Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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~~Hooray, with this book I’ve reached my 2019 Reading Challenge of 65 books! Now let’s see if I can make it to 70…~~

 

Now, at this point, I’m pretty certain many of you have already read Red, White & Royal Blue or at least know what it’s about. Due to this, I’m not going to bore you with a summary. All you really need to know is that it’s a super adorable, beautiful, hilarious and rather dramatic love story between a fictional Prince of England and a First Son of America. Of course, I am still keeping this review spoiler free!

Let me just get this out of the way: I have never been someone who has much interest at all in the royal family and I have, for the most part, felt appalled and ashamed of recent American Presidents (obviously excluding Obama) and also of the Prime Ministers in my home country (Australia) and the UK, where I currently live. Because of all that, I was a little bit unsure of how I would take to contexts of the book. All that being said, I actually found the political and royal backdrop of this book really fascinating. I’m really quite awed by Casey McQuiston’s insights into life as a member of the royal family and life within the walls of The White House. I sometimes actually forgot that Alex and Henry are not real people and that made me truly wish they were and also that President Claremont, Alex’s Mum, really was running America right now.

Another thing to get out of the way: I don’t read romances for the sex scenes. I might be in the minority with this, but I personally end up feeling disconnected from the story, the romance and the characters when I read graphic sex scenes. Now, I have read much worse and much smuttier scenes in my life before this book. The scenes in this book were actually really tasteful and I didn’t mind them as what they added to the story was important. They’re simply just not something I’ll ever gush about because they’re not my thing.

Moving on, now.

The thing I loved most about Red, White & Royal Blue was one hundred percent the characters! I thought both Alex and Henry were incredible and there is just so much I could say about both of them. Alex’s biracial background and life as the First Son was so interesting and I loved how whip-smart, witty, sassy and honest he was as a character as he came to terms with who he was and who he wanted to be. Henry was such a nerd and I absolutely loved that about him. He was certainly charming, but also wonderfully down-to-earth and not at all how he first seemed. I also loved how his struggles with being the Prince of England were dealt with throughout the book. Both characters were simply masterpieces in their strengths, vulnerabilities and utter adorableness. Of course, of course, I absolutely loved them together, as well. There were so many times in this book I literally couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and it was all down to these two.

Their families and best friends are also incredible parts of the story. I adored Alex’s sister June and their best friend, Nora. They were both such strong female characters. Actually, there were a number of perfect female characters in this book, which I really loved. Henry’s sister Bea, Alex’s Mum/President Claremont, and her right had, Zahra all deserve big shout outs, too. I can’t possibly list all the other characters but just know they were honestly all great and really played their important parts in the story.

After reading Red, White & Royal Blue, I am pleased to say that I finally know what all the fuss was about! As romantic comedies go, I can’t say I’ve read a more perfect one in recent years. This book has a wonderful balance of hilarious and adorableness, as well as that important touch of angst. There were many romantic gestures that made my heart stop. And the writing was at times so beautiful it made me melt. In all, everything I could ask for in a book. More please, Casey McQuiston.

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Have you read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

 

 

 

ARC Review: This Train is Being Held by Ismee Williams

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~ I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the opportunity ~

 

As is often the case, the first thing that captured my attention when I saw This Train is Being Held is the cover. I’m just a little bit obsessed with it as I really love the style and the whimsical feeling it conveys. I was also really excited by the summary of the book, which goes something like this:

Isa and Alex meet on the subway and over 3 years, as if by fate, they continue to meet up on the train and develop a special relationship. Isa is attending dance school and dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. She’s also struggling with a number of family issues including her mum’s aversion of Latino’s despite being born in Havana and her brother’s mental illness. Alex is exactly the thing Isa needs to bring happiness back into her life. Alex is a baseball player, encouraged to become pro by his papi, though he would much rather be a poet. The never-ending discrimination he feels as a Dominican American every day is enough to make him feel like he can never be who he wants to be without being judged. Isa makes everything seem possible. But, can Isa and Alex make their relationship work and be together when there are so many things pulling them apart?

So, for the most part, I enjoyed this book. Before I get to all the things I liked about it, however, I’ll just mention the main reason this book is a 3.5 star read for me rather than a 5/5 and it’s purely because of my own reading experience. I just wasn’t being observant enough and didn’t read the dates at the beginning of each chapter correctly, so I ended up so confused by the timeline of the book. In my head, there is no possible way that Isa and Alex’s story transverses over a three year period. For me,  it felt more like 1 year at the most. The dates aside, there were just no specific plot details or anything like that that really gave me the impression their relationship was building over 3 years. The way their accidental meetings on the subway and the way the plot developed just felt to me like it was happening over a year. Again, perhaps that’s my fault for not reading the dates correctly, but it just really changed my overall reading experience.

It also may be the reason why I felt like Isa and Alex’s relationship bloomed so much more quickly than I expected. My perception of the story weaving over a year makes more sense to me as the time frame for a teenage love story like this, but it also made me feel that Isa and Alex’s story was a little too insta-love for my tastes and because their whole relationship was largely based on subway trips, it didn’t always have the romantic depth I love. Again, largely my own fault due to how I read the book, so I feel that someone who paid more attention to the time frame details would have had a completely different experience reading it!

In saying all of that, there were so many good things in this book that I enjoyed. Though I couldn’t quite get behind Isa and Alex’s relationship for perhaps the first half of the book, I still found their scenes together really adorable and was rooting for them both to be together by the end of everything. One of the most important things for me in a contemporary book like this one, is not only the strength of the couple as they are together but also the characters individually.

I found myself liking Isa more and more as the story developed, as I really liked how the different sides of her life clashed and how everything seemed to fall apart around her as she tried to be this shining, bright star of strength and happiness. Isa’s determination to be strong for her loved ones and to not show how she was completely falling apart herself was so relatable. Sure, I did get really frustrated with her when she literally didn’t tell her friends or Alex anything that was going on in her life with her family and her brother’s mental illness, but the way she kept that all in and tried to deal with it on her own is just something I know so many people do and can learn from. I loved Isa’s bubbly, daring personality and how layered she was as a person. Her relationship with her best friend Chrissy was a really great depiction of friendship. Same goes with her relationship with her brother, Merrit. I also felt Merrit’s bipolar disorder was dealt with with a fantastic level of sensitivity and realism. While I really liked the family issues Isa had to deal with, I really didn’t understand Isa’s mum at all (I thought she was a real piece work), and felt I wanted more development in Isa’s relationship with her.

Alex’s character introduced so much culture that I really enjoyed, what with his Dominican background, his relationship with his papi and mami, and the way he always felt judged by the world due to being discriminated against and how his being a baseball player was very much something that gave him purpose and also provided him with a safety net. I loved how Alex, friends and family (and also Isa, who also has a Latino background) spoke Spanish throughout the book as that really added a level of language and detail to the book. I also found myself so hungry whenever Alex and his friends/family were eating home cooked food as I am such a foodie. Overall, I thought Alex was such a well-rounded character and I loved his poetry and the way that was incorporated within the narrative. Similarly like with Isa’s Mum, I didn’t really like Alex’s papi. I understood him a little more once I knew more about his background, but for most of the story, I just couldn’t stand him and the way he treated his sons. I wanted more from Alex’s best friend Bryan and Danny, though I did like how Danny’s story line gave some insight into gangs as part of the cultural contexts of life in the Bronx . Most of all, I loved Alex’s relationship with his little brother Robi, who might just be my favourite character in this book. He was so adorable and intuitive!

Though I personally had some issues with the timeline and pacing of the story, I overall thought this book was a really lovely story about two characters finding their way and their own true happiness. There were so many strong secondary characters and layers of meaning and culture throughout the story.  I thought the ending was quite the unpredictable bang and made me come out of the story feeling satisfied.  I loved the whimsical nature of the writing and how it really captured all those special moments we have with loved ones that become memories to treasure.

 

 

End of the Year Book Tag!

I’ve been tagged to do this book tag yay! Thanks Sahi for tagging me! Check out her blog, it’s wonderful 🙂

Let’s go answer some questions!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

I’m currently reading Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm, which I’ll be finishing soon, but I definitely want to read Ruin and Rising before 2019 is over to finish the Shadow and Bone series! There’s nothing I’ve started that I either need or want to read. I always read one book at a time and if I don’t like a book, I usually don’t go back to it!

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Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

Well…. I’m planning to read A Curse so Dark and Lonely next month. Not sure if that could be considered an “autumnal” book, but it works for being in wintery England.

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Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

Though I probably won’t read it until the beginning of next year, I’m really looking forward to Children of Virtue and Vengeance.

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What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

I have an ARC of This Train is Being Held and I’m so excited to read it! Red, White and Royal Blue has been on my list for ages and the same goes for Sadie, so those two are books I’m really hoping to read next month!

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

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I don’t think it would shock me at all if Sadie became my favourite books of the year. In fact, I fully expect it to be way up there at the very least 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be reading it soon!

Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?

Of course! I have a TBR for the top 20 books I want to read first, which I will be posting before the year is over. And then I have hundreds of books to read from my massive Goodreads TBR that I never seem very successful at shortening :P.

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Thanks again to Sahi for tagging me, I had fun answering these questions 🙂

Because I’m boring, I tag anyone who wants to do this book tag! Go, go, go!

Thanks for reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

Book Thoughts: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor (spoiler free).

 

Well.

I am entirely unable to write a good review that will reflect in any way how much I have enjoyed reading the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy over the last couple of weeks. I can honestly say that though I have no idea how it has taken me so long to read this series, I am so grateful to have just read it and to have been able to read the three books one after the other. I have lived and breathed this series these last weeks and it has been an astounding, magical adventure. Like always when I read fantastic books, I want to rewind time just to go back and experience the story firsthand again.

Like with Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor’s world building and beautiful writing absolutely swept me off my feet in this series. Even just after the first opening chapters of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was completely entranced and hooked into the story and the life of Karou, a girl who lives two lives as an art student in Prague and a secret life of errands and monsters. Karou has easily become one of my favourite characters of all time, I absolutely loved her character and the way she developed throughout the series. Everything to do with her not knowing who she really was so intriguing, especially when she learned more about her past and all that had been kept from her.

Karou’s relationships with the other wonderful characters is also what made the series for me. I loved her connection with her best friend Zuzana and obviously her relationship with Akiva, the fiery angel who unexpectedly becomes a part of Karou’s life and leads her to discovering the truth of well, pretty much everything. There are so many incredible characters in this series I just loved so much. Can’t even. The way everyone collides together throughout the series is just incredible.

As this is a spoiler free appreciation post, it’s probably best that I stop here so I don’t slip up. I adored this series and know it will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s magical, dark, dangerous and so full of hope. I know I could say so much more and gush about this series forever, but for now I think short and sweet is the best bet.

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Just leaving this beautiful artwork of Karou by Lesya BlackBirdInk here. Love it so much!

 

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Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone? Would love to hear your thoughts if you have! 🙂

Happy reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

 

 

Book Review: The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman

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I’ve been so extremely excited to read The Secret Commonwealth for a long time, long before I knew of it’s existence, or in other words, since around the time I finished La Belle Sauvage. If you don’t know anything about Philip Pullman’s books or simply haven’t read them, namely His Dark Materials, a trilogy set before/alongside The Book of Dust series, I urge you to go and pick them up, find out what they’re about and get started reading! His Dark Materials is one of my favourite fantasy series of all time, and I only read them a few years ago myself! Plus, you kind of need to read them to find as much enjoyment from La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth as I have.

Now, I have to say first of all that after finishing The Secret Commonwealth, I feel that I preferred La Belle Sauvage. This is interesting to me because LBS follows Malcolm, a character we don’t really know anything about from His Dark Materials, and is the first of all the books that doesn’t follow Lyra Silvertongue as the main character. But I grew to love Malcolm and found the tone of LBS so similar to the rest of Pullman’s books, with it’s depictions of adventure, mystery, magic and childhood. Plus, knowing more about Lyra’s past was a fantastic part of the book, especially in relation to what I knew her future would hold in HDM.

So, the most exciting part about The Secret Commonwealth for me was the fact that we got to return to Lyra and her daemon Pan, who are both now 20, 10 years after the events in HDM. Meeting Lyra again as an adult and also seeing how much her relationship with Pan has changed was so interesting and also really heartbreaking. I won’t give anything away, of course, but I did really like seeing what Lyra’s adult/college life is like and also how she developed throughout the events of the novel, reflecting on her childhood self and the world in new ways. Everything she goes through is fascinating and at times very dark, as well. So be warned about that (but more on the dark tone later). Same goes for Pan, my favourite daemon. I thought the events in The Secret Commonwealth and the complications arising from them and how they affected Pan was fascinating. I know I am being so vague, but I really don’t want to give things away!

Another very exciting thing for me was being back with Malcolm and other beloved characters/friends of Lyra from the previous books. I really liked how all the characters came together throughout the plot and how certain relationships were formed or at least suggested. The overall plot of the book contains many layers of interactions between good and evil, to put it simply, or Oakley Street vs the Magisterium and its allies, and it was really interesting to see how people from different sides conflicted and interacted throughout the book.

Now, putting aside my love for the world and the characters, I struggled with the plot of the story in some ways, namely that it was all quite slow-paced and intellectual. There’s a lot of political and religious undertones to do with what is currently happening in Lyra’s world, mainly to do with the roses crisis (which you will have no idea about until you read the book and I won’t even attempt to explain it here) and while I found all of that intriguing, I was at times pretty confused. It seems that not a lot happens for the majority of the book. In some ways I liked that, because the content was still really interesting and a fascinating depiction of a political landscape and of growing up, and I do like how the whole book felt like a million piece puzzle, each little square slowly, tantalisingly bringing the whole story together even when you don’t really know it. However, the way the story/plot made my mind feel a bit muddled, like I had no idea what was actually happening and how I spent a lot of time just wanting more, made me feel a little bit underwhelmed.

Still, despite that, I read the book with a kind of determination to understand it when it was difficult for me to and I did overall really enjoy it. The last quarter or so of the book introduced even more darkness to the story, which is saying something as I found the whole book quite dark and sombre in tone. The last quarter also really made me excited for the next book, as certain plots in the story were finally coming closer to a conclusion or at least leading into what will happen next. I can’t wait to see how it all concludes… I really, really can’t.

Overall, I enjoyed The Secret Commonwealth and Philip Pullman remains a mastermind of storytelling and writing craft in my eyes. I definitely recommend picking this up if you’ve read all the other books in this world, or if not, get yourself a copy of The Northern Lights/The Golden Compass asap :).

Also, I am so excited for the tv series of His Dark Materials. Not long until the first episode comes out, YAY!

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Would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

ARC Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

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~I received an ARC of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group! ~

Mary H.K. Choi’s Permanent Record was one one of my most anticipated reads this year because I absolutely adored Emergency Contact. I am so pleased I got the chance to read the Advanced Reader Copy!

Permanent Record is about Pablo, a NYU dropout who works night shifts in a New York deli/bodega, is obsessed with snack foods and has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. When celebrity Leanna Smart turns up in the store early one morning, they immediately click and though their being together feels like a pipe dream, Pablo is whisked away into Lee’s world and from his own problems. For a little while, at least.

The first thing I’ll say about this book is that I didn’t love it the same way I did Emergency Contact or as much. They are actually very different books, even if they do have Mary H.K. Choi’s super cool vibe to them. I was expecting something quite similar to Emergency Contact, and while there are similarities in the tone, I think the biggest difference was the romance aspect of the plot and the fact that it wasn’t a multi-perspective narrative.

Pablo and Lee’s romantic relationship was intense, enjoyable and sometimes kinda sad to read. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced by their romance. It seemed unlikely and a bit too “insta-love” for my tastes, though I do think that was in some ways intentional as it reflected the way both characters were dealing with making choices and trying to find happiness in their complicated lives. There were definitely some adorable moments in their relationship and I really enjoyed everything they learned by being together and how it all turned out for them by the end of the book. It was quite a refreshing look at romantic relationships. But the most interesting thing that came out of Pablo’s relationship with Lee was the insight into her celebrity life and all the sacrifices she had to make to be where she was and have the life she had. It was very well done and made me think I could never cope with being famous!

My favourite thing about this book was without a doubt Pablo himself. His inability to make or act on decisions, habit of running away from his problems and the way he became so caught up in his romance with Lee and his own issues that he started neglecting friends and family were both incredibly frustrating and so relatable because these tendencies are just so human. Pablo is a very flawed character (all the characters are in this book, really) and I really loved how those flaws were explored in the book to discuss anxiety, depression and some rather cynical views about society. It was fascinating. This novel is so character-driven, a book about a guy trying to find his path in the world and I loved that because it was just so relatable for anyone who has no clue what they want to do, as I have in the past and to some degree still am! I also found Pablo’s love of snacks really interesting, even though I had no idea what he was on about most of the time as I’d never heard of most of the food. His snack rants and reviews still made me hungry.

Permanent Record is a fascinating depiction of life and humanity. It contains fantastic portrayals of family relationships and friendships, an interesting romance between two people who would normally never be together and many insights into life, including having the courage to go for your dreams, no matter what they are. I enjoyed this book and I definitely recommend it if you want to read something super cool and different.

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Have you read Permanent Record or plan to? Leave me with your thoughts/go and pick up a copy on the 7th of November! 🙂

Until next time,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

Book Review: A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

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I stayed up until around 2am finishing this book, unable to put it down for the third night in a row. I just had to finish it and now that I’ve read to the very end, I wish there was more or that I could read this book for the first time over again.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is about, if you don’t know, a super intelligent teenager Pippa, who decides to look into a closed murder case that happened 5 years ago in her small town for a school project. The case was the murder of a girl who went to Pippa’s school called Andie Bell, and it became closed once the police decided it was Sal Singh, Andie’s boyfriend, who killed her. Everyone in town believes it was him. But not Pippa. She just isn’t sure. So, with an unlikely partner at her side, she starts to unwind many dark secrets in her hometown and discovers that the killer just might still be out there, walking free and desperate to remain a secret. She makes it her mission to discover the truth about what really happened, even when danger starts lurking around her and everyone she cares about.

Now, this is without a doubt one of the best engaging and twisty crime novels I’ve read. It really did remind me of the Serial podcast, which I love, as they have a very similar vibe and are both trying to find reasonable doubt to prove the alleged murderer didn’t do it. I couldn’t stop reading this book and also had no idea how it was all going end, there was just so many details and intertwining secrets! This book is so well written, intricate and always kept me on my feet. It had a really great balance of darker and lighter tones, as you got to know not only what happened to Sal and Andie, but Pippa’s life as she travelled through the criminal world collecting new facts and hidden clues.

While I’m a sucker for the crime element of the story just as I am with true crime, my absolute favourite thing about this book was Pippa herself. I just thought she was an incredibly clever, quick-witted and quirky character, all traits I love in people and fiction. She was perfect and seeing everything unfold through her eyes was such a wonderful way to experience this story. I also loved her relationships with her family, her dog, her friends and a certain someone. Everything about her character was just so good! Plus, the set up of the narrative, such as the entries she wrote about the case, were so well done and fascinating. I loved the layers of the story!

I can’t really say much more because this is a book that requires absolutely no spoilers for those planning to read it. So I will just say one more thing: READ THIS BOOK. Thank you.

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As always, would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords