JNG’s 2018 Reading Round Up

Happy New Year everyone, and thank you for joining me as I round up my reads (the good and the bad) of 2018!

You can find more bookish photos of me and my best friend on our bookstagram, Emerald & Opal!

I have to start by saying that I actually somehow managed to read 75 books this year!!!  I don’t mean to brag, but this is a pretty remarkable feat for me because I only set my Goodreadsgoal at 50 books, and what with starting a new job that has kept me extremely busy and has limited my lunchtime reading, and considering the fact that this was my first year being married and so it included a honeymoon when I didn’t read at all, I don’t know how on Earth I managed to surpass my goal by 50%.  But honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of myself because back in university, sure I did a TON of reading and probably read around 75 books a year, but most of those were selected for me by professors and were required course readings. This year, though, I chose all 75 books, carefully curating exactly what I wanted to read and when, and I did write at least a short review (and often a very long one) for every single book.  I would easily call 2018 my most successful reading year ever!!!

With that said, I want to take stock of all the books I read in 2018.  I was originally intending to use the same “awards system” I established in 2017 to detail the best and worst of what I read in specific categories, but my reading turned out to be a bit eclectic and all over the place this year, so I felt like I should simply mention some standouts from various months of the year and explain why I was most connected to or infuriated by each one.  I also should mention that I’ve found in the last few years, and probably particularly in 2018, that my ratings have become incredibly nostalgic and sentimental – somehow, I’ve evolved into this person who, despite having a Master’s in English, can’t seem to rate books based on rigid or strict criteria.  Instead, I always and without fail assign stars to books based on how they make me feel, based on whether or not I get all warm and fuzzy while reading them and based on how many characters touch me profoundly and become friends to me.  Perhaps this isn’t the most consistent or sophisticated way to evaluate books, but I just can’t help it!  Ever since I was a young girl, reading has been an escape for me, and although sometimes school got in the way and made it more of a job, I’ve finally gotten back to a place where I am reading purely to entertain and enjoy.  Reading is, in that way, my life’s greatest salvation…and if that means I give a smutty romance novel or a far-fetched YA fantasy 5 stars every once and awhile because it made me smile on an otherwise trying day, well, that’s just fine by me!

January 2018

  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman – This was (*gasp*) the first Neil Gaiman text I ever read, and it really set the tone for many of my other reading choices in 2018.Without doubt, Neil Gaiman is the author I am most proud to have finally read in 2018, because he really is a genius and can write so many styles and genres, that it just blows my mind!  My husband is also a big fan of Gaiman’s graphic novels, and we ended up watching the recent TV adaptation of American Gods together in like all of one day, so reading Gaiman is something I can bond with my husband about as well, even though he doesn’t read novels and I’m not a huge graphic novel fan.  Definitely was missing out by not having Neil Gaiman in my life prior to this past year!
  • 99 Days by Katie Cotugno – I was not a fan of this book at all, and it was my first real disappointment of 2018. Trust me, unfortunately there would be many more before the year was through.

February 2018

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This book was FABULOUS and was the first book of 2018 that really blew me away! I was sort of astonished by it, particularly because I had read several of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books prior and was surprised by the change in tone with this book to something a lot more serious.  Huge fan of this read!
  • Snotgirl – Like I said, I’m not a big fan of graphic novels, but for some reason I fell in love this year with Snotgirl. I read the first two volumes this year and just adored the art style, even if the story seemed a bit all over the place.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – This is the first book of 2018 that I thought I didn’t give my all to, and it made me wish I were back in school. This is a dense and powerful novel and I knew instantly that I would have to revisit it someday to fully comprehend its beauty.
  • Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren – I did not like this book that much and I was super disappointed by my first foray into Christina Lauren’s catalogue…but wait, they would soon do a complete 180 for me, so stay tuned!
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I had some seriously complicated feelings toward this book because it was so easy and quick to read but struck me as very offensive.I still have yet to watch the film adaptation because I was just so over the story after reading it!

March 2018

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman strikes again! I should mention that this is probably my favourite Neil Gaiman book I’ve read to date.

April 2018

  • Summer at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan – I finally picked up the sequel to Christmas at Tiffany’s, a favourite of mine, and adored it! I would go on to read many more Karen Swan books in 2018…and unfortunately, towards the end of the year, she did a 180 for me but in the opposite direction of Christina Lauren…
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I am officially obsessed with him!

May 2018

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas – Talk about reading as an escape…here, I got the chance to revisit some of my best book friends, and despite how short the novel was, I loved every single moment of it.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – This was another huge disappointment of 2018. I had this book on my To-Read List for years, and when I finally got around to reading it, I was like Waaah?!?!  Very upset about this one!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – And thus began my journey into the world of Aelin…… I did take a brief break halfway through reading the series, but truly, this series shook me and has without doubt been the highlight of my 2018 reading journey!

June 2018

  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson – I read two books with this exact same title in 2018.This was the first and I loved it and am looking forward to reading more of Matson’s books very soon!

July 2018

  • Beautiful by Christina Lauren – And here it is, the first 180 of 2018: after being unenthused by Dating You / Hating You, I picked Beautiful up super cheap at the bookstore and blew through it. It made me feel warm and so happy, and was a definite favourite of the summer months!
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman – Another major disappointment and one that I had on my To-Read List for so long too. I still have no idea what all the hype is about – and believe me, I wish I did!
  • The Greek Escape by Karen Swan – Loved this one, although not as much as Summer at Tiffany’s

August 2018

  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight – Book #2 with this title and I thoroughly enjoyed it as well!
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – I’m reading this book out loud to my husband and we still haven’t finished it, but it is extremely well written and is another testament to how incredible Gaiman’s talent is!

September 2018

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – This book broke me and the review I wrote of it is my favourite review I have ever written (and possibly one of the shortest too)!

October 2018

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – This book also broke me, and although a lot of readers have called it torture porn, I really liked it and found it very moving.I don’t regret reading this one whatsoever.
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas – I still can’t talk about this one. I just…can’t.

November 2018

  • Roar by Cecelia Ahern – This was the worst book I read in 2018. I hate to be mean, but it was just way too simplistic and on the nose and cliché.  I was vehemently not a fan of this!
  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – But then again, I really wasn’t a fan of this one either. It was my first try at reading a Morton novel and I regret that I didn’t pick up one of her other books because I’ve noticed that a lot of her fans were confused by this one.  It truly was all over the place.

December 2018

  • The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan – 2018’s second 180 came when I struggled with this novel, even though it was written by an author I adore. But, I guess we can’t always love everything someone writes (unless they’re Neil Gaiman apparently)!
  • Jane by Aline Brosh McKenna & Ramón K. Pérez – I ended 2018 by reading a graphic novel adaptation of my favourite book of all time, Jane Eyreby Charlotte Brontë. And while it didn’t wow me, I was happy to return to some old friends at the end of a long year.

So that’s about it from me.  If you chose to stick around and read this entire round up, thank you so very much!!!

Now, I better get back to my first book of 2019…no time to lose!

xo

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

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Three More Reads and No Time to Waste… ~ #JNGReads

Below are three more reviews of books I’ve finished in the last little while, leading up to and around Christmas.  Although I’d love to hang around and chat, there’s no time to lose if I want to finish at least one more book before 2019!  Here goes!

The Christmas Project by Maxine Morrey

This book is adorable, for sure, and was the perfect holiday read! I needed something as light and fluffy as snow, and this choice certainly did not disappoint.

Having said that, it wasn’t the best chick lit. book ever, and although it tried to muster up some references to Jane Eyre (my most favourite novel of all time), it did so too late in the game for me to really take the comparisons seriously. But, like I said, it was FUN…and what more could you ask for around Christmas?

One mini-rant, though: This was the second e-book I read on my new iPhone X (WOO!) and for some reason, it had a glaring number of typos in it. I was not pleased about this, so I wonder if the print version might’ve been a better choice?

Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick holiday read to delve into beside a fire, this is a good choice!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Tangled by Emma Chase

I REALLY liked this book!!! I mean, it is an Emma Chase novel so I knew I’d enjoy it and read it quickly, but I wasn’t expecting to like it so much.

I just truly enjoyed Drew’s narration. This was one of the best male narrations written by a female author that I’ve ever read! I found his voice to be so distinct, unique and hilarious, and not at all filled with annoying clichés.

I know this will sound weird, but I also related to Drew’s narration because he reminds me of myself. Okay, so no, I’m not a man who sleeps around…I’m decidedly neither of those things. BUT the way Drew talks to himself, his little one liners and pep talks, reminded me of how I sometimes narrate my own life…you know, doesn’t everyone do that? Anyway, I think if I knew Drew in real-life, I’d actually really like him and laugh a lot!

I’d highly recommend this book for sure because it’s a quick, fun and extremely entertaining read!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Wuthering Heights is a book I think about, one way or another, every day.”

^This describes exactly how I have felt about Jane Eyre since I first read it in grade 12.

“It’s probably unwise to romanticize everything – and I’ll probably always do it.”

What can I say, I just love books where fellow readers talk about the novels and characters they love!  Is this a perfect book?  No, I don’t think so because I sometimes found it hard to follow the threads and connections from one paragraph to another.  However, was it a joy to read about Ellis’ passion for her favourite characters?  Absolutely! And what’s even more amazing is that I came out of reading this book with about 10 new books on my To-Read List…so yes, I am going to continue to be buried by books, but I am excited to delve into some of Ellis’ preferred novels that I haven’t yet read or encountered!

So, although it wasn’t technically perfect, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and lovely read, like sitting down with a best friend to discuss literature over a warm tea!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Two Christmas Books and a Love Story ~ #JNGReads

This week has been crazy and stressful and trying for me, but somehow I managed to finish 3 novels (one of them entirely in one sitting!).  Below are reviews for what I read this week, to get me in the Christmas spirit!

Check out the bookstagram I share with my best friend, Emerald & Opal, to see more bookish photos like this!

One Day in December by Josie Silver

This novel lost momentum towards the second half…or, maybe I’m the one who lost momentum.  In any case, I enjoyed this story but I just felt that the first half, when Laurie and Jack are young and are first coming to terms with the fact that they have a connection but cannot be together, was more touching than the latter half. Really, as soon as Oscar entered into the mix, my interest started to wane a bit, and I found Jack and Laurie to be a bit less endearing as they grew older.  However, overall I found this story to be very entertaining and there were definitely many moments when my chest felt tight and my heart was racing. I even had faint tears in my eyes at times, because for whatever reason, I felt like I could really picture Laurie and her big, sad but hopeful eyes, and could feel her pain and agony at loving a man she could not have.

I would certainly recommend this novel as a Christmas read.  It didn’t necessarily blow me away from start to finish, but it had enough moments that were touching and the story was a lot more mature and intricate than I expected for a chick lit. novel.

❥❥❥.5(out of 5)

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

Karen Swan is one of my favourite authors, and so, because I didn’t love this one, I don’t want to say too much about it. I was having a rough week while reading this, so I don’t know if my feelings toward it have to do with the book or me. In any case, I WILL read more of Karen Swan’s books (I have 3 unread on my bookshelf right now) in the future!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Love Story by Erich Segal

What possessed me to read this incredibly sad novel before Christmas?  I truly have no idea.

I should mention that I have wanted to read Love Story for many years.  I remember distinctly watching bits and pieces of the movie on TV one day when I was in high school with my mom.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of the movie (I am intending to properly watch it now that I’ve finished the book), but I have held onto the feeling that I should read the book ever since encountering the movie.  I knew the book would be sad (that much, I remembered from the movie), but I am a hopeless romantic so I figured that at some point I had to read the novel literally called Love Story.

It wasn’t at all what I expected, to be honest.  It was as sad and heart-wrenching as I thought it would be, but I had no idea that it was told from Oliver’s perspective and I was not expecting to be so drawn in by his character and narrative voice.  I was kind of thinking that he would be some vapid rich kid, but it turns out that he is a man full of heart and sensitivity.  Jenny is as hilarious and sassy as I thought she would be, and my only criticism is that the book was very short and the love story was quite condensed and much less fleshed out than I would’ve assumed it would be given how popular it is and how beloved the film adaptation is.  But, having said that, I was able to finish the entire novel in one sitting, so that is definitely a testament to how enjoyable and easy it was to read about Oliver and Jenny.

The ending is heartbreaking and sudden, there’s no doubt about that, but overall I must say that I am really glad I got around to reading this one and I think it is the perfect read for a Sunday afternoon curled up under the covers with the person you love.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Summer at Tiffany’s ~ A New Favourite ~ #JNGReads

Note (written after proofreading this review): This “review” marks the return of the real Janille N G, an absurdly emotional booklover who apparently can’t say anything concrete or constructive about a book and is instead so overwhelmed by feeling that her reviews are just a gush fest…enjoy! 😉

Remember when I read Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan last year and absolutely loved it? (If not, you can read my review here – haha!) Well, I just finished reading the sequel, Summer at Tiffany’s, and…and…I ADORED IT!!! I. Can’t. Even.

Okay, time to calm down for a minute so I can get this review out.

Summer at Tiffany’s is an adorable, exciting, heart-warming, intricate, realistic, HUMAN novel. It is chick lit. at its absolute finest, combining a fun, flirty plot and hilarious, gorgeous, glamorous characters with a warm and fuzzy feeling that simply cannot be beat. Truly, reading Karen Swan’s novels (granted, I’ve only read the two, but I have a feeling all her books are this way) always give me a warm feeling – they are the literary equivalent to sipping on a hot earl grey tea in a moderately crowded Starbucks in your favourite city. Actually, I think I said some variation of that exact sentence in my review of Christmas at Tiffany’s, and it is no less true about Summer at Tiffany’s. This amazing and intoxicating novel features dangerous expeditions and a dashing explorer, a beautiful English woman and three of her equally beautiful best friends, a sparkling Tiffany solitaire engagement ring and the most simple, intimate and fairytale-esque seaside wedding. All. Of. The. Heart. Eyes. For. This.

I’m an incoherent mess, so sue me. Summer at Tiffany’s was a damn good book that woke me up out of a fog in so many ways, during a particularly stressful week. It is the perfect companion to Christmas at Tiffany’s because both books gave me wanderlust, reminded me of the power of a great romance, and instilled in me the importance of quality, lifelong friendships.

I texted my best friend of almost two decades when I was halfway through Summer at Tiffany’s and told her that Cassie’s relationship with her best friend Suzy reminded me of my relationship with her. Well, in truth, Cassie’s relationships with her three best friends remind me of my relationships with my three best friends, who were also the bridesmaids at my recent wedding. When my best friend asked me why this book reminded me of her, I couldn’t quite articulate why (okay, except for the fact that she also lusts after a Tiffany solitaire engagement ring, but that’s a story for another time!). Now I think I’ve come to it: reading Summer at Tiffany’s, and Christmas at Tiffany’s as well, gives you that comforted, joyous and calm feeling that a night out with your best friend does. You know when you’re seated across from your best friend in a fancy restaurant downtown and you just look at her, her gorgeous face that you’ve seen age over the years, her dazzling blue eyes and her perfectly curled hair, and you just get this excited feeling, this overwhelming feeling of happiness that she is your best friend, always has been and always will be, and you are just the luckiest person in the world for it? You know that feeling you get when you see your best friend’s name appear on your phone, a new text, and even though you last texted her last night, you realize you’ve missed her a ton since then? You know that sort of friendship that’s more than just common interests…it’s blood, it’s a lifetime? That’s the sort of friendship both Christmas at Tiffany’s and Summer at Tiffany’s portrays, and that buzz you get from being around your best girlfriend is exactly the same feeling sitting down with one of these books will give you. It’s calming, reassuring, peaceful, but also heart racing and exciting.

Maybe none of that made sense – it probably didn’t – but that’s mainly because the magic of Karen Swan’s writing is better experienced than described. She writes female characters oh so well, with complexity and intricacy and respect. You won’t get a vapid, wishy-washy heroine in Christmas at Tiffany’s or Summer at Tiffany’s – you have to be ready to meet some strong and spirited women, as well as the men who support and adore them. I don’t know what better way there possibly could be to spend a Friday night than reading about those sorts of characters and relationships…except for spending it with my best friend… Enough said.

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Her Who Loves You Best

– An excerpt from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë –

It is no easy task to choose a single passage from Jane Eyre to play a part in your wedding ceremony, particularly if you are as huge a fan of the story as I am. I spent a long time searching through the novel, trying to find the perfect passage that would encompass all of my thoughts and feelings on marriage and True Love. I of course wanted something substantial, that would speak to Jane’s complex relationship with Mr. Rochester as well, and although there are so many scenes in the novel that I absolutely adore, I feel that there is only one that truly portrays the complexities of marriage, the love and equality and sacrifice. I chose the following quote and it will be read during my wedding ceremony by one of my dearest friends and bridesmaids…in less than one week’s time!

‘“All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever.”

Again, as he kissed me, painful thoughts darkened his aspect.

“My seared vision! My crippled strength!” he murmured regretfully.

I caressed, in order to soothe him. I knew of what he was thinking, and wanted to speak for him, but dared not. As he turned aside his face a minute, I saw a tear slide from under the sealed eyelid, and trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled.

“I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard,” he remarked ere long. “And what right would that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with freshness?”

“You are no ruin, sir—no lightning-struck tree: you are green and vigorous. Plants will grow about your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take delight in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop.”

Again he smiled: I gave him comfort.

“You speak of friends, Jane?” he asked.

“Yes, of friends,” I answered rather hesitatingly: for I knew I meant more than friends, but could not tell what other word to employ. He helped me.

“Ah! Jane. But I want a wife.”

“Do you, sir?”

“Yes: is it news to you?”

“Of course: you said nothing about it before.”

“Is it unwelcome news?”

“That depends on circumstances, sir—on your choice.”

“Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision.”

“Choose then, sir—her who loves you best.”

“I will at least choose—her I love best. Jane, will you marry me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to wait on?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Truly, Jane?”

“Most truly, sir.”

“Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!”

“Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life—if ever I thought a good thought—if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer—if ever I wished a righteous wish,—I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth.”

“Because you delight in sacrifice.”

“Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms round what I value—to press my lips to what I love—to repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice.”

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

The N and the G

I could’ve called myself anything on this blog – but I chose Janille N G.

You all know the story of the Green Heart by now. I’ve talked at length about why I named this blog The World of my Green Heart, and why the symbol of the green heart is so significant to me. (Future tattoo, perhaps? More on this one day soon!)

What I’ve never talked about, though, is why I decided to sign my posts and make all my social media accounts under the name Janille N G. It is my name, rest assured. But why do I include my middle initial? And why am I so attached to my last initial as well? Why not just be Janille and leave it at that?

The N comes from my maternal grandmother. She was an absolute sight to behold, I am told – the most gorgeous, classy woman, with an Audrey Hepburn-esque style and a sophistication that exuded from her every perfect pore. She came to Canada from Lebanon when she was just a teenager, and with her remarkable determination, she picked up both English and French fluently. She leant me (and my mom) our raven black hair and our sparkling brown eyes, as well as our affection for red lipstick. I have also been told that she was the kindest, most caring and generous woman that ever graced this Earth. Not a single person I have ever met has an ill word to say about my grandmother, and on the contrary, I have been told so many amazing stories about her that she has become this overwhelmingly impressive figure in my mind. And I am absolutely certain that she would have adored my fiancé and wrapped him in her arms as if he were her own grandson.

My grandmother passed away at the very young age of 57 after a long battle with breast and ovarian cancer. I was a year old. But whenever I have had the choice, on my university diploma, on all my IDs, on my marriage license, I have chosen to include my middle name in honour of her. And of course, I knew I wanted to include my middle initial as part of my identity on my blog.

The G comes from my paternal grandfather. He was the life of the party, and was in some ways very different from me, from what I can tell. He was constantly joyful, loud and fun, not bogged down by any anxieties or fears. I am told he had the kindest heart and was loved by literally every person he ever met. A true Italian to the core, he was fiercely loyal to his family, providing for them in every manner, but also encouraging my grandmother to get out of her comfort zone. I firmly believe he would have been the perfect grandparent for me to hang out with – I can see him urging me to calm down about my school and work stresses, taking me out for a big breakfast and reminding me that he will love and be proud of me no matter what I do in my life. I can see him at my university graduation, cheering louder than anyone and being impressed by the ambiance and mystique of it all. And I can clearly see him as the heart and soul of my wedding day, encouraging everyone to get on their feet and dance the night away. He had a larger than life personality!

My grandfather passed away at the devastatingly young age of 47 after a long battle with kidney and bone cancer. I was months away from being born. This is a story that absolutely breaks my heart whenever I think about it, particularly now as I am about to get married. My own father has now surpassed his father’s age, my grandmother lost her beloved husband when they were only 47 years old…that is too young, much much too young. What’s hardest for me to fathom, though, is the fact that I was so close to being born when he died. He was months away from becoming a grandfather (I am the first grandchild on both sides of my family), but unfortunately the doctors couldn’t tell my parents if I was a boy or a girl because I was flipped on my freakin’ head or something. So, my grandfather never got to learn if he would have a grandson or a graddaughter…and so many times when I was young, I wanted to just have the power to go back in time and poke him on the shoulder and say, Hey! It’s me, I was a girl! But I can’t do that, and I never will be able to.

I don’t know if I believe in God, but I have to believe that both my grandparents can see me now, as I plan the wedding I have always dreamed of. And, of course, they have become my Something Old as I will be sewing small pieces of their old clothing into my wedding dress.

When it came time to decide whether or not I wanted to change my name after marriage, the choice was easy for me. I have always known that I want to keep my name exactly as it is, mainly because I am so attached to what it represents and who it honours. My fiancé adamantly agreed (his own mother never changed her name), and so I intend to remain Janille N G for the rest of my life.

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

If We Were a Movie ~ #JNGWatches & #JNGWeds

Why would anyone have a Christmas wedding?

Isn’t that time of year busy enough already?

Welcome to wedding month here at The World of my Green Heart!

That’s right, my wedding is only ONE MONTH away, and it’s high time to hunker down and let all you dear Readers in on some of the details of my Big Day. Obviously, once the day has come and gone, I’ll be posting pictures like mad and discussing exactly how it went…but, there are also a few aspects of the planning process I’d like to discuss with you all before I tie the knot. So, with that in mind, I’ll be publishing wedding-inspired posts from now until the wedding day, amongst my regular book reviews and literary posts.

Let’s start off by addressing those questions above, which I’ve heard on a semi-regular basis ever since I started planning my Christmas wedding. I get it, people – Christmas is a stressful time for some. I personally don’t get it because I don’t see how anyone could be sad or frustrated at such a beautiful time of year, but fine, I accept that there are a lot of people who do. Why they think they can criticize my wedding is beyond me, but I’ve grown a thicker skin in recent years than I expected I ever would, so to the “haters” I say, Bring it on!

That being said, it is a valid question in some regards – having a Christmas wedding is quite unique, so I do always like to offer an explanation for why I have ALWAYS wanted a Christmas wedding…

Much of it stems from my love of the Victorian era, no doubt about it. Very few people know this, but Queen Victoria (my one true queen, forever and always) and her beloved husband Prince Albert were the two monarchs that popularized the celebration of Christmas, as we know it today. Many of the traditions they established were of German origin, which makes sense when you consider that both Albert as well as Victoria’s mother were German, and these very traditions became popular worldwide in the 1840’s and 1850’s. If you don’t believe me that we still follow the Victorian model when celebrating Christmas to this very day, you need only look so far as the nearest Christmas tree: Prince Albert was the man who brought the Christmas tree to Britain, so we have him to thank for the décor and atmosphere we so appreciate in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

But, I’m not going to lie, I developed this urge to have a Christmas wedding long before I ever read my first Victorian novel (which was, naturally, Jane Eyre). It all started back when I was in early high school and began religiously (considering I’m not religious at all, I am using that word consciously) watching Hallmark movies every Christmas. A lot of people find these to be the cheesiest movies on the planet, and that’s totally fine…but ever since I watched my first one, I was totally captivated! Yup, everything ends up happy, every single time. Yup, the characters are pretty simple and have relatively drama-free lives. Yup, True Love prevails, always. What is there not to love about that? These movies follow basic plot structures and archetypes, but if you actually sit down to analyze them, you’ll see that many of these structures come from the Victorian novel genre, in which the story ends with a marriage or a happily ever after union, and all the strife and stress is replaced by the most ideal and romantic love that ever existed on this planet. How is a Hallmark movie very different from Jane Eyre? It isn’t, I would argue, and perhaps my penchant for Victorian tales is not so difficult to figure out after all, considering my forever love of the Hallmark movie genre.

With all that said, I want to leave you with a list of my all-time favourite (until next year, anyway) Hallmark/TV Christmas movies. I sincerely believe that my fiancé and I have a romance like something out of one of these movies, and so what better way to celebrate it than with the most epic Christmas wedding?

The Very Best Hallmark/TV Christmas Movies

(Long live the Hallmark Channel!)

  1. Merry Matrimony
  2. December Bride

~ These two movies both star Jessica Lowndes, who is beautiful but also absolutely adorable and sugary sweet. I kid you not, they were the inspiration for much of the décor of my wedding – poinsettias and evergreens, holly and mistletoe, reds and greens and golds. I made my fiancé watch both these films recently and I told him, “See that…that’s the wedding we’re going to have!” And we seriously are!

  1. A Bride for Christmas

~ The name says it all. Again, this movie features a wedding (I doubt that’s a spoiler at this point) which features a giant and absolutely gorgeous Christmas tree! A large Christmas tree smack dab in the middle of your wedding venue? Why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait, I did…all because of this movie!

  1. The Mistletoe Promise

~ This movie is a bit funnier, wittier and sexier than your average Hallmark movie. The two main characters don’t really believe in love and aren’t looking for a serious relationship…but of course, we all know that’s not going to last long!

  1. A Holiday Engagement

~ If this movie doesn’t make you cry, particularly when the main character sings, then you’re heartless…or just not a Christmas softie like I am. In any case, this is one of my fiancé’s favourite Christmas movies.

  1. Love You Like Christmas

~ This is another of my fiancé’s favourites, which we only discovered recently. I myself am also particularly fond of the storyline where a hardworking protagonist realizes that they’re giving too much of themself to their career and decides to slow down a little and open themself up to love.

  1. A Christmas Kiss

~ There are at least three movies in this “series” that I know of, each of them revolving around an unexpected Christmas kiss which I am 100% down for! These movies are a lot of fun!

  1. Holiday High School Reunion (aka Christmas Crush)
  2. A Crown for Christmas
  3. A Royal Christmas

~ Rachel Boston, Danica McKellar and Lacey Chabert can do no wrong as leads. Enough said. Watch anything they’re in ASAP!

  1. Once Upon a Holiday

~ A recent favourite of mine that I unexpectedly found on Netflix and LOVED! This is a bit of a role reversal, where the female lead is the royal and she falls in love with a man that is not royal. It’s freaking AWESOME and Briana Evigan and Paul Campbell are absolute PERFECTION!

This list could seriously go on and on because while writing this post, I swear I thought of about 10 other movies you should all watch. But, let’s start with this (substantial) list, shall we?

Go grab a cuppa hot cocoa and get crackin’! And let me know what you think of these films below…

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like… ~ The Start of a Christmas Fairytale

Once upon a time there lived a boy and a girl who loved Christmas.

Okay, they were more like a man and a woman, but in the interest of not aging myself too much (my birthday is tomorrow and I’m still insisting on hanging onto my girlhood, although I am distinctly in my mid-twenties now), let’s consider them young-ish adults. When this boy decided to marry this girl, after only a few years of courtship, he proposed to her on a blossoming May day. The sun was shining, the air was clear, the flowers were out and about, waving at the passersby. It was a glorious day to celebrate such a beautiful union!

But, the girl didn’t want to get married in May…or in any warm season, for that matter. No, this particular girl, with her raven hair, pale skin, and blushing cheeks and lips, had always dreamed of getting married during what she believed to be the happiest time of the year ~ Christmas.

Flash forward to almost a year and a half later, and this boy and girl are in a flurry of wedding planning. It is only just over a month until their nuptials, which will take place on December 22nd, and they have settled comfortably into a home in their favourite city. What they didn’t consider when moving in, however, was that they would want to bedazzle their new home in honour of their Christmas wedding…and since it was already past November 1st, what were they waiting for?

The boy and the girl were eager to get to the local arts and crafts store and pick out their first (albeit artificial) Christmas tree, along with ornaments, ribbons, the whole lot. There was just one problem, though: neither the boy nor the girl owned a car (although, it is important to note that the girl could drive; she just had no interest in owning a car herself). How on Earth were they going to get a Christmas tree home with them? Sure, the store was only a 30-minute walk away, but weren’t Christmas trees usually big and heavy? The boy reassured the girl that he could handle it, flexing his muscles while he was at it, and the girl pushed all worries out of her mind, thinking they could sort things out in due time.

Flash forward again to 2 hours later, when the boy and the girl are scurrying down the busiest and longest street in their city, carrying not 1, not 2, but 3 Christmas trees! When they saw the incredible sale on trees at the store and realized that they could get 3 trees for the regular price of 1…well, how could they resist? They were, after all, the ultimate Christmas enthusiasts! And it seemed that the residents of their favourite city were taking notice: they got multiple stares from people walking past (particularly as they took their many breaks along the trip home), and one man even stopped them to ask if perhaps they had gotten a bit carried away, getting 3 trees? The girl replied, confidently, “Absolutely not, Sir! Christmas is the happiest time of the year, so why not make the most of it?” She smiled and continued brightly, “Have a very Merry Christmas!” The boy smiled too, his heart growing about 10 sizes at how utterly adorable the girl was! *cough cough*

The boy and the girl would look back fondly on this hour-long trek, and the story of their first, most ambitious Christmas would be passed on from one generation of their family to the next, as their grandchildren and great-grandchildren shared the story of JNG and SS’s first official Christmas together.

~ If you haven’t gotten it by now, that boy and that girl are none other than my fiancé and me. And, it’s definitely true – we did indeed walk an hour home, lugging 3 Christmas trees, just last weekend. Our place couldn’t look more festive (aka absolutely perfect)! Would you like to see?

We decided to wrap our kitchen cabinets like presents, and gave each one a label. Some of the “gifts” are from our favourite literary characters!

 

Our 2 smaller Christmas trees, named after our favourite brothers and fellow Christmas enthusiasts: Ernest and Albert.

 

Our large Christmas tree, affectionately named Tree #108 (inspired by Queen Victoria’s Doll #123).

Stay tuned for more Christmas-y blog posts coming soon, as wedding month kicks off here at The World of my Green Heart!

JNG

Girl with a(n Ever)Green Heart

The Ambitious, But Not Impossible Reading Plan…

Hello again dear Readers!

I’m actually here, doing an update on a Sunday…go figure!

Today marks the first day of October and the start of the best time of year! In my opinion, the stretch from the beginning of October to the end of December is the loveliest time because of the perfect, crisp Fall weather and the anticipation of Christmas and the New Year. As you all know already, this Christmas is going to be particularly exciting for me, and so I am already counting down the days until 2017 wraps up.

With that being said, I was recently thinking about how I want to end my reading year. How many more books do I hope to finish before 2017 is up? Which book do I want to be reading the week before my wedding? Do I have time to finish another series before then? This all led me to make a list of the books I currently own and hope to have read by the time January rolls around. This is somewhat ambitious because last minute wedding planning is ramping up, but I am confident that I can at least get most of this list done.

What do you think – can I do it? Are there any books you would recommend I swap into this list?

The Books I Want To Finish Before January:

(in the order that I would like to read them)

  1. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  3. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  4. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  5. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
  6. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
  7. Jane Eyre by (the queen) Charlotte Brontë

Notes:

If I can manage to finish all 7 of these books before the end of 2017, that will bring me to a grand total of 52 finished books for the year… MUCH higher than my Goodreads goal of 18 books which in hindsight was very low. (I’m thinking of setting a goal of 52 books for next year, but we’ll see how that goes!)

As you can probably tell, I’m going for a Jane Eyre theme leading up to my wedding. I definitely want to be rereading Jane Eyre right before I get married (I’ll explain why closer to the date), and I thought it would be cool to lead up to this reread with some newer adaptations of my most beloved story.

So, here we go – let’s finish off 2017 with a bang!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart