Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

redwhiteRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I couldn’t wait to read this book and was over the moon to have my wish granted on Netgalley to access an advanced e-proof. I’m a sucker for fiction that involves royalty and when you combine royalty with an “enemy to lovers” story line I just couldn’t wait to dive in.

Red, White and Royal Blue has mistakenly been described as a Young Adult book, but it is actually a New Adult book. New Adult differs from Young Adult in that the focus is on characters who are of legal age and newly navigating adult life, for example, going to college and finding their feet in the workplace.

The New Adult category has a bit of a bad reputation as a category which just allows authors to dramatically sex up a YA book but this is certainly not true of Red, White and Royal Blue.
The LGBT love story of Red, White and Royal Blue was admittedly the main draw for me initially, but the plot of the book has so much more depth to it than that. It has a strong political message, really explores what it’s like to navigate first love and coming out and of course, it’s all set amongst the very glamourous and fascinating background of the White house and the British Royal Family.

Alex and Henry are the most wonderful characters and I was really rooting for them. McQuiston’s writing is so warm and detailed that it was impossible not to get drawn into their budding romance and then relationship. Alex’s cheekiness played off really well against Henry’s staid royal façade but you could really imagine the twinkle in Henry’s eye when he relaxed around Alex and started playing back.

The supporting characters in the gang were equally as brilliant and lovable. June and Nora were fantastic strong female characters and the friendship between them all keep me interested in the plot even when it wasn’t revolving around Alex and Henry’s relationship.

The whole message of the book is one of hope and the sub-plot of the election honestly had me gripped. I came for the romance and stayed for the politics, which I never thought I’d say! If only the real world followed the plot of this book we’d all be in a much better situation…

Red, White and Royal Blue is a fairly long book at 432 pages, but I sped through every page and felt a bit bereft once I was finished. I tend to mainly read a lot of YA because I find the plots tighter than adult books, but I really enjoyed the New Adult mix of the maturity of the characters in this book whilst also having a plot which sped along and was easy to read. I really hope we get to revisit Alex and Henry and the rest of the gang in the future. Even if we don’t get any new books I can see myself rereading Red, White and Royal Blue multiple times.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary


cover150822-mediumThe Flatshare
by Beth O’Leary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tiffy Moore and Leon Twomey each have a problem and need a quick fix.

Tiffy’s been dumped by her cheating boyfriend and urgently needs a new flat. But earning minimum wage at a quirky publishing house means that her choices are limited in London.

Leon, a palliative care nurse, is more concerned with other people’s welfare than his own. Along with working night shifts looking after the terminally ill, his sole focus is on raising money to fight his brother’s unfair imprisonment.

Leon has a flat that he only uses 9 to 5. Tiffy works 9 to 5 and needs a place to sleep. The solution to their problems? To share a bed of course…

As Leon and Tiffy’s unusual arrangement becomes a reality, they start to connect through Post-It notes left for each other around the flat.

Can true love blossom even in the unlikeliest of situations?
Can true love blossom even if you never see one another?
Or does true love blossom when you are least expecting it?

 

When I read the blurb for The Flatshare I was immediately intrigued- two people sharing a flat, and a bed, who communicate entirely through post-it notes and have never met. It felt like it might be a bit reminiscent of “You’ve Got Mail” (which is my favourite film!) so I was really eager to read it.

The Flatshare ended up being one of the best reads of the year for me. It was so easy to pick up and be instantly immersed in the story. It’s a gorgeously uplifting romantic comedy from beginning to end. The main characters are immediately likable and they bring the story to life. There’s enough darkness and reality to the plot to make it believable, but enough cuteness, coincidence and wonderfully happy endings to make reading it a fantastic escape.

Tiffy and Leon’s romance built in a really realistic way, this wasn’t an instant love situation which all too often happens in romance books. I loved the notes they sent to each other, how they slowly became friends by leaving meals and baking out for each other, the reluctance on Leon’s part to meet Tiffy and Tiffy’s unstoppable personality proving irresistible to him.

The Flatshare is the best romantic comedy I’ve read in years. I can’t believe it’s a debut for Beth O’Leary. Her writing is warm and witty, with a fantastically well shaped plot. The Flatshare will leave you with a warm, cosy feeling in your heart long after you’ve finished reading.

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What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Essentially this book is best described as a modern day gay Sleepless in Seattle and it was an absolute joy to read from beginning to end. Throw in tons of references to Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and fantasy novels and I was in heaven.

If you know me you know how partial I am to a love story set in New York and I was heavily invested in Arthur and Ben’s relationship from the beginning of their meet cute right to the end of the book. Arthur was like an adorable puppy dog and I honestly LOVE him, whereas Ben was a little more guarded and standoffish. I like both of them but at times I was annoyed at Ben for hurting my poor baby Arthur. I really enjoyed the fact that they had to work at their relationship but they were prepared to do so.

In addition to Ben and Arthur, their friends were also wonderful to read. Dylan is my second favourite character (after Arthur), I loved his friendship with Ben, his slightly crazy approach to his own relationships and his general outlook on the world.

I’m so sad I’ve finished reading this book, I really wasn’t ready to leave their little gang. I foresee a lot of rereads in my future.

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Eve of Man by Giovanna Fletcher

Eve of Man by Giovanna Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Individually I love both Tom and Giovanna’s writing. Giovanna’s warm, cozy romances always go straight to the top of my TBR list and as the mother of an 18 month old troublemaker I loved her non-fiction parenting book too. Tom meanwhile has until now stuck to children’s picture books and middle grade fiction and whilst I have enjoyed them, I’ll admit that I was interested to see how his writing style, which seemed so suited to younger audiences, would adapt to fit this new audience for him.

Eve of Man is set in a world where no girls have been born for 50 years. Then, Eve is born and she is protected and revered as the saviour of mankind. Kept in a tower, away from the rest of the world Eve’s whole life is mapped out for her but all Eve wants is freedom and the chance to make her own decisions about her future.

The plot appealed to me immediately. I love a post-apocalyptic dystopian story and although it’s a genre that became quite saturated a few years ago, I haven’t read any in a good few years so I was ready to get stuck in.

The story is told through the point of view of the two main characters Eve and Bram, with each author taking resposibility for writing one of the characters. I love the idea of this collaberative way of developing a story and I think it was really effective in making both Eve and Bram such well developed characters. Obviously both Tom and Gi had an overview of the story as a whole but as you read the book you can tell that they trusted their instincts and wrote each chapter as they felt their character would react and that meant I felt really personally invested in them as people.

A main part of the story centres around Eve being presented with suitors for her to select one with whom she would begin to repopulate the human race. The scenes that centre around Eve’s preparation for this are really uncomfortable but also so powerful. Internal examinations and frank discussions about what is expected of “the saviour of mankind” would of course be part and parcel of Eve’s life but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them featured in a book in this way.

There were lots of little touches in the book that weren’t particularly part of the main plot but which really added to the atmosphere of the story. One particular aspect I liked was the inclusion of a little pod that they travel the Thames in. Not until it docked in a “big wheel” did I realise it was a pod from the London Eye! I thought this was an ingenius little touch.

I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait for the next installment in the trilogy.

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From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes in life you just need to let yourself read a fluffy, happy, sunshiney contemporary book and last year my favourite contemporary read was “When Dimple met Rishi”. I loved it so much as soon as “From Twinkle, with Love” was announced I pre-ordered it straight away. I still couldn’t resist requesting it on Netgalley as well and I definitely did a happy dance when I got the notification that I was approved.

“From Twinkle, with Love” follows Twinkle Mehra, an aspiring filmmaker with a huge amount of ambition and talent and a massive crush on swim-superstar Neil Roy, but when she is approached by Neil’s twin brother Sahil to direct a film for the upcoming Summer festival, Twinkle starts to fall for the other Roy brother.

I loved how cute this book was. The characters all seemed genuinely high school age, they weren’t trying to be older than they are and the things they were concerned with were all refreshingly normal.

Twinkle’s family dynamic was also a strong factor to the book, helping to explain the attitude problem she has at times. Whilst her relationship with her parents was complicated, the constant unwavering love from Dadi was beautiful and she stole the scene whenever she appeared.

The romance between Twinkle and Sahil was heart meltingly adorable and I read most of the book desperate for Twinkle to come to her senses and drop her fixation with boring athlete Neil and fall head over heels for nerdy, film obssessed, devoted Sahil instead.

The cultural identity of this book is so strong, as it was for “Dimple”, and whilst it’s not Sandhya Menon’s job to teach us about Indian culture, I enjoy being able to read a book in which the culture is so integral to the story because you do end up learning a lot. More importantly, it’s so vital and wonderful that many young people will see themselves represented in this book where previously they haven’t been.

“From Twinkle, with Love” is a must read book for the summer if you love fun, flirty contemporary reads.

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History is all you left me by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

History is all you left me is an intense read. Beautifully written and completely absorbing, for just shy of 300 pages you are sucked into the grief of Griffin and the other characters and it is a painful but profoundly moving experience.

The grief is so visceral I actually found it hard to keep reading in places, as if I really were intruding on a deeply personal experience.

In spite of how much I feel this book is a very powerful and well written novel, I did have a big problem when reading it- I just can’t stand Griffin. Mental health problems and grief aside, I just think he’s a poor excuse for a person. He’s so self centred, egotistical and manipulative that I struggled with parts of the book which required you to be on his side. I was almost never on his side. Theo and Jackson? Yes, Wade? Yes. Griffin? Hell no. I have no time for people who have to make themselves the centre of every situation and Griffin was the worst example of this I’ve ever read.

I loved reading the “history” sections and adored Theo as a character which ended breaking my heart over and over again as I fell in love with him and then remembered his fate. The gentle unravelling of their history beautifully mirrored the stages of grief- at times it was confusing, then as you learn more its sad and then you feel anger. I really felt like I’d been emotionally through the wringer when I finished this book and any piece of writing that is so powerful it has that effect on you has to at least be given four stars. Unfortunately, my intense dislike of Griffin meant I couldn’t bring myself to award five stars. He just annoyed me so much and Theo, Jackson and Wade deserved so much better.

This review first appeared on Goodreads on 9th December 2017

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book as an already die-hard fan of Sarah J Maas, having binge read the ACOTAR series earlier this year.

Personally, TOG has not overtaken my love for ACOTAR (okay, Rhysand) but all the same I can already tell that I will be speeding my way through this series as fast as possible.

High fantasy has always seemed like an intimidating genre to me. I like magic and the fae and mystical creatures but I’m not a great fan of the long drawn out battle scenes which can be prevalent in this genre. Sarah J Maas’ writing is perfect for me in this regard. It’s much more focused on the story and the characters and whilst battle/fight scenes obviously happen they aren’t self indulgent and they serve to move the story onwards instead of indulgently discussing every spar and parry for tens of pages.

Sarah J Maas is also the queen of writing love triangles and she’s an expert at writing flirty scenes between two people which basically leave you screaming at the book “but when are they getting together?!”. The romance in this novel set against the competition worked really well to lighten the mood and added an extra layer to the characters.

I can’t wait to pick up the next in the series and see where Celaena, Chaol and Dorian end up, especially because I’ve heard the second book is even better than the first.

This review was first published on Goodreads on 2nd December 2017.

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Some kind of wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this book which is possibly why I feel so disappointed that I only found it…ok. Let me start by saying I love Giovanna Fletcher, as a mum, a vlogger, and a writer. Her previous books have enchanted me. I love her warm writing style; her romantic, dreamy plots and friendly characters.

Sadly, I felt that what I love about her books usually was missing from this novel. I didn’t like any of the characters (in fact I found them quite crude and vapid for the most part) and I didn’t feel like there was particularly a plot to the story beyond following a sad woman who had been dumped.

There were moments of loveliness, mostly between Connie and Lizzy but I also really enjoyed the scene with Ian towards the end and that redeemed this book for me a bit and nudged it over to three stars rather than the two it had been sitting at whilst I’d forced myself to keep reading through the NYE chapter and the whole job business with boring Natalia.

I think I was hoping that this book would be more empowering than it was. Having Lizzy pine for her 18 year old self for 400 pages seemed like a waste of a potentially good plot.

For any other author of this genre I would consider a three star rating to be not bad at all but I have come to expect comfort, positivity and gorgeous stories from Giovanna’s writing and for me this book did not live up to her previous works.

This review was first published on Goodreads on November 24th 2017.

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Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

When I stumbled across this book in Waterstones I couldn’t wait to throw my money at the bookseller and get home to get stuck into it. The premise, a scifi rom com in which a couple undergo a revolutionary operation which will mentally and emotionally connect them, massively appealed to me. I love reading sci fi and Nora Ephron, Queen of rom coms, is my hero.

Unfortunately, within 100 pages of starting I was flagging and I felt like the blurb had kinda mis-sold the book to me. I was expecting light hearted mishaps, maybe a bit of mild peril where our leading couple got into a bit of mischief and then got home safely in time for dinner and Netflix in front of the tv. Ya know, normal rom com stuff. It soon became clear that this book wasn’t actually about that couple at all and this is where my issues with the book began.

The characterisation was completely unbelievable. Briddey, our leading lady, switched from being aloof and stuck up and hating the creepy guy at work to falling in love with him and not being able to take her hands off him practically overnight for no other reason than “he made her feel safe.” Sure, this is familiar rom com territory but it has to be written with some nuance. You can’t just introduce two characters as being one thing and then completely flip reverse it without laying groundwork.

I also did not enjoy Maeve as a character. A precocious 9 year old is never a character I want to see popping up in an adult book. Always annoying, never charming and amusing. If she had been a teenager her part in the plot would have at least made sense, but alas.

My overall annoyance with this book is the length. At 500 pages it’s by no means the longest book I’ve ever read but at times I felt like it was never going to end. Too much talking and not enough action, the editing process for this book should have cut it by half. At times I was shouting “skip to the point” as I tried to skim read through pages of extraneous details to get to the end of the story.

I’m really disappointed that a book I was so looking forward to turned out to be my least enjoyed read of the year so far. I found Crosstalk to be overly lengthy, with too much dialogue, weak unlikeable characters and obvious plot points that were maddeningly ignored until the very end and revealed as if the reader was a prize idiot and hadn’t yet worked it out.

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Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout history Katherine Parr has been largely painted as the boring, safe wife that saw King Henry VIII through his final days. Compared to the scandalous rumours that emanated from court surrounding the behaviour of some of his other wives (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, anyone?), it is hardly surprising that Katherine’s story is the least infamous of the Tudor wives.

However, as Elizabeth Fremantle demonstrates in this novel, Katherine Parr was far from a boring, matronly final wife for Henry and was much more to him than a silent nursemaid and mother figure for his children.

The Queen’s Gambit begins as Katherine is widowed for the second time. Aged only 31 she is soon called back from her deceased husband’s estate and reluctantly plunged back into the heart of court life. Here, she meets the handsome, arrogant-but-irresistible Thomas Seymour (Uncle of the young Prince Edward) with whom she begins a madly passionate secret love affair with.

Katherine’s strong personality, intelligence, warm heart and kindness make her a popular woman at court and before long she has caught the attention of the King. Captivated, he makes it known to her that she will be his new wife. With her lover swiftly shipped off to the continent out of the way by Henry, Katherine must settle down to the dangerous task of keeping the ailing, cantankerous King happy.

I’m often wary about historical novels- if the authors don’t get the balance right between historical evidence and artistic license to embellish facts the story can either be too dry, or completely removed from the history. Elizabeth Fremantle artfully handles this challenge and remains faithful to the main events and timeline from this period despite adding lots of embellishment to further her plot. The characterisation of Katherine is wholly believable from the popular conjecture and accounts which have survived to this day and I really enjoyed reading a story which finally portrays her as the intelligent, strong, charming, wry woman she almost certainly was.

Another highlight of this book for me was Dot Fownton’s narrative. Much historical fiction focuses on the Royal families and the wealthy, so it was fascinating to read about court life from the point of view of a young girl who had been born into poverty and had only found herself working as a maid for a higher born lady by luck. Dot’s awe at the madness of court life was endearing, as was her blossoming romance and fierce dedication and loyalty to her mistress throughout the book. I would have happily read this book even if it had focused only on Dot!

I highly recommend this book to anybody with a penchant for historical fiction.

This review first appeared on Nudge-books.com and Goodreads on 8th April 2013.

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