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

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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

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

JNG’s 2018 Reading Round Up

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

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

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

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

January 2018

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

February 2018

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

March 2018

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

April 2018

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

May 2018

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

June 2018

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

July 2018

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

August 2018

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

September 2018

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

October 2018

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

November 2018

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

December 2018

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

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

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

xo

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

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

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

The Christmas Project by Maxine Morrey

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Tangled by Emma Chase

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Two Christmas Books and a Love Story ~ #JNGReads

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

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

One Day in December by Josie Silver

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

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

❥❥❥.5(out of 5)

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

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

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Love Story by Erich Segal

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart