P.S. I Still Love You ~ #JNGReads

Unfortunately, I have to say that I was not a fan of P.S. I Still Love You. My feelings toward this YA novel were really disappointing because I remember reading the first book in the trilogy, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, around 2 years ago and liking it a lot. I distinctly recall that my husband and I were sitting in our favourite Starbucks location downtown and it was a beautiful summer day, and I blasted through the book in one sitting. It was endearing and adorable and I really liked the Covey family and the unique bond between the three sisters and their father, and I thought the premise of the story was very interesting and unique and a lot of fun.

Sadly, I cannot say the same thing for P.S. I Still Love You. To summarize what I’m going to go into more detail about in this review, this sequel very much felt like it was written for the sake of it. I’ve read some comments on Goodreads from fellow readers who believe that To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before should have remained a standalone, and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment because so much of the plot of P.S. I Still Love You lacked direction and felt hastily put together. For example, there was a lot of discussion of Lara Jean’s father starting to date, but this was never truly explored and no conclusion was reached at the end of the novel. John Ambrose, as a potential love interest for Lara Jean and competition for Peter, felt inserted as an afterthought much too late in the novel, and again, nothing really came of his connection to Lara Jean whatsoever because Lara Jean and Peter end up in exactly the same position at the end of the novel as they are in at the beginning. There are so many side characters that seem to fall by the wayside as well, particularly Margot and Josh, and even the deeper exploration into Genevieve’s character and her personal struggles seems rushed and nonsensical. The plot just felt cobbled together and like a mishmash of ideas that might’ve theoretically been interesting but in execution were not.

I also did not remember Lara Jean being so juvenile, but she came across as extremely childish in P.S. I Still Love You. I truly had trouble believing she was 16 years old, and I don’t see many high school students actually enjoying reading this novel because Lara Jean is too naïve and innocent. I’m not saying that teenagers always need to be depicted as sophisticated or overly mature, but I really got the sense that Lara Jean was modeled more after a middle grader than a high school student, and while her obsession with fashion and cooking was still really cute, it wasn’t enough this time around to fully endear me to her. The same can be said for a character I really liked in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before but found slightly annoying this time around: Kitty. The novelty of Lara Jean’s 10-year-old sister who acts much wiser than her years wore off completely in this novel, and I found myself kind of rolling my eyes anytime Kitty said something witty or sarcastic. I don’t think she’s fleshed out enough or given enough attention in the plot, and she instead comes across as a random source of one-liners that are meant to make the reader laugh but mostly fall just short of the mark. I really liked the Covey girls in the first book, but this time, I couldn’t warm up to them in the same way, maybe because the plot felt so pointless and made me irritated and frustrated.

Finally, I think one notion that is never fully explored but should be is the idea of how Lara Jean and her sisters grapple on a daily basis with the loss of their mom. There is a profound moment after Lara Jean has had some issues with Peter when she is crying in her room and thinking about how much she misses her mom, but rather than delving deeper into these feelings, the novel flits away from them and Lara Jean goes back to barely thinking about her mother’s death. This doesn’t really make any sense to me, and I think it would be so interesting to have the three sisters properly discuss how losing their mom has impacted their lives, especially in moments of extreme emotion. I don’t see why this isn’t something that’s taken more seriously in the novels because it seems like an excellent opportunity to explore this sort of subject matter within the YA genre.

All in all, I’d say this sequel was a miss for me. I wanted to read it because I know Netflix is making a film adaptation of it, and I found their version of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before really adorable and a lot of fun. But, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll end up reading the third book in this trilogy any time soon, if at all. All I have going through my mind right now is Genevieve’s words from the end of the novel: “‘Grow up, Lara Jean.’”

❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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2.5 Million Delayed Reviews ~ #JNGReads

 

Hi Everyone!

This might be a bit of a boring post, as it’s going to be a collection of reviews that I recently posted on Goodreads. I’ve read quite a few books lately, but didn’t feel the urge at the time of finishing them to sit down and write reviews. The other day, though, I was feeling inspired to get back to review writing because it’s something I’ve always enjoyed so much, and so I decided to find some time to sit down and write down my thoughts about the books I’ve delved into over the past few weeks. It felt really good to do this, sort of like getting back a piece of myself after a rough reading start to the year, and I am definitely feeling encouraged to continue not only reading but also writing about one of my favourite things on the planet – BOOKS! – a lot more before (and hopefully, after) my baby arrives in the early Fall!

Roomies by Christina Lauren

This was the first book I read to get me back in the swing of things and out of the most serious reading slump I have ever experienced, and it was definitely exactly the kind of book I needed. Sweet and sexy all at once, this story about a sort of arranged marriage (or perhaps I should say a marriage of convenience) was very engrossing and full of Christina Lauren’s usual charm and wit. I’ve had bad luck with like one Christina Lauren book in the past, but every other one has been an absolute page-turner, and Roomies was no exception. It was fun, funny but also had these heartfelt moments that made me feel connected to the characters in surprising and unexpected ways. Highly recommend this one as a quick and addictive summer read!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

After my success picking up Roomies, I was definitely in the mood for another Christina Lauren love-fest, so I decided to delve into one of their most beloved series. I recently read the final installment, simply titled Beautiful, and I adored it, and that made me super intrigued to go back to the beginning and the story that started it all. I remembered that my mom read Beautiful Bastard way back when and REALLY liked it a lot, so I had a feeling I would too (my mom and I have surprisingly similar taste in romance novels, awkward as that may seem!), and I immediately fell in lust with Bennett. (Sidenote: Can we address what an awesome name Bennett is for a guy?! If I didn’t already have my soon-to-be-born baby boy’s name picked out, Bennett would be up for consideration!) I also seriously gravitated toward Chloe as a strong and assertive female character who is also in tune with her wants, needs and emotions, and pretty soon lust turned to love because I was flipping the pages of this book faster than one can say “F*** me against a boardroom window, please”! 😉 Everything about this novel is, in a word, scintillating and I immediately requested pretty much every other novel in this series from my library’s e-book app. Christina Lauren definitely = romance reading at its finest!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

I’m pretty sure I decided to read this novel because it was recommended by QUEEN Sarah J. Maas in one of her newsletters; I could be remembering this wrong, but regardless, The Deal did not disappoint as my first foray into Elle Kennedy’s catalogue. This novel has a lot to do with hockey, which was kind of interesting for the small-town girl in me who actually worked for over a year at a huge hockey equipment store in Canada, and I was thoroughly surprised that Garrett came across as a developed and deep male character. I was expecting him to be flat and a bit prick-ish, but he wasn’t, and his affection for Hannah and his willingness to help her through some really serious life events is very endearing. I also LOVED the fact that Hannah is a singer because it was super cool to read about, and her progression from being reluctant to get to know Garrett to fully trusting him with all of her secrets is really nice to witness. I was a fan of this book, and quickly put Elle Kennedy’s other novels on my To-Read List.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Perfect Timing by Laura Spinella

This book was beautifully written! That’s what stood out the most for me: the fact that the prose felt almost poetic, and it gave me a warm, comforted feeling. The love story of Isabel and Aidan was definitely unexpected and unique in so many ways, and I felt instantly drawn into their story as the narrative took me into their past while simultaneously showing me their present. The sequences outlining their teenage relationship were so expertly woven into their adult lives that I never had too many questions lingering that prevented me from enjoying the story, and I felt that both Isabel and Aidan were really nicely fleshed out and complex characters. There were some seriously heartbreaking moments in this novel, but the ending is a very satisfying one, and I am extremely glad that I decided to pick this novel up on a whim at a local book sale. Definitely the sort of book to crack open on a gloomy day and get totally lost in!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Summer Without You by Karen Swan

Bless you, Karen Swan, you absolute marvel! If Karen Swan wasn’t one of my favourite authors before reading this novel (but, like, she kind of already was), then she was after I finished it. The Summer Without You is the perfect blend of suspense and romance, excitement and sheer enjoyment, and I was totally blown away by it! I wasn’t expecting to become so enraptured in the story of Rowena, a photographer spending her summer in the Hamptons, but I was immediately sucked in (as is the case with every Karen Swan novel I’ve ever read) and I just could not put the book down. I hadn’t felt this excited about a book in a really long time, and Karen Swan has such a way with words that you can’t help but be swept up in her narrative. I also love all of the details about fashion that she always infuses in her stories, but, more than that, I was blown away by the plot and how many layers there were to it, as well as how many genres it fit into. I would without doubt recommend Karen Swan to any romance lover, and this novel in particular is the PERFECT summer, beach read!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren

Hello again, Bennett and Chloe! This was a super fun and quick read, detailing a bit about Bennett and Chloe’s relationship after the events of Beautiful Bastard and I LOVED it! I read it mostly in one sitting and it was the perfect companion to the first novel, giving me that extra taste of Bennett and Chloe’s love story that I was craving. I think this is definitely a must-read if you loved Beautiful Bastard and it is so short and sweet that it’s a no-brainer to pick up.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

This was a so-so adaptation of my favourite novel of all-time, Jane Eyre. Don’t get me wrong, the premise was absolutely unique and unlike anything I’ve encountered in an adaptation of a Victorian novel (it is, after all, set in space), but something about the novel just didn’t give me that warm and fuzzy feeling that I believe any retelling of Jane Eyre should. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that none of the characters are as memorable as the ones from the original, particularly Stella and Hugo who simply lack the chemistry and nuance that Jane and Rochester have. There felt like there was something missing throughout my reading of this novel, and I have to say that I was disappointed by it because I was so darn excited to read it when I first heard about it. That being said, it was entertaining enough, and I think if it wasn’t a retelling of a timeless classic, it might’ve been more successful as an original story in its own right.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

So I pretty much loved Elle Kennedy’s novel The Deal so much that I had to put this one on hold on my library’s app immediately. While I don’t think I quite liked this story as much as The Deal, probably because a large portion of it sees the main characters separated, I really did like it and think it is a great companion to The Deal. It was nice to fleetingly see Garrett and Hannah again, but I also found myself really intrigued by Logan, and he ended up being a lot more likeable and adorable than I expected. I do think the ending was a bit rushed in that Logan’s main sources of stress were dealt with a bit unrealistically and too quickly, but considering that this is meant to be a light-hearted romance, it definitely succeeded in delivering everything it promises to. Definitely a must-read if you were a fan of The Deal because it does deliver as a “sequel”!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

My original, one-sentence review of this novel was: “Karen Swan is officially solidified as one of my favourite authors ever!” That sentence is even truer now than it was a few days ago when I wrote it. The Paris Secret, like Swan’s other novel The Summer Without You, is somehow the absolute PERFECT blend of suspense and romance, with a plot that is a true page-turner but also gives you that warm, emotional feeling inside. I loved the main character, Flora, because she has this sharp edge to her that is really nice to see in a female character, but she is also extremely sensitive and is not immune to her sometimes troubled relationships with the people around her. She is also a powerhouse in the art world which made for a really interesting and unlikely story, and when the romance finally did get going, I was already rooting for Flora in so many ways but also excited for her to finally let her guard down and fall in love for the first time. Combine Swan’s incredible and engrossing writing style with the fact that the novel takes place largely in Paris and I was hooked from page one! Karen Swan’s novels never cease to amaze me, and honestly, I feel like she is the exact sort of writer I have always wished I could be. I would love to be best friends with her and get first access to all of her new stories, and my plan is actually to read through her entire catalogue by summer’s end. BIG BIG FAN!!!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Thanks for reading, as always! ❤

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

It’s A… Prince Charming! ♔

This is just too much of a coincidence… Or could it be Fate?

I’m not one to piggyback on someone else’s good news, but in this particular case, I simply couldn’t resist!

As some of you may already know, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced yesterday that they have welcomed their new baby BOY into the world. I’m a huge fan of all things royal (that’s pretty transparent on this blog, I’m sure!), and I was so excited to hear this news yesterday. I would’ve been interested anyway, but my excitement was intensified by the fact that I found out, just over a week ago, the gender of my own baby (who is due in September).

I’m having…

*drum roll please*

…a baby BOY!!!

That’s right, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won’t be the only ones with a little prince running around their household, because as of this Fall, I too will have a Prince Charming on my hands.

I think this is such a wonderful coincidence, and definitely made me ten times more excited to be having a little boy, because the fashion inspo I am going to get from Harry and Meghan’s child will be unreal. Haha! 😉

But on a more serious note, my husband and I are both thrilled and overjoyed that we are having a boy. A lot of people have asked me if I’m disappointed (which I think is pretty weird because I don’t know how you can be disappointed with the gender of your baby as long as it is healthy), but I honest to goodness am not! When I was in high school, I went through a phase where I pictured myself with a male child – this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had just read The Time Traveler’s Wifefor the first time and loved the dynamic between Henry DeTamble and his mother. (Sidenote: Is the scene in the movie adaptation when Henry sees his mother on the subway, while time traveling, and tells her, “Your son loves you very much.” not utterly adorable?!?!) Whatever the reason, there was a long period of time when I just felt certain I would have a little boy of my own one day, and since I have always only wanted one child (my husband is also on board with this, as an only child himself), I never really entertained the idea of or envisioned having both a boy and a girl. Obviously, over the years I reminded myself that there is a 50% chance of having a baby of either gender, and I knew I would be equally happy with a girl, but I do think it is kind of special and magical that my first daydreams about my own child always starred a dark-haired and adorable boy.

And no, before you ask, I didn’t pick out a name for my little boy back in high school because I always found it so hard to feel connected to any male names (although I did entertain the name Henry for awhile, naturally). Now, 10 years later, my husband and I do already have a name picked out for our baby boy which I highly doubt will change, so we’ve already started referring to him by name and have spent some time each night picturing what he will look like and how he will act and how terrifying but incredible it will be to raise him. I will probably share our name choice with you all sometime soon, so stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, I wanted to share the picture my husband and I put together to announce the gender of our baby to our friends and families on social media. Ironically, we went with a royal theme (no surprise there!) which seems all the more fitting now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their equally amazing news. ♔♔♔

If you have any guesses of what you think the name we chose is, let me know in the comments – I’d be so interested to hear!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Heart of the Matter ~ An Exciting Announcement!

It has been a very long time since I had anything to say on this blog and that, I think, requires an explanation.

If I’m totally honest, reading and writing book reviews has been the last thing on my mind for the past 4 months. Since the end of January, I have been distracted, unable to focus, overly tired, anxious and generally not feeling like myself at all. I could barely keep my eyes trained on a book for more than a couple of pages, and I found myself unable to even sit still long enough to pick up my book to begin with. While this is something that would normally really worry me because it is such out of character behaviour, I had an explanation for why my mood and attention span were so altered, and so I decided to just go with the flow and not be too hard on myself. Admittedly, I would normally find it really difficult to go easy on myself, particularly in relation to my reading goals, but in this specific circumstance, I truly had no other choice because my body isn’t just my own anymore.

That’s because (you may’ve already guessed it)… I’m pregnant!

I’ve heard it’s quite common to find reading very hard when you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, and I can certainly say that was the case for me…hence the severe lack of updates and posts here. But, I wouldn’t change it for the world! Sure, I’m not going to be anywhere close to reading the number of books I did last year…but, then again, I am growing a human inside of me and am going to be raising that human into (hopefully!) a fellow avid reader, so I figure it’s okay to cut myself some slack right now. Not only that, it’s pretty hard to sit silently on my couch with a book when all I want to be doing is chatting with my husband about our little nugget, watching YouTube videos uploaded by young moms, or talking on the phone with my own mother to get advice and tips for navigating this new, terrifying and exciting time in my life. Who has time for books when life is so thrilling, am I right? 😉

I mean, I should clarify that, thankfully, I am now getting back on the reading bandwagon and have finished a couple of books (listed below, with my Goodreads ratings) in the last couple of weeks. I unfortunately didn’t sit down to write reviews of these books because I was just grateful to be reading again and didn’t want to jeopardize my momentum, but I hope to get back into writing reviews again soon. And, even if I don’t write as many reviews as I normally would, I do definitely want to write posts throughout my pregnancy as a way of documenting my journey.

So, with that in mind, here’s a little pregnancy update, if you’re at all interested…

The photo my husband and I created and posted to announce our pregnancy – expanding our family by 1 nugget!

~ I’m now 18 weeks pregnant, so almost at 5 months/the halfway point!

~ I found out I was pregnant in late January, so that was the reason I referenced in a few posts back then that this is going to be one of the most exciting and challenging years of my life.

~ Our baby is due in late September! A Fall baby…I am so into it!

~ My husband and I already have names picked out, one for if the baby is a boy and one for if it is a girl. We’ve had these names picked out for a few years now and we really love them and don’t think we’re likely to change our minds on them. I will probably write a post to share what the name we’ve chosen is sometime soon…and I will probably also reveal the gender too!

~ On a more serious note, my pregnancy has not at all been an easy one. I had no idea what to expect, seeing as I’ve never been pregnant before, but I certainly did not expect it to be this difficult. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from having a baby by any means because it is absolutely still the most rewarding, wonderful and magical experience! That being said, I wanted to be honest about my challenges because it can often seem like being pregnant is all sunshine and daisies when it honestly is not.

I was lucky enough not to experience any actual morning sickness, other than nausea in the morning and at night (knock on wood I don’t start throwing up now because I jinxed it!). My particular pregnancy challenge has come in the form of severe and heightened anxiety. I’ve mentioned here before that I suffer from anxiety and have since I was in high school, and it is definitely one of the biggest challenges in my life. That being said, I never thought I would experience more extreme anxiety when I was pregnant – it is something that is quite common even in women who have never experienced anxiety in their lives before, but it just wasn’t something I was aware of. I have been battling with my anxiety for about the last month and a half, though, and I kind of feel like it has been the battle of my life. That may seem overly dramatic, but I can honestly say that I have never felt this nervous, panicked and unlike myself in my life, and none of my former coping mechanisms have been able to help me, probably because of the insane amount of hormones that are currently being unleashed in my body. I have a lot of support from my doctors at one of the best hospitals in Canada, though, so that is very reassuring, and my husband, family and friends have been super loving and caring as well. It is a daily struggle, however, and although I’m feeling better with each passing week, I am having to be very conscious of my thoughts and moods and have started to explore meditation techniques that I never would’ve tried in the past if I didn’t have this added push to do so. I’m also reading as much about anxiety as I possibly can, and am trying to understand my mind in a way that I haven’t been able to thus far in my life. It has been, at times, an incredibly sad and depressing process to try to work through my anxieties, and I have also felt hopeless and helpless, but I am doing everything I can at this point to get myself into a healthy mindset, and I know that after doing this sort of work, I will be a stronger version of myself than ever before…which is really the best possible outcome I can think of before becoming a mother. All that to say that my number one priority is to keep myself, and, by consequence, my baby, healthy, and even though that means I’ve had to re-evaluate some things and reset my mentalities a bit, there’s no other choice that I could imagine making. If you’re a parent, you’ll understand…and if you’re not yet, I hope you one day get the chance to understand my urge to do whatever is necessary to protect my child!

~ Another thing I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around is that this baby will bring with it a change in identity for me…from who I’ve always been to A Mother. Now, obviously I’m not expecting to change who I am drastically. My husband is constantly reminding me that he was so excited to have a baby with ME because of who I am and my personality, and so none of that should change just because the baby is actually on its way. And he is so right – I definitely want to be as much myself as possible while being a mother. But that doesn’t change the fact that now my number one priority in life will be this child and my most significant job will be to be its mother. It really is amazing how, once you find out you’re pregnant, your mindset does start to shift and things that were formerly important to you seem a little less critical and monumental. I think this is something that it’s also quite hard to understand until you become a parent, but there is already nothing I wouldn’t do for this child and I would put it before absolutely anything and anyone. If that’s selfish, then so be it, because I don’t think that it’s possible to care about or prioritize your child too much. That’s just the perspective I’ve always had (most definitely because I have incredible parents who gave me the world and continue to be hugely supportive to me!), and my husband is in total agreement that having this child begins an entirely new chapter for us where this baby is and always will be #1.

And sure, maybe that will mean giving up certain things that have been important to us in the past like, for example, reading goals. Maybe I’ll never be able to read as many novels in a year as I once did, or maybe I won’t be able to go on certain types of trips, or maybe I’ll have to re-evaluate my routine in a whole number of ways…but if I’m doing all that to keep my child healthy and happy and well taken care of, then it is a trade I have no hesitation making!

It sort of reminds me of this quote I read a few years ago where Thackeray was talking about Charlotte Brontë and said:

“‘rather than have fame rather than any other earthly good or mayhap heavenly one she wants some Tomkins or another to love her and be in love with.’”

That quote has always touched me because it emphasizes the fact that Charlotte would’ve given up being a celebrated author in order to have someone to share her life with. I took that to mean that all Charlotte wanted in her life was love, and that she would’ve traded any amount of success to have a husband and a family. I personally think that’s an amazing sentiment, and those are the aspects of life that I have always wanted to prioritize myself. So, doing everything I can for my husband and my baby is a no brainer, in my opinion!

I hope this post wasn’t too boring, even though it has very little to do with books. I just couldn’t wait to share this exciting news any longer, and I hope you’ll all be interested in a few more baby-related posts to come soon!

Books I’ve Recently Finished:

1) Let That Sh*t Go: How to Find Peace of Mind When You’re Standing in Line at the Grocery Store by Kate Petriw and Nina Purewal

❥❥❥(out of 5)

2) Roomies by Christina Lauren

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

3) Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

4) The Deal by Elle Kennedy

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Save the Date ~ #JNGReads

You’re going to want to save a date to read this book all in one sitting – it’s that good!

Save the Date by Morgan Matson got me out of a reading slump I didn’t even know I was in. I’ve read a few good books recently (namely, The Kiss Quotient just before this one), but I wasn’t feeling that unbearable urge to sit down and crack open my book, I wasn’t feeling that heart pounding desire to bust out of work and get home so that I could spend my evening reading. With Save the Date, though, those emotions of excitement and eagerness came rushing back and I found myself thinking about the book even when I was away from it.

Save the Dateis an excellent example of how profound and powerful YA novels can be. My experience of reading it reminded me very much of when I read Before I Fall (a YA book I absolutely loved!) – don’t get me wrong, the subject matter is totally different, but Save the Date, despite it’s lighthearted and funny plot, felt just as meaningful and important as Before I Fall and is a book I would recommend to all YA readers out there.

This novel follows the Grant family, particularly youngest sibling of 5 Charlotte (Charlie) Grant, on the weekend of sister Linnie’s wedding. The story is told from Charlie’s perspective and I fell instantly in love with her – she is wholesome and sweet and somewhat innocent, with a huge heart and this unwavering love for her family and nostalgia for her childhood. Her mother is a famous cartoonist, and intermixed with sections of the story are comics featuring the fictional/illustrated Grant family which mirror what is happening in the plot, and this was an especially nice, heartwarming touch that really made the family feel incredibly real. Each one of the Grant family members, from the father who is a botany professor obsessed with his garden and his feud with one of the neighbours, to Charlie herself, struggling to decide where she wants to go to college, is well fleshed out and so easy to love, and I can honestly say that this was a story where I connected to and enjoyed reading about every single character.

What so many other reviewers have also pointed out is that this particular YA novel is focused on these family relationships, and does not rely too heavily on romance. Yes, there are love interests and crushes for Charlie, but her main source of happiness is having her family all together again during this special weekend, and she spends a lot more time assisting with the wedding and chatting with her siblings than obsessing over her crushes. This was extremely refreshing, and allowed Matson to focus on more profound topics like growing up and what it means to become an adult yourself while still longing to hang onto your connection to your childhood and your family. Charlie struggles with letting go of the past, particularly as her parents prepare to sell their home, and it was so interesting to watch her grapple with the fact that losing a physical space does not at all equate to losing memories and relationships. Like I’ve said, everything about the story was heartwarming and it is kind of impossible not to fall in love with Charlie and her family.

On top of all of this awesomeness, Morgan Matson’s writing style is truly addictive. This book is not short – it’s over 400 pages and the font is pretty tiny! – but it doesn’t feel like a burden to read at all and I found myself flying through it and actually trying to slow down so I wouldn’t finish it all too quickly. I’ve also read Matson’s novel Since You’ve Been Gone and I loved that, so I had a feeling I would really like this one too…but I am so very pleased that Morgan Matson is quickly becoming a YA author I can rely on to deliver an engaging and enjoyable story!

This book should be a John Hughes film…but since it isn’t a movie just yet, GO READ IT!!!

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Hit, A Miss, and A Kiss ~ #JNGReads

Happy Sunday, dear Readers!

There’s a windstorm here in Toronto (yes, apparently that is a thing), and so I’m curled up inside, beside my husband who is deep into some anime series, catching up on a few reviews I’ve been meaning to post. Sometimes, I finish a book really quickly during the week and only have a chance to write small and short reviews of them (particularly if I wasn’t that passionate about the book), and I don’t always feel it’s necessary to create an entire blog post for a review that’s only a couple of sentences. In those cases, I think it’s best to combine them into a larger post at the end of the week/when I’ve collected a few shorter reviews, so you all have something meatier to read (if you’re at all interested). Here, I have reviews for three novels I finished recently, all of which would be classified as more contemporary chick lit. Two of them were really excellent and one was, unfortunately, not as great as I hoped it would be…but anyway, take a look at the reviews below if you’re looking for some romantic recommendations! 🙂

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I was extremely distracted while reading My Oxford Year, for personal reasons, and so the fact that I got right back into it after almost a week without reading is a testament to how engaging it is.

I don’t know what it is about this book that had me so interested. The story isn’t all that unique, as there are many contemporary novels written about characters studying abroad and falling in love. Perhaps (probably) it is the way that it is written and how different I felt the main character and narrator, Ella, was. She is a character who really isn’t obsessed with romance or relationships. Yes, she does become romantically involved with a man she meets during her studies at Oxford, but she isn’t interested in an actual relationship for much of the novel, and her views on sex and men are quite contemporary and refreshing to read in this sort of novel. Ella’s also kind of reserved, and that was quite unique in my opinion because oftentimes it is the male character that is distant. I don’t think, either, that there was anything negative whatsoever about Ella’s reserved character and her tendency to keep people at arms’ length at first because she is also very realistic and human in that she eventually does warm up to the people she meets, and particularly does begin to recognize and admit her romantic feelings for Jamie – so I instead found it to be, once again, contemporary of her that she is guarded initially and then allows herself to become more engaged as those around her gain her trust.

Of course, the novel does have a surprise in it, an unexpected twist that I did at one point start to predict, but that was then revealed shortly thereafter. I appreciated that there was a turning point to the plot because otherwise it could have very easily become mundane and more of the same, so I did think shaking things up a little was needed. And ultimately, it was interesting to see how Ella handled this specific surprise and how it made her re-evaluate her own character.

Overall, I would say that My Oxford Year is definitely enjoyable and a read that is well worth delving into on a cold and snowy weekend as it is fast-paced and entertaining!

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

I’ve realized that despite growing up in a small, Ontario town that is totally obsessed with hockey, as well as working at one of the biggest hockey equipment stores in the province…I actually don’t give a **** about the sport. So sue me!

Okay, to be honest, I do associate the sounds of hockey with my childhood and my dad having the Leafs game on TV, but I’m not a diehard fan by any means and now that I’ve moved away from home, I don’t follow the sport or any teams myself at all. Hockey has more of a nostalgic quality for me than anything. But, I thought that Helena Hunting’s chick lit. novel The Good Luck Charm would really intrigue me because it is based on a woman rekindling her relationship with her high school sweetheart after he is drafted back to the NHL team in their hometown. What could be more Canadian and more romantic? Probably nothing other than a heart-shaped piece of peameal bacon, drizzled in maple syrup.

The problem is that I didn’t really enjoy The Good Luck Charm. First of all, although Hunting lives in Toronto, the book doesn’t take place in Canada…major bummer! Then, for some reason, I found it REALLY hard to get into the story and actually found myself putting it down during my lunch break every ten minutes, to stare off into the distance. To be fair, I’ve been distracted recently and have had trouble focusing on reading, but I really thought this book would grab me from the first pages and I was pretty disappointed when it didn’t. I do have to say that it picked up towards the second half of the novel, when Lilah and Ethan actually decide to give their relationship another shot, but the build-up was just too long and arduous in my opinion.

Another major issue I had with this novel was the fact that I, sadly, didn’t feel it was very well written. I hate to say this but it felt like the two points of view that the book is narrated in, Lilah’s and Ethan’s, sounded exactly the same. There was nothing unique about either of their voices whatsoever, and it would’ve basically been impossible to distinguish between the two narrations if the chapter headings didn’t indicate who was narrating each one. I’ve read a few romance novels that have really strong male narration (Emma Chase’s novel Tangled is a good example), and so I was again very disappointed that Ethan’s voice sounded so bland and generic. The fact that, on top of that, Lilah’s narration is equally devoid of personality was super unfortunate. This blandness also existed in the dialogue, which was often awkward in that characters would speak in huge paragraphs that sounded like narration rather than actual speech. This, in turn, led to way too much telling in the novel and not enough showing, and it felt like I was basically just slogging through pages of exposition with characters stating exactly how and what they were feeling without any nuance or subtlety. It all felt very unpolished to me and akin to a story that a high school student might write in a creative writing class, before they have the chance to finesse their style fully.

Finally, towards the end of the novel, the plot started to get a bit muddled and too complicated for my liking. I felt from the very beginning that the fact that Lilah is in school was an unnecessary obstacle to her relationship with Ethan that felt haphazardly inserted into the story. I felt even more annoyed when Lilah’s father, who has been absent for 20 years, randomly returns to the story, and this once again felt like a “twist” that was totally unwarranted and more confusing than exciting. I felt that the story was a bit disjointed as a result of these random additions, and while I appreciate when chick lit. novels have complexity to them, adding storylines for the sake of it is not something I appreciate.

All in all, this novel was unfortunately not what I was hoping for. It was extremely graphic in some scenes, which is not altogether a bad thing, but it did make it seem that perhaps Hunting is more adept at writing steamy moments than creating characters. I really am sorry to have to say that I didn’t enjoy this one, but there were just more flaws than positives, and I have read far better romance novels that I would recommend before this one.

❥❥.5(out of 5)

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

“He’d been made to love her.”

The Kiss Quotient is a damn good novel! Read it!

The end. Review done.

Okay, no not actually, but that’s basically all you need to know: that this novel is really pretty awesome and you’ve got to go out and pick it up. If you don’t trust me (although, why wouldn’t you, I am an expert on the romance genre, tbh…haha!), then trust the fact that The Kiss Quotient was the 2018 Goodreads Choice winner for the Romance category. I didn’t vote for it actually, because I hadn’t read it yet when the voting took place, but if I could go back now, I would absolutely vote for it!

The Kiss Quotient is not your run of the mill romance, and it is exactly the kind of story needed to remind readers who don’t typically pick up romance how legitimate the genre is. Yes, romance novels are fun, fast reads, but they can also be incredibly profound and enlightening, and The Kiss Quotient is one of those novels that is both steamy and sophisticated, sexy and meaningful. The story follows Stella Lane, a brilliant econometrician who was diagnosed in her early life with autism. When she decides she wants some advice and assistance in romantic relationships, she hires a male escort, Michael, to teach her the ways of love, both physical and emotional. The novel has been called a gender reversed adaptation of Pretty Woman (aka one of the best movies to ever grace our screens), but it becomes so much more than that as we learn about Michael’s true passions and talents and watch both him and Stella grow and transform into these very confident characters. It was interesting to me that the novel doesn’t just focus on Stella’s personal development, and instead spends a great deal of time investigating Michael’s self-esteem issues. Michael learns just as much about being comfortable in his own skin as Stella, and they were both incredibly sympathetic and endearing characters that you can’t help but like from page one.

The novel is, of course, also very steamy and the chemistry between Stella and Michael sizzles off the page. It is really nice to see a character in Stella who is quirky and, despite her successful career, doesn’t have it all together, and it is even nicer to watch her accept herself and realize that the right man (namely, Michael) will love her because of her diagnosis and not in spite of it. I recognized a lot of similarities between myself and Stella, particularly in that I also appreciate routines and find it challenging to deal with change, and I think that any reader will be able to relate to her sense of vulnerability when allowing a man into her life and letting him shake things up. Stella is a realistic character in this way, and Michael is made all the more lovable by the fact that he is enamoured with Stella from the beginning, warts and all.

It is also wonderful that this is truly an own voice story (Hoang was herself diagnosed with autism) and I admire Helen Hoang immensely for creating a heroine that is so much more than a cookie cutter, stereotypical romantic lead. We need more stories like this in the romance genre to emphasize that love is an emotion that doesn’t have to be cheesy or cliché. A lot can be learned from romance stories like this one, and I for one think that reading The Kiss Quotient has certainly made me a more empathetic person and has given me a better understanding of the fact that people are not always who they seem and that so much can be going on for a person behind the scenes, and you might not even realize it.

Highly recommend this one to anyone and everyone!

“‘I’m obsessed with you, Michael…I don’t want just a night or a week or a month with you. I want you all the time. I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.’”

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Dinner List ~ #JNGReads

“A change of plans, a subway reroute, a rainstorm in the forecast for a summer picnic.”

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle was not at all what I expected…and I mean that in the best possible way.

I’ve had this novel on my To-Read List for a very long time now, after spotting it in Indigo, being drawn in by the bright yellow cover (apparently this is a colour that really works for books, because I’ve read a ton of yellow books recently!) and the cute caricature of Audrey Hepburn on it. Of course, like most women (and probably men too) out there, I’m an Audrey Hepburn fan, and so I just had to read the synopsis for this book. The premise, that a woman named Sabrina has a birthday dinner with the five people, both living and dead, who have had a profound impact on her life, seemed really intriguing and unique to me, and I instantly put it on my Goodreads list to read in the future. For some reason, I don’t remember what, I didn’t pick up the book that day, and I actually didn’t buy it until 4 days ago.

I am so glad that I did because this book is not at all what you would expect from reading the blurb in the inside cover. I was expecting a run of the mill chick lit. novel about how Sabrina is having trouble getting over he ex-boyfriend and uses this dinner to evaluate her feelings for him and rekindle their romance. Instead, The Dinner List is so much deeper. It is a story that, yes, investigates Sabrina’s relationship with Tobias by alternating between narration of the dinner and an exploration of their 10 years together. However, The Dinner List goes beyond this seemingly cliché plot to delve into notions of loss and regret. Sabrina’s story becomes about much more than her romantic relationship as she is forced to come to terms with her feelings toward a father who abandoned her at a young age, as well as toward her best friend who has moved on to an entirely new life of marriage and motherhood that Sabrina feels both jealous of and unable to come to terms with. Sabrina must evaluate all of her relationships, all of the connections that have made her into the woman she is, to ultimately determine the kind of life and love she wants moving forward. She must wrestle with her devotion to fate and actually poke and prod at relationships she has otherwise taken for granted and been reluctant to think critically about, namely her love story with Tobias.

There is, also, a twist in this story, which I will not mention (it would ruin everything if I did) and which utterly crushed me. When my husband turned from the TV and looked at me curled up on the couch beside him, my head buried in this book and tears streaming down my face, he knew it was going to be a novel I would rave about when I was done. And it’s true, I am a really big fan of books that are full of strong emotions. The Dinner List was not a novel I was expecting to be profound and moving and touching, but it really was, and I cried about 3 more times after this initial incident, thinking about how easy it is to take life and love for granted and how dangerous that can be. I can’t say I felt satisfied by the ending, but that’s mainly because I wanted to know more about how Sabrina would proceed and what she would do next – I craved more from the ending, which is a sure sign that the story was a good and incredibly engrossing one!

What was most exciting to me about The Dinner List, though, is that it introduced me to a new writer in Rebecca Serle that I am very eager to follow. Serle’s writing style really spoke to me, and I loved the way she structured her narrative, weaving past and present effortlessly. I also loved her manner of writing dialogue because it was so easy to read, so fluid, and it honestly felt as though I was sitting at the dinner table with Sabrina and her guests. It can sometimes be hard to read scenes that are mostly conversation between characters, especially if the dialogue feels forced, fake and constructed, but I didn’t feel this way at all about The Dinner List, and I instead felt very much like I was sucked into the evening as if I were a participant myself. Serle also has a knack for writing about emotions in a way that is not over the top or silly, but is perfectly indicative, in my opinion, of how twenty- and thirty-something people feel about love and friendship nowadays. Her take on relationships felt very modern to me, and even her descriptions of Sabrina’s struggles with work and money felt realistic and human. I seriously have the impression that Serle is a great, young voice in contemporary literature, and I am eager to pick up some of her young adult novels and watch out for any adult fiction she writes in the future.

“Here is what I remember him saying: Kindness before honesty.

We are taught that honesty is the most important quality. Tell the truth. Do not lie. Etc. But there are so many instances when honest isn’t kind. When the kinder thing to do is to keep what you have to say to yourself.”

All in all, The Dinner List was a hit with me and I’m going to pass it along to my mom straightaway…which means it is a really good one! I’m so glad that I finally had the chance to pick this one up!

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

The Wicked King ~ #JNGReads

An·ti·cli·mac·tic /ˌan(t)ēˌklīˈmaktik/ (adjective): The Cruel Prince series

Okay, I’m sorry, that was snarky of me, I admit. But honestly, The Wicked King was the very definition of MEH.

Everyone and their best friend is gushing about The Wicked King on Goodreads and Twitter, and I’m just sitting on my couch with the book on my lap, having just finished it, legit confused af.

Am I missing something? Someone please help me because I dearly want to be sucked into this series! Is there something wrong with me? Did I maybe get a faulty copy of the book? Do I also have a faulty copy of The Cruel Prince? Do I need new glasses? WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION FOR THIS?

Nothing happens in The Wicked King. I’m sorry, but it is the least exciting and suspenseful novel I have read in a long time. People were hyping it up as this insane adventure so I was flipping through the pages looking forward to all these twists and turns…and then I realized I was on the LAST PAGE and barely anything had happened! As with The Cruel Prince before it, I felt that The Wicked King spent too long setting the scene for…absolutely nothing to happen! It’s like a book that leads up to…nothing. I can’t even say that I found the ending to be a cliffhanger because at that point, I didn’t care about it whatsoever.

Also, everyone is always ranting and raving about Jude and Cardan and their “chemistry” and again, I’m all like, You mean those characters who spoke to each other all of three times throughout this entire story? Sexual tension? During a handful of sentences spoken to each other? Okay, I must really be missing something! I still can’t figure out if Jude and Cardan actually had sex, so maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention or something. *facepalm*

So, anyway, let’s just say that I was underwhelmed by this book. And sure, maybe I’ll read the third book in the series out of curiosity and with this absurd hope that it will be more exciting than the first two…but realistically, I’m not gonna hold my breath.

But, since I generally like to think I’m a nice person, let’s end on a high note, shall we? Here are some quotes from the novel that I actually liked because, after all, it wasn’t all bad!

Quotes I Liked from The Wicked King

“There is only now. There is only tomorrow and tonight and now and soon and never.”

– I admit, I have zero idea what this quote means because if you actually analyze it, it seems like a huge contradiction…but I like how it sounds sooo…

“The Folk doubtlessly learned this lesson long ago. They do not need to deceive humans. Humans will deceive themselves.”

“I have never been so much alone, and I have never had to play a role for this long. I feel hollowed out, diminished.”

“‘I am your creature, Prince Balekin,’ I say, looking into his eyes and lying with my whole broken heart. ‘Do with me what you will. I am yours.’”

❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

100 Percent Yours ~ #JNGReads Sally Thorne’s 99 Percent Mine

Sally Thorne, I’m 100% yours.

Before writing this review, I went back and read over my very first review of The Hating Game. I say my very first review because I have since re-read The Hating Game and mentioned it about 2.5 billion times on my blog and in reviews of other books. And I haven’t just gushed about The Hating Game in reviews of other romance novels – The Hating Game was my absolute favourite book of 2017, surpassing books like A Court of Mist and Fury and Six of Crows, as well as favourite short story collections of mine and even two adaptations of my favourite novel Jane Eyre. The Hating Game literally took my breath away (like actually, I think I stopped breathing a few times in my local Starbucks) and it was impossible for me to 1) put down, and 2) stop thinking about. It stayed with me for a year after my first read of it, until I read it again, and it is without doubt one of my favourite books of all-time, one that I can rely on in an instant to cheer me up and make me feel warm and cozy.

“And this little chick lit. book, this story that was supposed to be so fun and light, is about to make me cry. It all comes down to this: The Hating Game is all about chemistry, that zing between two people who are unbearably attracted to each other, but who also want to curl up into each other, hold each other tight. The very definition of lovers…a word that does, of course, involve love.

This book is making me tingle and I don’t want it to end. It is keeping me warm during a cold and barren week. It is reminding me of the chemistry I have with my special person and also of the spark I want to keep in my life forever. I seriously never want this book to end!”

– from my review of The Hating Game

So, let’s just say that Sally Thorne had a lot to live up to in my estimation with 99 Percent Mine. And, I have to be honest, I was very nervous when I picked up the cheery, bright yellow book and flipped to the first page. There was no way in my mind that it could live up to how astonishingly amazing The Hating Game was – and to be fair, it didn’t. I don’t think 99 Percent Mine touched me quite as profoundly as The Hating Game did, but that could very well be down to nostalgia and the fact that I have lived longer with The Hating Game in my life and have had time to dwell on it and keep it warmly cradled in my heart. What is clear is that 99 Percent Mine is an excellent book (even if I didn’t quite love Darcy and Tom as much as my OG faves Lucy and Josh), and Sally Thorne is a compelling, unique and clearly extremely talented voice in romantic literature.

I don’t want to spoil too much about 99 Percent Mine by going on and on about what happens or talking about specific scenes. The plot isn’t even that crazy or anything, so there wouldn’t be too much to say. What makes 99 Percent Mine special (and indeed, what made The Hating Game special before it) is how Sally Thorne writes, not what she writes. Her ability to play with words and string them together in ways that are new and interesting never ceases to amaze me, and while I was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to keep up her style in a second novel, I was blown away by the fact that Thorne’s signature take on language and writing is still present, but the voice of the narrator Darcy still sounds so distinct from that of Lucy in The Hating Game. Even though the reader is well aware that Sally Thorne is the author because of how unique the overall style is, it is still very much evident that the narrator’s voice is different and that Darcy is someone totally unlike Lucy. The dialogue still sizzles like it did in The Hating Game, but there is more of an overt fire here than a slow simmer, and Darcy is much more bold and feisty than her counterpart Lucy. Tom, on the other hand, is shy and soft in ways that Joshua Templeman never was, and this contrast shows great diversity in Thorne’s range as well as great creativity!

It’s so hard to put into words why Sally Thorne’s writing is just so good, so the best approach is probably for me to leave you with some of my favourite passages directly from the novel, so that her words can speak for themselves. Before I do that, though, let me just say that Sally Thorne is without doubt my favourite chick lit. writer, and that is saying a lot because I have been loyal to Sophie Kinsella and Gemma Townley and Karen Swan and Emma Chase (to name a few) for a long time. But Sally Thorne has a voice that is so truly her own and it is impossible to ignore and not get drawn in by it, and for that reason, I will read absolutely anything she writes, probably for the rest of my life!

My Favourite Passages from 99 Percent Mine

“I walk along slowly and drag my fingertips along the bars of chocolate. Goddamn, you sexy little squares. Dark, milk, white, I do not discriminate. I eat it all. Those fluorescent sour candies that only obnoxious little boys like. I suck candy apples clean. If an envelope is sweet, I’ll lick it twice.”

“He still never gives me more than a one-second look before blinking away. But that’s okay. One second always feels like a long time when I’m with him.”

“I want to walk two steps in front of him, wherever he goes, bulldozing the world a little flatter for him.”

“I want to know what his goddamn bones smell like. Let me start down in his DNA structure and work my way back out.”

“Unzip me, climb into me, don’t come out.”

(Also, as a small aside, let me just say that the bonus epilogue from The Hating Game that was included in my edition of 99 Percent Mine made my heart feel are warm and fuzzy and grow about 10 sizes…and it’s the dead of winter here in Toronto with over 25cm of snow on the ground…so that’s certainly saying something!)

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Love at First Sight ~ #JNGReads The Royal Runaway

“We weren’t midday or midnight. We were dawn, dusk, and midsummer. Caught in the middle of time and space, ever so fleeting. Blink and you’d never see us – the runaway princess and the dead spy.”

Picture this: I’m striding through Indigo with my husband last Saturday. I’ve just bought 2 new books the day before, so for once, I’m not in here to pick up any literature; instead, I’ve come to take a look at the various home accessories.

All of a sudden, walking past a table stacked with paperbacks, I gasp quietly.

“Damn,” I mutter.

“What is it?” my husband turns around to see me gazing at one book in particular.

“This book,” I say, holding it up for him to see. “I think I have to buy it.”

“Another one?” he asks, concerned.

“Another one,” I reply.

***********

Now, in my defense, how was I going to resist a book with a cover like this one?

If there’s one thing my husband knows about me, it’s that I am a total sucker for anything royal or romance. Combine the two, and I’m an absolute goner. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had bought 2 million books the day before instead of just 2, I would’ve needed to add this one to my collection.

And boy, am I glad I did! The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory is adorable, sweet and suspenseful. A quote on the back cover says that it’s a cross between The Princess Diaries and James Bond, and that description couldn’t be more accurate. Since princesses and British spies happen to be two of my favourite things on the planet (Casino Royale is, to be frank, my favourite move of all time), there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this spicy chick lit. story.

I will admit, the plot was a bit muddled at times, and I didn’t think there was any Wow! moment of revelation. The story didn’t have many cliffhangers and I wasn’t quite on the edge of my seat, but the pacing was fast and engaging, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout my reading journey.

What was more wonderful than the plot, though, was the voice of the main character and narrator, Princess Thea! This was probably my favourite aspect of the novel and what made it stand out to me: Thea’s narration is full of sass and wit, and she comes out of nowhere with these hilarious one liners and sarcastic comments that made it very easy to like her. Although she’s royal by blood, she’s incredibly down-to-earth and very girl next door, and she was easily the type of character I could see myself becoming good friends with in real-life. Her relationship with Nick is certainly compelling and there’s lots of tension there, but it was really Thea’s own internal monologue that kept me reading and brought me back to the book at the end of a long day.

This is definitely your quintessential contemporary romance, and if you’re a fan of books by Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella or stories like The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, I have no doubt that you’ll love this one! I look forward to reading more of Emory’s books and adding her to my list of go-to chick lit. writers!

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart