JNG 2017 Green Heart Awards

Hello dear Readers and welcome to 2018 on The World of my Green Heart!

As you all know, 2017 (and particularly the end of the year) was an extremely busy and exciting year for me – I moved into a new home in a beautiful part of Toronto, I planned an epic (if I do say so myself) Victorian Christmas wedding, I got 2 tattoos (that’s right, I’ll have a post about my second and latest tattoo coming soon!)…and, just over a week ago, I said I Do and officially became a wife. I am absolutely intending to post an entire entry about my wedding day once I have the professional photos, but I will say now that the day was everything I dreamed of and I am reveling in being able to finally call SS my husband!

With all that said, the focus of today’s post is to discuss the books I read in 2017 and rank some of my absolute favourites, so that I can go into 2018 with a clear head and with a log of what worked for me in terms of genre and style in 2017…

Back in January 2017, I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year at 18 books. In hindsight, that wasn’t really a reasonable target for myself, considering how many books I managed to finish in 2017, but my logic was that I would be commuting to and from work for the entire year and wouldn’t have much time to read at home. I found, though, that when I moved into my own place in May, which is a mere walk away from my workplace, I had so much more time at night to delve into my books and devote time to finishing them. So, I ended up reading a total of 59 books in 2017, which I am EXTREMELY proud of. For that reason, I felt that I needed to devise some sort of ranking system to wrap my mind around all the books I read and determine which ones were my favourite and which authors and genres I’d like to revisit. Thus, I’ve created a few awards that I’d like to hand out to the books I read in 2017 – I intend to use this same sort of ranking system in future years to summarize my reading experiences and be able to reflect back on them and see how my preferences as a reader have evolved. With that said, here are my awards for 2017…

*Note: I have excluded Jane Eyre from eligibility for any of these awards because it is my favourite novel of all time and I didn’t feel it would be fair to include it.

Best Short Story or Essay Collection

Although I did read a couple of short story collections this year, the choice for this particular award was obvious to me. I absolutely adored the collection The Dead Husband Project by Sarah Meehan Sirk. It became an instant favourite for me as soon as I completed it, and I’ve even gifted it to friends because I felt so passionate about it. I am so happy I got the chance to be exposed to this remarkable Canadian author, and I would recommend this collection to anyone who likes absurd, unsettling but also incredibly profound stories.

Best Adaptation

This was a tough one – I read a fair number of adaptations of more classic stories this year, and I particularly enjoyed Jane Steele and Eligible. However, I had to give this award to Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker. Perhaps I’m biased because of my fondness for Edward Fairfax Rochester’s character, but I found Shoemaker’s adaptation and interpretation of his story to be so touching and like a love letter to Charlotte Brontë’s original work. I would definitely recommend this one to lovers of Jane Eyre!

Best Young Adult Novel

I read a TON of young adult novels, so it was really very tricky to pick my absolute favourite of 2017. When I sat down to really think about it, though, the answer (as with my favourite short story collection above) was obvious. I simply had to go with Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I loved this book and was truly blown away by it, and I also thoroughly enjoyed the film adaptation, which also came out this year. I can’t really say enough good things about this novel and I think that every single teenager must read it because it provides such a unique and poignant look at the effects of bullying. (Sidenote: In my opinion, it is so much more successful at treating the topic of bullying than Thirteen Reasons Why.)

Best Chick Lit./Romance Novel

This is another genre of novel that I read A LOT of, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to pick The Hating Game by Sally Thorne for this award. I am OBSESSED with this novel, and I have been wanting to reread it since I finished it about a year ago! It is just that good and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone and everyone. I have a strong feeling I will be reading it again sometime this year, and I am anxious to read whatever Sally Throne produces next because I find her writing style to be so distinct and accessible.

Best Fantasy Novel

Somehow I ended up reading many fantasy books this year, even though I had never been a fan of the genre until this year. I burned through several fantasy series in 2017, and I have many more lined up to read in 2018. With that said, one particular fantasy novel stands out to me as the best, most creative and heart-pounding one I read this year, and that is Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (pictured at the very start of this post). The Six of Crows duology is an absolute masterpiece, but Crooked Kingdom left me in tears and truly touched me. I have recommended it to friends and passed it along to my mother, and I don’t think I will ever forget the story and characters!

Best Series

Although the Six of Crows duology was certainly a frontrunner for best series I read in 2017, I have to award that title to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. This series got me interested in the fantasy genre this year, and without it, I wouldn’t have been exposed to any of Bardugo’s work. I was so immersed in the stories throughout the ACOTAR series that I found it hard to let go of them after finishing all three books, and I found myself rushing out to by Maas’ other series, Throne of Glass, which I intend to read in its entirety this year. I owe my interest in a genre that I never before thought I would enjoy to Maas’ writing, and that is why the ACOTAR series will forever hold a special place in my green heart!

Worst Reads of 2017

I hate to do this, but there were two books that absolutely outraged me in 2017 and that I just could not bring myself to say anything good about, despite the hype and praise surrounding them. The first is Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. I don’t want to go into another rant about what I didn’t like about this book (trying to keep the warm and fuzzy festive feeling for as long as I can, you know!), so if you’re interested, you can read my specific review of it here. Along the same vein, I really did not enjoy the novel Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, which is equally lauded by readers. Again, I won’t go into too much detail (you can read my review of this novel here, if you like), but suffice it to say that I just did NOT understand what everyone loved about these two novels and I felt more frustrated than anything about them!

Top 3 Reads of 2017

This was tricky (particularly with Jane Eyre excluded from the pack), but here it goes…

3) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

2) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

1) The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

So, what do you all think? Do you agree with my choices and do you have any recommendations from these genres that I should read in 2018? Please do let me know down below!


Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart



Before I Fall – #JNGWatches

“That was a long time ago.  That was yesterday.” ~ Before I Fall

A day stuck at home with the worst sore throat I’ve ever experienced seems like a good time to write a review of a film I saw and loved recently.  I’m pretty sure that when I wrote my post about the young adult novel Before I Fall just a couple months ago, I promised to also post a review of the movie adaptation.  Well, I did see the movie that very weekend, when it first opened, but I never got around to documenting my thoughts about it here on my blog.  To be honest, it’s been such a long time since I wrote a post that was anything other than a book review, and that’s mainly because I have a lot going on in my life which is so exciting but also very time-consuming.  Don’t worry, I promise there will be a post coming soon about all these amazing changes – for now though, I will talk to you a little bit about the movie Before I Fall, as I promised so long ago.

Before I Fall is a movie as beautiful and haunting as the novel it is based on.  Naturally, the movie is quite a lot shorter than the novel and it does omit some details and scenes (one in particular that stands out is the interaction between Sam and her math teacher, which I am actually really happy that they took out of the movie), but that’s due largely to the fact that the movie is succinct and of average length.  I appreciated that because I’m not a fan of excessively long movies, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any real need for the length.  Sure, Before I Fall could’ve included some more elements from the novel, but it didn’t need to, and I think the writer and director did a fabulous job of determining what dialogues and events were essential to the telling of the story and focusing mainly on those.

The film is haunting for so many reasons, and I think it’s all down to the remarkable directing talents of Ry Russo-Young.  I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of her other films, but I am definitely interested in watching a few others because of how much I enjoyed Before I Fall.  Before I Fall is so subtly poignant and memorable, because of both the acting and subject matter (more on this in a moment), but also because of the way it is shot, the way the environment and scenery add a layer of somber shadow to the entire atmosphere.  As a proud Canadian, I knew instantly that it was shot in British Columbia, because I’d recognize that misty locale anywhere, and I feel that setting fit so perfectly with the overall story and with Sam’s struggles and journey throughout the film.  The entire thing felt dark and wet, sort of like it does in Toronto today, with rain intermittently pouring and heavy gray clouds darkening the sky, and that is by far my favourite sort of scenery to see in a movie.  It made everything feel that much heavier, and I think that was a brilliant choice for the environment of the film.

Russo-Young also does a remarkable job of making the viewer look at and understand the nuances and intricacies of the film.  A great example of this is the scene when Sam goes to Kent’s party for the second time (after waking up on Cupid Day for the second time in a row), and the camera just follows her, focusing on her facial reactions only and allowing the other characters to blur out around her.  There’s a wonderful moment when Sam is dancing with her best friend Lindsay, and the camera remains fixed on Sam so that we can gage her emotional journey as she relives the party.  Another brilliantly shot and articulated piece of the film is the day that Sam spends entirely at home with her little sister, Izzy.  This day is shot absolutely beautifully and it is so heartbreaking but also touching.  I love that Russo-Young decided to splice scenes of Sam and Izzy exploring the woods outside their home with moments of them just chatting and relaxing in bed, and this was by far the most thought-provoking and heart wrenching part of the film because it allows the viewer to get inside Sam, to understand that although she is troubled and often misguided, she is at her very core nothing more than a sister, a former little girl herself.

“How is it possible to change so much and not be able to change anything at all?”

~ Sam

And, that brings me to the real strength of the film, the acting of Zoey Deutch.  Again, I haven’t seen any other films that Deutch has been in, but I am now very intrigued and eager to witness more of her acting, because she is nothing short of incredible in Before I Fall.  I talked about this a bit in my review of the novel, but Sam is one of those characters who it is very easy to be conflicted about.  She is a “mean girl” in every sense of the word, but because Lauren Oliver offers us a chance to get to know her, to reside in her mind, we see that she is wonderfully complex and has such a big heart.  Zoey Deutch is able to portray all of these complexities with just her facial expressions and the way she talks, and it is something special to behold.  Her eyes and especially her lips say so much, without even using words at all, and it is so easy to follow Sam’s emotional trajectory just by mapping the tiny changes on Deutch’s face.  Since so much of the film is centered on watching Sam’s facial expressions, on seeing her wake up over and over and noting the subtle changes she goes through during her repetitive days, Deutch was a perfect choice for the role.  Her acting really soars toward the end of the film, and I particularly like the part when she returns to Kent’s party after spending the day with Izzy and begins to finally piece together her role in this day and what is required of her to move forward.  It is depressing and sad to watch her understand what she must do, but it is also a perfectly articulated journey, and seeing Deutch run through the woods, both desperate and resigned, is a profound moment.  Deutch also doesn’t overact at all, and her portrayal of Sam’s fears and anxieties is so subtle and gentle and sweet that it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Sam and root for her.  That makes the ending even more breathtaking and difficult.

“For the first time when I wake up….I truly understand what needs to happen.  I truly understand how to live this day.” ~ Sam

I really recommend Before I Fall because I believe it is a movie that both teenagers and their parents will sincerely enjoy.  It has stayed firmly with me over the past few months and I think it may be one of my favourite book-to-movie adaptations.  It is certainly one of my favourite movies of the year so far, and may go down as the best movie of 2017 for me.  I can’t stress this enough: go see it!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart