When It’s Real ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart


Everything, Everything ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Dating You / Hating You ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subtle stuff. I am a seduction ninja.

“I chuck a piece of scrambled egg at him.

He picks it off his plate and eats it.

I might really love him.

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

‘What? No.’

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

‘Because I love you.’

He laughs, delighted. ‘How terrible.’

‘I just…don’t go,’ I say in a burst.

‘Go where?’


❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

This Love Story Will Self-Destruct ~ #JNGReads

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

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

✧ There…review done. ✧

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

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

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

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


Girl with a Green Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

Wish You Were Here ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

Only the two of you have to understand it.”

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

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

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

‘Every day,’ I replied.


‘I always say not yet.’

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

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


“‘What are they like? Our children.’

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

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

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

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


❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

An Enchantment of Ravens ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

99 Days ~ #JNGReads

Literally nothing happens in this book…nothing at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart