Broken Prince & Twisted Palace ~ #JNGReads

This, my friends, is what a cash grab looks like…and it ain’t pretty!

I just finished The Royals series, the first of which I read and reviewed about two weeks ago. For whatever reason, Paper Princess left me so riled up and intrigued that I felt compelled to put aside my ginormous To-Read List to get e-book versions of the next two books in The Royals series and finish them immediately. I’m not going to say that I regret doing that, but I certainly wish the series didn’t go as rapidly downhill as it did, specifically once I reached the third book.

I don’t have much to say about the second book in The Royals series, Broken Prince, other than that I REALLY enjoyed it. I’m not ashamed of this whatsoever – it was the exact story I normally like, with the two main characters angry and resisting one another, only to realize that they are better together than apart. Classic cornerstones of the romance genre right there, and I admit that I’m fond of them. I blasted through Broken Prince and I was eager and excited to read it each day; if life and obligations hadn’t gotten in the way, I’m confident I could’ve finished this book in one sitting because it was just that addictive and exciting. I appreciated that we were finally given Reed’s perspective too, and I liked Ella’s feisty character just as much as I did in Paper Princess. If anything, I enjoyed Broken Prince more than Paper Princess because it seemed less far-fetched and farcical and focused more on the emotions Ella and Reed were feeling rather than on outlandish hijinks at their high school, Astor Park Prep. It felt more like a realistic, every day romance than like a soap opera, and I preferred that.

Twisted Palace was all soap opera, though, and that is why I feel that it failed, not only as a conclusion to the series but also as a romance novel in general. When I say it was a soap opera, I don’t mean in the way Gossip Girl or The Vampire Diaries sometimes was – I mean full-scale, Young and the Restless level, character coming back from the dead soap opera. And I found it…ANNOYING. That’s the best word I can use to describe Twisted Palace – it annoyed me how over the top and ridiculous it all was. I have more to say about this novel because it made me so frustrated, but I’m going to try to resist ranting. What I will do is list some of the things that I found disappointing and ultimately unsuccessful about Twisted Palace

*WARNING: There are SPOILERS ahead!*

1) All of the DRAMA! The plot was absolutely FULL of conflict and drama, and although obviously there needs to be a main conflict in any story, Twisted Palace had so many that the plot actually felt bogged down and absurd. Reed being charged with his father’s girlfriend’s murder…okay, that seems a bit crazy, but I’ll go with it because the book is after all a work of fiction and escapism. Ella’s biological father coming back from the dead…okay, this is starting to seem more ludicrous. Ella’s biological father turning out to be the real murderer and gratuitously mentioning that he was having an affair with Reed’s mother and led her to commit suicide…COME ON!!! What on Earth? That’s how you want to end this series? I knew I would have to ignore some plot holes and accept some completely outlandish storylines, but this was just too much. As I finished the novel late last night, I just felt utterly disappointed that the authors (Erin Watt is the pseudonym for two romance authors working together) would choose to insert all these “twists” at the end for no apparent reason and simply to seem smart. It wasn’t smart…if anything, I felt like it insulted my intelligence a little.

2) The LAME sex scenes! When you’re reading a romance novel, you expect it to be steamy, and Paper Princess and Broken Prince were. At times, they were a touch over the top, but I’m used to that sort of thing, having read a large number of romance novels in my time. Twisted Palace was NOT steamy whatsoever – case in point is how lukewarm the scene of Ella and Reed having sex for the first time was. You do not build up that sort of interaction for 2 and a half whole books only for it to finally come across as blander than a pack of saltines. There was no chemistry between Reed and Ella (not only in this scene, but I’d argue in Twisted Palace in general), the descriptions were sparse and verged toward summary, and every action was an enormous stereotype. My grandmother could’ve written these scenes better! Colour me disappointed, but I was left totally shocked and seriously annoyed!

3) How Reed narrates Ella! In Broken Prince, I liked Reed’s perspective and narration quite a lot…in Twisted Palace, not so much. I felt that Reed infantilized and belittled Ella a lot in his narration in this third installment, not least because he kept freaking calling her “my girl” which grated on my nerves! Ella’s dialogue also comes across as insipid and juvenile when Reed is narrating, and it pained me to see such a strong and unique female character becoming a stereotype in the eyes of the male lead. Ella was whiny and girly and too innocent and naïve, but she was only those things when Reed was narrating, and this gave me a really bad taste in my mouth. It seemed like the authors were suggesting that Reed sees Ella as this prissy girly-girly even though we know (especially from the first book) that she is not that way at all. Whether this was intentional or not, it was poorly done and ill advised!

4) The CASH GRAB feel! I’m sorry, but it feels like Twisted Palace was written to take advantage of the popularity of The Royals series, and for no other purpose than to exploit the fans that liked Ella and Reed so much. There is nothing I hate more than feeling like a story is being made into a series for the sake of it – and that is exactly what I saw happening here. There was absolutely NO need to extend Ella and Reed’s story to 3 books, especially if the third one was going to be such garbage. It felt very much like the authors were just throwing together as many tropes and stereotypes as they could to get a third book completed. There was no passion that I could sense in it whatsoever, and the writing was very lazy. The plot, as I mentioned, was so outlandish that it seemed like the story had run its logical course and the authors were trying to finish a novel that should never have been started. This was what frustrated me most – don’t waste my time with stories that are half-heartedly conceptualized and written because that will only leave me with absolutely NO urge to pick up any of your other books in the future!

I’m glad to be done with The Royals series, and it makes me sad to say that because I was so enjoying it right up until about a quarter of the way through the third book. At that point, though, things started to fall apart very quickly.

I would recommend that readers give Paper Princess and Broken Prince a shot and then stop there. They will get very little enjoyment from Twisted Palace anyway.

Paper Princess ~ ❥❥❥.5

Broken Prince ~ ❥❥❥❥

Twisted Palace ~ ❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #4

Apologies are in order (I feel like I apologize a lot on this blog, for missing posts, eh?)…I missed my Weekly Round-Up last week, but I promise I have a great excuse! Last Sunday, I fully intended to write up … Continue reading

JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #2

Hello and Happy Monday!

It’s a holiday here in Toronto, so I decided to postpone my Weekly Round-Up until today to give you a full picture of what I accomplished this week. I’ll be following the same format I used last week, and this was an incredibly productive weekend where I was actually able to finish three books and write reviews of them. I was so happy with this and I really feel like my commitment to reading has picked up a lot this year! Last year, I struggled to balance working full-time, commuting, spending time with my fiancé (we were living apart) and reading in the evenings. My only reading time came during my lunch breaks and my evening bus rides. I was quite worried, when I moved in with my fiancé and started walking to work, that without an evening bus commute, I wouldn’t be reading very much at all. But, as it turns out, I’ve been spending more time than ever reading, and I’m actually zipping through books as quickly as I used to in school – this is all down to the fact that my fiancé and I have this amazing routine where we go to the gym right after work, make dinner and then spend the entire night (hours on hours) reading beside one another on our plush, gold couch with steaming teas. My fiancé is big on reading graphic novels, and he gets so excited about reading beside me and pausing to tell me bits and pieces of his stories, and this offers me so much time to delve into my own fictional worlds. I’m obsessed with this new routine of ours, and honestly, I get really grumpy and annoyed if anything at all happens to interrupt it!

Anywho, on to my more formal update for this week. Here is a reminder of the topics I will be discussing in today’s Weekly Round-Up…

  1. What I’m Currently Reading
  2. What I’ve Recently Finished Reading
  3. What I Intend to Read Next
  4. My Favourite Quote of the Week (from any form of pop culture – literature, movies, music, etc.)
  5. My Favourite/Most Listened To Song of the Week
  6. Photo of the Week
  7. My *Weekly Wish*

• Currently Reading •

At the moment, I’m about 20 pages into Graeme Simsion’s contemporary novel The Rosie Project. I’ve been taking this one slow, since I started it yesterday, because I spent a lot of time reading on Friday and Saturday, so I just want to slow down my reading a touch. Having said that, I don’t know how I feel about this novel just yet. I know I’m not very far into it at all, but I can already tell that I’m not really connecting to the narrator, Professor Don Tillman. I should say that I am not at all a fan of the show the Big Bang Theory, and I’ve heard Tillman being compared to the character Sheldon Cooper, so I am a bit wary of that. But, I’ve been meaning to read this novel for a long time, so I’m going to plug through it and give it a chance. Hopefully, it ends up surprising me!

• Recently Finished •

This past weekend, I finished three books in total, two of which I started and finished within a day. The three novels were Shooting Scars and Bold Tricks by Karina Halle and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. You can read my detailed reviews of them here and here.

• What’s Next •

That is a darn good question! I really have no idea what I’m going to read after finishing The Rosie Project, and this is NOT for lack of physical books around me. I have about 20 books sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up. Some of them are standalone, contemporary novels. Others are massive fantasy series. I have no idea what my plan is, or when I’m going to get through all of these. I’m thinking, though, that after finishing The Rosie Project, I may read one more standalone novel, and then delve into the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. I think that will allow me to put a significant dent in my contemporary literature pile, but then get back into the fantasy realm that I’m missing a little bit. One thing I do know for sure is that I want to finish off the year reading a classic, and I’ve already decided that my December read will be Bleak House by Charles Dickens. So, if all goes according to plan, by the time I get married, I will be deep into Bleak House – I think that’s fitting considering I’m having a Victorian-inspired wedding!

• Quote of the Week •

This week’s quote comes from a song, rather than a work of literature. I’ve been listening to Sia’s song Helium nonstop for the last little while, and I absolutely love it! It reminds me so much of my relationship with my fiancé, and it is the song I always rush to put on at work whenever I’m feeling the least bit anxious or depressed.

“But even Superwoman sometimes needed Superman’s soul /

Help me out of this hell /

Your love lifts me up like helium.”

• Song of the Week •

Naturally, my song choice of the week is Sia’s Helium. Having said that, my fiancé and I recently signed up for a Spotify account, so that has made sooo much music available to us! This past weekend, we’ve been obsessed with listening to the soundtrack for the musical Hamilton, and I’m literally addicted to it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius (okay, everyone knows this already, but I felt I should restate it), and if I had to select one favourite song from Hamilton, I’d go with Helpless because it is adorable and harkens back to all these incredible love songs from the 50’s. I LOVE it! Everyone needs to listen to this soundtrack! (I’m actually currently listening to it, as I write this, and My Shot is such a catchy song too – it is just way too difficult to pick a favourite!)

• Photo of the Week •

My favourite photo of this week is another one my fiancé took of me during our bookish photoshoot a couple of weeks ago. I originally thought this photo was too ridiculous to post and that it was a bit embarrassing, but after I put it on Instagram, so many people complimented me on it that I started to see it as cute and endearing. And really, my whole inspiration for it was to look like Eliza Doolittle, balancing books on her head in the hopes of becoming a dignified lady, as paradoxical as that may seem!

• JNG’s Weekly Wish •

My wish for this week is that it will go by quickly. I have so many fun plans for next weekend already, including going to a Greek food festival downtown and celebrating my mom’s birthday, and I just can’t imagine sitting at my desk for hours and daydreaming about freedom. I’m also going out tonight with my fiancé and my dad – we’re heading downtown to see the WWE’s Monday Night RAW live. I am actually so excited about this because I LOVE wrestling and I grew up watching Monday Night RAW with my dad, so I cannot wait to be watching it live, in such a big venue (I’ve been to see WWE wrestling at a smaller venue in Oshawa, but this is Monday Night RAW we’re talking about)! Amidst all this excitement, and considering that my wedding is just over four months away, I really am over work – but I mean, aren’t we all, especially on long weekends? And all things considered, my job and work environment are pretty awesome…so maybe my weekly wish should be that I’ll feel inclined to complain less…???

Enjoy your Monday everyone! I know Mondays can be tricky days, but isn’t it nice to get a fresh start every week? Let’s all try to embrace it!

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Artists Trilogy – #JNGReads

In this review, I will be discussing the three main books in the Artists Trilogy by Karina Halle.

1) Sins and Needles ~ ❥❥❥❥

2) Shooting Scars ~ ❥❥❥❥

3) Bold Tricks ~ ❥❥❥❥❥

Let me start by saying that this romance series is unlike any set of romance novels I’ve ever read. Oh, it is sexy and hot and steamy in so many places, but it is also intensely plot-driven with an intricate story that is built up painstakingly throughout the three books. I’ve said this before, but I always hate it when a literary or cinematographic series is a series simply for the sake of it; when an idea or storyline is bled and drawn out in a way that is self-indulgent and that adds nothing new or exciting to the audiences’ experience or understanding. The Artists Trilogy is not that sort of series, though – each and every novel is necessary because the plot is moved forward and the characters are pushed to become different, to change and re-evaluate themselves as they are faced with fresh obstacles.

Halle can write a gripping, intense and suspenseful story, that is for sure. Without giving too much away, the three novels in the Artists Trilogy not only feature heart-stopping and breathtaking romantic scenes, they also feature moments of deception, terror and turmoil. The three main characters, Ellie Watt, Camden McQueen and Javier Bernal, are so bound up in illegal activity, conning, grifting and drug cartels that they are never truly safe, that they are constantly on the run, and the reader is taken on that journey in a way that is exhilarating and never exhausting. Halle’s pacing is excellent and she really knows when to use cliffhangers and when to make big reveals in ways that are subtle and realistic. Her story is exciting but never too improbable or unbelievable and the reader is easily swept up for the ride.

And that is what I loved best about this series: that Halle creates an actual story, a set of issues and challenging circumstances that call her characters to actually be human. All too often in romance novels, nothing much really happens – the love interests find each other and fall in love, and then into bed, and then they spend the rest of their time sleeping together, getting married and living happily ever after. They don’t do much of anything other than be in love, and so they become stereotypes, clichés that eventually grate on the readers’ nerves. But none of that happens in the Artists Trilogy. Because Ellie, Camden and Javier are thrust into desperate circumstances, they are forced to reveal and grapple with their pasts and come to terms with and sort out their many flaws. They do things, they are propelled forward by intense action, and they are constantly forced to make decisions and interrogate who they truly are. This is the most successful aspect of the trilogy because the characters feel real, tangible, complicated and complex.

The shining star of the Artists Trilogy is main character, Ellie Watt. She is the badass female character we all needed in our lives. She is a formidable narrator with a distinct tone and voice (that often includes adult language…and I must shamefully admit that I’m a fan of swearing myself, to punctuate tricky situations and emphasize emotion!). Ellie is the driving force of the novels, and I actually enjoyed the second novel in the trilogy the least, mainly because Camden narrates half of it. Ellie’s voice and internal monologue is too intriguing to be replaced, and the third and final novel is full of so much of her reflection that I easily sped through it in only one day. Ellie is also so much more than just a narrator – she is a troubled, damaged character with a dark past and sad childhood, and she is so real in that she fucks up (A LOT!), is often hypocritical and misguided, and is on a journey of self-discovery that is moving and difficult. Ellie is also no nonsense, and she never shies away from doing the tough things – she’s not a woman who sits back, even in moments of grave danger, and she easily goes toe-to-toe with the most sadistic and terrifying men. The shy, innocent, virginal female lead is NOWHERE to be found in the Artists Trilogy and that is (sadly, since it should be an established literary fact by now) groundbreaking.

Having said all of this, the Artist Trilogy is also very romantic in parts, with scenes that will make even the most collected reader hot and bothered, and it is well-written with witty points of dialogue. A few of my favourite quotes are below…

Sins and Needles

“‘Fuck that, give me the corn nuts.’ … Who the hell eats a banana when they’re on the run?”

Shooting Scars

“That angel had died on broken wings and with a broken heart.”

“Tattoos were self-expression in its rawest and most permanent form.” = And, sidenote, this series made me REALLY want a tattoo, sooo badly! Too bad I’m a chicken!

Bold Tricks

“Boom. There went my heart.”

“That was the thing about this that they don’t show you in the movies – everyone has to pee at some point, no matter how inconvenient the circumstances.” = Halle story is realistic and her characters are human.

“‘I love you,’ he whispered in my ear. ‘Every minute that goes by, you will my heart.’” ~ Camden to Ellie

All in all, I highly recommend this series to romance lovers who are sick of the same old tropes and archetypes and who crave some adventure and hard-hitting excitement amid their romance plotlines. The Artists Trilogy is unique and fast-paced, and I can see it making a great film adaptation that would appeal to both men and women equally, with its combination of romance and suspense.

Also, I’ve never done this before, but amidst my reading, I happened to go for a run and three songs came on my iPod that I feel would accurately represent the three main characters and their intricate personalities and histories. I’ve listed them below. While I would not call this a love triangle by any means, as there are some clearly serious issues with one party, I think Halle subverts and plays with the love triangle trope so expertly and in a way that many modern readers will appreciate.

Happy reading and listening!

~ Ellie ~

“Ghost” by Ella Henderson

“And at most, I’m sleeping all these demons away…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA8AfQaUnXM

~ Javier ~

“Surrender” by Billy Talent

“This flower don’t belong to me.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPabKxzcy6o

~ Camden ~

“Break Even” by The Script

“While I’m wide awake, she has no trouble sleeping…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzCLLHscMOw

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #1

Hi Everyone and Happy Sunday!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog lately, and how frequently I post, and I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for posts that I can publish in between book reviews. As I mentioned recently, I’ve been reading a lot of series of books (such as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas and the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo) and I seem to feel more comfortable reviewing these series once I’ve finished all of the books in them. For that reason, I don’t have as many book reviews to post, as often, and I was beginning to get self-conscious about the fact that too much time was passing between my posts. I’ve also always intended for my blog to have lifestyle aspects as well, and it is a very personal endeavour for me, so I’ve been trying to come up with ways to update all of you lovely readers on both what I’m reading and what I’m up to on a regular basis.

For all these reasons, I think I’m going to introduce a new type of post to the blog: a Weekly Round-Up. This will be a good way for me to discuss what I’m reading, even if I’m not ready to post a formal review, as well as what other elements of pop culture I’ve been loving at the moment. Particularly with my wedding rapidly approaching (less than 5 months now!!!), I thought this would also be a great way to let you all know how planning is coming along and share some of the wedding-related excitement that I’m currently experiencing.

I came up with a general structure for these Weekly Round-Ups, but it absolutely will be subject to change depending on the week and the updates I want to share with all of you. I’ve had so many sources of inspiration for this sort of post from the multiple brilliant bookish blogs I’ve started following and avidly reading recently, but I’ve tried to tweak the format and content to something that will work for me personally and will fit with the theme of The World of my Green Heart. Generally, JNG’s Weekly Round-Up will include the following components…

  1. What I’m Currently Reading
  2. What I’ve Recently Finished Reading
  3. What I Intend to Read Next
  4. My Favourite Quote of the Week (from any form of pop culture – literature, movies, music, etc.)
  5. My Favourite/Most Listened To Song of the Week
  6. Photo of the Week
  7. My *Weekly Wish*

So, let’s get right into it then – here is my Weekly Round-Up for this week…

• Currently Reading •

At the moment, I’ve gone back to my romance loving roots, and I am so close to finishing the first novel in the Artists Trilogy by Karina Halle, Sins and Needles. I have to say, it is unlike any “romance” novel I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely sexy and intense, but what I appreciate is that there isn’t too much of a focus on the actual romance between the two main characters, Ellie and Camden. Although their budding relationship is certainly an important part of the plot, their relationship is also much more realistic in that they actually do things together, they face many obstacles and they do much more than lie in bed all day and talk about how much they love each other. Ellie and Camden are also two extremely badass characters, with complex and intricate backstories, and the fact that Camden is a tattoo artist just adds to the uniqueness of the entire story. And, sidenote, I really badly want a tattoo now…like REALLY badly! I’m definitely really excited to finish this first book and delve deeper into the series as a whole.

• Recently Finished •

Earlier this week, I finished the third and final novel in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. You can read my review of the series here, but I will repeat that I definitely did enjoy this series very much! While it wasn’t my favourite fantasy series that I’ve read this year, I was thoroughly impressed by the world building, the intricate detail of the powers of each of the Grisha, and I grew to love the characters, particularly Alina, as they grew and progressed from the first novel. It was a highly entertaining series and I would definitely recommend it – I think it would probably really suit an older young adult audience, especially students in grade 12 or entering university.

• What’s Next •

This section is easy this week because, as I said before, I’m planning to continue the Artists Trilogy and move onto the second novel in Karina Halle’s series as soon as I finish the first (which will definitely happen today).

• Quote of the Week •

This section will probably always prove to be a bit tricky for me because, when I’m reading a novel I’m thoroughly into, I tend to be moved by many passages and sentences throughout my reading experience. This week though, I think I’ll select a quote from my current read, Sins and Needles, because when I read it, I felt that it so expertly represented the intricacies of love, the intricacies of personalities, and the fact that loving someone means accepting all of the components of their identity and being, and loving each of them with an open mind and heart.

“‘Beautiful, sad, wounded, and lost…A freak, a work of art, a liar, and a lover.’” ~ Camden speaking of Ellie

• Song of the Week •

Okay, this is truly tricky because I am loving sooo much music at the moment! I’m specifically really into the band Haim, who I only discovered a few months ago but have become totally obsessed with. Their music is so different and unlike anything I’ve ever heard recently, and it calls back to the 80’s in so many fabulous ways. Their harmonies are also absolutely GORGEOUS, and their chemistry, considering that they are three sisters, is endearing. If I had to pick one of their songs as my favourite for this week, I’d have to go with their single Want You Back from their new album Something To Tell You. The music video for this song is extraordinary and I swear I watch it about 5 times a day – it’s like I’m addicted to it! The ladies of Haim are just so effortlessly cool and I want to be one of them – go YouTube this music video ASAP!

• Photo of the Week •

This week, I asked my wonderful fiancé to take a bunch of new photos of me, and because he’s such a great sport, he went all out and spent about an hour photographing me. I’ve seen so many adorable photos on Goodreads lately of readers with their most favourite books, and I desperately wanted a nice one of myself with my cherished fictional friends. So, here you have a photo of me with my favourite stories – I happen to think my fiancé did a wonderful job of capturing my bookish qualities!

• JNG’s Weekly Wish •

My wish for this week is that it would be fall again. I have to be honest, I despise summer – it is too hot and sticky and I just can’t deal with the sun because it makes me itchy and grumpy. All I want is for it to be October or November or December, when the weather is cool but not unbearably frigid. And I’m sorry, but the environment looks so much more beautiful in the fall, when the trees are all colourful and the landscape is more rustic. Are these photos below not solid evidence of that?

There we are, my first Weekly Round-Up! I hope you enjoyed it…let me know what you think of this new (for me) post idea!

Have a lovely end to your weekends, Everyone!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Chat Love – #JNGReads

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

“‘You look good with my clothes on.’” ~ Jackson

(I just love how flirtatious that line is, so I had to quote it!  It reminded me so much of the scene in Roman Holiday when Gregory Peck tells Audrey Hepburn that she should always wear his pajamas, which is one of my favourite moments in romantic movie history.)

Chat Love by Justine Faeth is an adorable, light rom-com that I would highly recommend to hopeless romantics who are look for a summer read to take with them to the beach or on a vacation.  It is the sort of novel filled with delightful comedy, laugh out loud moments, and a wonderfully endearing main character, and it is the ideal book to have on your e-reader and whip out on a crowded subway or a long flight.

Chat Love follows protagonist Lucia Pia Fabbo as she navigates the world of online dating and struggles to find love at twenty-eight years old.  Lucia quickly learns that love isn’t always where one would expect to find it, and she is forced to open her mind and heart to new romantic possibilities and to an ideal partner that was staring her in the face all along.  Chat Love was reminiscent, for me, of those pleasant Hallmark movies you watch on a Saturday evening, with a hot tea or brimming glass of wine in hand, and I do actually think that Faeth’s writing style is very suited to film or television in that she writes scenes in a detailed style that makes them easy to visualize.  I would say that Lucia is just itching to come to life on the screen, and her life in New York with her three best friends and several male acquaintances is one that would easily make a cute sitcom or light romantic drama.

Other than just being an enjoyable and quick read, Chat Love also resonated with me on a few personal levels, and this made the story all the more realistic and relatable.  I never myself went online to find love, but I know several people personally who have tried out the online dating scene, to mixed success.  A few of my close friends have had frustrating and disappointing encounters with men through dating apps and websites, and reading about Lucia’s horrible and awkward dates had me laughing out loud at times.  It was all so similar to what my own friends have dealt with and griped to me about, and so I was not at all surprised to read about Lucia going out with men who only wanted to have sex with her, or men who skipped out on her, leaving her with massive bills, or even men who attempted to stalk and coddle her.  As a woman in her mid-twenties who only recently became involved in a serious relationship, I can truly understand the difficulties of finding a boyfriend and the exhaustion of constantly going on mediocre or (worse) awful dates, and I found myself becoming connected to Lucia as I sympathized with her experiences.  I think the most remarkable thing about Lucia’s romantic journey is that love ends up being right in front of her all along (in the interest of not spoiling the plot, I won’t go into too much detail about this), and this fact reminded me of times that I have urged my friends to be open-minded, to give men a shot even if they are uncertain about their feelings at first.  I am adamant about giving everyone a chance and being open to romantic surprises, and I appreciated that Lucia was the type of character that didn’t stick to a list of desired qualities or this idealized image of the perfect man that most likely doesn’t exist.  She was eager to give every man she met a chance, and that is an important lesson that I believe every single woman (or man) can certainly learn from.

I also found the most delightful part of Chat Love to be Lucia’s interactions and relationships with her Italian family members.  As someone who is half Italian, I can tell you that Faeth narrates these moments with utter realism and understanding.  Lucia’s parents, sister, brother-in-law and grandmother are quite overbearing and incessantly demand details about her romantic endeavours, and yet I think Faeth does underscore the love they have for Lucia and their desire simply to see her happy.  That’s an experience that I have personally had, and I know all too well what it is like to be asked by your family members where your boyfriend is and why you don’t have one.  I remember a specific time when my great-grandmother, who barely spoke any English, somehow mustered up the ability to ask me, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”  When I told her No, seriously shocked at her capacity to string together that sentence and wondering who taught it to her, she asked me, “Why not?” and I just remember thinking, Nonna, if I knew the answer to that question, I would have one already!  Being asked about your relationship status, particularly by family who you don’t want to let down, is a tough situation to be in and I remember it very well, so I could totally put myself in Lucia’s shoes and felt her frustrations keenly.  Now that I have a fiancé, I have enough distance from the past to realize that my family members did genuinely mean well, and I was glad to find Lucia reaching that same conclusion toward the end of the novel.  And reading about Italian parents who make their own tomato sauce and wine was so refreshing and sweet, considering how much it reminded me of my own family.  I haven’t really ever read a book with such strong and thoroughly Italian characters, and I got a good laugh out of the moments that were so close to home for me.  If you liked the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll appreciate some of the moments in Chat Love and their Italian twist on that popular story.

Probably my favourite part of my reading experience of Chat Love was cataloguing Lucia’s boyfriends and dates, and rating each of the men she encountered.  I will say that I instantly hated Kellan, found Alan and Angelo extremely creepy and disgusting, and was immediately infatuated with Jackson.  Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I am very pleased with how Lucia’s story ended, and the Epilogue was absolutely adorable!  It was the perfect happily ever after for a character I truly wished well to, and I think she definitely ended up with the right guy, someone sexy and confident, but also warm and tender enough to provide her with the love and companionship she deserves.  It was very fun for me to write a list of all of the men in Lucia’s life as I read, and I would encourage all readers of Chat Love to do that because it really felt like I was becoming Lucia’s friend and offering her my own mental advice about her encounters, the same way I would to one of my real-life friends.  My only source of frustration with Lucia was that she didn’t solve the “mistaken identity” plot sooner because it was so very obvious to me – having said that, I appreciated that Faeth wanted to build suspense and offer something more mysterious and intriguing than your average rom-com plot, and I truly felt on edge hoping that the main characters would just figure things out, unravel their differences and finally get together!

In the interest of honesty, I will say that I could not give Chat Love a full four-star rating because of one aspect of the plot: I felt that, in a few key places, I would’ve liked more information and for the narration to be expanded a bit.  I guess it’s a good sign if my only qualm about the novel is that I actually wanted more of it, more detail and description…allow me to explain… There are a few points in the novel where Lucia and her main love interest (no names will be revealed, I promise) are getting to know each other, either over lunch or during really cute and unique concert or baseball dates, and we are told by Lucia through her first-person narration that she is getting to know a lot about her love interest.  However, we aren’t given any actual snippets of their conversation or much dialogue, and in most places, we aren’t even told in summary fashion what exactly it is that Lucia has learned.  One such example comes when Lucia states, “The rest of lunch is spent talking about (name of love interest)’s childhood…”, but then quickly turns to narration of other events entirely.  I would’ve liked to read a bit more about what was revealed to Lucia, especially as moments like this were plentiful.  I knew that this love interest was becoming a dear friend to Lucia and that she was becoming intimately connected to him (and I liked him very much too!), but I really wish we were offered glimpses into their actual discussions.  I was left craving more of their interactions, and I guess that is, in its own way, a good sign and testament to how much I liked them as characters and as a couple!

I will also say that I would’ve liked to learn more, in a similar vein, about Lucia’s three best friends, Danni, Autumn and Skyler.  It would’ve been nice to read more about their individual friendships – however, I have a feeling that Faeth is intending to write novels specifically about these other three women, and I think that is a great idea because they each have such distinct experiences with and takes on love, and it would be quite cool to learn more about each of their romantic histories, in separate books.

Once again, I recommend Chat Love to anyone who loves romance but who has also had their fair share of disillusionment and heartbreak.  This novel is hilarious, endearing and relatable, and I feel that it is just the start of what Faeth has to offer as a witty and engaging author, in the style of Sophie Kinsella or Gemma Townley.  If you are a fan of works by those authors, I think you will surely enjoy Chat Love!

*A huge thank you to Justine Faeth for providing me with an electronic copy of Chat Love to read and review!*

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Royally Matched – #JNGReads

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to review Royally Matched by Emma Chase (the sequel to the novel I just finished, Royally Screwed) for the last few hours, and I am still very conflicted. On the one hand, I blasted through the story and finished it in only a few days. It was just as light and entertaining as the first novel in the series, and although it was replete with clichés and it was predictable in the sense that I knew exactly how it would end, I devoured it (just like I did Royally Screwed) and I had a really fun time reading it. Having said that, there were a few things that bothered me about the novel, and I’m finding it hard to overlook them.

I should say, though, that Henry was by far my favourite part of the story. Chase was very wise to once again include her male main character’s perspective because I loved using his eyes to view Sarah and getting a chance to delve further into his emotions and anxieties about becoming king. And, yes okay, Henry was very sexy and I liked spending time with him…fine, I admit it. Henry was what got me through the novel, and reading his first person narration was the highlight of the whole story for me.

Which brings me to my one major problem with the story: Sarah, the female love interest. It surprised me that I didn’t like Sarah because, to be honest, she’s basically me. So much of what she said and thought was familiar to me, because I have said and thought and even done almost the exact same things. But although Sarah is realistic in the sense that her looks (I mean, I do have long dark hair and glasses, sooo…), personality and morals reminded me so much of my own, I also thought she was just one big stereotype. I know that may seem like a contradiction because how could Sarah be a stereotype if she’s like me and I’m real…but somehow, it happened. Sarah is bookish, virginal and innocent – and I have been all of these things. I’ve done exactly what Sarah did, investing myself in a quiet routine, focusing on my novels and my work, allowing myself to put literary heroes on a pedestal that no real man could possibly surmount. And, when Sarah meets a man who challenges her, makes her strong and brave, and pushes her out of her comfort zone, well, that reminded me a lot of when I met my fiancé and my world was turned upside down, in the best way possible. Yeah, Sarah is essentially a character modeled after me, but at the same time, I got so frustrated with her and annoyed by the fact that she has to be bookish, virginal and innocent in order to contrast the bad boy that is Prince Henry. For me, this is a story that has been told too many times: shy and inexperienced girl meets damaged boy, opens his eyes to the importance of True Love and responsibility and they live happily ever after. And while this is a story structure that I usually love, for some reason I found that, in Royally Matched, Sarah was just too overdone. She was too much the stereotype and didn’t have much else to offer. I even found the references to classic literature by Austen and Brontë were heavy-handed and too numerous. I don’t know, maybe I’m being picky because Sarah hit close to home as a character, but she just seemed a little over the top in her characterization, a bit overacted in a way, and that got in the way of my reading experience.

But, at the same time, like I said, there were moments in Royally Matched that warmed my heart and made it more memorable than Royally Screwed. Some of the lines were really nice and touching – here are a few of my favourites…

“There are meetings in books that stand out, that alter the course of the story. Profound encounters between characters when one soul seems to say to the other, ‘There you are – I’ve been looking for you.’”

“‘You are every dream I never let myself believe could come true.’”

“‘You are woven into my soul and you are wrapped around my heart.’”

One last qualm with the novel: Chase starts a lot of her sentences with “Because”. I’m not a stickler for grammar, and I think it’s important to master a narrative voice and run with it, even if it isn’t technically “correct” all the time…but, I still found the repeated use of “because” at the beginning of sentences to be a bit glaring and obvious. Picky, I know, but there it is.

I’m going to have to give Royally Matched an average rating, although I did get a lot of pleasure out of reading it. It’s just one of those things where it was an enjoyable read, but there were also some problems that necessarily lowered my rating. But, if you liked Royally Screwed, I would highly recommend Royally Matched to you, and realistically, I will be reading the third novel in the series when it comes out.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Royally Screwed – #JNGReads

I’m a fan of adult fiction.  That’s probably pretty obvious from the fact that I’m reviewing Royally Screwed by Emma Chase at the moment, but I think it’s worth bluntly stating that, every now and then, I enjoy a good romantic comedy read with adult elements.  There are novels of this genre that I’ve hated, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes there are those ones that are more unique, that are story-driven and that feature intricate and complex characters, and then the erotic parts seem to add something to the narrative rather than overwhelming it.  When done properly, adult fiction can be really enjoyable and exciting to read, and that’s where my interest in it stems from.

I had a Victorian literature professor in third year university who told us that the entire romance genre is derived from the Victorian era and the literature of its time.  While this seems like a loaded statement, I can see what my professor was trying to say (and she’s one of the leading Victorian literature experts in Canada, so I wouldn’t dream of arguing with her anyway) – the best romances feature all of the tropes that were first explored in Victorian literature: the disadvantaged but strong and defiant heroine; the dashing and intoxicating hero who has a secret or two, a wife locked up in his attic; the societal norms or economic circumstances or some such obstacle that keeps the lovers apart; the happy and triumphant conclusion, where the hero and the heroine assert their choice, stand up to society and put their love before any and all convention.  These are the features of many Victorian novels, and they are reimagined in the most successful romance novels of our current time.

So, when I read the description of Emma Chase’s Royally Screwed, I thought, Perfect, this is romantic gold!  And it absolutely was – the sort of plot that becomes addictive, that you crave, that you’re excited to delve further into.  The novel follows Prince Nicholas and his relationship with a commoner, New York bakeshop owner Olivia.  Obviously, their different social stations is the major obstacle to overcome in the story and Nicholas must decide either to abandon his love or his country, his heart or his duty.  This is the sort of story that is right up my alley, especially since I have a particular fondness for royalty, and I was eager to read it for months before finding it relatively cheap on my new Kobo.  I’ve found, in the short time I’ve been using the Kobo, that romance novels seem to be the perfect genre to use it for, partly because most romance novels have front covers that I’m slightly embarrassed to flaunt about on the bus, and also because the stories are usually so light and simple that the structure is easy to follow in digital format.  Anyway, as soon as I saw Royally Screwed on the Kobo, I snatched it up and finished it within only a few days.

I really did become addicted to reading this story.  Although it was a straight-forward story and many of the conflicts were resolved perhaps too easily, I had a lot of fun reading it and it was just the sort of novel I needed in my life during a week when I was desperately missing my fiancé and craving romance.  Nicholas is a really sexy character (Sidenote: I love that they never call him Nick, because he is a Nicholas through and through) and what I enjoyed most about Royally Screwed was reading the story through Nicholas’ perspective.  Chase was very smart to alternate the point of view between that of Olivia and that of Nicholas, and I found myself enjoying Nicholas’ portions more because it gave me an insight into how he perceived and felt about Olivia.  Some may argue that this perspective renders Olivia nothing more than an object of the male gaze, but Olivia also had her turn telling her portions of the story and she was a well-developed character who had a personality in her own right, and so her characterization didn’t suffer at all during the points when Nicholas told the story.  The beauty of literature is that it can offer its reader a fresh perspective on reality and, in this case, romance, and so I thoroughly enjoyed reading the man’s take on all of the events.

The one qualm I have with the novel is that Olivia seemed to lose a bit of her strength as the story progressed.  Her first interaction with Nicholas is unexpected and fiery and she exudes this no nonsense attitude, and I think in that scene, she seriously challenges Nicholas.  I did feel, though, that as the love story went on and Olivia began to have feelings for Nicholas, she started to become one of those typical heroines who gives in a bit too easily, who forgets what she stands for a little bit.  I don’t think I’m being too critical, but I do think that Chase intended for Olivia to be a strong female character, and she does a lot better than most authors of this genre of novel.  I’m very interested in reading the second book in this series, Royally Matched (I’m intending to start it today), because the main female character in that one seems to be a touch more unique and self-assured.

Bottom line, I devoured Royally Screwed and I don’t think I need to read much further into things than that.  It is a seriously entertaining book, the main characters are charming, and it offers a glimpse into the second novel in the series that makes it seem like it is definitely worth continuing with these characters.  I’d highly recommend Royally Screwed to readers who are entertained by romances and who aren’t put off by fast resolutions and occasional clichés.  I personally enjoyed the novel and look forward to reading the second one.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Substitute ~ a Perfect Read for Fans of The Wedding Date – #JNGReads

The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank is the first novel that I have ever read on an e-reader, and I have to say that, despite the new medium and the adjustments that I had to make in my own reading style, I thoroughly enjoyed it! If anything, I never would have had the chance to read this lovely little novel if it wasn’t for my new Kobo, because I actually found it for free on the Kobo website and thought it would be the perfect first e-book for me to delve into. I am so glad that I downloaded it and gave it a chance, and I would recommend it to a very particular type of reader…but more about that in a moment…

I feel that a quick, light and breezy review is most appropriate for this novel, as it is all of those things. The Substitute, I must be honest, isn’t a work of great literary fiction – it is simple and predictable. But, regardless of the fact that I saw all the “twists” coming and had read similar stories, and even similar phrases and passages, before, I still couldn’t get enough of The Substitute. The story was so light and fun that it became totally addictive for me, and I powered through it over my lunch breaks and morning and evening commutes. The “pages” of my Kobo couldn’t refresh fast enough! The experience of reading The Substitute felt, for me, like that year in elementary school when I first discovered chapter books and became obsessed with reading. Perhaps this is down to the fact that I was reading for the first time on a Kobo, and so the whole activity of reading felt very new to me – but, in any case, reading The Substitute and being so eager to get back into the story as often as I could sneak a break reminded me of those recesses in grade school when I would sit on the hard pavement with my chapter book in hand. I spent a lot of my time, both during school hours and home hours, reading in my young life, and these past few days of mine, immersed in The Substitute and loving every minute of my immersion, brought me back to the days when I discovered the joys of reading for the very first time.

It’s pretty obvious, then, that The Substitute made me very happy while I read it. It most certainly isn’t the book for everyone, and I know many fellow readers who wouldn’t get past a single chapter. It is not only simple, but also simplistic, written in a fast-paced style that tells a lot more than it shows. There is a lot of summary in it, of both feelings and events, and issues are resolved mega-quickly. This would frustrate many readers, and it is the sort of thing that frustrates me about certain books too. But, for some reason, I couldn’t be frustrated with The Substitute because it was too fun a book to be mad at. It was exactly like one of those Hallmark movies that are so enjoyable, even if they are unrealistic. I knew exactly how the story would end (happily, spoiler alert!) and I knew that much of it would be far-fetched and unbelievable, but I really didn’t care. I loved the ride, I got swept up in the romance, and it made me so eager for my own wedding later this year. It was, quite simply, a feel-good read, and that was just what I needed!

I also must say that I was surprised by how much I liked the two main characters, Megan and Josh. Sure, there isn’t a lot to them, and they are about as developed as the main characters in those Hallmark movies I mentioned, but that was precisely what I was expecting from this novel, and I chose to read it with that in mind. It delivered on my expectations, and Megan and Josh were so adorable and endearing and straightforward, that I found myself latching onto and becoming attached to them.

As if all that doesn’t recommend it enough as a perfect holiday read, The Substitute reminded me very much of one of my favourite movies of all time, The Wedding Date. Again, this movie isn’t earth-shattering or groundbreaking, but it is so addictive in that it just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Some of the quotes and moments are so truly romantic, and I actually think one quote in particular from The Wedding Date summarizes the whole premise of The Substitute perfectly…

If you’re a fan of fast and fun romances, then The Substitute is the book for you! It’s a truly entertaining love story fueled by fate and chance, and if you want to smile constantly while reading, it won’t disappoint!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart