Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

41150487ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


If there’s one book that’s going to stick with me for years to come, it is Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I had no idea how much this book was going to make me smile, swoon, and cheer for every single character I came across. I’m not even exaggerating when I say these characters feel like actual, real people, and if you’re like me who is just… really unhappy with the way US politics has been going… then you’re probably going to want these characters to be real, too.

Firstly, I want to mention that this book is new adult (not YA!) So, yes, there are some steamy scenes! Most fade to black, but, nonetheless, still steamy!

So this book stars Alex Claremont-Diaz, a bisexual, 21-year-old, Mexican-American who is the First Son of the United States. His mother, Ellen Claremont, is the first woman president, and she’s coming up for reelection in 2020. You see, in this alternate reality, a woman president took office after President Obama. And, y’all, this book cannot come at a better time when all I want is to keep that hope alive that things here will eventually… get better?

And then there’s Henry, the Prince of Wales. Henry is gay but has not come out due to the pressure and expectations from the crown. Henry has two siblings: an older brother and younger sister. He’s such a soft guy, and he feels so much weight upon him to fulfill his royal obligations. But Henry’s also suffering from anxiety and depression after his father passed away, and his mother has been absent since his father’s death.

This story has my favorite trope of all time: enemies-to-lovers! Alex, the POTUS, and their entourage fly to England for a royal wedding (Henry’s brother’s.) Alex has met Henry before, and always felt like Henry came off as a jerk. So after a bit of arguing, Alex and Henry accidentally destroy the royal wedding cake, and the two families go into full recovery-mode in order to get the negative press off their backs.

Which then leads into… the fake-friendship trope! Now Alex and Henry have to pretend to be BFFs in front of the press so they can clear the air especially since President Claremont is running for reelection and she cannot have this international-wedding-catastrophe in the spotlight.

I’m sure you can guess what happens from here… but once they become fake friends, a real friendship blooms as the FSOTUS and Prince get to know each other. A romance then ensues, and soon they’re trying their best to keep everything a secret.

I really had the best time reading this book. Alex is so sarcastic, witty, and has the best one-liners I’ve ever read. He’s also full of so much heart and he cares so much about his family and his background. His grandparents are Mexican immigrants, and I cannot help but relate so hard to how Alex struggles with his identity of being half Mexican and white (I’m half Thai/white); how sometimes we aren’t sure which box we fit into. I also felt such a deep emotional attachment to Henry as he wanted nothing more than to fulfill his royal obligations, but at the same time struggles with the thought of putting himself and his happiness first.

The romance in this book is top notch, and I would give my soul for a sequel. I not only fell in love with Alex and Henry, but the other diverse cast made this story so amazing. I love June, Nora, Bea, Pez, Tarah, and the POTUS (Ellen) so, so much. Like I said, I truly wish these characters were real people!

Okay, I’m done gushing about this adorable, swoon-worthy book. I sincerely hope you’ll pick this up; not only for the romance, but for the witty banter, hilarious characters, found families, close friendships, and glimmers of hope.

However, there is a lot of talk about US (and royal) politics in this book, so if that’s not your jam, then you may not love it. But even so, all the talks of politics throughout the book does have a purpose and makes sense as the story progresses (I know I’m being vague, but you’ll see what I mean if you read it!)

Trigger/content warnings: Homophobia, talks of cancer, death of a parent, outing, anxiety, depression, talks of drug use, talks of past sexual assault.

fivestars

Buddy read with Heather & Kristin!


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Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

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Read during March for the Dragons & Tea Book Club!


Goodreads Synopsis:

A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

I LOVED the idea of demon-fighting bartenders, and I actually still enjoyed the premise very much! This book follows Bailey, a Chinese-American college graduate who just moved back home to live with her parents. She’s still searching for a job; her parents keep nudging her toward a career path, but Bailey ends up reconnecting with an old friend (and crush), Zane, who presents her an opportunity to work in his bar.

But Bailey soon learns tending a bar is more than just mixing the perfect cocktail. In fact, when you do mix the perfect cocktail, it turns into a magical drink that gives the consumer special powers. These powers depend on the drink, and there are fun recipes with the history of the ingredients all throughout the book. Some of the special powers include super-human strength, invisibility, and telekinesis.

We find out Zane is part of an underground network of monster-fighting bartenders. There is an entire hierarchy and court system; rules to play by. It’s all very political, and Bailey gets thrown into their world when she inadvertently makes a cocktail that gives her powers to fight off a monster. You see, monsters called tremens lurk in the night among Chicago’s streets. They usually hunt alone, in the shadows. But something is provoking them to start hunting in packs.

So, the thing is… a lot of points in this book missed the mark for me, but I still really appreciate all the things Paul Krueger included, so I’m going to list all the things I liked and disliked.

What I liked:

  • The fact that this book is ownvoices, written by a Filipino-American author.
  • It’s new adult, which is a genre I rarely see boosted. As a 30-something-year-old, I like to see books that feature characters who are in their mid-late 20’s (or older) because I instantly connect with them so much better.
  • The Asian rep. Bailey is Chinese-American and her parents are Chinese. I was able to relate to the “Asian family expectations” story line so much.
  • Diversity rep for a trans character, gay relationship, black side character, and rep for blind/visually impairment.
  • The pub settings were always my favorite parts!
  • The idea that it’s ok to not know what you want to do after you graduate from college. That it’s ok you’re still trying to figure things out.
  • The history behind the magical cocktails and ingredients. Those parts were so humorous and I’d love to read an entire book on just the drinks alone!
  • I am a sucker for any book that takes place in Chicago.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I didn’t feel connected to the world building, and wasn’t a fan of how the monsters were utilized in the story.
  • Zane. Ugh. Zane! He was the worst and I don’t like how Bailey was totally fine with forgiving him.
  • The death of a certain animal. Like… I can’t.
  • As the story progressed I felt like it derailed from being monster-fighting-centric. I wasn’t sure why Jess was even introduced, and I found that story line really irrelevant.
  • I just became really bored by the 50% mark and just… wanted it to be over.

I’m so sorry I didn’t end up enjoying this book as much as I had hoped, but I am so glad I picked it up! I would’ve never read this if it wasn’t for the book club Melanie and I started, and I’m so thankful we got to read it with so many people!

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The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

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Title: The Simple Wild

Author: K.A. Tucker

Pages: 388

Genre: Contemporary romance, new adult

My Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

I just finished reading this book and knew I had to immediately write my review while all my feels are still fresh. Y’all, I don’t read a lot of romance, but I have been so lucky that the romance books I read in 2018 were stellar. The Simple Wild is no exception, and I’m so happy I got to end 2018 with this piece of joy.

This book pretty much had everything I ever wanted: atmospheric wilderness, enemies-to-lovers, found family, small town feels, hot pilots, and AIRPLANES. Like… you don’t understand. I used to fly planes. Having an entire book centered around aviation made my heart so damn happy.

In a nutshell, we follow Calla, a 26 year old woman from Toronto. She and her father never had a relationship after her mother left her father in Alaska. However, one night Calla receives a phone call asking her to come visit because her father is ill. When she arrives she is greeted by a rather moody bush pilot, Jonah — and their strange and kind of wacky relationship blooms from there.

I really loved how K.A. Tucker painted the romance; it wasn’t an insta-love situation, yet the male and female love interests weren’t horrible to each other, either (which is what I dread sometimes going into an enemies-to-lovers plot). I’ve read some romances where the man is just way over the top mean, but he really wasn’t at all! And this book has more witty banter and silly pranks which I thought were so fun. The romance is definitely a slow burn, but it all played out organically and realistically. (And let’s just say there’s a cabin scene and you KNOW that shit makes me weak.)

I also loved how Calla is into fashion blogging and instagramming, because it felt like I was reading about myself. Trying to capture that perfect instagrammable photo, thinking of the perfect captions, and perhaps over packing a little too much for a trip. Yeah, that’s relatable af to me.

And, of course, you can’t have an aviation-centered book without me picking it apart! Sorry! But I can honestly say K.A. Tucker did such an amazing job researching everything from aircraft mechanics, avionics, terminology, and aircraft types. It was fun for me to come across a plane and be like, “Oh! I’ve flown one of those before!” I was living for all of the flying scenes, and they’re abundant but so different from each other. Bangor, AK is a fictional town but it’s based off of Bethel, AK (according to the Acknowledgements) so I creeped the Bethel airport. Sure enough, it’s quite similar to how the Bangor airport is described in the book, and it surprised me they have a control tower, too! (tbh I thought Bangor was much smaller than the real town it’s based off of, but hey, it’s a fictional book so I won’t drag it.)

But I digress. I just simply loved the dynamics between these characters so much. There’s the found family between Jonah, Wren (Calla’s father), Agnes, and Mabel… and just everyone in town and nearby villages who all know and love each other. The sense of community is real in this book. And I loved how Calla and Wren were able to reconnect their father-daughter relationship. The message in this book really resonated with me; how we can’t expect others to change, but it is okay to still love and support the choices they make.

I will say that one thing that bugged me was how much Jonah made Calla feel bad for enjoying things like beauty and fashion, It’s so common for men to believe women put on makeup to please men or for other shallow reasons, when really I personally put on makeup for myself. I like makeup, and I like the way it looks. I’ve grown used to going make-up-free as I’ve gotten older, but I still love buying it and using it. I’m not saying Jonah is in any way a “toxic masculinity” character, but his constant griping about women and makeup got to be annoying. But I can’t let Calla off the hook, either. She refers to Jonah as a “yeti” a lot because of his long hair and beard, and that got pretty old, too.

There’s also the constant reminder that Jonah is the “best damn pilot” out there and it’s like, okay, I get it — let’s stop with the overused shtick from 1980’s action films, please. Being a good pilot is one thing but he does make some unsafe decisions so… [insert KermitSippingTea.jpg]

But seriously, I loved this book so much, and I did not expect it to punch me so hard in the feels. I was worried I was going to be angry with the way Wren’s illness was handled, or how the aviation was going to be portrayed, or that the love interest was going to be horrible — but none of that happened. I wholeheartedly recommend this book especially if you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan. I will definitely be reading more books by K.A. Tucker soon!

Trigger warnings for cancer, talks of cancer treatments, parental separation.

fivestars

xx,

Amy

 

Cracked Kingdom (The Royals, #5) by Erin Watt – SPOILER Review

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Book: Cracked Kingdom

Series: The Royals, #5

Author: Erin Watt

Pages: 305

Genre: New Adult Romance, Contemporary

My rating: ★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

These Royals will ruin you.

Ever since Hartley Wright met Easton Royal, her life hasn’t been the same. There are enemies behind every corner and dangers beyond each door. When tragedy strikes and steals her memories, she can’t trust anyone, not even the blue-eyed boy who promises her that everything will be all right.

Because while Hartley’s memory is full of gaps, her instincts tell her Easton is dangerous. She doesn’t know if he’s the snake in the garden or her chance at salvation. The chaos he brings wherever he goes is too much to handle, the intense feelings he evokes are too confusing to unravel.

Easton wants her to remember. Hartley thinks it’s better to forget.

She might be right.

Tragedy. Treachery. Trust. Hartley has to face the facts—in this world, you can’t escape the Royals.

Either you live by their rules or you die by them.

This review will contain spoilers from the previous four Royals books and spoilers for Cracked Kingdom. If you’re reading this review then I’m going to assume you already have background knowledge on this series because this is the fifth book in the series.

Do you have a guilty pleasure book? I don’t like the term “guilty pleasure”, but that’s basically what The Royals series is for me. If you’re into some trashy young adult romance, I recommend this series. Just be aware there is mature content and some pretty ridiculous scenarios. Think soap opera.

I was really excited to read some more about Easton Royal. He’s always been my favorite brother and, in my opinion, the most complex. While I’ve let so many things slide in the previous books, I think I am at the end of my rope with this series. It’s a shame because they were fun to read.

I’m just going to list all the things I had problems with because… yikes… there are many.

  1. The slut shaming and mean girls trope. We already dealt with this when Ella first arrived in the first book. Why is it back? It’s redundant and gross.
  2. Hartley and the “I’m so plain but you love me” trope.
  3. Quite possibly the lamest plot device of all: amnesia. That’s right, folks! Hartley gets amnesia after hitting her head. The mean girls feed her lies, she can’t trust anyone, and she basically never recovers. But she still finds it in herself to trust Easton. I can’t even.
  4. The sudden and weird physical assault on Hartley by Kyle. I don’t even know what the entire point of that scene was. It did not help the plot at all.
  5. Ella and Reed get married at the end. Just… what.
  6. The end wraps up so suddenly and all the “villains” magically disappear. How convenient.
  7. Hartley’s little sister telling the twins she’s going to marry them is really, really disturbing.
  8. I try to remind myself that not a lot of time has passed between all five books. So even though I expected Easton to mature by this point, he hasn’t. Other than finding the ability to fall in love and be monogamous, there’s very little character growth for Easton.

I don’t know, guys. It was all just a big mess. And I feel so horrible saying this because I used to enjoy this series so much. It may have been a dumpster fire, but it was MY dumpster fire. I hope book 5 is the end because if what was alluded at the end becomes the focus in the next book, I’m rage quitting.

Buddy read with Paloma, Julie, and Melanie!

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xx,

Amy