What’s In A Name? 🌹

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you’re all having a fabulous start to the week!

I wanted to come on here to share an exciting baby-related update. I’ve been alluding to the fact in the last few baby posts that my husband and I have had a name for our baby boy picked out for quite some time. The truth is, we came up with this name (as well as one for a baby girl, if it turned out that we were having a girl instead) a few years ago and have had it in our minds ever since as the name we would use for our baby boy. It is a name that seems very fitting to us because it combines both of our interests and is unique, uncommon and interesting in the same way that my name and my husband’s name are. We wanted to choose a name that probably wouldn’t be shared by any of our son’s classmates (fingers crossed!), but we also wanted something timeless that would transition well into his adult life.

So, without further ado, the name we have chosen for our baby boy is…

DORIAN LEE

(You may have already guessed this from the photo at the start of this post, haha!)

Now, why would we be drawn to those two particular names? you may ask. Well, as you all most likely know by this point, I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, so I knew that I wanted my son’s first or middle name to be something inspired by that era. When my husband and I were brainstorming names, I brought up names like Edward (obviously!), and even last names like Thornton or Rochester that I thought we could use as first names if we wanted. But nothing really spoke to us or seemed right, until my husband was glancing at my bookshelves and his eyes alighted onThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. He immediately felt drawn to the name “Dorian”, and while we certainly hope our son won’t be anything at all like Wilde’s devious and pretty evil character, we instantly fell in love with the name and started referring to our (then hypothetical) future son by it. As for the middle name “Lee”, we actually intended to use this middle name for either a boy or a girl because we thought it could fit in both cases. We came up with this middle name well before we landed on “Dorian” and it is inspired by the fact that my husband practices martial arts and has a particular affinity to the legend Bruce Lee. We weren’t overly fond of the name “Bruce” but we wanted to pay homage to this influence in my husband’s life somehow, and I was actually the one to suggest “Lee” as a nice, easy middle name. We feel it sounds really lovely with “Dorian” and we have been calling our baby boy by this name since we found out his gender a few months ago.

There you have it! One of the most important decisions you can make while having a baby came relatively easily to my husband and I, and we are so excited to meet our little Dorian Lee in just over two month’s time.

Do you have any children whose names were inspired by literature or other significant passions in your life? If you’re not a parent yet, have you chosen any baby names and what are they inspired by? I’d love to hear! 🙂

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Advertisements

A Snorer & A Scorcher ~ Two Reviews of Recent Reads

☼ Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald ☼

This novel really lost momentum for me around the 300-page mark. Prior to that, I was intrigued and interested enough by it, but at that point, my patience started to wane.

I initially would’ve compared this novel to ones like A Prayer for Owen Meany and Middlesex, which have always been among my favourites, but as I kept reading, I realized the main reason why I couldn’t enjoy Fall On Your Knees quite as much was because I didn’t like or feel connected to any of the characters. I don’t mean to say that you always have to like a character to like the book they are a part of, but in this particular case, I strongly dislikedall of the characters and so I found my desire to read about them faded pretty quickly. Whereas in classics like Owen Meany and Middlesex, I felt an immediate connection to Owen, Johnny Wheelwright and Cal Stephanides, in Fall On Your Knees I actually found myself hating almost everyone. James was despicable to me in so many ways, Kathleen was stuck-up and annoying, and Frances and Mercedes had almost no redeeming qualities. The one thing I did appreciate was Materia’s Lebanese heritage because, being half Lebanese myself, it was nice to be able to recognize the different foods she was cooking and some Arabic words here and there. But that wasn’t enough to make me interested in this family and I felt no sympathy for them whatsoever, even though I’m sure I was meant to feel some.

I also feel very similarly about this novel as I did after finishing Love In The Time of Cholera in that I think I would’ve appreciated it much more if I had read it when I was in university. There were undeniably a lot of profound themes and ideas at play in Fall On Your Knees, but I simply wasn’t in the mood to investigate and analyze all of them, and instead would’ve preferred a more classically entertaining plot. This has everything to do with the place I’m at right now in terms of my reading preferences, so I do feel that maybe if I had read this novel a few years ago, at the height of my studies, I might’ve been a lot more impressed by what it had to offer.

I wouldn’t say this was a terrible book by any means because it was very well written, but I grew more and more irritated with it as it went on, and today I woke up just wanting to be done with it. I think the best, most magical books will make a reader never want to stop reading them, and that unfortunately wasn’t something I experienced in this case, as disappointed as that makes me.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

☼ Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren ☼

Ah, Christina Lauren at it again, delivering another absolute scorcher! Entertaining, sexy and fun, Beautiful Stranger is the quintessential beach read and perfect for these fiery summer days!

I have to say, I’ve become rather obsessed with the Beautiful Bastard series this year, and I can’t say I’m mad about it. The series has been on my radar for some time, and I especially felt the urge to delve into it last year when I fell in love with the final novel in the collection, simply titled Beautiful. But, for some reason, it took me awhile to actually get to Beautiful Bastard and kick off a proper read of the series – I am sooo glad I did though because it has to be one of the most enjoyable romance series I’ve ever encountered and I am a big fan of Christina Lauren’s style of romance writing.

Beautiful Stranger did not disappoint as the second official book in the series (not including the novella Beautiful Bitch that falls chronologically before it and is also a lot of fun), and I was already a fan of Sara from her appearances in Beautiful Bastard. I’m all for the strong, powerful, driven heroines that Christina Lauren always seems to create, and Sara is no exception to this rule as the head of Finance at Ryan Media Group. She has a good head on her shoulders (even if I was frustrated with some of her philosophies – more on this below) and I could really relate to her as a character. I also quickly became obsessed with Max Stella, the swoon-worthy Brit who acts as this novel’s male lead. Although a bit of a player in the past, Max comes across as charming and endearing and kind from the very start of the novel…I never had any doubts about him or worries for Sara, and I just felt like he was trustworthy and warm and gooey on the inside from the first moment he was introduced. He seems like an all-around genuine character, which is really refreshing for the romance genre, and I was shipping him and Sara without hesitation from the moment they locked eyes on each other.

This leads me to my one main source of frustration with this novel: the main romantic obstacle. The plot of Beautiful Stranger centres around the fact that Sara has recently moved to New York after breaking up with a politician in Chicago who was cheating on her for the entirety of their 6-year relationship (this is something that is alluded to in Beautiful Bastard). Sara is, quite understandably, torn up after this experience and she finds it really hard to trust Max, choosing instead to ask him for a more casual relationship that involves a steamy encounter once a week and nothing more. While I can appreciate Sara’s reluctance to let someone into her heart, I also found myself rolling my eyes slightly at this. I myself am not a big believer in “the rebound”. I first met my husband only 3 or 4 weeks after he had broken up with his ex-girlfriend, and so many people asked me if I was worried about being a rebound. My husband had actually sworn off dating for awhile after ending things with his ex, but for whatever reason, after seeing and chatting with me, he decided to throw that resolution out the window and ask me for my phone number. So, I probably had ample reason to be wary and suspicious, but I just wasn’t. Instead, I decided to go with the flow, see where things took us, and not deny this immediate spark that was set off between us. Now, 5 and a half years later, we are very happily married and expecting our first child, so I cannot be more grateful that my husband decided to enter into a relationship so soon after his last one, and that I myself gave him that chance. I’m not saying that someone in Sara’s position should just rush out to start seriously dating a guy after what she’s endured, but I did find it odd that Sara was so reluctant to even have dinner with Max or communicate with him throughout the week. It all seemed a bit over-the-top to me, but of course, there always has to be some kind of obstacle in these sorts of romance novels, and it didn’t take Sara and Max too long to admit to their true feelings, so I wasn’t overly put off. I was more eager for them to just get over their hang-ups already, because I knew they eventually would anyway.

All in all, Beautiful Stranger was a very pleasurable read and I am so looking forward to continuing with this series as soon as I can get my hands on the next couple books!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Suffering from Severe Anxiety

Let’s talk…or at least try to…about what it means to have severe anxiety while pregnant.

I desperately want to talk about my struggles with severe anxiety here on this blog, but to be honest, I am afraid to. For the last week I have felt the urge to speak about how challenging the last 6 months have been for me, and although the words flow very easily when I am sitting with my journal open, they don’t at all when I’m attempting to write something meaningful for this public space. Let’s be honest…talking about anxiety does, unfortunately, make people uncomfortable, and I find myself mainly struggling to write openly and honestly about my experiences because I want to shield other people. For some reason, I am most worried about offending people or making them uneasy, which is actually absurd if you think about it because then I am the one left with the weight on my chest. But anxiety is something that, while a very personal and intimate experience, also sometimes involves other people or is caused by external triggers, and these can be harder to speak about out loud.

The fact is, I am scared to delve too deeply into why I have been so anxious during my pregnancy, and that is mainly because my anxiety and its severity have been exacerbated by feelings of intense guilt and shame. Shame about not being strong enough; shame about having no choice but to put myself and my baby first and make tough decisions because of it; guilt about even being pregnant at all because it might not be convenient or preferable for some of the people around me. And maybe speaking in such veiled terms about my feelings is an act of shame as well, but it feels hard to be honest about something I am only just beginning to work through and heal from.

Suffice it to say that, although some days are much happier and brighter and I have come a long way from where I was just 3 months ago, there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t feel at least a few moments of severe anxiety. At the height of my struggles 3 months ago, I was having around 7 panic attacks a day, and now, thankfully, I am down to 1 or 2 a week. But, the process to get there has been slow and arduous, and I know that if I slip up or something drastic happens, I could easily spiral downwards again. If I weren’t pregnant, I probably never would’ve taken the steps to work through my long-standing mental health issues, but honestly, I had no choice because I am not the only one at risk…my defenseless baby is also subjected to my panic attacks, and when my doctors blatantly told me that what I was going through was a huge risk to my unborn child, I had no other option but to react and take precautions immediately. After breaking down in public places with no warning multiple times over the span of a 3 week period, after being rushed by my family to the emergency room because I had back-to-back panic attacks with virtually no time to recover, after enduring some traumatizing and unexpected moments, what else could I do? I had to make changes, and fast, because I truly have never felt more vulnerable or scared for myself (and, consequently, my baby) in my life.

There are so many things I’ve been doing to try to get myself to a better place during this pregnancy, from seeing an expert psychiatrist regularly, to starting meditation practices, to studying the book Mind Over Mood vigilantly, to exercising on a daily basis, and luckily, it seems like a lot of it is working. I went from being unable to eat or sleep (particularly alarming and dangerous while pregnant) to being able to smile in photos, looking forward to being out with my husband, family and friends, and actually enjoying the adventure of pregnancy. But, as I said, this does not mean that my work is done, and I still wake up with feelings of guilt, a tight chest and racing heart almost every morning. There are still triggers in my dreams and in my mind that pop up when I let my guard down and in quiet moments, and I may be working through them for years to come. This fight against anxiety is a journey, a daily battle, but it is one I have no choice but to engage in, for myself and my growing family.

Maybe nothing I’ve said here will make sense to anyone but me…I don’t think that’s the point, though. I have let myself speak, I have given voice to the fact that I am not 100% okay, but I am hoping to get there. And, ultimately, I am pledging each day to be the strongest, best example to my soon-to-be-born son that, yes, anxiety is real, it is physical, it is debilitating at times, but it can be overcome.

From a day when my husband had me laughing!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Getting Physical

Let’s talk about how it really feels to be pregnant.

Full disclosure from the beginning: I am not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. To be honest, I never really thought I would be that type of person anyway, so I’m not surprised or disappointed in the least. Right up until I actually took that pregnancy test (well, actually, I took 4 of them to be sure) and saw that it was positive, I had this vague idea that pregnancy was…well…gross. This is probably more of a normal feeling for a 16 year old to have, so at 27 years old I may not have much of an excuse. I definitely also felt this way in high school though, and it seems that I simply never shook the feeling. I fully appreciate that a lot of women do not feel this way and actually find pregnancy to be a magical and wonderful experience – that is incredible for those women and I wish I could be more like them. But, for me, pregnancy is an experience that is a means to an amazing end, not necessarily something I’m loving.

I should probably explain before I get a bunch of negative comments and hate mail. Being pregnant, my body feels very alien to me. I am sure there are many women out there who feel this same way, and maybe it’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done to share these sentiments publically on a blog, but I do think there is not enough discussion about how challenging, scary and plainly uncomfortable it can be to be pregnant. There are many bloggers, YouTube vloggers and Instagrammers who are speaking honestly about this nowadays, which I think is great – I just wanted to add my own voice to this conversation and reassure any women who might stumble upon this post during a difficult pregnancy that not loving the 40-week journey isn’t a sin or a crime.

I want to be a mother very much. I wouldn’t be pregnant right now if I didn’t, I can assure you of that. When I was in high school, I envisioned myself with a child in the future; when I met my husband and started dating him, those fantasies became even more real; and when we got married and realized the time to start trying might be near, I could see our family life in my mind so clearly and it made me excited. I am even more excited now that our baby’s room is furnished, now that we know we are having a boy and can call him by name. Having said all that, just because I am excited to be a mother does not mean I relish the idea of carrying another human inside of me. Just because I want to hold my baby in my arms, does not mean that I am overjoyed by the idea of him residing in my stomach at this very moment.

A lot of my feelings stem from the fact that being pregnant is a huge responsibility. This is something that a man cannot ever fully understand (although I am lucky enough to have a husband who is sympathetic to it). Being pregnant, not only does my body feel alien to me in so many ways, it also feels like it is not entirely my own. That’s because it’s not – although my body does still belong to me, for 40 weeks it also belongs to someone else, someone helpless who must be protected and nurtured at all costs. I don’t know many people for whom that would not be a daunting prospect. For example, I have had to change my life in numerous ways to accommodate for the fact that everything my body experiences is being felt by another human as well. I have mentioned previously my struggles with severe anxiety throughout my pregnancy, beginning early in my first trimester, and that is something I’d like to write a specific post about very soon. But apart from that, I have had to make subtle every day changes to make sure my body is the perfect (albeit temporary) home for my baby. I have had to stop running at the gym because the pounding motion was proving to be too much for my now delicate back. Honestly, that’s been a welcome change because it’s been nice to have a break from that particular type of exercise and try some new ones instead. It is an adjustment though, and as I lower my upper and lower body weights each week that I become more pregnant, my husband can still push to his usual limits. I have also had to change some of the things I eat, and the other day when I went to a local bagel shop to grab a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese, it wasn’t until after I had scarfed it down that I had a moment of panic wondering if the cream cheese was pasteurized. I did my due diligence and called the shop to confirm, but I was reminded of just how careful I have to be about every item I put in my mouth. Then, there was the time I fell going up the stairs at the subway station by my house (I blame my stupid, bulky Converse!). I was pretty sure I hadn’t hit my stomach because I caught myself, but I found my mind racing and second-guessing, so I rushed to the hospital I’ll be delivering at to be checked out. In all these ways, and so many more, it feels not only like I am sharing my body but also like I am having to sacrifice it. Yes, for something miraculous and beautiful and one I would readily make, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

So, my body isn’t fully mine at the moment because I am sharing it with my unborn baby. That’s a hard adjustment, certainly, but one that is necessary and that I could wrap my mind around (even if it still does take me by surprise every time I feel him moving inside me). What’s a bit harder to swallow is the fact that I also feel like my body and my pregnancy experience are being shared with everyone else around me. I don’t mean my husband and my family members and friends, who are naturally going to be excited and involved – I mean the strangers who stare, the distant family friends who want to touch my belly, the random people who think it is okay to say that I “look great” even though they have no idea what I looked like before being pregnant and really shouldn’t be commenting on my appearance at all. When I was in my first trimester, I desperately wanted to start showing because I wanted the people around me to know what I was going through; now, in hindsight, I kind of wish I could keep my bump secret, between only myself and certain people I choose. Pregnancy is a very public experience, but at the same time, it is also extremely intimate and personal. There’s this strange dichotomy in that everyone can see your pregnancy clear as day and can profess an opinion about it (whether negative or excited), but very few people actually have a right to be directly involved in it. Sometimes, more often than not, the stares make me uncomfortable and I am made more anxious by people commenting on my pregnancy than I would be if they just stayed silent. Yes, I am having a baby, with my husband, and while that might be exciting to a whole bunch of other people, it’s actually none of their business in the slightest. Maybe it makes me heartless to speak this way, but I already think about being pregnant pretty much every second of the day, so the last thing I need is some random person wanting to engage in conversation about something my mind is already going over and over constantly.

I should also mention that I am definitely having an off day as I write this. I’m not at my best today, and I’m trying not to be hard on myself for it because my body and mind are going through a lot right now. The plain fact is that every single day of being pregnant is not a happy or a beautiful one – that doesn’t mean that a lot of them aren’t so special, but a lot of them also aren’t and I think that is okay and something that really needs to be acknowledged. At the end of the day, I am very eager to have my baby boy beside me, and the fact that that requires having him within me right now is par for the course. Will I be relieved beyond words when he is out here where I can see him, though? Most definitely!

From a day I felt both beautiful and pregnant.

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

A Room Fit for a Prince

Hi everyone, and happy almost-Friday!

I wanted to come on here today to share a quick post about some recent home developments. Although I am only nearly 27 weeks pregnant, my husband and I have gotten a bit overly excited about our baby boy’s arrival and have already decorated his entire nursery. It took us about one full weekend to do, and it isn’t a huge room at all, but we were just so excited about getting the pieces and décor together that we simply couldn’t wait. I wanted to share some photos with all of you because, of course, there is a bit of a literary theme to the decoration style. I also do have a sneaky clue to the name we have chosen for our baby boy (which I will write a proper post announcing soon).

First off, we painted this design on the wall above our baby’s crib. If you’ve read my post about the first tattoo I got, you’ll probably recognize this crown. My husband and I have a matching tattoo of half of a king’s crown beside half of a queen’s crown, and the image is also painted on the wall of our bedroom in rose gold. We knew when we got the tattoo that we wanted to add a smaller crown beneath it (we even left room for it, as we’ve collected other tattoos since) to represent our baby, the king’s crown if we were to have a boy and the queen’s if we were to have a girl. Since we now know we’re having a boy, we decided to paint the design for our next tattoo onto his wall, and we have decided to stick mainly with black and white décor because my husband studied in his psychology degree that babies can only see in black and white when they are first born and find high contrast of this kind very visually stimulating. The empty frame that surrounds the crown is an allusion to the source for our baby boy’s first name, and the designs around it are there to provide more contrast to engage him when he’s lying in his crib.

This is a photo of the crib and bedding we chose, again in our chosen colours of black and white. My husband and I are not really huge fans of blue generally and we wanted to steer clear of bedroom décor that had sports or animals or anything stereotypically boyish on it, so we thought this more neutral bedding was perfect. You’ll also see in this photo the room in its entirety, with a clothes rack for my maternity clothes and for the baby’s more visually appealing clothes that we’d like to display. We’ve also chosen to leave one of my bookshelves in the baby’s room because we have both read how important it is for infants to be surrounded by books, even if they are adult books, because it encourages them to become interested in reading in the future.

This final picture is a closer look at the change table we chose, which matches the crib. It also shows some of the artwork we have decided to leave in the room. Although we know Bruce Springsteen, The Phantom of the Opera and Jane Eyre might not be totally appealing to our infant son, we did feel it was important for him to be somewhat surrounded by things that are interesting and significant to us, so that our influence is always present and so that he can, once again, become curious about the passions we’re eager to share with him from a young age.

As you can see, we got a bit carried away, but seeing all of these items every time we pass the room has made us ten times more excited for our baby’s arrival, since it is finally starting to feel real!

What do you think of his room? As promised, here’s one final picture with a little sneak peek at one of the names we’ve chosen for him.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Once Upon A River ~ A New Victorian-esque Favourite ~ #JNGReads

Once Upon a River is an absolutely fabulous read, and Diane Setterfield is an author that every fan of Victorian literature must get acquainted with.

I’ve enjoyed Setterfield’s writing since I first encountered her novel The Thirteenth Tale and was immediately sucked in by her Dickensian style. I would have to say, right off the bat, that Once Upon A River is closer in feel to Setterfield’s second novel, Bellman & Black, which I adored but which I know some readers found too slow and not plot-driven enough. Having said that, I think the beauty of Setterfield’s novels are that they are usually a slow build and greater emphasis is placed on creating an atmosphere and a feeling of warmth and curiosity in the reader than delivering a cheap, quick thrill. If you’re looking for a suspenseful, edge of your seat drama, then Setterfield’s catalogue might not be for you…but if you’re looking for a subtle page-turner full of magic and intrigue, then it certainly is!

I was a bit nervous going into Once Upon A River because I’ve found myself getting distracted from reading very easily in the last few months and I just wasn’t sure if something this meandering would be able to hold my attention. But (and full credit to Setterfield’s ability to weave a tale here), I was drawn in from the very first chapter and actually found myself reading with a flashlight in bed at 2:00am one night, much to my husband’s dismay. Again, this isn’t a traditional page-turner in the sense that a mystery or crime fiction novel would be, but Setterfield evokes this sense of wonder and astonishment in the reader that makes it impossible not to want to go along for the ride down the river Thames with her. There are a lot of magical and fantastical elements to this tale as well which made it feel very reminiscent of a fairytale, but at the same time, nothing about the plot was overly far-fetched or unbelievable, and I found myself buying into every explanation Setterfield put forth without hesitation. Even her most skeptical characters also come around to believing in some magic by the end of the novel, and it was nice to see that acknowledgement that sometimes aspects of life are beyond reasonable explanation and that is okay.

This novel also felt very similar to one of my absolute favourite novels of all time, Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Reading Once Upon A River actually made me want to pick up all nearly 1,000 pages of Our Mutual Friend for the THIRD time, but then I thought maybe I should finally crack open the spine of Bleak Houseinstead. In any case, Once Upon A River uses a style that reminded me of Our Mutual Friend to introduce characters slowly and focus on them in great detail but only at times and in ways that were significant to the overall story. The cast of characters in Once Upon A River, although not quite as large as that in Our Mutual Friend, is vast, and it is very fulfilling to see how each character, even those most minor ones, ends up being important by the conclusion in some of the most unexpected ways. Setterfield is also very accomplished at, like Dickens, dropping small hints about a character’s beliefs or history throughout the novel so that the reader is able to string together some ideas about the role they will eventually play in the greater story. And, even the villainous characters like Robin Armstrong and Vincent Nash become somehow pitiable because they are so complexly articulated. I also appreciated that almost every character ends up with their own “Happily Ever After” because what Victorian trope is more wonderful than that, and I am particularly pleased with how things concluded for Rita and Daunt.

One final theme that I will mention is that of childbearing and child rearing, which is a huge focus in Once Upon A River. Naturally, given the fact that I am currently entering my third trimester and will be having my first baby in a few months, I found it pretty coincidental that so much of the story of Once Upon a River surrounds motherhood and what it means to carry a child, give birth to it and raise it. Obviously standards were very different in the Victorian era, so I’m sure I’ll have an easier time in labour than a lot of the female characters, but to hear them occasionally discussing what it feels like to be pregnant and how wonderful but also frightening that can be really resonated with me. There was also so much love and appreciation for children in the novel, and that was especially nice for me to read about because it got me very excited for the road ahead of me. I think any parents or soon-to-be parents would take a lot from the novel for this reason.

Once Upon A River is a must-read in my opinion, although I would probably recommend starting with Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, which is a bit more traditionally entertaining and will give you a sense of her writing style before delving into something a bit more leisurely and Dickens-inspired.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Busy Day of Reading and Watching ~ New Recommendations!

I had a lovely day today, finishing up a novel I started just a few days ago, as well as getting through two TV shows I began earlier in the week. I couldn’t help but jot down my thoughts about them, so have a read if you’re looking for some new TV show recommendations in particular.

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins

This song relates perfectly to this YA novel…

Kissing Strangers by DNCE
“Ooh
Can’t quit, take sips
Wanna taste you
Ooh
Make wish, use lips
Kissing strangers (huhhh)
Na na na na na na na na
Till I find someone I love
Na na na na na na na na
Kissing strangers (huhhh)
Na na na na na na na na
Till I find someone I trust
Na na na na na na na na
Kissing strangers (huhhh)”

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzZWXrlDj-A

Also, it’s an extremely catchy and fun song, so I recommend giving it a listen if you’re unfamiliar with it and are planning to read this book.

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins was a cute book, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, in my opinion. I liked Zae well enough as a narrator (even if I did not understand her name in the slightest!), and her relationship with her three best friends was pretty endearing, but I think the novel took wayyy too long to get going and a lot of the light-heartedness was muddled by serious family drama that seemed a touch out of place at times. While this could’ve been the perfect beach/summer read, the fact that Higgins attempted to tackle big topics like infidelity and divorce while still simultaneously offering easy fun made it kind of hard to get a grip on the story. I also felt that Zae’s perspective that she and her friends should “use” guys for the entirety of Spring Break was quite flawed, and it was then hard for me to wrap my mind around Zae’s decisions about college and studying abroad only pages later. I think the novel was trying to do a bit too much in too short a time, and considering that the kiss collecting competition didn’t even get going until about a third into it and is then kind of abruptly dropped toward the end and not really concluded or addressed again, I didn’t feel like there was enough time to explore any one plot direction thoroughly enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I was entertained by this novel, but again, it somehow lacked something for me that I just can’t put my finger on. I would recommend this as a quick read if you’re spending the day by the water with friends or taking a plane or train journey somewhere, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect too much from it.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

***********

Doctor Thorne

God bless a wholesome Victorian story where all ends in happiness!

I decided to sit down and watch Doctor Thorne over the last few days after having it recommended to me by a friend a few years ago. Let’s be honest, the premise is exactly everything I always love and I was itching to get into a Victorian story again. This adaptation of one of Anthony Trollope’s 19th century novels was written by Julian Fellowes, who is apparently the writer of Downton Abbey which I have never watched but have been told by 2.5 million people that I NEED to see because I would ADORE it. I don’t know that the writing of Doctor Thorne was exceptional because I have to assume that most of it came straight out of Trollope’s novel, but I’m a fan of Victorian dialogue in general and there were more than a few “Hell yeah!” moments (mostly when Doctor Thorne himself was fighting with someone) so I have to assume that Downton Abbey is also full of great dialogue.

All in all, I would say that Doctor Thorne was a bit more boring than I would have liked, and it’s not at all on the same level as miniseries adaptations like Jane Eyre and North and South. However, it was still quite entertaining with characters I found to be more interesting and engaging than expected (I’m particularly thinking of the older ladies who are extremely and delightfully catty!) and I would describe it as a pleasure to watch. It also did make me violently emotional at times, specifically when I wanted to slap Lady Arabella and Lady de Courcy in the face for how they were treating Mary Thorne and Frank, and when I found myself vehemently wishing that someone would just kill Sir Louis already because he was the biggest douchebag I have ever encountered in a Victorian story! I even had some laugh-out-loud moments, as when Doctor Thorne stands up to the aristocrats around him and isn’t afraid to deliver some blunt and hard truths, even to people he should, from a societal perspective, be careful around. (Sidenote: Tom Hollander was excellent in this, and although it is still hard for me not to envision him as Mr. Collins after his exceptional portrayal of that character in Pride & Prejudice, I was definitely endeared to him here.) Stefanie Martini was a perfect female lead as Mary Thorne and she actually reminded me in a lot of ways of Ruth Wilson in Jane Eyre, who I’m sure we can all agree is an absolute QUEEN! I think Martini should be in a ton more period dramas, if she hasn’t been already.

To sum all this up, if you like period dramas, Doctor Thorne is certainly worth a watch – I suggest making yourself a hot cuppa and getting to it on a rainy day in!

***********

Fleabag

Okay, Doctor Thorne was always going to be overshadowed by this FREAKING BRILLIANT (!!!) show. I loved absolutely EVERYTHING about Fleabag, starting from episode one, and although I don’t know very much about Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I am convinced that my destiny is for her to adopt me and teach me the art of being truly witty, sarcastic, and badass! She is an utter powerhouse and I bow down to her! #queenstatus

Fleabag is probably one of the best shows I’ve watched recently. The truth is, I don’t watch much television generally because if a show doesn’t engage me within one or two episodes, I will throw in the towel without hesitation. So, if I’m watching a show and flying through it in its entirety in less than a week, you know it has to be good. Well, suffice it to say that Fleabag is hilarious, VERY entertaining, poignant, profound, heart wrenching, over-the-top, endearing, and easily one of the best shows of our time. The topics it tackles, from infidelity to cancer to suicide (to name only a few), are all completely on point and thoroughly contemporary, and every plotline is cleverly written, in an engaging and entertaining style.

The acting on this show is also FREAKING INCREDIBLE!!! Seriously, this show has some next level performances, not only from Waller-Bridge herself whose interaction with the audience is both moving and comical, but also from standouts like Olivia Colman who gives an utter knockout performance. Olivia Colman may well be one of the most talented actresses because she has such range (Don’t get me ranting on how epic she is in Broadchurch!), and I haven’t seen The Favourite but I’m convinced she deserved that Oscar because the woman can do no wrong and I never realized what incredible comedic timing she has. Season 1 of Fleabag is good, but season 2 is absolutely phenomenal, and Andrew Scott is a perfect addition as Hot Priest. His chemistry with Fleabag literally gave me chills because he comes across as oh so charming – literal proof that he is an amazing actor because he was creepy as hell as Moriarty in Sherlock, but there is none of that leftover in this character.

My personal favourite character, though, is Claire. She reminds me a bit of myself in some ways (My husband agrees with this – should I be worried?), but what mainly made her appealing to me as a character is that she is so complex and complicated. Her emotions are articulated with such subtle nuance, and it broke my heart at times and made me burst out laughing at others. Her chemistry with her sister Fleabag is probably the best thing about the show…and that is saying A LOT!

Fleabag is an ABSOLUTE MUST WATCH!!! Honestly, if you haven’t watched it already, what the **** have you been doing?! It’s totally bingeable and will have you rethinking so many things about life, love and family. 1000/10!!!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Two Quick Reviews on a Sunny Sunday ~ #JNGReads

Happy Sunday everyone!

I just wanted to plop two short reviews on here today, to wrap up my reading from this week. I also managed to finish P.S. I Still love You by Jenny Han this week, and you can read my longer review of it here, if you’re interested.

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

I really enjoyed The Rome Affair, but I do have to admit that it isn’t my favourite Karen Swan novel that I’ve read recently. Although the plot was intricate, suspenseful and engaging, for some reason I just didn’t get as deeply invested in it as I did with novels like The Summer Without You and The Paris Secret. I also didn’t feel myself becoming as connected to the main character, Cesca, as I did with Cassie in Christmas at Tiffany’s (probably my favourite Karen Swan book I’ve read so far). If I had to compare this book to the others in Swan’s catalogue, I’d say it’s on par with The Greek Escape in that it was full of surprises, but not an absolute standout for me.

The Rome Affair also felt very similar, in my opinion, to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s acclaimed novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Indeed, the premises of the two novels are almost identical, and the only real difference for me was that I liked Elena of The Rome Affair far less than I liked Evelyn Hugo. Elena comes across as infuriatingly guarded and deceitful and it is extremely difficult to warm up to her, and I think that is one of the factors that made me feel less connected to the book overall. That being said, I did still enjoy The Rome Affair immensely because Karen Swan’s quintessential writing style is still present and it always manages to whisk me away immediately.

I would definitely recommend The Rome Affair as a great travel read, something perfect to pack in a carry-on or beach bag. However, if you’re looking to get a true taste for how marvelous and magical Karen Swan’s writing is, I’d recommend starting with something like Christmas at Tiffany’s instead.

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Love Letters of Great Men and Women edited by Ursula Doyle

This collection was, unfortunately, very disappointing to me. I picked it up randomly a few years ago and never got around to reading it, and I can’t say that I was really anxious to pick it up, but I did think it would be a lot more compelling and romantic than it was. My main issue with the collection is that I did not consider most of the letters to actually be love letters – on the contrary, most of them were very generic, and although I would’ve expected more from some of the great poets and writers included in the just over 300 pages, I found that the majority of the letters failed to touch me in any way whatsoever.

Oddly enough, I found myself most interested in the biographies and short histories of each letter writer more than the actual letters themselves. However, I found that in most cases, the histories barely related whatsoever to the actual letters, and one seemingly minor person that was mentioned in the vast history of a writer’s life could end up being the recipient of the chosen letter without me having any idea why. I did find that I learned quite a bit from the biographies, though, so they were worth reading in that sense.

One thing that also surprised me is that I found myself moved by letters written by people I had never even heard of, more so than by letters written by figures I was familiar with. For example, I bookmarked letters written by Daniel Webster and Pierre Currie on the men’s side, and Mary Hutchinson, Claire Clairmont, Clara Wieck and Rosa Luxemburg on the women’s side without having ever heard of them prior to picking up this collection. For some reason, their letters had more of an impact on me than any others, and as you can probably surmise from this list, I found the letters written by the women included in the book to be much more emotional and interesting than those written by the men.

I will say that I was very entertained by reading the letters by Maria Branwell (mother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë), as well as Queen Victoria. Maria’s letters sounded almost like they could’ve come from the pages of Jane Eyre (which I guess makes a lot of sense, in that her writing style is very similar to Charlotte’s), and Queen Victoria’s letter of grief after Prince Albert’s death was one of the most memorable of the entire collection and one I was particularly interested in. (Sidenote: I did find myself wondering, though, why none of Charlotte Brontë’s letters to her French professor Monsieur Héger were included in this collection, since her love for him was quite well-documented and historically significant.)

All in all, I don’t know if I can recommend this collection because it just didn’t really satisfy me in any way. I feel that I could’ve found many of the historical details myself through a quick Google search, and the letters just weren’t interesting or profound enough to make picking up this specific collection seem all that worthwhile, sadly.

❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

P.S. I Still Love You ~ #JNGReads

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

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

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

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

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

❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

2.5 Million Delayed Reviews ~ #JNGReads

 

Hi Everyone!

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

Roomies by Christina Lauren

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Perfect Timing by Laura Spinella

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Summer Without You by Karen Swan

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

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

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

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

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan

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

❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

Thanks for reading, as always! ❤

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart