The Idiot ~ #JNGReads

The Idiot by Elif Batuman is a book I can say I REALLY liked, without hesitation. Although I expected to LOVE it when I began (and probably give it a 5-star rating), the narration and plot started to drag a little for me toward the halfway point…however, I still thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel and found many moments to be laugh out loud funny and highly entertaining.

The Idiot is a novel that I think recent college and university graduates would find very compelling. I graduated from the University of Toronto only a short while ago, and so the experiences of attending lectures, completing long and arduous research papers, and developing friendships with a wide array of likeminded individuals are fresh in my mind. This meant that I instantly connected with the main character and narrator of The Idiot, Selin, and I found her interactions and anxieties to be relatable and realistic. Selin immediately comes across as very intelligent, if a bit socially awkward, and I enjoyed reading about her various classes, particularly her linguistics course, which reminded me of my own first-year linguistics class, and some of her stranger seminars like the Crooked Worlds “art” class she finds herself a part of. I also found it ingenious on Batuman’s part that she included samples of Selin’s required readings in the text of the novel: the references to Noam Chomsky’s theories brought me right back to Linguistics 101, and I particularly enjoyed the short “novel” Nina in Siberia that Selin is required to reading for her Introductory Russian course and which the reader is invited to study along with her. Pieces of Nina in Siberia became my favourite aspects of the novel, and I found it interesting to receive Selin’s thoughts about the text, from her academic perspective, because it felt as though Selin and I were fellow students, working through our course text together before a big exam. Batuman expertly writes about the college/university experience, and this was a topic I for one really appreciated. Obviously, this sort of text won’t be for everyone, but it definitely was one I easily became immersed in.

“It was hard to decide on a literature class. Everything the professor said seemed to be somehow beside the point. You wanted to know why Anna had to die, and instead they told you that nineteenth-century Russian landowners felt conflicted about whether they were really a part of Europe. The implication was that it was somehow naïve to want to talk about anything interesting, or to think that you would ever know anything important.”

As I mentioned previously, Selin is also a deeply self-conscious character, and this made her all the more human. Selin is confident in many academic ways, trying out classes that I never would’ve had the courage to enroll in during my own university years. She is, however, very self-conscious when it comes to her interactions with her fellow students, particularly her friend, Ivan. Selin and Ivan first begin their communications over the newly invented email, and although they have Russian class together, most of their conversations for two thirds of the novel are entirely in written form. This puts Selin in a peculiar position of being in love with Ivan, but of also being totally unable to speak to him in person. Both Selin and Ivan have difficulty navigating this “relationship” that they’ve created, and a large portion of the novel is devoted to Selin trying to figure out how Ivan feels about her and existing in this sort of limbo full of unrequited and confusing emotions. In this way, Batuman does an excellent job of portraying the uncertainties of being a first-year university student – the fact that you are treated like an adult, and yet still maintain the uncertainties of an adolescent life of the not so distant past. Selin is at once an adult with responsibilities and freedoms, but from an emotional perspective, she is still very much a child, a high school student, and so Batuman is able to explore the complexities of first love and of finding oneself in an environment of people with equally complex personalities.

“But, to me, nineteen still felt old and somehow alien to who I was. It occurred to me that it might take more than a year – maybe as many as seven years – to learn to feel nineteen.”

Selin’s friendships are also explored, and it is interesting to watch her interact with female characters like Svetlana and her roommates. Selin’s dry wit and humour make her interactions with her female friends often seem stilted and one-sided, but it also becomes clear very quickly that Selin is well-liked, especially by Svetlana, whose personality is so markedly different from Selin’s that it is very interesting to watch their friendship blossom and to witness the ways that these two young women support each other. I found the interpersonal relationships in this novel to be fascinating, and I even enjoyed the brief moments when Selin interacts with her mother and feels as though she must justify her decisions and actions, particularly those involving Ivan, to this thoroughly adult figure.

“‘I’m afraid I’ll accidentally eat it all before I get there,’ I said, following the rule that you had to pretend to have this problem where you couldn’t resist chocolate.”

My major qualm with the novel is that it began to feel a bit long towards the end. This is pretty paradoxical because the entire novel is only just over 400 pages, but I started to feel at around the 250-page mark that it was crawling by. Maybe this is because not much happens and the novel seems to be more of a character study than a plot-driven story, but I found that as Selin becomes more involved with Ivan, her narration becomes less interesting and engaging. This is somewhat fitting because Selin discusses how she is beginning to lose her language and her ability to communicate the more she becomes invested in her “relationship” with Ivan, but it also made it harder to be invested in her, as a reader. I missed the wit and sarcasm that she articulates in the first half of the novel, and I found myself laughing much less as the novel went on. (Sidenote: I literally burst out laughing while reading the scenes when Selin is teaching her ESL student…and where were the moments like this in the last half of the novel? They felt non-existent!) By the end of the novel, I felt as though I was just plugging away, trying to turn the pages as fast as I could to get to the point where something would happen. Again, I realize that this is more of a character study, and I appreciate that, but I felt as though Selin’s distinct character was what was lacking in the latter half of the novel. The last 100 pages just felt like more of the same, and I guess I was craving some spark or insight, some profound statement that I don’t feel I ever really got.

All in all, though, I would highly recommend The Idiot to current or recently graduated college/university students because I believe they will relate easily to Selin’s character and be able to insert themselves into her experiences. There is no doubt that The Idiot is well-written and I look forward to reading whatever Batuman produces next, as well as delving into some of her non-fiction, which I have heard great things about.

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart


When It’s Real ~ #JNGReads

“‘You’re the one person in my life who wants nothing but me and it’s terrifying and awesome at the same time. Don’t ever leave me. I love you.  You’re my heart.’”

When It’s Real by Erin Watt is an adorable novel, and I’m not even a little bit ashamed by the number of stars I’m giving it. I will admit that it took me a little while to get into When It’s Real, and it wasn’t a totally addictive read right from the start, but once I did get into the meat of it, I found I couldn’t put it down. It genuinely made me smile while reading.

This feeling has everything to do with the characters and how cute and relatable I found them to be…which is saying a lot, considering the male lead is a pop star. Let’s be honest with ourselves, the plot of When It’s Real – a pop star hiring a “normal” girl to pose as his girlfriend to mend his image – is one we’ve seen countless times before. I am a fan of romance novels that have something to do with the creative arts, whether it’s tattooing (as in the case of the Sin and Needles series by Karina Halle), book publishing (as in the case of my all-time favourite, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne) or, as in this case, the music industry. But, I will say that the plot and structure of When It’s Real, with its alternating narration that allowed both the female lead, Vaughn Bennett, and the male lead, Oakley Ford, to have their say, was nothing special or out of this world. Vaughn and Oak, though, were. Particularly Oak, who comes across as sweet and kind and vulnerable right from the first chapter. I liked Vaughn a lot as the typical, seventeen-year-old “girl next door” character because her relationship with her older sister and younger twin brothers was extremely endearing and her insecurities about her future were realistic and human. Oak, however, was the real star of the novel for me because he is a surprisingly multi-faceted character, a hugely successful recording artist who secretly harbours just has much fear and insecurity as Vaughn. I appreciated that Oak wasn’t this one dimensional male lead in the sense that he wasn’t a cocky asshole who just wanted to manipulate and deflower Vaughn – he was a strong character in his own right, with a lot of heart and with a soft side that made him the perfect match for Vaughn. He not only uses his confidence to bring Vaughn out of his shell, he also sympathizes with her anxieties about relationships and getting close to someone, and so he never rushes, uses or manipulates her. This is refreshing to see in a romance novel because all too often we, as readers, are presented with these men in privileged positions (think Christian Grey, as an example) who do fall in love, no doubt, but who never fully seem to understand their female counterparts or respect their decisions, hesitancies and complexities. Unlike all these overly pushy and possessive romantic heroes, Oak takes the time to unpack why Vaughn is hesitant to get close to him, both emotionally and physically, and he gives her the time she needs to develop a sense of comfort with him and a confidence of her own. Obviously, this is classified as a young adult novel so there wasn’t too much digging into the psychologies of Vaughn and Oak (more on this in a moment), but I generally felt that Oak was a better male lead than most I’ve encountered in romance novels in the past. I also found his dialogue to be super flirty and cute, and it gave me this tingly feeling because the things he said often reminded me of things I’ve heard come out of my husband’s mouth. I really think Erin Watt nailed the male voice in this particular story for that reasons.

That all being said, my major qualm with When It’s Real was the fact that it didn’t seem to distribute its time properly, in terms of plot. The novel is about 400 pages which I think is a good length. Unfortunately, most of those pages are taken up by Vaughn being in a relationship with her high school boyfriend and her and Oak feeling antagonistic toward each other. I’m all for hate-to-love relationships, as they are some of my favourite, but I did feel that too much of the plot was spent establishing a connection between Vaughn and Oak and not delving into their relationship enough. There aren’t many steamy or sexy scenes at all, and I don’t mean to say that a YA romance novel should necessarily have a ton of these, but it just sort of felt anti-climactic to me because we are waiting for Vaughn and Oak to get together and it is supposed to be this huge moment for Vaughn (one that she’s been waiting for and thinking about for a long time), and then it’s sort of rushed and the plot moves on very quickly. The “conflict” or, I should say, misunderstanding at the end of the novel is also very rushed and seems to be there just for the sake of it. Instead of having a red herring like this, though, I would’ve preferred to get more of Vaughn and Oak together because there simply didn’t seem to be enough of that throughout the novel. There are also so many unresolved issues, such as Vaughn’s decisions for her future, and while I understand that the whole point of the novel is that Vaughn should get to find out what her passion is, in her own time, I think the story would have had a more powerful message if she was on her way to finding that passion towards the end. Instead, she still seems mostly directionless.

Overall, I would recommend When It’s Real, particularly for teenagers in grade 11 or 12. As I said, there wasn’t anything too racy or inappropriate, and I think the fun, cute and flirty romance is ideal for young adults just wrapping up high school and looking for a light beachy read. When It’s Real is seriously the perfect story to read over summer vacation!

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Bonfire ~ #JNGReads

Just in time for Jessica Jones season 2 to be released on Netflix next week (you can read my review of the first season here), I decided to crack the spine of actress Krysten Ritter’s first foray into literature, the thriller Bonfire.

Bonfire is a good novel. I have to say, I was surprised by how easy it was to read and how well it was paced and constructed. I’m embarrassed to say this now, but I wasn’t expecting much from Ritter in the way of creating a strong narrative voice or a well-composed plot, and I certainly wasn’t expecting her writing to be as good as it was. But, I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised on all fronts and I really do think Ritter could have a career as an author. Bonfire was fast-paced and compelling, and even a reader like me, who isn’t all that knowledgeable about environmental law, will be enticed to continue reading and get to the resolution of the crime. I also liked Abby as a character and narrator, and I was very intrigued by Abby’s continued reflections on her past life in her hometown of Barrens. I really liked that the plot didn’t feel linear and instead at times felt like a stream of consciousness, with memories bombarding Abby at inopportune and frequent moments. I think Ritter has this knack for creating an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty and personal darkness.

My main issue with Bonfire, though, is a pretty big one and is something that made it so that I could only ever call Bonfire a good novel and not a great one. I believe that the plot and characters of Bonfire are extremely cliché. I should qualify this assessment by admitting that I don’t read very many novels in the thriller/mystery genre. However, I know enough about the genre to recognize over-used clichés and to be annoyed by them. For example, the fact that Abby is a young woman who left her rural hometown right after high school to escape bullying and has now become a lawyer, forced to return to said hometown to investigate the criminal negligence of a large corporation, is a plot I have heard and seen recycled many times before. Abby’s evident drinking problem, her strained relationship with her religious father and her reluctance to become friends with her high school enemies are further stereotypes that I have witnessed used countless times in both books and films. Finally, the plot of a large company contaminating the water supply of a small town also seems to not be very fresh or original, and it reminded me heavily of the plot of the movie Erin Brockovich in so many ways that were distracting and frustrating. Yes, Ritter does succeed in writing a very atmospheric novel that has its intriguing and chilling moments, but I think her reliance on popular clichés and plot devices distracts from her skill as a writer.

Would I read another novel by Ritter? Sure! But I would like to see Ritter challenge herself to come up with a story that is a bit more unique and creative. Again, her writing of characters and her first-person narrative style is well done, but I was looking for something special in the actual plot of the story that was severely lacking. I hope that Ritter will take a few more risks with her next novel because I feel that she has a lot of potential as a writer…and while Bonfire is a good first attempt at a novel, it is sadly nothing more special than that!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Everything, Everything ~ #JNGReads

Ah, another book finished that is controversial and that I feel I have no business reviewing…excellent!

Why do I continue to do this to myself? ARGH!

SPOILER ALERT!!! I feel that it is impossible for me to talk about this book without revealing the ending. You have been warned!

Before I begin properly reviewing Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, I have to let you all in on a little secret… I LIKE spoilers. I know, I know, this is an extremely rare trait, but I have always, from a very young age, been okay with and even eager to learn spoilers about books, movies and television shows. Both my brother and I have this weird habit of reading the last sentence of a novel before starting it. Both my dad and I were unbothered by the fact that we knew most of what was going to happen in Game of Thrones before watching it (including, *shock*, who would die). And, when I started to read reviews of Everything, Everything before picking it up to read myself and learned that there was some controversy surrounding the ending, I clicked on those SPOILER links on Goodreads without hesitation.

So, with that being said, I knew before I even turned to page one of Everything, Everything that the main character, Madeline Whittier, is deceived by her doctor mother throughout the first 18 years of her life into believing that she suffers from SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), a disease that means she is unable to leave her home. Ever. Basically, to simplify this 300 page novel in a few sentences: 18 year old Maddy has been raised to believe she can never leave her house and that the very air outside is dangerous to her, and this is due to the fact that her doctor mother never recovered from the trauma of losing her husband and son (Maddy’s father and brother) in a tragic car accident and was so afraid to also lose Maddy that she convinced herself that Maddy was ill and could never be let out of the house. Of course, in proper YA novel fashion, a gorgeous and intriguing boy, Olly, moves next door to Maddy when the novel starts, they fall in love, and this causes her to risk going outside, and, even more risky, on a trip to Hawaii, which sets in motion Maddy’s discovery that she is not and never has been sick.

What the ****? Am I right in thinking that this is one of the weirdest plots in existence? Who’s with me on this? Yes, it’s true that I went into the novel knowing that Maddy wasn’t even sick, and so this made it a lot more frustrating and upsetting to read all about her struggles with this disease that I knew she didn’t even have. But rather than ruining my reading of Everything, Everything, I think the fact that I knew what was going to happen in the end and what was really going on all along made my reading experience better. I had this disgust and annoyance in my heart for Maddy’s mother right from the start, and so I was able to view their interactions with this secret knowledge that made me root for Maddy even harder. It also made me despise Dr. Whittier, but more than that, it allowed me to really dissect the aspects of the novel that I might’ve glossed over by the time I reached the shocking conclusion. For example, I think the fact that I knew that Maddy wasn’t sick at all made the whole thing seem even more far-fetched and unrealistic to me. Yes, Maddy’s mother is a doctor, but Maddy also has a nurse, Carla, who attends to her every day and who eventually admits that she often found herself thinking that nothing was wrong with Maddy at all. Okay, so why didn’t she say anything or question anything? Why didn’t she demand to see the test results from Maddy’s initial diagnosis? You mean to tell me that a nurse would accept a position caring for a teenager with such a rare and grave illness and not want to see her entire file beforehand, make note of every single procedure she has ever had done? If Carla had done this, she would have found, just as Maddy does in the end, that every immunologist Maddy saw as a child found ZERO evidence that she suffered from SCID. It just seems mind-boggling to me that Maddy’s mother can get away with such an elaborate lie, even if she is a doctor. Doctors are still accountable to larger boards and hospitals and colleagues, etc. so how did NO ONE think to look into whether or not Maddy’s medical records backed up her mother’s claims? It was just so bizarre to me and I’m glad I knew about the ending from the start because, as I said, it made me more critical of Carla’s acceptance of everything Dr. Whittier said and had her do.

Furthermore, the fact that Maddy ends up not being ill with SCID is very offensive. This is where it gets tricky for me to review this book and where I feel totally unqualified…I don’t suffer from SCID, I don’t know anyone who does, and I don’t know very much about it. But, I have a feeling that those who do suffer from it would not appreciate how Yoon exploits a very severe condition and then does a complete 180 at the end, almost declaring to the reader, “See, she was never sick at all, so she can live happily ever after!” I’m all for happy endings and fairytales, but this was way too much for me and was actually pretty despicable. Do I love it that Jane Eyre ended up “coincidentally” living with her cousins after she left Thornfield Hall? Yes, I do. Do I like the ending that has Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy marry even though we thought all throughout the novel that they hated each other? Of course! BUT, do I appreciate the fact that Yoon treated a serious illness with such nonchalance that she forces her character to endure it and then decides, Never mind, that was a big joke because Maddy has to end up with the boy and that can’t happen if she’s really sick? No. Just…no. That’s simply uncalled for and is a huge cop out. Is Yoon not a talented enough author to treat this illness with respect? Can she not come up with a way to make her character fulfilled and happy without having her end up with the boy? There are people who actually live with SCID and diseases like it and just because they do, does NOT mean their lives don’t have value and that they can’t have love and happiness and excitement in them. Yoon seems to think they can’t, though, and that ****ing bothered me! Again, I repeat that I have no real right to be angry about this because I don’t suffer from SCID or have any close friends or family members who do…HOWEVER, cancer is hugely prominent in my family and I’m trying to imagine how I would feel if I read an entire book about a cancer patient that ended with the author basically saying, “SURPRISE, she isn’t sick at all and will get to live a long and glorious life with her high school sweetheart!” Not pleased. That’s how I would feel.

Having said all this, I really did like Maddy and Olly and I thought the novel was well written, which makes me even madder. The style is very unique with prose blocks interspersed with Maddy’s diary entries, her drawings, her IM conversations with Olly. It almost read like a scrapbook and I genuinely loved that. Maddy and Olly were also super cute in their interactions and their voices were actually distinct and unique and their flirting was adorable. I finished the entire book in less than 24 hours, for godsake, because it was so readable and flowed so well… So, I’m left like, Whyyy? This book had SO MUCH potential and I would’ve loved it, probably even given it 5 stars, if it wasn’t for the totally GARBAGE ending! Why would Yoon do this? She had a great, creative and interesting book on her hands and then she just…threw it all away for no apparent reason. We, as readers, can handle a bit of heartache, we can handle a character that has to face illness and difficulty and doesn’t get this miraculous ending. We can handle the grit, and it felt almost like my intelligence was being insulted when Everything, Everything turned what could’ve been a profound message about the value of life and the nature of happiness into an absolutely ridiculous ending.

What more can I say? This novel was totally absurd and I can’t even think of how to rate it because I wished it ended at like the 250 page mark because then I would’ve loved it.

Damn, I’m just going to give it an exact average rating and be done with it, and go angrily fume in a corner now.

❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The Cruel Prince ~ #JNReads

Let me start by saying that Holly Black’s novel The Cruel Prince is not my favourite fantasy novel, and although I will be comparing it to some of my favourites and indicating similarities between them, this particular novel did not achieve “Favourite” (yes, with a capital F) status for me. That being said, I do feel compelled, after finishing it, to pick up some more of Holly Black’s books, so that is certainly a testament to the fact that her work intrigued me quite a bit.

The Cruel Prince felt, to me, very similar to Sarah J. Maas’ novel A Court of Thorns and Roses. Now, this is where my caveat above comes in: the ACOTAR series is one of my all-time favourites, and so while The Cruel Prince had a comparable vibe to the first novel in that series, it certainly didn’t affect me as viscerally or vehemently. A Court of Thorns and Roses seriously blew me away, especially by the end, and The Cruel Prince sadly did not. However, as I said, the vibe of the two novels felt nearly the same in that both start slow, building up the world and the characters with an intense amount of detail, and then pick up around the 3/4 point when the main action commences. It’s important for those who are considering reading The Cruel Prince to know this about the novel…when you start it, you may feel bogged down by all the descriptions and “set up” and by the fact that the narrator and main character, Jude, seems to describe a lot of things at length but not actually do very much. Rest assured, once you hit the halfway point of the novel, the plot picks up significantly, and once you get to about 300 pages in, you’ll start to feel a lot more anxious for the characters and a lot more immersed in the suspense and intrigue. This was my experience anyway, and I would say that The Cruel Prince is a novel you have to be in for the long haul. Despite the fact that it’s only just over 350 pages, it might take you some time to read it because of all the description, but just sit with it and keep going because by the end, you’ll be glad you did!

With all that said, I was never truly hooked by The Cruel Prince, even when I got to the twists and turns of the ending. For some reason, I could never fully warm up to Jude, which is not to say that I hated her or anything as extreme as that, but I also just couldn’t bring myself to love her or to care that much about her. Her backstory is very interesting and there is some treatment of PTSD and anxiety that I found subtle, interesting and realistic, but again, I just didn’t feel like Jude had enough going for her for me to view her as a fictional friend. Moreover, Cardan was definitely a fascinating character and he grew into a pretty swoon-worthy hero toward the conclusion, but I felt like there just wasn’t enough of him in the novel. I mean, it is named for him after all, and yet there wasn’t all that much interaction between him and Jude. Yes, she spends a lot of time thinking about him and fearing him, but they don’t talk very often and until the final hundred pages of the novel, there’s no chemistry between them whatsoever. I get that romance is not all a novel needs to be about, especially one in the fantasy genre, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of a relationship between Jude and Cardan merely because there is so much hype about them both. I don’t know, I guess the “romance” of the novel wasn’t what I was expecting…I wanted something more passionate and grittier, and although Black approaches that sort of relationship toward the end, I don’t think there was enough heat and heart-pounding intensity throughout the story to make me all that interested in Jude and Cardan together.

I also struggled a little bit with Black’s writing style in that I felt it to be disjointed at times. I found myself becoming confused on several occasions, trying to keep the characters straight and trying to work out how each of their stories interconnect. For example, Jude spends a lot of time ruminating on the wrongful death of a character named Liriope, but it took me a really long time to figure out why she was important and how her presence in the novel contributed to the plot whatsoever. Eventually it all sort of becomes clear, but when the concept of Liriope is first introduced, it seems somewhat pointless and like a detail that the reader can ignore, so I don’t know that Black did a good enough job planting clues for her audience or linking the beginning of the novel up with the conclusion. The court structure of Black’s world is also kind of complicated in terms of succession and how many different courts there are and how each of them function in tandem. I found myself becoming really interested in places like the Unseelie Court, as an example, but then Black never provided any description about them. She alluded many times to practices and structures outside of the novel, within the land of Faerie, but she then never went back and touched on them, and so I found myself trying to put threads together that weren’t substantial enough. I hear that this book is going to become a series, so I’m assuming Black will delve further into these details in the future, but I found that the constant mention of them within The Cruel Prince took my attention away from the main plot and action in a manner that was at times very distracting.

Overall, despite my criticisms, I did enjoy this book. Like I said, it isn’t a Favourite of mine, and I was expecting to enjoy it a lot more, but I did have a pleasant time reading it and I would definitely continue with the series. I’m intrigued enough to follow through with these characters, even if I won’t necessarily rush out to buy the second book as soon as it’s released.

My Favourite Quotes from The Cruel Prince

Like I said, there are some particularly hard-hitting moments that should have their time to shine amidst my critiques…

✦ JUDE ✦

“I cannot seem to contort myself back into the shape of a dutiful child.

I am coming unraveled. I am coming undone.

“I seem to have passed some kind of threshold. Before, I never knew how far I would go. Now I believe I have the answer. I will go as far as there is to go.

I will go way too far.


“‘Jude Duarte, daughter of clay, I swear myself into your service. I will act as your hand. I will act as your shield. I will act in accordance with your will. Let it be so for one year and one day…and not for one minute more.’”

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Dating You / Hating You ~ #JNGReads

Dating You / Hating You is my first foray into the catalogue of Christina Lauren and I wish I could say that I loved it. Unfortunately, I cannot.

What’s interesting is that, partway through reading Dating You / Hating You, I happened to flip randomly to the acknowledgements and glanced at the final paragraph. In it, Christina Lauren (which is actually the pseudonym for two best friends who publish novels together) describe how they struggled to write this particular novel. According to them, the words and scenes did not come easily, and I was immediately relieved when I read that because it sort of took a load off my shoulders in the sense that I didn’t have to pretend to love this novel or question why I didn’t. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying Dating You / Hating You at the point when I came across this admission in the acknowledgements, and it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it in general, but I do have to say that the story felt extremely forced. There was some underlying awkwardness about it, as if you could tell that the authors were at a total loss at certain points for how to build the plot and where to take the characters. It all just felt a touch uncomfortable, and as a reader, I found myself wishing that Christina Lauren hadn’t written this story for the sake of it and that I hadn’t decided to pick it up as my first book from their collection. I’ve heard great things about Christina Lauren’s novels in general, and I really wish Dating You / Hating You wasn’t the first one I picked up because it most certainly isn’t their best work…and I don’t even have to have read any of their other books to know that.

What’s more, Dating You / Hating You is NOT steamy whatsoever. Carter seems sweet and super cute and Evie does have some endearing quirks about her, but I felt that their interactions were totally devoid of chemistry. Their attempts at flirting were very weak, and although there was a cute line here and there from each of them, their conversations also felt forced and unnatural. The sex scenes were even worse and seemed gratuitously added; every cliché in the book was employed, and there was nothing at all that wowed me or that made me feel that Carter and Evie were special characters or that their relationship was one I would ever root for or become invested in. Dating You / Hating You was totally empty of sexual tension, yearning and that ever important “slow burn” we romance readers love so much.

Worst of all, I’ve heard people compare Dating You / Hating You to Sally Thorne’s novel The Hating Game and I think that is an absolutely erroneous comparison. I’m definitely biased because The Hating Game is one of my favourite romance novels of all time…but that is because it is witty and clever and Lucy and Josh (the main characters and love interests) are such relatable, human and multi-faceted characters that it is easy to, as a reader, become friends with them. I loved everything about the way Lucy and Josh spoke to each other and the way they navigated a mutual attraction that was inconvenient and yet unavoidable, and Thorne’s writing style is incredibly unique and compelling. I imagine that Christina Lauren’s is as well, but that did not at all come across in Dating You / Hating You because of how forced everything was, and I think to compare this story to The Hating Game is like comparing a contemporary romance to an Austen novel…they’re in different leagues…they’re similar in some regards and yet still miles apart in so many fundamental ways.

I also have to apologize because I feel like this is the most pathetic review of all time, and is basically as forced and nonsensical as all of Dating You / Hating You is. I am literally struggling to find anything interesting to say about it, and despite the fact that I didn’t hate Dating You / Hating You, I certainly didn’t love it and would call it one of the most average novels I have ever encountered. But, since you took the time to read this pointless review, here are two somewhat adorable quotes from Dating You / Hating You that were the only genuine moments I could find in this wholly unexceptional novel…

“Is he trying to touch me? The more wine I have, the more my brain screams YES! to this question, and I start trying to reciprocate a little, leaning closer, resting my left arm lightly on the table so he has easier access.

Subtle stuff. I am a seduction ninja.

“I chuck a piece of scrambled egg at him.

He picks it off his plate and eats it.

I might really love him.

‘Sorry,’ he says quickly, reaching across the table to take my hand. ‘Did that gross you out?’

‘What? No.’

‘Then why do you suddenly look like you’re going to vomit?’

‘Because I love you.’

He laughs, delighted. ‘How terrible.’

‘I just…don’t go,’ I say in a burst.

‘Go where?’


❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

This Love Story Will Self-Destruct ~ #JNGReads

Why is it that every few books I read this year, I land on one that’s literally about nothing?

This Love Story Will Self-Destruct by Leslie Cohen is a pleasant novel. ✧

✧ There…review done. ✧

Honestly, I wish I had more to say about this book, especially because the cover is one of the nicest I’ve seen recently. But, as they always say, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and I genuinely wish I didn’t feel compelled to pick this book up when I saw the front cover in my local Indigo because I feel like it was a waste of like $20. This isn’t to say that I hated This Love Story Will Self-Destruct…not at all…but perhaps even worse than that, I feel totally indifferent to it. This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is the epitome of average, the perfect novel to pick up on a whim at the library and take on a plane with you because you want something easy to read, not very taxing and light and fast to get through. It isn’t a novel I would ever feel inclined to spend money to purchase, and it isn’t one I feel strongly enough about to want to put on my bookshelf…if it wasn’t for that adorable cover art, this book would truly have not very much going for it.

What more can I say? The characters, Eve and Ben, are cute and sometimes their dialogue is witty and made me chuckle softly, but they aren’t anything to write home about and I would’ve been totally okay if I never “met” them. Sure, there are a few quirks about their personalities and a few secrets and tragedies they endure that I’m positive are meant to make them seem more unique and complex, but I don’t think Cohen ever really succeeds in creating characters that are memorable or touching. Like I said, they were nice enough to read about, but I didn’t really care what happened to Eve or Ben, or to them together, and the plot didn’t really go much of anywhere. This was really a shame, in my opinion, because the Prologue seemed pretty mysterious and suggested that some great and heartbreaking romance was about to come, but the novel just never really lived up to this introduction at all. It truly was average in every single way, and it was the sort of novel that I could imagine a university student submitting to a creative writing class. It felt unpolished, a bit rushed, haphazardly put together, and while I could see the potential in it and in Cohen, I don’t think that potential was ever reached.

I guess I would recommend This Love Story Will Self-Destruct as a beach read or, as I mentioned, a book to bring on vacation when you’ll mostly be doing sight-seeing but may have a moment or two to read in a coffee shop and don’t want anything that requires too much emotional investment. Because that’s just the thing: I didn’t feel invested in this story whatsoever, and I think that’s super sad and left me with an overall unimpressed and frustrated feeling.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) ~ Read this one if you stumble upon it and have absolutely nothing else to read.


Girl with a Green Heart

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo ~ #JNGReads ~ A New Favourite

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an absolutely breathtaking novel and it deserves every ounce of hype it has received.

“It strikes me as a unique form of power to say your own name when you know that everyone in the room, everyone in the world, already knows it.”

What can I say about this poignant, powerful, unexpected novel without spoiling it? Barely anything. If I were to even enter into a synopsis of the plot, or comment on the title, or discuss the characters in too much detail, the poignancy, power and unexpectedness of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo would disappear, and the experience of reading it, of getting to know Evelyn and living her life with her, would utterly fade away. And that wouldn’t be fair to you, sweet and innocent reader of this review…so I won’t do that to you. I won’t enter into a long-winded review of this novel like I have so often done for others. I will keep it simple and to the point…but you will have to trust me that you have to pick this book up for yourself to see what’s so special about it.

At its heart, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about being brave enough to be exactly who you are, without apology. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? And yet we all know just how hard it is. True, Evelyn Hugo is a ridiculously famous movie star, so it is particularly hard for her to be exactly who she is while she is constantly under public scrutiny…but don’t we all have a hard time, at one point in our life or another, being truly confident in who we are? Don’t we all, sometimes, worry what other people think, about our appearance, our personality, our life choices, our lover, our job, our sense of style, how we wear our hair or paint our nails or how much we eat or don’t? Don’t we all, as humans, sometimes feel this all-encompassing urge to hide? I think we do, and I think that is the basis for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: this notion that it is a fundamental part of human life to be afraid to expose yourself, who you really are, deep down inside, to the world…and yet, it is the single most rewarding and important thing that any human being can do in life.

“And that you have to be willing to deny your heritage, to commodify your body, to lie to good people, to sacrifice who you love in the name of what people will think, and to choose the false version of yourself time and time again, until you forget who you started out as or why you started doing it to begin with.”

Much kudos is owed to Taylor Jenkins Reid for writing this novel, for a number of reasons. Again, without giving too much away or spoiling anything, in Evelyn Hugo, and in many ways in Monique Grant, the journalist who Evelyn enlists to write her biography, Reid has created incredibly complex, realistic, flawed, complicated and stunningly beautiful (inside AND out) female characters. Evelyn in particular is a character who will stick with me for the rest of my life…but more on that in a second. I really can’t say too much, but suffice it to say that Reid, through Evelyn and Monique, tackles some intense and important topics that society is currently interested in, and she does so with tact, grace and compassion. I was truly impressed by Reid’s writing and her ability to create this character in Evelyn who quite honestly jumps off the page and right into the reader’s heart. I found myself forgetting as I was reading that Evelyn wasn’t a real person because her voice just sounded so genuine. Reid’s use of Evelyn to discuss some really serious topics was touching and so well done that I couldn’t help but feel like a more informed and empathetic woman when I finished reading…and when a work of fiction can achieve something as immense as that, it is truly a masterpiece.

“You wonder what it must be like to be a man, to be so confident that the final say is yours.”

While Celia St. James, Evelyn’s fellow actress and best friend, was probably my favourite character in that she reminded me of myself in many ways, Evelyn was a character who blew me away and who I will carry with me. I found myself thinking multiple times while reading that I wish I had an Evelyn in my life: she is fearless, strong, driven and willing to do whatever is necessary first to advance her career, and later to protect her family. In her initial interactions with Monique, when she is pushing her to be braver professionally and go after the career goals she has always hoped to achieve, I found myself realizing that I could use a mentor like Evelyn, from a professional standpoint. This isn’t to say that I lack direction when it comes to my career – quite the contrary, I feel like I know exactly where I want to go, but I am sometimes too meek and shy to go after this future I’ve envisioned for myself. Evelyn would say this is wrong…she would urge me to value myself highly enough that I have no choice but to demand what I know I deserve. She would tell me to speak up, to make myself heard, and she would remind me that I have no greater ally or stronger advocate in life than myself. I needed a role model and example like Evelyn at this moment in my life, and although I wouldn’t make all of the same choices as her, I do believe I will take pieces of her ferocious and feisty personality with me in my own daily interactions.

“Why, until this moment, did I not realize that the issue is my own confidence? That the root of most of my problems is that I need to be secure enough in who I am to tell anyone who doesn’t like it to go fuck themselves? Why have I spent so long settling for less when I know damn well the world expects more?”

This novel is a good one…it is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Again, I have to congratulate Taylor Jenkins Reid on writing a novel that is so profound and hard-hitting, because, I am sorry to say didn’t think she had it in her. I’ve read several of Reid’s novels, and although I liked every one, they were fluffy and light romances and not much more. They were unique in many ways, but they weren’t anything groundbreaking in that they didn’t teach me any lasting lessons. I have to say, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo did teach me a great deal about what it means to be confident, about what it means to be free to love and live your life to the fullest. I am really very glad I read it, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone and everyone!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The Perfect Nanny ~ #JNGReads

I must admit from the start that there will inevitably be SPOILERS about The Perfect Nanny in this review. It’s difficult to talk about the plot or premise at all without them, so if you’d like to go into the novel not knowing anything about it, do not read any further. It should suffice for me to say that I am in an utter fog now, having just finished it…I don’t really know what to say, but here goes nothing…

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani is an absolutely chilling read.

I first came across this novel on Instagram, where the cover enticed me to find out more about it. Depicting a blue and white, Peter Pan collared shirt, the cover suggests that this story will have something to do with false appearances. The buttons are done up too perfectly, the shirt is too crisp, the blue too clean, the white too pristine…there is something behind this perfect façade that cannot be quite so immaculate.

I then read the tagline for the novel, which was on the cover of the book in this particular photo I was looking at on Instagram. It turns out that this tagline is in fact the first phrase of the novel, which sets the tone for what is to come…

“The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”

My blood ran cold when I read that line, and yet I was intrigued enough to put the novel on my To-Read List. When I saw it in Chapters a few days later, my fate was sealed – I purchased it, started reading it that very same day, and have now finished it, two days later.

As I said before, The Perfect Nanny is haunting, disturbing, disgusting, heartbreaking, terrifying… It is so many horrific things that it is almost impossible to describe. It’s not that graphic, to be perfectly honest, and yet there is this underlying sense of discomfort from start to finish, this anxiety on the part of the reader because we know how things are going to turn out, and it turns our stomach not to be able to look away from this inhumanity, the horrible tragedy of it all. Slimani is a masterful storyteller, and by choosing to begin her novel with the conclusion, the deaths of the two little children whose simple, adorable lives will then be described minutely, she draws the reader into this web of nerves and unsettled fears, she forces the reader to keep watching, to assume the status of voyeur, to accept this incapacity to change a thing coupled with this inability to look away.

Slimani also writes in such a literary style, and although the phrases are clipped and concise and not overly descriptive, she paints this blurry, hazy picture of a life that could belong to anyone. As a reader, we can put ourselves into the role of any of these characters, because Slimani leaves enough room for interpretation, of actions and events, of thoughts and desires. There is much that seems to be written between the lines of Slimani’s narration, there is mystery in the scenes she paints so vaguely and in such a simple style. It is almost as if Slimani is presenting us with an allusion to an occurrence, rather than a picture of the occurrence itself. Events are veiled just enough to keep them interesting, and yet the characters are left raw and exposed, open to criticism and hatred and contempt. Slimani’s story is heavily a character study, and so the plot points themselves fade seamlessly into the background of the text, leaving these complicated characters at the forefront, and helplessly open to the reader’s scrutiny.

It is not only the so-called “perfect nanny” who is open for examination. Slimani leaves all of her characters bare, from the parents Paul and Myriam who mean well but are tragically blind to the strangeness around them, to the “perfect nanny” Louise’s daughter and husband, to the friends and colleagues of Paul and Myriam who are just as oblivious as they are. There is so much to unravel and investigate within the very few pages of The Perfect Nanny (it is, after all, only 228 pages in total), and the reader is left at the end with this disturbing feeling that no conclusion whatsoever has been reached, that nothing has been solved, that things are more muddled and confusing and upsetting than they were even in the beginning, when that first phrase “The baby is dead” is declared.

What is abundantly clear, though, is that the children, Mila and Adam, are innocent. They are children, and so they are at once frustrating and endearing, loud and serene, hyper and soothed, but always, always lovable. The reader is left, at the end, with this overwhelming feeling of sadness that, because of a nanny’s obsession and the inability of two parents to fully comprehend the depths of her despair and illness, two totally innocent children have been made to suffer. That is an awful feeling to be left with, and yet it makes the novel truly unforgettable and so poignant and important.

I feel that there is a lesson somewhere in The Perfect Nanny, and yet I can’t quite grasp what it is. Not being a parent myself, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to raise a child, let alone more than one, and yet I can imagine that it would be very difficult to leave one’s children with a nanny or a caregiver. And yet, for so many families, there is no other option, when two incomes are required, and no relatives or friends are available for babysitting. At the same time, though, it seems that Paul and Myriam are blind to many of Louise’s abusive behaviours toward the children, both emotional and physical, and although they occasionally become wary of her actions, they fail to do anything about the situation that strikes them as odd. So who is to blame for this horrible crime? Surely Louise because she is the perpetrator, the child murderer…but could the circumstances of this travesty not have been avoided? I just don’t know. Like I mentioned, I feel as though Slimani is trying to make a statement with The Perfect Nanny, she is trying to offer a moral, and insight to the reader…but I just haven’t uncovered what it is yet. And perhaps that’s just it: maybe each reader is supposed to have a slightly different interpretation of the events and the characters? In any case, what I do know for sure is that The Perfect Nanny is well-written, deep and hard to swallow, and it is not for the faint of heart.

“Adam is dead. Mila will be too, soon.”

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart