Wish You Were Here ~ #JNGReads

“Rules are for people with the luxury of time.”

Wish You Were Here is the first novel I’ve read by Renée Carlino, and I finished it quicker than most other books I’ve read. This has everything to do with how it is written and just how easy it is to read and get into. After this reading experience, I can confidently say that I would without doubt pick up another book by Renée Carlino, and soon.

I have to admit that I picked up Wish You Were Here 1) because I have been meaning to read a book by Carlino for awhile; and 2) because the main character’s name is Charlotte, a name which I am particularly fond of. I didn’t know anything at all about the premise of the book when I picked it up, and while it probably wasn’t the best book for a new wife to read, it ended up being a truly touching, heart-warming and uplifting story. At first, during the initial 100 pages of this 300-page text, I have to say I was a bit frustrated and annoyed by Charlotte and her immaturity and lack of direction. As the novel progressed, though, I began to see this remarkable change in her character that was subtle, extremely realistic and simply human. Charlotte’s evolution is one of the best depictions of character development I’ve read in a very long time; Charlotte’s personality sort of does a complete 180 during the story, and yet it feels very natural within the context of her life experience. I found her journeys with both Adam and Seth to be touching, and full of just the right amount of complication, confusion and romance to be totally believable. Although Charlotte’s story and her connections to both Adam and Seth (in different ways) are extraordinary and unique in many ways, they are also, as I said, incredibly human, and so it is easy for the reader to buy into them.

I also really enjoyed the secondary cast of characters in Wish You Were Here, particularly Charlotte’s best friend Helen and her brother Chucky. Again, the evolution of Charlotte’s relationships with these two characters was very well done, and I fully enjoyed seeing her reevaluate her dependence on Helen and her dislike for Chuck. All three characters become much more adult throughout the course of the novel, and this solidifies the texts overarching message that love is the strongest force on Earth for bringing people together and bridging the gaps between people.

“Love is a wordless secret; it’s an inside joke.

Only the two of you have to understand it.”

It would be really hard to say anything about the plot of this story without spoiling it, so I’m going to avoid doing that and keep this review relatively brief as a result. Suffice it to say, I blasted through Wish You Were Here because it is written in such a feeling and emotional manner that I just didn’t want to put it down, couldn’t bear to let it leave my fingers for too long. It does feel somewhat like reading a screenplay in that the dialogue is fast-paced and the scenes are very cinematographic in description and quality, but Carlino fleshes out her characters so well and focuses on a short period in their lives, so the plot never feels rushed or overwhelmed. It is honestly just perfectly constructed and structured, and I don’t have any criticism whatsoever. It is a very very good book, and I’d highly recommend it to those who love romances that aren’t cliché or heavy-handed and that are raw and emotional and of the highest quality.

I’ll end now with a few more of my favourite passages from the novel, because I think that this is the best way to entice you all to pick up Wish You Were Here. It’s impossible to put into words why this book is so great…I think you just have to delve into it for yourself to understand why!

“‘Have I asked you to marry me?’ he said sleepily. We were back on.

‘Every day,’ I replied.


‘I always say not yet.’

Adam was dozing off and slurring when he said, ‘Why?’

I’m certain he was asleep when I finally replied, ‘Because I don’t want you to stop asking.’”


“‘What are they like? Our children.’

‘Happy. That’s all we wished for. We put our love first and it just spilled over into them and now they’re happy.’”

“He took my hands in his and said, ‘No more fear.’ He kissed my knuckles. ‘Promise me. Promise me that you’ll go on and take everything you want, take what you deserve.’

‘I promise.’ My throat tightened and tears fell from my eyes.

I looked down at Adam, who arched his eyebrows and then gestured toward the winged man and said, ‘I’ll have my eye on you.’”


❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart


An Enchantment of Ravens ~ #JNGReads

Okay, I think I can condense my review of Margaret Rogerson’s book An Enchantment of Ravens into one sentence…

This novel is the literary equivalent of an hour and a half long feature film that you wish was made into a 4-hour miniseries instead.

An Enchantment of Ravens was a great novel, it truly was. I would’ve gone so far as to say it was an excellent novel, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was just so darn short. At 295 pages, this novel is exactly what I said: a movie that would’ve been better as a TV show…a burger that didn’t come with fries on the side…ice cream in a cup, not a cone. What I mean by all that is that this novel got good, it fully got going, and then it ended. Just when you’re starting to become interested in the plot and invested in the characters, just when you’re taking the last bite of that burger and realizing you’re still hungry, just when you’ve taken the last lick of that delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream and are excited to crunch on the cone…it’s over. The end – nice knowing you, see you later!

Seriously, there isn’t much to An Enchantment of Ravens because it is such a tiny story. However, Rogerson also packs this impressive and intricate world, these unique and fierce main characters, these hilarious and endearing side characters, and this explosive adventure plot into a book that really is nothing more than a novella. My main problem with An Enchantment of Ravens is that I just needed more time: more time to get to know Isobel and Rook, more time to familiarize myself with the world they lived in, more time to visualize their life-threatening circumstances…more time with them in general. I found myself starting to really love and feel connected to Isobel and Rook around page 220, only to realize that there were only 75 pages left of my journey with them. It’s not even that An Enchantment of Ravens is too poorly paced, because I never felt like I wasn’t seeing things I should have or that any plot points were missing per say – instead, I simply felt like every single scene, from Isobel meeting Rook and painting his portrait, to their battle with the ultimate villain (trying to avoid spoilers here!) at the end, could have been expanded, fleshed out further and more painstakingly described. While Rogerson’s descriptions of nature and the fairy world are detailed and lush, and in many places made my skin crawl as I imagined the rot and decay she described in the summer court that was turning rancid, her treatment of particular scenes and conversations and events was too rushed. This is most obvious any time there is a fight scene of any kind – Rogerson seems to describe each moment in rapid succession, literally as if her audience is watching the scene and the camera is moving from one image to the next. But the thing is, we aren’t watching it, we are reading and so we need time to visualize everything, to make a picture of it in our minds, settle into that picture and then let the action unfold. It felt to me on several occasions like I was struggling to keep up with Rogerson, like my mind was flitting from one image to the next too quickly for me to get a grasp on any single one or see the bigger picture. Again, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the images she was creating – on the contrary, I would’ve liked to spend more time within them.

Further examples of this rushed feeling came any time there was dialogue, particularly between Isobel and Rook. I sincerely liked both of them and I enjoyed their relationship, but I felt like, once again, their conversations were written with a cinematographic quality in the sense that they were so fast-paced and short that I never really got a sense of their tone of voice. I sensed chemistry between them, but the focus of narration moved too quickly away from their dialogue and banter to allow me to really revel in that feeling. This ultimately left me feeling like I wasn’t fully connected to or friendly with the characters, and I was especially disappointed by this when it came to intriguing side characters like Isobel’s aunt Emma and her sisters March and May who were so quirky and adorable, but whose emotional connections toward Isobel were somewhat glossed over and then flitted away from. So much happened in An Enchantment of Ravens that it all just happened in such a mad, dizzying blur for me.

Maybe the best comparison I can give is to relate my experience of reading An Enchantment of Ravens to my experience watching a movie and a TV show that are equally full of action. An Enchantment of Ravens is like the book equivalent of Zack Snyder’s movie Batman v. Superman – there is A LOT going on in that movie, so much that it all becomes an incoherent mess by the end. Sure, if you take a single scene and watch it in isolation, it’s well crafted, enjoyable and easy to follow. But when you cram a bunch of really overwhelming and busy scenes into one film, it all becomes a bit muddled until your left in the conclusion not knowing what the heck even happened. Then, take for example the Netflix/Marvel TV show Daredevil – there’s just as much action as in Batman v. Superman, the story is just as wide in scope, and yet because it unfolds slowly over an entire TV series, it feels for the viewer like they have truly gone on a journey, like they have lived in that world and resided with the characters. It feels more organic and natural, and I would argue that viewers of Daredevil will have a lot more to say about it and reflect upon afterwards than they would after watching Batman v. Superman, most of which will just go right over their heads and be forgotten. An Enchantment of Ravens is a more action-packed version of the Victorian novel that has been adapted into a Hollywood film production rather than a slow-burning BBC miniseries…it is a waste of a good story.

Margaret Rogerson has talent, there’s no doubt about that, and overall I enjoyed An Enchantment of Ravens. Unfortunately, though, I think that fantasy novels need to be massive tomes to be successful because there is too much to establish in terms of the world and the heroes and heroines, along with the adventure-driven plot, to condense it all into a small package. So, while I would recommend An Enchantment of Ravens as a super quick fantasy reader, I felt it had much more potential.

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Emerald & Opal ~ 2018’s Great Bookish Adventure!

From the moment I met my best friend Camille during our undergraduate creative writing course, I knew our relationship was going to be something special.

Maybe it’s because of how similar our names are.  Maybe it’s because of how opposite our physical appearances are, despite our styles being nearly identical.  Maybe it’s because she’s a die-hard Jane Austen fan while I’m a passionate Charlotte Brontë follower, and yet we can each appreciate Austen and Brontë for their literary brilliance.  Probably it’s all of these things put together, plus so many more…but whatever the reason that I was drawn to Camille in the first place, she has become this huge influence and driving force in my life ever since I was introduced to her.  She is the Jane to my Elizabeth Bennet, the Helen Burns to my Jane Eyre, the Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley, the Betty Cooper to my Veronica Lodge…we are yin and yang, ice blue and deep green…we are friend soul mates, there’s no doubt about it!

Camille is the friend I immediately turn to in moments of self-doubt and anxiety.  She is also the friend I have always felt most comfortable sharing my creative pursuits with, whether it’s a slightly trashy chick lit. short story I’m working on, or a poem I feel isn’t any good but I just had to get on paper, or posts for this very blog.  She was one of the first and fiercest supporters of me starting The World of my Green Heart (and I think she’s also one of its most avid readers ~ Hey Camille!), and she has always encouraged me to put my green heart on the line, both with her kind words and also by setting an incredible example for me.  Camille is a talented poetry writer, a masterful programmer and an expert white hot chocolate maker.  She’s mother to some adorable kitties (shout out to my god-daughter, the kitty Khaleesi), she’s a loving and devoted girlfriend, and she’s the most intelligent woman I have ever encountered, combining this passion for science and psychology with this determination to read ALL THE BOOKS!  Camille is, quite frankly, the woman I aspire to be.

So, when Camille and I were debating what kind of creative endeavour we should get involved in together at the end of 2017, I knew something magical was brewing!  We talked about joining a book club, attending an improv class…and I’m sure we will do these things.  But, the first thing we could agree on and really wanted to sink our teeth into was a joint Bookstagram account.  With the names we have, the opposite appearances, my preference for emeralds and Camille’s Pinterest obsession with opal stones, the Instagram account Emerald & Opal was born!  Our intention is to develop this Instagram page into a spot where we can share our story and chronicle our friendship, through paperbacks and hardcovers, classics and contemporaries, warm cups of earl grey and steaming lattes.  We intend to use this social media platform as a means to exercise our creative muscles and write a story, a memoir of sorts, a record of our interests and passions and the evolution of our relationship and ourselves.  We’ve already got the account underway, posting photos of our outings and hijinks, and also snaps of our recent reads and the massive piles of books we have to get to.  So far, it’s been a wild and exciting and addictive ride, and we’re constantly chatting back and forth about what to post next!

All this to say that I’m finally embarking on another creative adventure that I think goes so well with everything I’ve tried to and have succeeded in achieving on this very blog.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share the link to our page here, in case any of you are interested in following Camille and me on our Bookstagram journey.  Rest assured, I will be continuing to upload reviews and posts here just as frequently, but if you’d like to see some of the photos I’ve worked on and what my best friend and I are up to on a daily basis, Emerald & Opal is the place to do that!  And trust me, you’re going to love Camille (or Opal, as I’ve now taken to calling her) just as much as I do! ❤

Do you have a Bookstagram account?  If so, please share it in the comments below ~ Camille and I would love to follow along on your journey as well!








Janille N G

(Girl with an EMERALD Green Heart)

(The Green Half of Emerald & Opal)

99 Days ~ #JNGReads

Literally nothing happens in this book…nothing at all.

“‘What do you want, Molly Barlow?’ he asks, and he sounds so tired of me. ‘I mean it, what could you possibly want from me?’”

I just finished reading Katie Cotugno’s young adult romance novel 99 Days and I have to say immediately that I am disappointed. When I read Cotugno’s first novel, How To Love, last year, I was very impressed by her unique writing style and the way her character’s narrative voice instantly sucked me in and made me empathize with her. With 99 Days, I felt like the uniqueness and strength of Cotugno’s voice was missing, and the novel felt like 300-plus pages of a bunch of self-centered, bland, nothing-special teenagers doing absolutely nothing. I wasn’t thrilled by or even remotely interested in it.

99 Days follows recent high school graduate Molly Barlow during 99 days of summer when she returns to her hometown before leaving for college. She left her hometown for senior year because of a bunch of drama between her, her now ex-boyfriend and her ex’s brother. Obviously, a love triangle is established, and I understand exactly what Cotugno was trying to do with her story: she was trying to present this coming of age story in which a group of friends who grew up together and were inseparable are challenged by the complicated feelings of infatuation, love and lust that emerge as they enter into adulthood. I get it…but unfortunately, I don’t think Cotugno tackles these concepts well whatsoever in 99 Days.

As I said before, nothing happens in this novel…like seriously, there is no climax, no monumental point of clarity, no excitement or intrigue whatsoever. It literally was like reading a teenage girl’s diary, documenting a summer when she goes to work, occasionally makes out with a hot guy, then makes out with his brother, runs every morning, watches a few documentaries on Netflix, maybe hangs out with her girlfriends for a few hours…and that’s it. I get that that sounds like a lot of things happening, which in theory it is, but it’s not enough to make a novel out of. This was one of the most mundane, boring stories I’ve ever read because it felt just as repetitive as an actual summer in high school, when you’re not old or independent enough to go anywhere or have any adventures, so you basically just hang around the house, binge-watching TV shows and movies and creeping your hot classmates on Facebook or Instagram with your friends. If Cotugno was hoping to make 99 Days more of a character study than a plot-driven novel, unfortunately none of her characters are strong enough to accomplish this. Molly, Patrick and Gabe Donnelly, and all the other cast of characters, were the most average teenagers I’ve ever come across in literature, and none of them go through any real process of maturing or developing emotionally. They are very flat characters, and I was left at the end with this feeling that I had wasted a bunch of my time following an unspectacular cast doing unspectacular things.

“I’m ashamed of myself, truly. It’s inexcusable, what I did to Tess.”

I also found it impossible to like Molly at all, which was really unfortunate considering she’s the story’s narrator. Molly is positively insufferable, and even the other characters in the novel are sick of her by the end of it, with very good reason. Molly is incredibly selfish, egotistical and totally unaware of what a destructive personality she has. Even when she says she’s embarrassed about something or feels badly about it, she still does it, and honestly, she goes all the way with these terrible acts…not halfway, not kind of doing something and then stopping because she realizes what a mistake it is…ALL THE WAY, EVERY TIME. I understand that being a teenager is tough, and I’m sympathetic to that – I certainly don’t expect Molly to be this perfect angel because that wouldn’t be interesting either. But, there are certain lines that it’s pretty clear you shouldn’t cross in life and in love, and Molly crosses every single one of them, emerging on the other side as this totally awful friend and person. What’s most frustrating is that she recognizes how awful she is being to the people around her, and yet she does all these horrible things anyway, even asking herself on multiple occasions what she’s thinking or what she’s doing, but not stopping. It’s irritating at best and totally, beyond-belief frustrating and off-putting at worst. I couldn’t warm up to Molly, didn’t want to, to be honest, and I never ever would want her as a friend. So, from page one, I wasn’t off to a good start with her.

“I head over to the Donnellys’ the next evening to watch some weird Canadian import show Gabe can’t get enough of, everybody dressed in plaid and saying ‘aboot’ all the time.”

The quote above is actually one of the most annoying sentences I have ever read in a book in my entire life – call me a die-hard Canadian or whatever, but this is just simply poor and lazy writing. I get that maybe Cotugno is trying to be satirical and ironic, but in this particular sentence, it doesn’t come across that way, and on the contrary, this tasteless joke about “Canadian culture” comes across as narrow-minded and offensive. I wouldn’t be so put-off by this sort of thing normally, but the whole novel is full of lazy jokes and sarcasm and references to pop culture that Cotugno seems to use to just make herself look smart. She mentions Bon Iver playing on iPod speakers, she brings up Paul Newman randomly, she has Molly watching documentaries about Mary Shelley, she makes Molly’s best friend Imogen an expert at reading tarot cards, Molly’s mother is a bestselling author…okay, Cotugno is trying to make her characters diverse and versatile and well-rounded and unique, but nothing in their actions, manner of speaking or actual personalities is any of these things, so the references just come across as humble brags and pats on the back rather than any sort of character development tools. And then this jab at Canadian television came and it all just felt too forced, too over-the-top sarcastic and dry and not at all witty or well done. This is probably what disappointed me the most about 99 Days because I found Cotugno’s writing to be so refreshing when I read How To Love because in that case the pop culture references worked really well and the characters were fresh and exciting to read about. I don’t know if Cotugno lost a bit of her edge or if this subject matter just wasn’t doing it for me, but I was seriously let down by this second foray into her catalogue.

Bottom line, there is one more novel by Katie Cotugno that I have lined up to read this year, and I’m going to in the hopes that 99 Days was just a misstep or that it just didn’t jive well with me. I want to give Cotugno’s writing another chance because I enjoyed How To Love…but 99 Days I would have to say was a miss.

❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The Book Thief ~ #JNGReads

Here I am, reading another book that I feel utterly unqualified to review. This one I mostly read, and just now finished, on days when I’ve been battling a horrible flu, so forgive me for any incoherency in this review. That being said, I feel that it was almost fitting that I read this novel during a period of sickness, when I was on the verge of hallucination and could almost walk alongside the narrator through the scenes he described.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a novel I wish I had read in high school. This is not to say that it is juvenile in any manner – quite the contrary – but what I mean by saying this is that The Book Thief feels to me like the sort of story that should be experienced by students very early on in their educations. It would’ve been oh so fitting for me to delve into this particular novel during my grade 10 History class, when I first properly learned what the Holocaust was and what that term meant, and I wish I had thought to pick up The Book Thief around the same time I read The Diary of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel’s Night. The reason that I wish I had been exposed to the story contained in The Book Thief at a time when I was learning all about Hitler’s reign, genocide and World War II is that The Book Thief takes an approach to discussing the Holocaust that is unlike any I have previously encountered.

Of course, Zusak’s story details the wrongful persecution of the Jews living in Germany and many other countries in Europe during Hitler’s reign. Through the character of Max Vandenburg and many other nameless Jewish people, Zusak offers a heart-wrenching depiction of what it meant to be Jewish in Nazi-occupied Germany, of what it meant to hate Hitler, to feel unjustifiably condemned by him, and to live your life secluded in a dark basement for years on end. There are allusions to the grotesque concentration camps and to the suffering of 6 million innocent people. There are references made to the intense hatred and anguish that these innocent people felt toward a man who chose to call himself “leader”, and who was blindly followed. There are certainly moments of horror.

But, what Zusak also chooses to do in The Book Thief, and what I thoroughly appreciated from my role of reader, was emphasize the suffering and turmoil of many innocent German people, those citizens who equally despised Hitler, who were similarly condemned by him, and who met their own tragic ends. Zusak chronicles the life of a German girl, Liesel Meminger, and her relationship with her German foster parents and her German best friend, all the while highlighting the fact that these characters despise Hitler, yet feel powerless to stop or combat him. Certainly Liesel’s foster parents do their best to fight the Nazi regime, particularly by taking Jewish man Max Vandenburg into their basement and harbouring him safely there. However, when Liesel’s foster parents, and her best friend Rudy and his parents, attempt to stand up to the Nazi regime in any meaningful way, they are also persecuted, whipped, beaten, sent away from their families. Although it is made clear many times in the narration of The Book Thief (more on the particular narrative style in a moment) that Liesel and her family members and friends will never suffer in the same horrific way as the Jewish people, they also face their own tragedies and awful, painful deaths. There is no optimism in this tale, and yet the reader is made to understand that Nazi-occupied Germany was Hell not only for the Jews who lived there, but also for the quiet, unsuspecting German people who wanted nothing to do with Hitler and his bigotry and prejudice.

“[Liesel] wondered how many letters like that were sent out as punishment to Germany’s Hans Hubermanns and Alex Steiners – to those who helped the helpless, and those who refused to let go of their children.”

“‘When they come and ask you for one of your children,’ Barbara Steiner explained, to no one in particular, ‘you’re supposed to say yes.’”

Personally, I can’t say I ever gave much thought to what it would feel like to be a German citizen living during World War II. I have, on numerous occasions, read novels that made me empathize and sympathize with the Jewish people who were oppressed, but I never took the time to think about how it would feel to be an innocent German citizen, one who loves and has a kind and gentle heart and must watch as their country is made into a living Hell for so many people. There must have been so much shame and disgrace and desperation in that, and I truly appreciated that The Book Thief offered me the chance to get into the minds of some of these German citizens, to realize just how hard it was for them to witness what their “leader” was doing, how hard that must’ve been to stomach. It also made me question myself and my own convictions: would I have had the courage to open my home to some of the Jewish people, like Hans Hubermann did? If I was a child at the time, would I have been able, like Liesel, to become friends with a Jewish man and risk my life just to say Goodbye to him and hold his hand one last time? Like Rudy Steiner, would I choose to skip my Hitler Youth classes and defy the doctrines and regulations of the time, risking being whipped and beaten and persecuted? I will never ever know, and it is a serious privilege to not have to consider these questions because of the dumb luck of being born in a different time. The Book Thief challenged my perceptions and assumptions, however; it forced me to sit down and think about the people whose perspectives I hadn’t previously considered, and for that reason, it was a highly educational, life-altering and poignant read. This is why I would recommend that any and all high school students read this novel, while learning about the destruction of World War II.

Apart from being a profound and influential text, The Book Thief is also very well written. I don’t know if this is a spoiler (forgive me, but I don’t think it is since you learn about this on page 1) but Zusak chooses Death as his narrator for the story, and in my opinion, this was a perfect choice. Zusak’s Death is much less sinister and horror movie-esque than one would expect, and Death actually tells the tale of Liesel and her loved ones with such sentimentality and feeling that it is impossible not to be drawn to him as a narrator. I found myself empathizing with Death in many ways, as he described having to take away the souls of so many innocent people during World War II. Death is a sympathetic and tortured character in The Book Thief, and it is clear from the start that he hates his job, hates Hitler, hates war and wants nothing at all to do with suffering. It is really interesting to view the events of the Holocaust from this perspective, to see the endless pain and agonizing devastation from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator who is at once complicit in the tragedy but wishes he could be removed from it. Death speaks of Liesel so lovingly that it is hard not to feel sorry for him, it is hard not to wish that he could be exempt from his job, particularly in the moments when it affects Liesel the most. I’m struggling to remember if I’ve ever read a novel narrated by Death before (I feel like I must have, but it escapes me at the moment), but regardless, I can confidently say that Zusak does an excellent job of using Death’s narration as this means to toy with his readers’ emotions and force them to look at the concept of death itself from a totally new vantage point.

I hope some aspects, at least, of this review made sense, but as I said, my reading of The Book Thief was a rather hallucinatory experience. Whether that is because I was feeling sick or because the novel is written in such a hard-hitting, unrestrained manner is hard to say. It seems that Zusak wants to hit right at the reader’s heart, and yes, mine has been weakened recently due to cold and fever…but I have a feeling that even if I was at my strongest, The Book Thief would’ve penetrated right to the depths of my human soul nevertheless.

“I have hated the words and

I have loved them,

and I hope I have made them right.”

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

*Although this novel does deal with very mature themes and is vulgar at times, I highly recommend that it be read by high school students everywhere!


Girl with a Green Heart

The Roanoke Girls ~ #JNGReads

How does an author come up with an idea like this?

I don’t mean any disrespect to Amy Engel. This is a legitimate question I am asking. How does an author come up with a concept for a novel that is so deeply disturbing, strange and sinister? I don’t know where this sort of plot could possibly spring from – it must be from a mind much more creative, or perhaps haunted, than mine. It would really make a good basis for the next season of American Horror Story or something!

The Roanoke Girls is a controversial novel…that much is probably an understatement. As many other reviewers have mentioned, it’s virtually impossible to say anything about the plot without giving it away. I’ve also seen reviewers mention that it is best to go into The Roanoke Girls knowing as little as possible about it, and I have to agree with that. The plot is so twisted and unsettling that I feel the right kind of reader will enjoy reading it with that minor description alone, without looking up a synopsis prior. And any sort of real synopsis would have to contain major spoilers anyway.

That being said, The Roanoke Girls is absolutely not the sort of novel that every reader should dive into, and even readers of primarily mysteries or thrillers should give it serious consideration before picking it up. Although it is compulsively and addictively written, it also deals with subject matter that can be extremely upsetting at times, such as sexual abuse, sexual manipulation and child abuse, to name a few. Other reviewers have listed the exact triggers far more thoroughly and accurately than I ever could, and I would encourage any reader who is thinking of picking up The Roanoke Girls to read one or two spoiler free reviews before doing so to be sure that it is the right novel for them. For many it isn’t, and I can certainly understand why!

Having said all of this, and considering that I did find the relationships in The Roanoke Girls to be very dysfunctional and in some cases disgusting, I did actually enjoy reading the novel. I think this is largely down to how it is written: Engel creates a narrator in Lane Roanoke who is at once hardened and emotional, world-weary and trusting. Lane was definitely my favourite part of the novel because, although she is very damaged in many ways, she is also unfailingly loyal and loving in a lot of surprising ways too. She is also fearless without denying her fears, brave without keeping her eyes closed to the injustices and inhumanities of the world, and her quick wit, sharp comebacks and sarcasm really endeared me to her. She surely isn’t a perfect character, or even a perfect and unbiased narrator for that matter, but she is interesting and complex, and I appreciated that as a reader. There was a lot to unpack in all of the characters, but particularly in Lane who I believe hides so much turmoil and angst amidst her narration.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t put The Roanoke Girls down, even in the moments when it disturbed me, and I found that I blazed through it when I sat down to read. Despite that, though, one major criticism I have with it is the pacing. While Lane is a great narrator and the story itself is addictive in that the reader wants to get to the bottom of the puzzle and mystery that is the Roanoke family, a lot of the family’s secrets are revealed at the very start of the novel, and then nothing much happens, no situations change and no new details are revealed, until much later in the story. It felt, to me, like there was some dead/dry space in the middle of the story, when Lane is waiting for her cousin Allegra to be found. Although the flashing back between past and present helped some, I still got the sense, after plowing through around 70 pages in the middle of the novel in one sitting, that nothing much had happened and that the story wasn’t moving forward at all and had pretty much stayed put. At the same time though, like I mentioned, I couldn’t stop reading…so this is a paradox I haven’t yet figured out.

To summarize this rambly review: The Roanoke Girls was fascinating – that’s probably the best word I can use to describe it. It will turn your stomach at times, you’ll want to put it down or throw it against a wall, but it is guaranteed to get a reaction from you, whatever it may be. I’m glad I read it and found out what all the hype was about, but I don’t know that I would rush out to read another novel just like it anytime soon (or ever).

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Stardust ~ #JNGReads

“The events that follow transpired many years ago. Queen Victoria was on the throne of England, but she was not yet the black-clad widow of Windsor: she had apples in her cheeks and a spring in her step, and Lord Melbourne often had cause to upbraid, gently, the young queen for her flightiness. She was, as yet, unmarried, although she was very much in love.”

~ Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Bless you, Neil Gaiman, for that paragraph alone!

Stardust is a remarkably pleasant and enjoyable fairytale by acclaimed and beloved author, Neil Gaiman. As a fan of fairytales of all kinds, from Disney’s versions of tales such as Beauty and the Beast to ancient poems detailing the adventures of Sir Gawain, I found Stardust to be thoroughly entertaining and I would highly recommend it as a quick but fun and adorable read to young adult readers, as well as older readers with a youthful and fantastical spirit.

I should mention that I have never read any other works by Gaiman. I was encouraged to read Stardust by my brother, who recently became a big fan of Gaiman’s work after reading American Gods. My brother thought that American Gods wouldn’t really be my cup of tea, however, so he passed Stardust over to me as soon as he finished it. My husband recently devoured and loved Gaiman’s graphic novel “Sandman”, and so he too was excited for me to delve into Gaiman’s catalogue. There is no doubt that Neil Gaiman is a literary genius, with a versatile writing style that is equally impressive and awe-inspiring, and Stardust was certainly a well-written, well-constructed and imaginative work that I believe deserves a high rating for its uniqueness and creativity, as well as its flow and easily digestible structure.

Having said that, while I was not familiar with Gaiman’s writing before picking up Stardust, I had seen (albeit years ago) the film adaptation of this fairytale. Normally I would hesitate to pick up a book after seeing the movie version because I often find the movie clouds my judgment and perception of the original written text if I do this, but in the case of Stardust, I felt that I had seen the movie so long ago (when I was in high school) that it made sense to read the text and then revisit the movie. I was sure that I had forgotten enough of the movie to make the book interesting to me in its own right. And that is, in many ways, true – there were several aspects of the tale that I had forgotten entirely, a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all, and the things I did remember from the film (such as the ending, for example) were altered and different enough in the book that I found I could enjoy the written story in and of itself. Nevertheless, there were elements of the movie that I did have some memory of, which I found lacking in the story – for the first time ever, it seemed to me that the film adaptation delved more deeply into the histories and backgrounds of certain fascinating characters, such as the witch and the sky-ship captain (played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro in the movie, respectively), and I felt while reading that I only had a half-formed, very weak understanding of these characters. I also felt that in the movie version, the relationship between Tristran Thorn and the star Yvaine is fleshed out better and more organically and naturally. I almost felt as though, although the book was definitely entertaining and enjoyable, there was some sort of spark missing from it.

I’ve read a few reviews on Goodreads that implied that for these reasons the film adaptation of Stardust is better than the book…I wouldn’t go that far! I think that in this particular case, one really must look at the movie and the book as two totally separate entities. The book is, according to Gaiman’s own admission in the Introduction, a tale he sat down to write spontaneously and probably completed in a few hours. It’s almost the outline of a tale more than a story itself – it serves as more of a summary, a rubric for a fairytale that has immense room for expansion. I think that’s what the film adaptation did: it took this very short, tiny novel and fleshed it out, imagined scenarios and events in the peripheral that Gaiman certainly hints at but doesn’t delve into himself, and it made those real, depicted them in a way that honours and pays homage to Gaiman’s actual text but also gives it more depth and life. The movie is, then, more of a love letter to the book than an adaptation of it.

With all that said, I really did enjoy Stardust very much, and I am glad that I read it. I do absolutely think I’ll read more of Gaiman’s work, particularly in other genres to get a sense of his versatility. Overall, I would call my reading of Stardust an unequivocal success!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

So Near The Horizon ~ #JNGReads

I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much reading a novel as I did when finishing So Near The Horizon by Jessica Koch.

I am an emotional reader, that’s for sure. But, despite the fact that I often become seriously attached to characters and feel as though I’m living through their stories right along with them, I rarely cry when reading novels. Maybe that’s because I normally stick to fiction and I’m able to remind myself that what I’m reading is, after all, just a story. That doesn’t mean I don’t find myself thinking about a character or agonizing over their drama weeks after I’ve finished a book, but it does mean that I don’t usually allow myself to fall apart because of one.

So Near The Horizon was bound to be a different reading experience from the start because the story portrayed is a true one. I guess the novel should be classified as creative non-fiction in the sense that the author, Jessica Koch, writes about her own true experiences and real-life relationship with her boyfriend, Danny, but adds a narrative style to the whole story that makes it flow as freely and addictively as any fictional romance I have ever read. And, the novel does certainly start off as most other conventional romances do: Girl meets incredibly handsome, but obviously damaged Boy, Boy and Girl begin to go on dates while Girl tries to unravel all of Boy’s secrets. Once Danny begins to share details about his past with Jessica, however, it becomes clear that his story, and their love story together, is unlike anything that has been published to date, and is not so conventional as it originally seemed. On the contrary, Danny and Jessica’s story is heart wrenching, heartbreaking and devastating, and it is a story that I felt truly touched and changed by.

It is impossible to say too much about So Near The Horizon without ruining it – I truly can’t say anything substantial about the plot without giving away the most important details. But, suffice it to say, it is one of my most powerful books I have read in recent years. It joins the ranks of such texts as Angels in America and Middlesex for how profoundly and poignantly it treats sensitive topics and for how much I learned from and was fundamentally changed by it. Danny is an absolutely remarkable “character” (I use the term “character” loosely because he was, after all, a real person), and I have no doubt that he was an absolutely remarkable man in real-life as well. He has an infectious love for life, for adventure and excitement and motion, and I can only imagine what a force of nature he was to be around. I won’t soon forget Danny, and indeed, Jessica herself is such an inspiring and strong woman that I feel that I am myself a better and stronger woman for having read her story.

So Near The Horizon is without doubt one of the saddest books I have ever read. As I mentioned before, it left me in tears, crushed and sobbing and shaking, at the very end. To reduce So Near The Horizon to just being a sad book would be to do it a great disservice though. So Near The Horizon is also extremely uplifting, if one is willing only to read between the lines and be open to the valuable lessons it has to impart. So much of the book’s strength and force comes from its subtle assertion that life is too short, that people need to grab at it and do everything they can with this one life they have to live. Although So Near The Horizon addresses topics of fear and anxiety, it also continually underlines the notion that life must be lived without fear, that it must be seized and made the most of, that people need to go out on a limb and take risks and love fiercely and ferociously and without restraint. I found myself realizing that I was worried about so many inconsequential things while reading So Near The Horizon, and while I know I won’t be able to stop myself from worrying about the little things completely, I do hope that in moments when my anxiety gets the better of me and I get hung up on mundane problems, I will be able to call Danny and Jessica’s examples to mind and put things in perspective. There is so much beauty to behold in the world, so many adventures to take advantage of, and So Near The Horizon is a serious example to never, ever take any of life’s opportunities for granted.

So Near The Horizon is also a moving and powerful love story, about sacrifice, loyalty and perseverance, and it is such an inspiration for me personally, especially as I enter married life and come to terms with the fact that my new husband and I will have to face so many things in our time together. It is simply inevitable, and So Near The Horizon has taught me that, rather than being bogged down or fearful of these obstacles my husband and I may face, I should always keep my chin up (and encourage my husband to do the same) because love is a magical force that can conquer so many obstacles. The theme of togetherness is so firmly reinforced in So Near The Horizon, and it is an idea that I intend to cling on to.

I would recommend So Near The Horizon to anyone and everyone (in fact, I think I may pass it along to my mother and best friend in the weeks to come), but it isn’t a story for the faint of heart. There is trauma and tragedy in it…but there are also moments of gorgeous light and friendship and love, that it is absolutely worth taking this ride with Danny and Jessica to have a chance to experience and take away the lessons their story can provide. I would not hesitate to mark So Near The Horizon as one of my favourite books, and I know it is a story I will not soon forget.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

*A huge thank you to Jessica Koch for providing me with a copy of So Near The Horizon to read and review. I am truly touched to have had the opportunity to read Danny’s story, and it was an honour to review the book!*


Girl with a Green Heart

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