Here Comes The Sun ~ ☼ The Sunshine Blogger Award ☼

“Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun” ~ The Beatles

I am so excited and overjoyed to have been nominated for the ☼ Sunshine Blogger Award ☼ by the lovely Catherine at the blog This is One for the Books! I was lucky enough to stumble upon Catherine’s profile on Goodreads (she’s a fellow Canadian, which is what caught my eye to begin with), and I found her blog through there. This is One for the Books is an adorable and extremely eye-catching blog, and Catherine’s reviews are all thoughtful and well-written. I’ve already found a new favourite YA novel from her website (Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson) and I’m eager to read several more that Catherine recommends because I’ve already grown to trust her opinion. Definitely check out her blog because you will no doubt be intrigued by everything she writes!

Now, on to the particulars of the Sunshine Blogger Award…

Description of the Award:

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

(Aww, shucks, way to make a girl feel special! ❥❥❥)

The Rules:

1) Thank the person that nominated you and link back to their blog.

2) Answer the 11 questions your nominator has given you.

3) Nominate 11 other people and give them 11 new questions to answer.

4) List the rules and display the award.

☼ Okay, so here we go, time to answer the 11 questions provided to me by Catherine…

  • Describe yourself in a single word.

Ahh, I always find this sort of thing so hard because I feel like it is nearly impossible to sum a person up in only one word…but maybe loyal…?

  • Where are you from, and what is the most common stereotype or misconception about your hometown/region/country?

I’m from Toronto, Canada, which is something I am super proud of! There are sooo many common misconceptions about Canadians, but probably the one that annoys me the most is that we are believed to be passive. I think that’s a gross overgeneralization, and I believe that Canadians are incredibly patriotic and protective of one another and our unique culture. So yeah, we’re definitely not going to lie down and be dismissed if other countries are being patronizing toward us…as I’m sure has been very evident in the news lately, to those not from Canada…

  • Why did you start blogging? Is there a story behind the name of your blog?

I started blogging after finishing my Master’s degree because I needed an outlet to discuss books emotionally, which I felt I wasn’t able to do when writing academic essays. There is a story behind the name The World of my Green Heart, which I wrote a detailed post about that you can read here, and which relates to the first short story of my own that I ever wrote and the character I created for it.

  • What is your favourite post you’ve written?

This is a tricky one, and I had to think about it a lot because it’s such an unexpected question, but I would say my review of one of my favourite romance novels of all time, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. You can read my review here. I wrote the review in little bursts when I just couldn’t take my mind off the book, and I’m particularly proud of how honest and raw my words are!

  • If you could choose any superpower what would it be?

This is going to come across as super lame probably, but I’d love to be able to know a language as soon as I hear someone speaking it. I think that could be such a valuable skill to have because you’d be able to blend in and feel comfortable in any country, and you’d also know if people are gossiping about you behind your back in another language – haha!

  • What is one thing on your bucket list?

Well, I actually just crossed a big item off my forever bucket list: seeing a ballet at the Opéra Garnier in Paris. You can read about my experiences there (during my honeymoon) in this post here.

  • If you could be any TV or book character for a day, who would you be and why?

Ahh, okay, this is so challenging because I love sooo many TV and book characters… GAH! Okay, I’m going to go with Queen Victoria, but as she’s portrayed on the ITV series Victoria – a young queen, just at the start of her reign and her marriage to Prince Albert. And particularly, I’d like to live out the events of the episode when she marries Albert. Yeah, that’d be AMAZING!!!

  • What was your favourite movie or TV show as a kid?

Definitely Beetlejuice, the animated series. Also, I adored the movie version of Beetlejuice. I basically wanted to have an imaginary friend that would come to life whenever I said his name 3 times…I guess that probably translated into my love of reading and escaping on adventures with fictional characters.

  • What is your favourite type of food to eat?

Oh jeeze, this is easily the hardest question yet because I LOVE food. But I’m going to have to go with cookies on this one…basically any kind! I would eat a cookie every morning for breakfast if it was socially acceptable and not horribly unhealthy!

  • What is one song you will never get tired of listening to?

This is also tricky because I adore music of all genres and I’m an obsessive listener because I will play a song over and over, never getting sick of it. At the moment, I’m a bit obsessed with Meat Loaf’s song “I Would Do Anything For Love”…which I’ve actually listened to about 5 times while writing this post.

  • What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done?

I have to be honest, I’m not the most adventurous person in the world, or even in the immediate vicinity at any given moment. Having said that, I do like to push myself outside my comfort zone, and I guess the last time I did that was when I accepted my new job. Not exactly adventurous, but it did mean switching into a new industry entirely and going after a career I’ve dreamt about for my entire life…so it felt like a big, scary and exciting step for me! I’m super proud of the fact that I pushed myself to get out of a job that was comfortable and try something more challenging and exhilarating!

Alrighty, now those were some awesome questions – they really got me thinking and I hope you enjoyed my answers! I’d love to hear your responses to these questions in the comments!

My Sunshine Blogger Selections:

I would like to tag: Tony Burgess | Emma at Emma Reads Too Much | Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams | Brianna at Bookishly Bree | Lena at The Printed Girl | Victor at My Poor TBR | Destiny at Howling Libraries | Frankie Lovely at A Thousand Lives of Frankie Lovely | Chelsea at The Suspense is Thrilling Me | Crystal at Lost In A Good Book | Roselyn at Odds & Ends

Please feel free not to answer my questions if you’re not interested – but please accept this as a thank you for writing posts that always make me smile and get me thinking!

My Questions:

  1. What is your favourite book written by an author from the country you live in?
  2. What are your favourite lyrics from a song and why do you like them so much?
  3. What is your favourite book to movie/TV series adaptation?
  4. What is your least favourite book to movie/TV series adaptation?
  5. What book do you think every person on Earth should read, and why?
  6. Have you met an author before? If so, under what circumstances and was it all you’d expected it would be?
  7. Where is your favourite bookstore in the world? Have you been there in person? Do you have a picture of it to share with us?
  8. What is your favourite bookish photo that you’ve taken or come across on social media? Share it with us!
  9. What is your guilty pleasure book/genre or movie/TV series?
  10. Who is your fictional crush or best friend (from any fictional story)?
  11. Who is one author you feel is seriously underappreciated? What book by them would you recommend to someone who has never encountered their work?

Thank you so much again to Catherine for brightening my day (or, more accurately, my year) with this nomination!

xo

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Advertisements

By Your Side ~ #JNGReads

“I knew it was the extreme amount of stress I’d been under lately. Something had to give. I needed an outlet.

Under no circumstances should it have taken me almost a week to read a 350 page young adult book. But, I had an unexpectedly rough week, which is fitting for this reading experience in so many ways.

By Your Side by Kasie West is a novel about a teenage girl, Autumn, who gets stuck in a library over a long weekend with a misunderstood guy from her school, Dax. A common criticism of this novel that I’ve come across is that the setting of the library seems totally inconsequential, as neither of the characters actually read when they’re trapped in there, and that the portion of the novel when Autumn and Dax are trapped in the library is too short. These two things are true. However, they did not affect my rating of this novel whatsoever, and I will explain why.

“Just talking about rules right now was relaxing me. Structure sometimes helped me feel safe.”

By Your Side was unlike anything I expected from reading the synopsis, and yet, in so many ways, it surpassed my expectations. This is all down to the fact that Autumn suffers from anxiety.

I had an anxiety attack this morning. There’s a long story behind it, related to the long week I had, but to make that story short, I found myself crying in bed this morning as I thought about all the obligations (mostly social) ahead of me this weekend. I eventually calmed myself down (I’ve been told that anxiety attacks are not supposed to last for more than 20-minutes, even though they often seem to go on for an eternity), and when I did, I was able to get back into reading By Your Side right at a spot in the book when Autumn is also coming to terms with her anxiety. Autumn becomes easily overwhelmed when in certain social situations with her friends, and she slowly learns, through the course of the novel and with the help of her new friend/love interest Dax, that saying No is okay and important, particularly when she is being pushed beyond her limits.

“‘Have you ever felt trapped?’

I gave a single laugh. ‘Yes. I have anxiety.’”

Saying No is something I wish I was better at…but I’m working on it. I have felt exactly what Autumn has, that urge to give into people, to always say Yes to them even if you feel yourself starting to break. What I appreciated about West’s treatment of anxiety was that she focused on the sense of responsibility some people with anxiety feel, this burden of not wanting to disappoint other people or let them down. West focuses much of her portrayal of anxiety on Autumn’s family members and Dax reminding her that she has to keep herself healthy, that it is okay for her to admit her limitations, step back, and take some time alone to focus on her mental well-being. I don’t think this sort of thing is talked about enough in society, even with the current move toward focusing on anxiety disorders and mental illness. I believe that many people who don’t suffer from anxiety would find it hard to wrap their mind around why a person may feel uncomfortable about going to a particular social engagement, or why the thought of doing a certain social thing would bring them to tears. But, I have been there, most recently this morning, and I can say with conviction that for individuals who suffer from certain types of anxiety, there is no rhyme or reason; all we know is that some things, on some days, by no logic or rule, are simply beyond our power.

“‘Thanks for letting me stay home this week.’

‘Of course. You need to take care of yourself.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m staying home from the basketball game tonight too. Just the thought of it makes me cringe.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with that.’”

Autumn eventually gets to the point where she can say No to her friends, based on how she is feeling and by gaging her own mental health, and she is lucky in the sense that her friends are supportive of her and open to learning about her anxiety disorder. Believe me, not everyone in the world is that understanding. Having said that, I personally appreciated that West emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself, of doing what is right for you. Anxiety is just as real as any physical illness, and I agree with West that it has to be treated as such: sometimes, a person with anxiety simply isn’t feeling well enough to do something, and that feeling should be viewed as just as valid as if someone couldn’t make it out because of a stomach flu or throat infection. We all have our boundaries and barriers, and not every day is going to be an anxiety-filled one…but the ones that are need to be taken slow and easy, and Autumn is conscious of that towards the end of her story.

Is By Your Side the best young adult novel I’ve ever read? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it would make an adorable, light-hearted move and I really liked Autumn and Dax and their cute banter. That, I would only give 3 stars for though…for West’s portrayal of anxiety, however, I’ll up my rating a touch.

I would encourage any teenager who suffers from anxiety to pick up this book, because not only is it enjoyable, it will also remind you that what you’re feeling is perfectly valid and should be respected.

❥❥❥❥(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

Don’t Touch ~ #JNGReads

I got Don’t Touch at Chapters 3 days ago, on sale for $1.50. That is both a travesty and a blessing.

It is a travesty because Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson is an excellent young-adult novel and it is worth much more than $1.50. So much more.

It is a blessing because if the book wasn’t on sale for $1.50, I never would’ve spotted it and decided to pick it up. And, I am lucky to have had the chance to read it.

Don’t Touch is a complex, intricate and deeply moving story about a high school student and aspiring actress, Caddie, who suffers from severe anxiety and OCD. Caddie’s anxiety is so all-consuming that she has convinced herself, after her parents’ separation, that she cannot touch anyone without dire consequences. Caddie purchases gloves, she wears long sleeves and pants even in the oppressive heat of summer, and when she develops a crush on her classmate Peter and is cast as Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet opposite Peter in the title role, she does everything within her power to avoid getting close to him. Caddie is the narrator of Don’t Touch, and so the reader is able to develop a very intimate relationship with her, hearing her innermost fears and turmoil at wanting to engage with Peter and her other friends, but not feeling as though she is able to.

There were moments in Don’t Touch that brought tears to my eyes. I don’t suffer from severe OCD, but I have friends who do, and I myself suffer from anxiety. I am learning recently that my struggle with anxiety (which began at the start of high school) is so much less severe and difficult than what so many of my peers have to endure on a daily basis, but I do believe that mental health is all relative, and my anxiety sometimes feels like the most horrible thing in the world, at least to me. I luckily have never been in Caddie’s position where I fear touching others, but I do understand the frustration that comes from having this one fear playing over and over in your brain, no matter how hard to try to get it to stop or how logical you try to be. Anxiety isn’t really logical at all, or at least it isn’t in my experience, and I was deeply touched by Caddie’s narration of her inability to calm herself down even when she knows her anxieties are nonsensical, silly and impossible.

Rachel M. Wilson writes about anxiety well, with heart and respect. She mentions in her Author’s Note that she herself suffers from OCD, and that is clear in her careful treatment of mental health struggles that she is familiar with them. I only wish her book got more hype because I believe it is the exact sort of text that teenagers need to read. If I had read something like this book in high school, it may have helped me comprehend my anxieties and understand that they are not as uncommon or embarrassing as I originally thought. I don’t mean to say that a book like Don’t Touch would’ve cured me, but it would’ve made me feel a bit more “normal”…whatever that even means.

Caddie is a strong character, despite her anxieties, and what is most profound is the message that ailments like anxiety or OCD do NOT make a person weak, but rather they can make them impressively strong. Caddie goes through a lot and she doesn’t always come out on top of her anxiety, but in the end, she has developed methods to cope with it and she is able to touch people and enjoy this proximity. She comes a long way, but what is most special and poignant about her progress is that she seeks help, from her mother, from her friends, and from a trained professional. She eventually realizes that power comes from talking about her anxieties, from taking the power away from them, and she becomes vocal and unselfconscious in her discussion of what is plaguing her. This was beautiful to see and an incredible message for anyone who suffers from anxiety or OCD to be left with: that speaking about it, owning up to it and in a way embracing it, is the first step toward wellness.

“Talking about fear takes its power away.”

I would highly recommend Don’t Touch to anyone and everyone because it truly blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to find it so sharp and touching, but it was, and I think it is worthy of a lot more attention. Spend $1.50 on it, spend $15.00, spend $50.00…but whatever you do, pick up this book!

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Fifty Shades

“‘Enlighten me, then.’”

*This “review” will include my thoughts on the Fifty Shades series as a whole, including a discussion of the film adaptations.*

How to put into words the way I feel about the Fifty Shades series? I don’t even know where to begin.

I should start with a short description of my personal experiences with the series…

I first attempted to read Fifty Shades of Grey when I was in my second year of university. I say “attempted” because I got through very little of the book before refusing to read any further. I’ll let you in on a little secret: at that point in my life, I was pretty inexperienced in the ways of love and intimacy. I hadn’t had my first kiss yet (yes, it’s true, that wouldn’t come until the summer AFTER my second year of university), and I didn’t know very much at all about interacting intimately with the opposite sex. I was as innocent and naïve as Miss Anastasia Steele, and my first attempt reading Fifty Shades of Grey was so abysmal because I was filled mostly with fear, uncertainty and anxiety about every aspect of Christian and Ana’s relationship. It just wasn’t the right time for me to encounter such a graphic, shocking novel, and I remember actually being disgusted and close to a panic attack when I read the scene where Christian and Ana have sex (I should probably get used to not using euphemisms when talking about this series, eh?) for the first time. I just couldn’t stomach it, so for the first time in my life, I DNFed a book.

Fast forward to two years later, when I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree. I was a bit more experienced at this point (although nowhere near where Ana is by the end of the first novel), so I decided to revisit Fifty Shades of Grey from a more, shall we say, mature perspective. I finished it within days and moved onto Fifty Shades Darker very quickly. I never went on to Fifty Shades Freed because, being totally single at that point, I found it hard to relate to Ana as she was preparing to get married. But, I had read the first two novels in the series without incident, and I felt wiser and more knowledgeable because of it. I would learn about a year later that I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I thought, but in that moment after finishing Fifty Shades Darker, I felt accomplished and like I had been let into one of the world’s greatest secrets. I guess you could say that I was curious about these things that existed in society but that I wasn’t yet a part of. I was, no doubt, craving some sort of intimacy and physical connection myself that I had yet to find, and I devoured the book more out of wanting to learn than anything else.

“That means I’m competing with Darcy, Rochester, and Angel Clare: impossible romantic heroes. Here’s the proof I needed. She’s an incurable romantic, like her mother – this isn’t going to work.” ~ Grey

Were these two books literary masterpieces? Absolutely not. Don’t misunderstand me please…I am a lover of Charlotte Brontë and I knew the difference between a cheesy, cliché erotic romance and the classic romances of times past. I wasn’t comparing Fifty Shades to Jane Eyre or anything of that nature whatsoever, and I scorned E.L. James’ allusions to Victorian novels because my somewhat pretentious English Lit. major self was offended that she would even utter the name Brontë in her text. I’m now much more versed in the contemporary romance genre and I appreciate its merits, but of course, I always knew the difference between it and those literary classics that have been revered for centuries. That being said, what Fifty Shades offered curious JNG that Jane Eyre did not was detail…it provided me with a glimpse into what happened to Jane after she married Rochester, what would happen to me one day, what came after that first kiss I had finally had. My curiosity, my yearning to know more of intimacy in some capacity, was…sated.

Then I met my now husband, and we started a relationship that blew my mind in so many ways. It was my first relationship of any kind, and as you can imagine, many other firsts came with that. Believe me, Fifty Shades was faaar from my mind when presented with a real, live man to call my own, but of course, I did at least know a thing or two about intimacy because of that popular series that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

What complicated things a bit, though, was the release of the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades. I went to see it with a girlfriend in the theatre, and although I had my own boyfriend and wealth of experience by that point, I was still shocked and disturbed and uncomfortable. I couldn’t figure out why I could apparently read about all these acts, and do some of them, and then not witness them on screen, but something about the movie really put me off, and I left at the end in utter panic, texting my boyfriend frantically out of confusion and uncertainty. The issue was (and my boyfriend was quick to identify this and help me through it) the representation of a relationship unlike anything I had ever had or seen: a BDSM relationship that I wasn’t ready to see for myself. Now, I’ve come to understand through more encounters with these sorts of novels and through a better understanding of sex in general, that Christian and Ana don’t necessarily do a BDSM relationship properly…but at the time, it was my only frame of reference, and while reading about it was one thing, seeing it played out before me was quite another. Christian’s urge to possess Ana, her willingness to submit to him, her lack of confidence and pride in herself, all made me very uncomfortable. I left the movie, had some confused and emotional discussions with my boyfriend about all I had seen, and then tried to put it behind me.

Two years later, I was even wiser and more knowledgeable, but this time because of my own experiences, because I had grown to understand myself, develop my own confidence and preferences. I was moving closer and closer to the woman I am today, and something told me that I could handle watching Fifty Shades Darker…so off to the movie theatre I went. And, I’ll be 100% honest, I LOVED this movie! Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but for some reason, I really enjoyed it, and I’ve seen it probably a dozen times in total by now. I can’t really explain what I like about it, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this intimacy is established between Christian and Ana that finally isn’t just physical. It reminded me, in some ways, of my own relationship, and I was touched by the idea that only the people in a relationship can fully understand it. I liked the concept that people in a relationship necessarily have secrets, these private feelings and preferences that they hide from the world and keep only to each other. I had experienced that firsthand myself, that “You and I vs. Everyone” mentality, and I thought it was depicted well on screen. Fifty Shades Darker is still the movie I turn on when I’m bored at home on a Friday night, and I’m happy to say that I also watch Fifty Shades of Grey sometimes, without any anxieties or uncertainties.

Anastasia Steele, what am I going to do with you?

So, when I stumbled upon Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey told from Christian’s perspective) in the bookstore a week ago, I felt that it was time for me to try reading the series again, this time as a married woman with more confidence, self-assurance and self-respect than I have ever had in my life. Much of the novel annoyed me, and I still didn’t like the rhetoric of possession and inequality. I was frustrated all over again with Ana’s innocence and her lack of self-esteem, and I hated Christian at many points. But, I felt that I understood the characters and the concepts so much better (even if I do still think they do BDSM very wrong!), and so I was able to enjoy the novel as a source of entertainment. I appreciated that I had issues with it, because I found that I thought about all those old anxieties from the past in a new light, but I also found myself enjoying the novel for its own sake, as a cheesy, light romance. I had grown a lot since my very first reading of the novel, and the experience of reading Grey was more a recognition of my own growth and understanding of myself than anything else.

Maybe it’s totally absurd to have this extreme of a reaction to a series like Fifty Shades, but I’ve never been able to control how I feel, especially when it comes to novels. The idea of Fifty Shades will always make me a little sad and wistful, maybe because of the intimacy it portrays and how overwhelming and all-encompassing I know that can be. But, whatever the reasons for my strange attachment to this series, Fifty Shades had a hand in my own awakening…and for that, well, it will always have some sort of place in my heart.

❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Emerald & Opal ~ 2018’s Great Bookish Adventure!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

@emeraldandopal_xo

 

https://www.instagram.com/emeraldandopal_xo/

 

xo

Janille N G

(Girl with an EMERALD Green Heart)

(The Green Half of Emerald & Opal)