The Royal We ~ #JNGReads

The Royal We was not at all what I expected…and I think I’m okay with that!

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is supposed to be a Kate Middleton fan fiction. I think that description does this novel, which is actually quite well-written and poignant, a great disservice.

To me, if someone says a novel is a form of fan fiction, I’m immediately expecting something cheesy and over the top. No offence to all the great fan fiction out there (believe me, I enjoy reading some of it), but I’m not expecting a great work of literature when I sit down with something like that. And no, The Royal We isn’t Dickens (nor should it be), but it is definitely more of a contemporary novel than a romance novel, which I feel is an important distinction. When I heard The Royal We was based on the relationship between Kate Middleton and Prince William, I quickly put it on my TBR because I thought it would be an outlandish and adorable chick lit. experience. I was expecting a novel very similar to Emma Chase’s Royally Screwed or to the Netflix movie A Christmas Prince. I certainly was not expecting one that is very deep and thoughtful.

The Royal We is not just steamy sex scenes and insane drama – actually, it doesn’t have much of either of those things at all. It really isn’t even a book about the relationship between Bex Porter and Prince Nicholas of Wales so much as it is a novel about Bex herself, a young woman who is coming of age in extreme circumstances. As readers, we get to know Bex better than any of the other characters, except perhaps for her twin sister, Lacey, and the novel becomes more an examination of what it means to be a young woman in extraordinary conditions, a woman who wants to maintain her identity while still uniting herself in marriage to a strong man.

Isn’t this a very contemporary and relatable situation to be in? I know personally that I think about these sorts of things on a daily basis, particularly now that I am a wife – how can I give myself entirely to my husband and still be my own person? How can I build a career and still be a loving wife and, one day, mother? How can I maintain my sense of self when all of my heart and everything I am is so inextricably tied to another? Of course, Bex’s circumstances are unique in that she must acclimate herself to a royal establishment that has been around for centuries, but fundamentally, her struggles are those of any woman in the 21st century. How do we, as women or as hopeless romantics, maintain a respect for history and tradition and romance while at the same time breaking free of it? It is an interesting question to explore.

Cocks and Morgan do some great work in this novel to try to answer this question, from Bex’s perspective at least, and I was truly not expecting that. I was ready to encounter a pretty flat female character who is all heart-eye emojis for her love interest, but Bex really doesn’t spend too much time fawning over Nick. Instead, she deals (very realistically) with the ups and downs of a human romance, and although not all of her decisions are advisable, they are very genuine. I found myself really liking Bex and really sympathizing with her, which is not something I can say is true of most romance novel heroines I encounter.

Bex’s relationship with her twin sister Lacey is also very well-articulated, and the novel is in many ways more about this unique family dynamic than it is about Bex and Nick. It is fascinating to watch Bex try to navigate her romantic relationship while still maintaining the incredibly close relationship she has always had with her twin – and it is equally fascinating to watch them both realize that their relationship must necessarily evolve as Bex’s romance becomes more serious. This is another very realistic situation to address because so often family relationships must change and adapt as romantic relationships progress, and I for one was impressed with the fact that Cocks and Morgan would choose to handle that issue.

I would compare The Royal We to a novel like Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, rather than to a straight-up romance like Royally Screwed. It is an adaptation of a well-known story, sure, but it is also a sophisticated novel in many ways, and it is by no means a quick, beach read. There’s a lot more going on below the surface than I think the marketing of this novel suggests, and I for one was pleasantly surprised by that!

The only real issue I had with the novel was its representation of Nick’s mother, Emma. Obviously, she is meant to represent Princess Diana, but in The Royal We, Emma is living and suffers from a crippling mental illness. I think it made sense for Cocks and Morgan to handle the “Princess Diana” character in this way, but I was a bit annoyed by their representation of mental illness. I wasn’t overly fond of Nick’s frequent outbursts that his mother is “mad” and I thought the subject of mental health wasn’t treated deeply enough for it to be included in the novel. What may have been more interesting would have been if Nick’s mother was very present in the novel, especially to underscore the fictional nature of the novel and give the authors a chance to do something a little bit different with the true story. This was the one major flaw for me with the novel, and I wish Emma’s character wasn’t so often dismissed.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Royal We and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Eligible and to those who would be interested by a realistic, unvarnished portrayal of what it means to be a royal.

A Few Quotes I Liked:

“Kissing him was pure, ravenous heat, a thousand gigawatts blowing my every fuse.”

“I don’t know why it takes something monumentally destructive to remind you what you want to save.”

“Ten seconds are an eternity when they’re full of dread.”

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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Love & Gelato ~ #JNGReads

I am having seriously mixed feelings about Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch!

This situation is giving me major Anna and the French Kiss vibes, which I’m not sure I like. A bit of backstory on this: Anna and the French Kiss is a very popular and much-loved YA novel that I had a very controversial opinion about because…well, I really did NOT like it. You can read my impassioned (and very annoyed) review of it here. Anyway, suffice it to say that although I wanted to LOVE Anna and the French Kiss because it seemed like it would be right up my alley, I didn’t, and I was super disappointed…almost inconsolably so! 😉

Let me start by saying that my reaction to Love & Gelato is nowhere near as violent. I didn’t hate it by any means! But, I just felt, especially toward the end of the novel, like something huge was missing. I still can’t put my finger on it, but I am going to try to write out a list to hopefully wrap my mind around it.

The Good Stuff

🍦 Gelato ~ In my humble opinion, there was not enough gelato eating in this novel for it to be part of the title, but any mention of it did make me smile because, quite simply, I adore ice cream!

🍦 Reference to Roman Holiday ~ Aka the GREATEST movie of all time! Enough said.

🍦 Lina (the main character) wasn’t super annoying! ~ She was nowhere near as insufferable as Anna from Anna and the French Kiss, and although I didn’t think she was nearly developed enough in some ways (more on this later), she was pretty endearing.

🍦 FLORENCE ~ I am OBSESSED with Florence and have been ever since I visited it 4 years ago. Talk about the most GORGEOUS place on Earth!!! I have been dying to go back, and this novel certainly made me nostalgic. Although, that being said, I did have some problems with the role Florence played in the novel…but more on this in a moment.

A photo of me in Italy because…why not?!

🍦 Ren ~ Super cute and not an annoying love interest! Barely a love interest at all (more on this below – are you also getting the sense, like I am, that every PRO is also a CON here?), but some of his lines were super witty and made me chuckle.

The Lacklustre Stuff

🍦 Poor Character Development ~ I finished this almost 400 page novel feeling like I barely knew the characters at all, and that was a real shame. Coming off two fantastic reads where I became super attached to the main characters in the same number of pages (Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson and Beautiful by Christina Lauren), I was slightly annoyed that I finished Love & Gelato and felt like I didn’t know Lina or her mother any better than I did at the start. I didn’t sense any profound character development, and I think this was a missed opportunity because Lina in particular has a lot going on in her life and she could’ve grown immensely. I also felt that her relationship with her (newly found) father wasn’t focused on nearly enough, and it would’ve been nice to seem them bonding for longer than a handful of pages. I just think Lina could’ve progressed and learned so much about herself, and I definitely think that was the intention of the novel, but it fell flat for me.

🍦 Insta-Love ~ Okay, I’m not the type of reader who breaks out in hives anytime insta-love happens in a novel, but I could certainly do without it. In the case of Love & Gelato, I just couldn’t accept it. Ren and Lina are friends for about 5 days before Lina starts declaring that she is IN LOVE with him. It’s one thing to develop a close friendship or even become infatuated with someone within a few days (some people are just kindred spirits, I get that) but to say you’re IN LOVE is a bit much. Hey, I’m all for love at first sight when done properly, but this was just a bit over the top, maybe because Lina’s declaration kind of comes out of nowhere and the passage where she starts talking about being in love with Ren is written in a super awkward way, in my opinion. I also have no idea what the purpose of Thomas was, except maybe to sort of establish a love triangle, although that didn’t even work and wasn’t fleshed out enough!

(Sidenote: I fully realize that Roman Holiday is kind of an example of insta-love as well…BUT I have a feeling I would fall instantly in love with Gregory Peck too sooo…?!)

🍦 The Diary ~ What, may I ask, was the purpose of Lina’s mom’s diary? I truly have no idea! At first, it seemed like a cool idea that Lina’s mother sent her old diary to Florence for Lina to read when she arrived, but by the end of the entries, I was left feeling that they were so juvenile and poorly written. Although some secrets about Lina’s mother’s life were revealed through the diary, I personally would’ve rather read about Lina exploring Florence and becoming her own person, rather than reading somewhat lazily articulated diary entries from her mother. Also, the profound takeaway from the diary wasn’t all that interesting to me, and it sort of, again, took away from a great relationship that was budding between Lina and her father, Howard. I just thought the diary was an utter waste of pages, if I’m honest.

🍦 FLORENCE ~ How do you have a travel novel set in Florence and not write more about…Florence??? This is probably what boggled my mind the most – Lina spends very little time in Florence, considering she has just moved there. Sure, we get a mention of the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo and popular landmarks like that, but we get no scenes of Lina exploring the restaurants and cafés of Florence, and she spends more time running around than getting to know the locals or enjoying her surroundings. I would’ve loved to read more about Lina growing accustomed to the culture and falling in love with the city, but instead, we’re taken on this journey of “discovery” that, again, wasn’t very interesting to me.

🍦 All the TYPOS!!! ~ I swear, there was one (either grammatical or spelling) on like every single page. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and it seriously hindered my reading flow…but maybe I’m just being nitpicky with this one?! Super frustrating though!

I don’t know, I was disappointed by this novel overall because it wasn’t nearly as sweet and sentimental as I hoped it would be. I would still recommend it as a quick beach read, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it and there are so many better YA novels out there, if you ask me.

Some Quotes from the Novel I Liked (…to end with the positive…)

You may be slow to warm up, but once you do, you light up the whole room.

“Sometimes I feel like my time is divided into two categories: time with X, and time spent waiting to be with X.”

“‘And I’ve never, ever, ever thought of you as anything more.’

Does it count as a lie if you’re denying something you’ve only fully admitted to yourself for about a minute? Also: One too many ‘evers’ there. But I was going for believable.”

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Beautiful ~ #JNGReads

I picked up Beautiful by Christina Lauren for $6.00 at my local bookstore. For that little money, I wouldn’t have minded if the book was a 3-star, or even a 2-star, read. Imagine my joy and surprise when I realized very early into the novel that I would have to give it 5 stars.

I have to digress for a moment here to say that my rating system for books has become very emotional in recent years. Some people have a strict, rigid set of criteria they use to rate books (my best friend, CV, has one of these and I am in constant admiration of how consistent her ratings are), but I somehow can’t manage to write a list for myself. I always seem to rely on my feelings and sentiments more than anything to help me in rating a book, and I base my rating entirely on the emotions I feel, and how strongly I feel them, when I close the back cover. Some books make me feel giddy and elated and like I can’t imagine ever feeling that excited about a book again…those are the 5-star reads. Some books leave me annoyed and frustrated and like I want to shove the character into a wall…those are the 2-star reads. And as for the novels I feel pretty indifferent towards or just don’t feel all that passionately about…those fall somewhere in between. (Sidenote: I’ve found it nearly impossible to give a book a 1-star rating because I generally can find at least one or two redeeming qualities.) This isn’t an organized rating system by any means, because sometimes I’ll feel very strongly about a novel that maybe I know I really shouldn’t, but I do allow myself to give into sentimentality and nostalgia and the warm and fuzzies because, for me, reading is a pleasant and fun pastime more than anything, and I feel that my ratings should reflect that.

So, with all that said, Beautiful by Christina Lauren feels, in this moment, like a 5-star read to me. Is it even close to the standards of my ultimate favourite novel of all time, Jane Eyre…heck no! For Jane Eyre, I require infinite stars! But did Beautiful make my heart feel warm and occasionally bring tears to my eyes, and did it serve as the perfect companion for me over a long weekend here in Toronto…yes, ma’am! Beautiful was cheesy and cliché enough to make this Hallmark movie lover blush, but it was also strangely deep in moments, and made me hug my husband a little tighter and be even more grateful for him and for the life adventures we get to go on together, whether those involve travel or hanging out with our friends or one day having a family of our own. Not a single one of the characters in Beautiful annoyed me, and I actually felt myself wishing that I had read the other books in the series so that I could get to know some of the characters, particularly Hanna and Will, better. Beautiful made me want to pick up other books by Christina Lauren ASAP, which was a pleasant surprise considering that I was not impressed with their novel Dating You / Hating You, which I read a few months ago. What can I say? Beautiful made me smile and laugh and it found itself a spot among some of my favourite chick lit. books of all time. So for all those reasons, this very second, it’s getting 5 stars from me.

I’ll be recommending Beautiful to some of my besties for sure, because hopefully it will make them long to take a couples’ retreat as much as I do. I’ll be chatting about scenes from it to my husband for days, I’m sure, because they’ll strike me as so cute and domestic and romantic that I’ll want nothing more than to share them with him. And, probably sooner rather than later, I’ll be picking up the other novels in the Beautiful series because I just have to know how Ruby and Niall finally got together and how Hanna managed to quiet her workaholic mind long enough to fall in love with Will. All in all, I’d say my $6.00 read, which provided me with a whole load of new fictional friends, was an unequivocal success!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Since You’ve Been Gone ~ #JNGReads

As far as YA novels go, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson is pretty perfect.

It has everything you could ever require from a summer read: a slightly farfetched but exciting and fast-paced plot, a sweet and swoonworthy love interest, a unique and funny cast of secondary characters (shoutout to my fave, Emily’s younger brother, Beckett), and an endearing heroine whose narrative voice is honest and witty and passionate. Oh, and it also has tons of references to the Beatles…so what more could you ask for?

Since You’ve Been Gone follows the summer of Emily, after her best friend Sloane and her parents have disappeared without explanation. Sloane leaves Emily a list of 13 tasks to complete over the summer, and throughout this process, Emily becomes friends with new characters, Frank, Collins and Dawn, and learns a great deal about herself and her confidence. What really surprised me is that the novel is much less about the friendship between Sloane and Emily, and is much more about watching Emily grow up, in a way, and challenge herself to become a stronger person. Other readers have commented on Emily’s journey throughout the novel, and I have to say, it was one of the aspects that I found the most refreshing because Emily is never annoying or juvenile, like a lot of YA heroines are, and is instead totally relatable and realistic. She is adorable, but also deeply flawed and confused, like a lot of 17 year olds are, and it is a wonderful thing to witness her learn some valuable life lessons and come out the other side this remarkable young woman. I could easily see myself becoming friends with Emily, and I felt that I could relate to her sense of feeling lost and having to discover and define herself.

What I liked most about Since You’ve Been Gone, though, is how mature it was, not only in how it tackled those important life lessons I mentioned, but also in how it treated its characters.

Firstly, the characters have to face and understand consequences at many points in the novel, and this was something I really appreciated. All too often, something insanely dramatic will happen in a YA novel, and the characters will still somehow emerge unscathed. I’m thinking of examples like 99 Days by Katie Cotugno and Paper Princess by Erin Watt where these teenage characters can act horribly and treat each other basically like crap, and yet, maybe because they’re “young”, they aren’t at all held responsible. That doesn’t happen in Since You’ve Been Gone and I was relieved about that. Emily makes some questionable decisions over the course of the story, and so does her best friend Sloane, and they are both made accountable and forced to deal with the repercussions of their actions and how they affect others and make them feel. These are flawed and human characters, but they are also not living in a magical world where everything is bright and shiny in the end. Case and point is the status of Emily’s relationships with Dawn and Collins by the end of the novel…there is much that the characters must own up to, and I think Since You’ve Been Gone presents an appropriate model to teenage audiences of what can happen when certain mistakes are made and other people are hurt in the process.

The characters in Since You’ve Been Gone were also wonderfully layered and interesting. There was not a single stereotype in the bunch, and I also felt like I got to know the characters so well, even in so short a time, by getting a glimpse into their family lives and the affect on each of these teenagers that having slightly distracted parents had on them. What was most refreshing for me, however, were the characterizations of Emily and Frank. In most, if not all, the YA novels I’ve read, the guy is the jock and the girl is the brain – this seems to just be an age old plotline that has been recycled far too many times over the years. What I loved about Since You’ve Been Gone is that Emily is the cross country runner with an athletic personality and stamina, and Frank, the main love interest, is an incredibly studious character who is student body president and spends his summers in academic enrichment programs rather than at football or hockey camp. Maybe this isn’t something that most other readers would find significant, but I was immediately impressed by Matson’s decision to take a less traditional and cliché approach to her YA romance, and I also appreciated that there was no instalove whatsoever, and Emily and Frank are great friends before they ever have any romantic feelings for each other. Add to that the laugh out loud moments when a character, like Beckett or Emily’s well-meaning but often bumbling dad, said something particularly hilarious, and you truly have a recipe for a standout YA novel.

There is simply A LOT to love about Since You’ve Been Gone, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and am so glad I picked it up, particularly just as the summer is ramping up. I would highly recommend it as the perfect beach read in every way!

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

My Favourite Passages:

“My hair was brown, pin-straight, and long, hitting halfway down my back, but anytime I’d talked about cutting it, Sloane had protested. ‘You have such princess hair,’ she’d said. ‘Anyone can have short hair.’”

“The day after my pizza ride-along, I’d stopped by Captain Pizza to say hi, making sure to glower at Bryan as I did so. I figured he deserved it – not only for what he’d done to Dawn, but also because he’d been wearing mirrored sunglasses indoors.”

“‘Do you not like the Beatles?’ Frank asked, sounding shocked, as we finished our cool-down and started walking back toward my house. ‘Do you also not like sunshine and laughter and puppies?’”

“She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles, was ever going to change that.”

Some Beatles Songs to Listen to While Reading Since You’ve Been Gone:

  • Here Comes The Sun
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • Can’t Buy Me Love
  • Eight Days A Week
  • Yesterday
  • She Loves You
  • Something
  • We Can Work It Out
  • All You Need Is Love

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

✦ Answered Dreams ✦ ~ A Court of Frost and Starlight

☆ Nothing much happened in this novel…and yet, it meant everything to me. ☆

I’m the type of reader who fantasizes about characters, long after I’ve turned the final page of a novel. I’ll find myself on the subway thinking about what a fictitious couple might be up to at that exact moment. I’ll be standing in my kitchen, making lunch or dinner, and I’ll find myself considering what a fictional character would be making for his or her own dinner. And now that I’m married, I’ve found myself speculating about the married/domestic lives of characters like Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire…and Feyre and Rhysand…beyond the scenes of the books they are a part of.

☆ I love imagining and envisioning the spaces in between a novel, the quiet moments that are omitted from or would follow it. ☆

And for that reason, A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas was my ideal sort of book. As I said, nothing very substantial happens in it…no plot twists or moments of heart-wrenching anxiety. Following the drama of A Court of Wings and Ruin, though, I don’t think we really needed anything too heart-pounding. Instead what we get is what I felt I needed most: the everyday, the routine. We see Feyre and Rhys, as well as the cast of the Night Court, going about their lives and picking up the pieces after the war. The novel, or novella, whatever you want to call it, is comprised of a bunch of little scenes of this everyday life, and I found it adorable and touching in equal measure. It gave me a glimpse into scenes I had tried to imagine myself: Feyre and Rhys busy at work (something my husband and I can really relate to, having started new, dream jobs ourselves recently), Mor and Cassian retreating to places of solitude to ease their anxieties, and Amren engaging in an unexpected romance. There was nothing earth-shattering about this story, sure, and yet somehow it felt significant, felt like catching up with a friend after a long time apart. And there are, of course, a few surprises, but even these were treated with subtlety. This book felt intimate and human, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I could go on with more examples of lovely moments in the story or provide some of my favourite quotes, but since the story is so short, I hesitate to do that. That would take the fun and wonder out of experiencing it as a reader…so let me just say that if you are a fan of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, this is a must read.

☆☆☆☆☆ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Can I See You Again? ~ #JNGReads ~ Highly Recommendable Chick Lit.

Another day, another chick lit. novel read by me! Oh, how consistent I am!

“‘Everything about him is true. He is kind. He is handsome. He is the truest person I’ve ever met. He’s the man I think of when I have a bad dream, a crummy day, when the lights go out and the entire house is dark. But I’ve hurt him.’”

Welcome to yet another review of a romance novel…it seems like all I’ve been reading lately is chick lit. (or YA books verging on chick lit. status), and I am very okay with that. Other than the Victorian novels that form my academic roots, chick lit. is my go-to reading genre, and I don’t see that as likely to change anytime soon. Even the YA and fantasy novels I choose to pick up all have some element of romance to them, and I’m starting to embrace and be less ashamed of this personal preference more and more as I engage with like-minded readers on Goodreads. Chick lit. can be awesome, deep, profound and super entertaining ~ I’m here to shout that from the rooftops!

Anywho, I digress…let’s get back on track for today, shall we?

I just finished the most wonderful story!

~ an actual quote from me today, upon finishing Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan

(*Yes, also a quote spoken by Belle in Beauty and the Beast…but we’re practically the same person anyway, so let’s roll with it!)

Let’s start with a few things that I know to be true about myself. 1) I don’t usually pick up books based on their covers. 2) When I do, I rarely expect them to be masterpieces because I’ve been burned before by a pretty cover (for example, here). 3) When a book has a gorgeous cover AND is amazingly written, gripping and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (as in the case of this example), I am one happy lady and it is very likely that I will become obsessed with said book.

I picked up Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan on an absolute whim a few weeks ago, solely because the cover jumped out at me in the bookstore. (Check out the Goodreads page for this book here to see said cover, which I unfortunately did not have time to snap a photo of myself.) Was I expecting Can I See You Again? to be sugary sweet and adorable? Yes ma’am. Was I expecting it to be unique, with a witty and engaging narrator/protagonist I loved within pages and a hilarious yet still feasible plot? No sir. I was NOT at all expecting to fall head over heels in love with the main character of the novel, Bree Caxton, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud while reading her narration. Sure, I knew I’d probably find some moments cute and endearing, as I do in most chick lit. novels I pick up (I’m relatively easy to please, except when I’m really not, and then it’s a disaster, as in this case!), but I didn’t think the story would get under my skin quite as much as it did. I was a fan of just about everything about this novel, I would consider it near perfection in terms of the chick lit. standards I’ve come to adopt over the years…and this vehement reaction of mine was what was very surprising.

I really struggle to write reviews of GREAT novels, to be honest. I find it easy to log in detail what I don’t like about a novel when I have a violent reaction to it…but when a novel is GOOD, I find myself just wanting to say, Go and pick it up for yourself! How do you put into words why you loved a novel or why you had such fun reading it? It’s more of a feeling than any one specific thing about the book sometimes, and that’s the case for my experience reading Can I See You Again? these past few days. Yes, the characters, mainly Bree, her love interest Nixon and her best friend Andrew, are creatively depicted and have very distinct voices. Yes, the banter between Bree and Nixon is on fire, and I found myself smiling from ear to ear reading about how Nixon was flirting with Bree (often without her even realizing it, despite the fact that she’s a love guru by trade). Yes, the plot was filled with romantic moments like an unexpected first kiss and enough hijinks to make Sophie Kinsella proud. But, none of those things would necessary make me this excited about a book; even if all these elements exist and are executed well, the novel still has to have that little something special, that extra zing about it (like THIS INCREDIBLE BOOK has in spades!) to make it really stand out among the zillions and bazillions of chick lit. novels I’ve read in my lifetime. And, somehow, Can I See You Again? had this. I can’t put it into words, but what I will say is that I loved every moment of reading this book, found it nearly impossible to put down, and really never wanted it to end. Considering I had never even heard of Allison Morgan before seeing the novel in Chapters, I find this reaction pretty terrific (certainly one to shout about from the rooftops!), and I am definitely intending to pick up her other novel, The Someday Jar, soon.

I also should say that the beautiful cover of Can I See You Again? clearly did its job! As I said, I had never heard of Allison Morgan until I SAW this book in Chapters with my own two eyes, and it was the design of the cover that made me pick it up, turn it over, read the synopsis, and then buy it. It wasn’t the title or Morgan’s name attached to it…it was 100% the cover. So, kudos to the cover designers because they made me into an Allison Morgan fan and I’m super grateful for that!

I’ll be passing Can I See You Again? on to my mom ASAP…which means it is a really darn good chick lit. novel because her standards are high, and if a book doesn’t capture her attention within the first chapter, she’s bound to put it down. This one, though, I think she’ll struggle to put down at all!

“‘I’ve learned what it’s like to kiss a man with every bit of my body and mind. To be stilled by his touched, silenced by his breath on my skin, honored by his smile. I’ve learned what it’s like to feel. I’ve learned what it’s like to lose him.’”

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

By Your Side ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Have you ever felt trapped?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘There’s nothing wrong with that.’”

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart