aspyn and Parker are also incredibly endearing, and Aspyn in only a few weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy, so it is really nice to see what she is going through in real-time as I am also experiencing it all myself.

One thing I try not to do, as I watch videos from all of these YouTube channels, is compare my exact experiences to what these ladies are going through or have gone through, because I know every pregnancy is different and no two babies are exactly alike. That being said, it has been very comforting to watch other young mothers go through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth and come out the other side with these gorgeous, lovable babies. I get more and more excited about my baby boy’s arrival with each YouTube video I watch – truly, September cannot come soon enough!

Do you have any recommendations for other similar YouTube channels I should subscribe to? I’d love to hear!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Why Game of Thrones Is NOT A Good Show ~ Reacting to Season 8, Episode 5

❄ Winter came…and nothing happened. ❄

I want to start this post off with two disclaimers.

The first is that there will obviously be spoilers ahead, as I react to and review season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones, which aired last night on HBO. If you haven’t seen this episode, I strongly suggest you stop reading this post now.

The second disclaimer is that I do not consider myself a Game of Thrones fan. I started watching it about 5 years ago, when I met my boyfriend and he urged me to watch it with him. I have seen every single episode since then, but I have never bought into the hype and, on the contrary, I have actually vehemently argued (mainly with my boyfriend, turned husband) about how the show is actually not really that good and is certainly not the best show of all time, as most fans like to say. Keep in mind that I have a Master’s degree in English Literature, so I like to think I know a thing or two about storytelling. That being said, I recognize that Game of Thrones just wasn’t my cup of tea from the beginning, since I have never been a huge fan of the fantasy genre…this didn’t stop me from pointing out its flaws throughout the years, though (much to my husband’s dismay and annoyance!).

Now, because I’m not a fan of the show, you can expect my review of last night’s episode to be scathing, so if that’s something you think you might find offensive or upsetting, again, I suggest you stop reading this post now. If you want to argue about anything with me in the comments below, I’m totally open to that, but please remember that these are just my opinions, the opinions of someone who doesn’t really care about the show all that much and probably has no authority whatsoever to speak about it, but wants to anyway. So I’ll repeat, if you’re prone to getting offended if someone criticizes your faveee show eveeer GOT (trust me, I get it, I feel the same way when someone criticizes Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre), then please stop reading here!

My major criticism of Game of Thrones has always been the fact that it does not treat character development well at all. My husband’s rebuttal to this argument is consistently that the show is about world building and is more focused on creating this incredible fantasy setting than each individual character’s growth and development. Fine, that’s fair enough, and as someone who has never been interested in the fantasy genre (I have never read Harry Potteror Lord of The Ringsand probably never will), I can see how I automatically had a bias against Game of Thrones. HOWEVER, I still don’t think it’s fair to ignore the fact that the character development in Game of Thrones is very weak for a number of reasons… 1) For a show to be called the “greatest show of all time” by fans around the world and to actually warrant that claim, I believe it needs to check all of the boxes. It needs to excel at world building, sure, and definitely have a strong plot, but it also has to have incredibly dynamic and complex characters. Game of Thrones, in my opinion, does not have this, and I will explain why below, in my more detailed critique of last night’s episode. 2) So many of the characters on Game of Thrones are beloved by all sorts of viewers of all ages and walks of life, and people have invested a lot of their time and energy in watching these characters progress on this 8-year journey. What bothered me the most about last night’s episode is that a lot of what viewers invested in, a lot of the growth and learning that the characters were supposed to have done, was completely undermined and reversed. I will go into greater detail in a moment, but it rubbed me the wrong way to watch characters, after 8 years, do things that were not in line with who they were supposed to have become. That is, in my opinion, not only lazy writing but also extremely hurtful to fans who have devoted so much of themselves to these characters. It is almost insulting, as a viewer, to learn that everything you invested in with a character was all for nothing. It’s plainly embarrassing, to be honest, and I think the writers should be ashamed of several of the decisions they’ve made in this final season. Again, I myself am not a diehard fan of the series or a lover of any particular character, but even I was frustrated and disappointed by what went down last night.

So, without further ado, here is my detailed review of season 8, episode 5 of Game of Thrones. I will mostly be breaking my comments down by character because my approach to this review is to look at how certain characters acted in ways that were, quite frankly, out of character, and how this undermined basically all 7 previous seasons of the show and made them utterly irrelevant and pointless.

The White Walkers and the Night King

These comments aren’t strictly about last night’s episode, but they do lead into my discussion of another character on this list, so please bear with me. In my opinion, season 8, episode 3 of Game of Thrones (aka The Battle of Winterfell) was one of the worst episodes I have seen in this series. This partly has to do with the fact that it was wayyy too dark to properly watch, as a billion people have noted before me, but it has more to do with the fact that an entire storyline that was built up for several seasons disappeared with one stab of a dagger. Literally.

Now, okay, I get that the white walkers had to be defeated in order for the actual game of thrones to take place, BUT I don’t see how there can be absolutely no consequences of the fact that they existed in the first place. Arya stabs the Night King, he dies and so do all the white walkers with him, and then…that’s it. Nothing else happens. They have a party in the next episode to celebrate their victory, and a few, VERY MINOR characters are killed. Big freaking deal. I was hoping that the fact that Daenerys and Jon lost a lot of soldiers would end up being significant in the battle against Cersei, but lo and behold, when we get to episode 5, that proves not to be the case as Daenerys obliterates King’s Landing without any issues. So basically, to sum up, the entire Battle of Winterfell was pointless except for the fact that it undermined a plot point that seemed extremely crucial and as though it would be devastating to the characters but was, in fact, not.

Also, the fact that the white walkers and any threat they posed have totally disappeared makes the fact that Branis the three-eyed raven…to use my favourite word again…pointless. Bran had absolutely NO role in killing the Night King and the fact that he knew all this stuff proved to be unhelpful. Fans will probably argue that Bran had to be the three-eyed raven so that he could reveal Jon Snow’s true parentage…but Sam also read that exact same information in a book, so sorry, no. Bran is the biggest waste of space that I have ever encountered in a TV show or book, and it’s simply laughable that the writers have made the fact that he’s this all-knowing history buff seem important. I’m 100% over this character and the entire white walker storyline, and I’m mad that I was ever tricked into thinking it would be something cooler and more significant than it was.

Jon Snow

Aka the world’s biggest idiot and TV’s flattest character. I don’t really have anything to say about him other than that he’s stupid…and I want to punch him in the face for it. In last night’s episode, he finally realized that Daenerys might not be the best ruler of the 7 kingdoms. Congratulations, Jon, way to finally figure that one out! My money’s on him to be on the Iron Throne at the end because if Game of Thrones has taught me anything, it’s that the good guy, who also happens to be as boring as a plain white sheet of paper, will always win.

The Hound

An utter waste of a character who actually could’ve been interesting. I’ll go into my rant about Arya in a minute (get ready!), but what I found most upsetting about how The Hound’s storyline ended last night is that he continued to be obsessed with his ultimate revenge plot against his brother, The Mountain, rather than realizing that he could’ve done so much more as a human. He convinces Arya to return home without killing Cersei, and she thanks him. I thought (wishful thinking, for sure) that Arya was thanking him because The Hound was saying that he was going to take over her revenge quest and kill Cersei himself. That would’ve been cool, right? It would’ve implied that he valued his strained and unconventional relationship with Arya and felt a true attachment to her. Well actually what happened is that The Hound comes face-to-face with Cersei and his brother, The Mountain, and LETS CERSEI WALK DOWN THE STAIRS BESIDE HIM, without stabbing her or anything! He literally lets Cersei walk away, unscathed!!! This is all so that he can get the revenge he has always wanted, despite the fact that I would’ve thought he would grow a little from the ample amount of time he spent, through 8 seasons, with Arya. He knows how important killing Cersei is to Arya, after hearing her recite the names on her revenge list over and over, and yet he is so singularly obsessed with one childish act of vengeance that he doesn’t even consider taking the opportunity to kill the queen, something that EVERYONE has been trying to do. It just goes to show that any development The Hound has gone through was for nothing, since he hasn’t changed whatsoever from who he’s always been. I could almost forgive this if it didn’t happen with a few other characters during the episode as well…

Jaime and Cersei Lannister

If these characters aren’t the biggest disappointment in Game of Thrones history, I don’t know what is.

Let’s start with the simplest criticism: Cersei, this badass female ruler who has been through so much and always managed to scrape through, dies by being crushed by rubble. No final showdown with Daenerys. No conversation with Jon Snow or Arya, who represent a family that she single-handedly ripped apart. No comeuppance of any kind but also no unexpected, villainous victory. Just a heap of rubble. Fabulous! So very glad she was one of the female pillars of strength on this show. -_-

But never mind Cersei, whose death was the epitome of anticlimactic…let’s talk about her brother Jaime, one of two examples I will cite here of character “development” gone horribly wrong. Jaime starts off as a bit of a pitiful character, obsessed and in love with his twin sister, Cersei. He then goes through a whole bunch of stuff, notably losing his hand and his ability to be a great fighter, only to return to Cersei and start sleeping with her again. Okay, that seems lazy to me, but at least when he became reacquainted with Cersei, he did seem to start realizing how evil she is and he ultimately was bothered enough by this to leave her and go fight in the Battle of Winterfell. It felt like, finally, he had a head on his shoulders and was starting to make some wise decisions. He gets to Winterfell, helps in the world’s most disappointing battle, and then becomes romantically involved with Brienne who he has actually had chemistry with throughout the series. This is all pretty good…until Jaime decides to leave Brienne and go back to King’s Landing to save Cersei from Daenerys.

What in the actual ****? I tried to console myself last week with the thought that Jaime was probably going back to Cersei to kill her, and he was just playing Brienne and all of us with his speech about being “hateful” like her. I could not accept the fact that this character lost his hand and his identity, started to see his terrible sister for who she really was, decided to begin a relationship with a character who actually has some substance to her…all to turn around and revert back to the person he was in episode 1 of season 1. Hell no, not possible.

Except, that it was. In last night’s episode, Jaime returned to Cersei, brought her down to the crypt where they would both die (yes, in a heap of rubble) and made a final vow of undying love to her. Now try to tell me that Jaime Lannister isn’t a HUGE waste of a character! He actually could’ve done something cool and profound like, for example, KILL CERSEI, but instead, he does a total 360 back to the pathetic character he once was. Any growth he achieved throughout 8 seasons was completely undermined, as he literally could’ve stepped out of the tower after pushing Bran out the window, sat in an empty room for 8 years staring a wall, and made the exact same decisions he made in last night’s episode. Honestly, I wanted to bang my head against a wall for several hours after watching him and Cersei die that way…and I don’t even like the show! I can’t imagine how insulted fans of Jaime’s character must feel because it was absolutely pathetic. Have I said that word enough times yet?

Euron Greyjoy

Why does this character even exist? Every single thing he has done in this final season, and indeed on the whole show, could’ve been done by another character instead and it wouldn’t have mattered. Anyone could’ve killed that dragon. Anyone could’ve stabbed Jaime Lannister (and in fact, someone more profound should have!). But it all had to be done by Euron freaking Greyjoy… Why? What is the point of his storyline if he’s just going to die in the end with no consequences whatsoever. How much of my time can be wasted on this ****ing nonsense, Game of Thrones, HOW MUCH?!?!

Arya Stark

I hate Arya Stark with a burning passion. I’ve never really liked her because, to be honest, I found her whole journey to become this faceless assassin EXTREMELY BORING. I was told, though, that there would be some sort of significance to it, and I kept hearing people say how cool it was that she had grown into this cutthroat fighter. I admit, it was unexpected that she was the one to kill the Night King and I thought surely she was in for even greater things after that.

Nope. Arya spends most of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones crying and running away. That’s definitely in line with her character, right?

Wrong. Arya’s storyline had to have had the absolute WORST outcome in last night’s episode. She travels with The Hound literally to Cersei’s door, only to turn around and run home like a freaking coward. She is actually standing in the room that Cersei passes into only moments later, when The Hound somehow convinces her to go back to safety at Winterfell and give up a revenge plot she has been OBSESSED WITH for 8 years, since she was a tiny girl. We’ve already established that the whole white walker plot was pointless, but you mean to tell me that Arya spends 8 seasons becoming this crazy good fighter only to stab the Night King? She doesn’t even get to enact revenge on Cersei even though she is A ROOM AWAY FROM HER?!?! This is absolutely absurd and probably the worst writing choice I have ever encountered in my life!!!

What is even more frustrating is the fact that the viewer isn’t even helped to understand Arya’s decision to turn around and walk away. If she had had a change of heart back in Wintefell, maybe spoken to Sansa and realized that revenge isn’t a good idea and that, after killing the Night King, she should settle down and enjoy time with her family, then fine, I could maybe (MAYBE!) buy it. But for her to go all the way to King’s Landing and nearly come face-to-face with Cersei and then be convinced by a few lame words from The Hound to turn around is completely ****ing ridiculous! It is just plain insulting and made me feel stupid for ever having invested any time (albeit it meager) in her character. She turns out to be nothing but the same sad little girl she was in season 1, crying her way through life. What an utter waste of a character who had such potential…it’s truly painful to consider what she could’ve been!

I’m too exhausted to rant any more about this show because that would only mean wasting more time on it. Suffice it to say that I am unimpressed and highly doubt that the final episode will do anything to make me feel better.

The main question I’m left with going into the last ever episode of Game of Thrones is…

Why did I waste so much of my time on this damn series???

JNG

Girl with a Green (and Freaking Frustrated!) Heart

It’s A… Prince Charming! ♔

This is just too much of a coincidence… Or could it be Fate?

I’m not one to piggyback on someone else’s good news, but in this particular case, I simply couldn’t resist!

As some of you may already know, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced yesterday that they have welcomed their new baby BOY into the world. I’m a huge fan of all things royal (that’s pretty transparent on this blog, I’m sure!), and I was so excited to hear this news yesterday. I would’ve been interested anyway, but my excitement was intensified by the fact that I found out, just over a week ago, the gender of my own baby (who is due in September).

I’m having…

*drum roll please*

…a baby BOY!!!

That’s right, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won’t be the only ones with a little prince running around their household, because as of this Fall, I too will have a Prince Charming on my hands.

I think this is such a wonderful coincidence, and definitely made me ten times more excited to be having a little boy, because the fashion inspo I am going to get from Harry and Meghan’s child will be unreal. Haha! 😉

But on a more serious note, my husband and I are both thrilled and overjoyed that we are having a boy. A lot of people have asked me if I’m disappointed (which I think is pretty weird because I don’t know how you can be disappointed with the gender of your baby as long as it is healthy), but I honest to goodness am not! When I was in high school, I went through a phase where I pictured myself with a male child – this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had just read The Time Traveler’s Wifefor the first time and loved the dynamic between Henry DeTamble and his mother. (Sidenote: Is the scene in the movie adaptation when Henry sees his mother on the subway, while time traveling, and tells her, “Your son loves you very much.” not utterly adorable?!?!) Whatever the reason, there was a long period of time when I just felt certain I would have a little boy of my own one day, and since I have always only wanted one child (my husband is also on board with this, as an only child himself), I never really entertained the idea of or envisioned having both a boy and a girl. Obviously, over the years I reminded myself that there is a 50% chance of having a baby of either gender, and I knew I would be equally happy with a girl, but I do think it is kind of special and magical that my first daydreams about my own child always starred a dark-haired and adorable boy.

And no, before you ask, I didn’t pick out a name for my little boy back in high school because I always found it so hard to feel connected to any male names (although I did entertain the name Henry for awhile, naturally). Now, 10 years later, my husband and I do already have a name picked out for our baby boy which I highly doubt will change, so we’ve already started referring to him by name and have spent some time each night picturing what he will look like and how he will act and how terrifying but incredible it will be to raise him. I will probably share our name choice with you all sometime soon, so stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, I wanted to share the picture my husband and I put together to announce the gender of our baby to our friends and families on social media. Ironically, we went with a royal theme (no surprise there!) which seems all the more fitting now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their equally amazing news. ♔♔♔

If you have any guesses of what you think the name we chose is, let me know in the comments – I’d be so interested to hear!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Heart of the Matter ~ An Exciting Announcement!

It has been a very long time since I had anything to say on this blog and that, I think, requires an explanation.

If I’m totally honest, reading and writing book reviews has been the last thing on my mind for the past 4 months. Since the end of January, I have been distracted, unable to focus, overly tired, anxious and generally not feeling like myself at all. I could barely keep my eyes trained on a book for more than a couple of pages, and I found myself unable to even sit still long enough to pick up my book to begin with. While this is something that would normally really worry me because it is such out of character behaviour, I had an explanation for why my mood and attention span were so altered, and so I decided to just go with the flow and not be too hard on myself. Admittedly, I would normally find it really difficult to go easy on myself, particularly in relation to my reading goals, but in this specific circumstance, I truly had no other choice because my body isn’t just my own anymore.

That’s because (you may’ve already guessed it)… I’m pregnant!

I’ve heard it’s quite common to find reading very hard when you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, and I can certainly say that was the case for me…hence the severe lack of updates and posts here. But, I wouldn’t change it for the world! Sure, I’m not going to be anywhere close to reading the number of books I did last year…but, then again, I am growing a human inside of me and am going to be raising that human into (hopefully!) a fellow avid reader, so I figure it’s okay to cut myself some slack right now. Not only that, it’s pretty hard to sit silently on my couch with a book when all I want to be doing is chatting with my husband about our little nugget, watching YouTube videos uploaded by young moms, or talking on the phone with my own mother to get advice and tips for navigating this new, terrifying and exciting time in my life. Who has time for books when life is so thrilling, am I right? 😉

I mean, I should clarify that, thankfully, I am now getting back on the reading bandwagon and have finished a couple of books (listed below, with my Goodreads ratings) in the last couple of weeks. I unfortunately didn’t sit down to write reviews of these books because I was just grateful to be reading again and didn’t want to jeopardize my momentum, but I hope to get back into writing reviews again soon. And, even if I don’t write as many reviews as I normally would, I do definitely want to write posts throughout my pregnancy as a way of documenting my journey.

So, with that in mind, here’s a little pregnancy update, if you’re at all interested…

The photo my husband and I created and posted to announce our pregnancy – expanding our family by 1 nugget!

~ I’m now 18 weeks pregnant, so almost at 5 months/the halfway point!

~ I found out I was pregnant in late January, so that was the reason I referenced in a few posts back then that this is going to be one of the most exciting and challenging years of my life.

~ Our baby is due in late September! A Fall baby…I am so into it!

~ My husband and I already have names picked out, one for if the baby is a boy and one for if it is a girl. We’ve had these names picked out for a few years now and we really love them and don’t think we’re likely to change our minds on them. I will probably write a post to share what the name we’ve chosen is sometime soon…and I will probably also reveal the gender too!

~ On a more serious note, my pregnancy has not at all been an easy one. I had no idea what to expect, seeing as I’ve never been pregnant before, but I certainly did not expect it to be this difficult. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from having a baby by any means because it is absolutely still the most rewarding, wonderful and magical experience! That being said, I wanted to be honest about my challenges because it can often seem like being pregnant is all sunshine and daisies when it honestly is not.

I was lucky enough not to experience any actual morning sickness, other than nausea in the morning and at night (knock on wood I don’t start throwing up now because I jinxed it!). My particular pregnancy challenge has come in the form of severe and heightened anxiety. I’ve mentioned here before that I suffer from anxiety and have since I was in high school, and it is definitely one of the biggest challenges in my life. That being said, I never thought I would experience more extreme anxiety when I was pregnant – it is something that is quite common even in women who have never experienced anxiety in their lives before, but it just wasn’t something I was aware of. I have been battling with my anxiety for about the last month and a half, though, and I kind of feel like it has been the battle of my life. That may seem overly dramatic, but I can honestly say that I have never felt this nervous, panicked and unlike myself in my life, and none of my former coping mechanisms have been able to help me, probably because of the insane amount of hormones that are currently being unleashed in my body. I have a lot of support from my doctors at one of the best hospitals in Canada, though, so that is very reassuring, and my husband, family and friends have been super loving and caring as well. It is a daily struggle, however, and although I’m feeling better with each passing week, I am having to be very conscious of my thoughts and moods and have started to explore meditation techniques that I never would’ve tried in the past if I didn’t have this added push to do so. I’m also reading as much about anxiety as I possibly can, and am trying to understand my mind in a way that I haven’t been able to thus far in my life. It has been, at times, an incredibly sad and depressing process to try to work through my anxieties, and I have also felt hopeless and helpless, but I am doing everything I can at this point to get myself into a healthy mindset, and I know that after doing this sort of work, I will be a stronger version of myself than ever before…which is really the best possible outcome I can think of before becoming a mother. All that to say that my number one priority is to keep myself, and, by consequence, my baby, healthy, and even though that means I’ve had to re-evaluate some things and reset my mentalities a bit, there’s no other choice that I could imagine making. If you’re a parent, you’ll understand…and if you’re not yet, I hope you one day get the chance to understand my urge to do whatever is necessary to protect my child!

~ Another thing I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around is that this baby will bring with it a change in identity for me…from who I’ve always been to A Mother. Now, obviously I’m not expecting to change who I am drastically. My husband is constantly reminding me that he was so excited to have a baby with ME because of who I am and my personality, and so none of that should change just because the baby is actually on its way. And he is so right – I definitely want to be as much myself as possible while being a mother. But that doesn’t change the fact that now my number one priority in life will be this child and my most significant job will be to be its mother. It really is amazing how, once you find out you’re pregnant, your mindset does start to shift and things that were formerly important to you seem a little less critical and monumental. I think this is something that it’s also quite hard to understand until you become a parent, but there is already nothing I wouldn’t do for this child and I would put it before absolutely anything and anyone. If that’s selfish, then so be it, because I don’t think that it’s possible to care about or prioritize your child too much. That’s just the perspective I’ve always had (most definitely because I have incredible parents who gave me the world and continue to be hugely supportive to me!), and my husband is in total agreement that having this child begins an entirely new chapter for us where this baby is and always will be #1.

And sure, maybe that will mean giving up certain things that have been important to us in the past like, for example, reading goals. Maybe I’ll never be able to read as many novels in a year as I once did, or maybe I won’t be able to go on certain types of trips, or maybe I’ll have to re-evaluate my routine in a whole number of ways…but if I’m doing all that to keep my child healthy and happy and well taken care of, then it is a trade I have no hesitation making!

It sort of reminds me of this quote I read a few years ago where Thackeray was talking about Charlotte Brontë and said:

“‘rather than have fame rather than any other earthly good or mayhap heavenly one she wants some Tomkins or another to love her and be in love with.’”

That quote has always touched me because it emphasizes the fact that Charlotte would’ve given up being a celebrated author in order to have someone to share her life with. I took that to mean that all Charlotte wanted in her life was love, and that she would’ve traded any amount of success to have a husband and a family. I personally think that’s an amazing sentiment, and those are the aspects of life that I have always wanted to prioritize myself. So, doing everything I can for my husband and my baby is a no brainer, in my opinion!

I hope this post wasn’t too boring, even though it has very little to do with books. I just couldn’t wait to share this exciting news any longer, and I hope you’ll all be interested in a few more baby-related posts to come soon!

Books I’ve Recently Finished:

1) Let That Sh*t Go: How to Find Peace of Mind When You’re Standing in Line at the Grocery Store by Kate Petriw and Nina Purewal

❥❥❥(out of 5)

2) Roomies by Christina Lauren

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

3) Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

4) The Deal by Elle Kennedy

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Save the Date ~ #JNGReads

You’re going to want to save a date to read this book all in one sitting – it’s that good!

Save the Date by Morgan Matson got me out of a reading slump I didn’t even know I was in. I’ve read a few good books recently (namely, The Kiss Quotient just before this one), but I wasn’t feeling that unbearable urge to sit down and crack open my book, I wasn’t feeling that heart pounding desire to bust out of work and get home so that I could spend my evening reading. With Save the Date, though, those emotions of excitement and eagerness came rushing back and I found myself thinking about the book even when I was away from it.

Save the Dateis an excellent example of how profound and powerful YA novels can be. My experience of reading it reminded me very much of when I read Before I Fall (a YA book I absolutely loved!) – don’t get me wrong, the subject matter is totally different, but Save the Date, despite it’s lighthearted and funny plot, felt just as meaningful and important as Before I Fall and is a book I would recommend to all YA readers out there.

This novel follows the Grant family, particularly youngest sibling of 5 Charlotte (Charlie) Grant, on the weekend of sister Linnie’s wedding. The story is told from Charlie’s perspective and I fell instantly in love with her – she is wholesome and sweet and somewhat innocent, with a huge heart and this unwavering love for her family and nostalgia for her childhood. Her mother is a famous cartoonist, and intermixed with sections of the story are comics featuring the fictional/illustrated Grant family which mirror what is happening in the plot, and this was an especially nice, heartwarming touch that really made the family feel incredibly real. Each one of the Grant family members, from the father who is a botany professor obsessed with his garden and his feud with one of the neighbours, to Charlie herself, struggling to decide where she wants to go to college, is well fleshed out and so easy to love, and I can honestly say that this was a story where I connected to and enjoyed reading about every single character.

What so many other reviewers have also pointed out is that this particular YA novel is focused on these family relationships, and does not rely too heavily on romance. Yes, there are love interests and crushes for Charlie, but her main source of happiness is having her family all together again during this special weekend, and she spends a lot more time assisting with the wedding and chatting with her siblings than obsessing over her crushes. This was extremely refreshing, and allowed Matson to focus on more profound topics like growing up and what it means to become an adult yourself while still longing to hang onto your connection to your childhood and your family. Charlie struggles with letting go of the past, particularly as her parents prepare to sell their home, and it was so interesting to watch her grapple with the fact that losing a physical space does not at all equate to losing memories and relationships. Like I’ve said, everything about the story was heartwarming and it is kind of impossible not to fall in love with Charlie and her family.

On top of all of this awesomeness, Morgan Matson’s writing style is truly addictive. This book is not short – it’s over 400 pages and the font is pretty tiny! – but it doesn’t feel like a burden to read at all and I found myself flying through it and actually trying to slow down so I wouldn’t finish it all too quickly. I’ve also read Matson’s novel Since You’ve Been Gone and I loved that, so I had a feeling I would really like this one too…but I am so very pleased that Morgan Matson is quickly becoming a YA author I can rely on to deliver an engaging and enjoyable story!

This book should be a John Hughes film…but since it isn’t a movie just yet, GO READ IT!!!

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Hit, A Miss, and A Kiss ~ #JNGReads

Happy Sunday, dear Readers!

There’s a windstorm here in Toronto (yes, apparently that is a thing), and so I’m curled up inside, beside my husband who is deep into some anime series, catching up on a few reviews I’ve been meaning to post. Sometimes, I finish a book really quickly during the week and only have a chance to write small and short reviews of them (particularly if I wasn’t that passionate about the book), and I don’t always feel it’s necessary to create an entire blog post for a review that’s only a couple of sentences. In those cases, I think it’s best to combine them into a larger post at the end of the week/when I’ve collected a few shorter reviews, so you all have something meatier to read (if you’re at all interested). Here, I have reviews for three novels I finished recently, all of which would be classified as more contemporary chick lit. Two of them were really excellent and one was, unfortunately, not as great as I hoped it would be…but anyway, take a look at the reviews below if you’re looking for some romantic recommendations! 🙂

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I was extremely distracted while reading My Oxford Year, for personal reasons, and so the fact that I got right back into it after almost a week without reading is a testament to how engaging it is.

I don’t know what it is about this book that had me so interested. The story isn’t all that unique, as there are many contemporary novels written about characters studying abroad and falling in love. Perhaps (probably) it is the way that it is written and how different I felt the main character and narrator, Ella, was. She is a character who really isn’t obsessed with romance or relationships. Yes, she does become romantically involved with a man she meets during her studies at Oxford, but she isn’t interested in an actual relationship for much of the novel, and her views on sex and men are quite contemporary and refreshing to read in this sort of novel. Ella’s also kind of reserved, and that was quite unique in my opinion because oftentimes it is the male character that is distant. I don’t think, either, that there was anything negative whatsoever about Ella’s reserved character and her tendency to keep people at arms’ length at first because she is also very realistic and human in that she eventually does warm up to the people she meets, and particularly does begin to recognize and admit her romantic feelings for Jamie – so I instead found it to be, once again, contemporary of her that she is guarded initially and then allows herself to become more engaged as those around her gain her trust.

Of course, the novel does have a surprise in it, an unexpected twist that I did at one point start to predict, but that was then revealed shortly thereafter. I appreciated that there was a turning point to the plot because otherwise it could have very easily become mundane and more of the same, so I did think shaking things up a little was needed. And ultimately, it was interesting to see how Ella handled this specific surprise and how it made her re-evaluate her own character.

Overall, I would say that My Oxford Year is definitely enjoyable and a read that is well worth delving into on a cold and snowy weekend as it is fast-paced and entertaining!

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

I’ve realized that despite growing up in a small, Ontario town that is totally obsessed with hockey, as well as working at one of the biggest hockey equipment stores in the province…I actually don’t give a **** about the sport. So sue me!

Okay, to be honest, I do associate the sounds of hockey with my childhood and my dad having the Leafs game on TV, but I’m not a diehard fan by any means and now that I’ve moved away from home, I don’t follow the sport or any teams myself at all. Hockey has more of a nostalgic quality for me than anything. But, I thought that Helena Hunting’s chick lit. novel The Good Luck Charm would really intrigue me because it is based on a woman rekindling her relationship with her high school sweetheart after he is drafted back to the NHL team in their hometown. What could be more Canadian and more romantic? Probably nothing other than a heart-shaped piece of peameal bacon, drizzled in maple syrup.

The problem is that I didn’t really enjoy The Good Luck Charm. First of all, although Hunting lives in Toronto, the book doesn’t take place in Canada…major bummer! Then, for some reason, I found it REALLY hard to get into the story and actually found myself putting it down during my lunch break every ten minutes, to stare off into the distance. To be fair, I’ve been distracted recently and have had trouble focusing on reading, but I really thought this book would grab me from the first pages and I was pretty disappointed when it didn’t. I do have to say that it picked up towards the second half of the novel, when Lilah and Ethan actually decide to give their relationship another shot, but the build-up was just too long and arduous in my opinion.

Another major issue I had with this novel was the fact that I, sadly, didn’t feel it was very well written. I hate to say this but it felt like the two points of view that the book is narrated in, Lilah’s and Ethan’s, sounded exactly the same. There was nothing unique about either of their voices whatsoever, and it would’ve basically been impossible to distinguish between the two narrations if the chapter headings didn’t indicate who was narrating each one. I’ve read a few romance novels that have really strong male narration (Emma Chase’s novel Tangled is a good example), and so I was again very disappointed that Ethan’s voice sounded so bland and generic. The fact that, on top of that, Lilah’s narration is equally devoid of personality was super unfortunate. This blandness also existed in the dialogue, which was often awkward in that characters would speak in huge paragraphs that sounded like narration rather than actual speech. This, in turn, led to way too much telling in the novel and not enough showing, and it felt like I was basically just slogging through pages of exposition with characters stating exactly how and what they were feeling without any nuance or subtlety. It all felt very unpolished to me and akin to a story that a high school student might write in a creative writing class, before they have the chance to finesse their style fully.

Finally, towards the end of the novel, the plot started to get a bit muddled and too complicated for my liking. I felt from the very beginning that the fact that Lilah is in school was an unnecessary obstacle to her relationship with Ethan that felt haphazardly inserted into the story. I felt even more annoyed when Lilah’s father, who has been absent for 20 years, randomly returns to the story, and this once again felt like a “twist” that was totally unwarranted and more confusing than exciting. I felt that the story was a bit disjointed as a result of these random additions, and while I appreciate when chick lit. novels have complexity to them, adding storylines for the sake of it is not something I appreciate.

All in all, this novel was unfortunately not what I was hoping for. It was extremely graphic in some scenes, which is not altogether a bad thing, but it did make it seem that perhaps Hunting is more adept at writing steamy moments than creating characters. I really am sorry to have to say that I didn’t enjoy this one, but there were just more flaws than positives, and I have read far better romance novels that I would recommend before this one.

❥❥.5(out of 5)

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

“He’d been made to love her.”

The Kiss Quotient is a damn good novel! Read it!

The end. Review done.

Okay, no not actually, but that’s basically all you need to know: that this novel is really pretty awesome and you’ve got to go out and pick it up. If you don’t trust me (although, why wouldn’t you, I am an expert on the romance genre, tbh…haha!), then trust the fact that The Kiss Quotient was the 2018 Goodreads Choice winner for the Romance category. I didn’t vote for it actually, because I hadn’t read it yet when the voting took place, but if I could go back now, I would absolutely vote for it!

The Kiss Quotient is not your run of the mill romance, and it is exactly the kind of story needed to remind readers who don’t typically pick up romance how legitimate the genre is. Yes, romance novels are fun, fast reads, but they can also be incredibly profound and enlightening, and The Kiss Quotient is one of those novels that is both steamy and sophisticated, sexy and meaningful. The story follows Stella Lane, a brilliant econometrician who was diagnosed in her early life with autism. When she decides she wants some advice and assistance in romantic relationships, she hires a male escort, Michael, to teach her the ways of love, both physical and emotional. The novel has been called a gender reversed adaptation of Pretty Woman (aka one of the best movies to ever grace our screens), but it becomes so much more than that as we learn about Michael’s true passions and talents and watch both him and Stella grow and transform into these very confident characters. It was interesting to me that the novel doesn’t just focus on Stella’s personal development, and instead spends a great deal of time investigating Michael’s self-esteem issues. Michael learns just as much about being comfortable in his own skin as Stella, and they were both incredibly sympathetic and endearing characters that you can’t help but like from page one.

The novel is, of course, also very steamy and the chemistry between Stella and Michael sizzles off the page. It is really nice to see a character in Stella who is quirky and, despite her successful career, doesn’t have it all together, and it is even nicer to watch her accept herself and realize that the right man (namely, Michael) will love her because of her diagnosis and not in spite of it. I recognized a lot of similarities between myself and Stella, particularly in that I also appreciate routines and find it challenging to deal with change, and I think that any reader will be able to relate to her sense of vulnerability when allowing a man into her life and letting him shake things up. Stella is a realistic character in this way, and Michael is made all the more lovable by the fact that he is enamoured with Stella from the beginning, warts and all.

It is also wonderful that this is truly an own voice story (Hoang was herself diagnosed with autism) and I admire Helen Hoang immensely for creating a heroine that is so much more than a cookie cutter, stereotypical romantic lead. We need more stories like this in the romance genre to emphasize that love is an emotion that doesn’t have to be cheesy or cliché. A lot can be learned from romance stories like this one, and I for one think that reading The Kiss Quotient has certainly made me a more empathetic person and has given me a better understanding of the fact that people are not always who they seem and that so much can be going on for a person behind the scenes, and you might not even realize it.

Highly recommend this one to anyone and everyone!

“‘I’m obsessed with you, Michael…I don’t want just a night or a week or a month with you. I want you all the time. I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.’”

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart