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.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid


reid_9781524798628_jkt_all_r1.inddDaisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

 

Daisy Jones and the Six seems as if it has been absolutely everywhere, but I was very resistant to pick it up initially. I’m a fairly stubborn person so this happens to some degree with most books that get a lot of hype surrounding them (with Reese Witherspoon championing Daisy within her book club and optioning it for TV, it seems like this book has received more hype in the short time it has been published than almost any other this year).

The other reason I wasn’t sure I’d get on with this book is I’m not a huge music person. Given the choice to listen to music or sit in silence, I pick silence 99% of the time. I use music to block out other more annoying noise, but I’ve never been one to gush over albums and listen to music as a sole activity. Daisy Jones and the Six follows one of the best bands in the world as they tell the oral history of their rise and fall, so clearly there’s going to be a lot of music chat involved.

Eventually the temptation to give it a try got too much and I picked up a copy for myself, reasoning that I knew a lot of people whose cup of tea it definitely would be and I could pass it on to them once I was finished or if I really didn’t like.

In all honesty, it took me a while to get into the story. The book is written as an oral history in the form of interviews with the band and other individuals involved in the making and breaking of the group. This involves a lot of anecdotes overlapping and in most cases outright contradiction between characters telling the same story. My enjoyment of a book is very heavily reliant on connecting with characters and it took me a while to feel like I had a grip on the main players in this book. However, once I had dedicated some solid reading time to getting used to this unique style I thoroughly enjoyed it and came to find each characters way of telling the story familiar and amusing. I’m very keen to get my hands (or rather ears) on an audio book version as I think it would work incredibly well in this format- I’m also waiting for bated breath for news on the TV programme.

For what is on the face of it a simple plot (band gets together, band gets famous, band falls apart), Daisy Jones and the Six leaves you feeling like you’ve experienced something unique. At times I forgot I wasn’t reading a real biography of a band, I was so involved within the rawness, the sexuality, talent and angst of these characters and their hopelessly flawed self-destructive natures. I must have pulled up google several times wanting to search for a character to find an image of them, or to see the album artwork before remembering it didn’t actually exist.

There was still a lot of description of how they wrote songs and put their albums together which I knew wouldn’t be my cup of tea going into it, but my goodness the rest of the story was well worth those parts of the book.

Weeks later I’m still gathering my thoughts and feelings about this book, which is a real testament to the talent of Taylor Jenkins Reid. Having read ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ I immediately went and bought another of her extremely hyped books to try and honestly, I don’t know how I ever lived without her writing in my life.

Don’t You Forget About Me, by Mhairi McFarlane


cover144744-medium.pngDon’t You Forget About Me
by Mhairi McFarlane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there’s one thing worse than being fired from the grottiest restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else.

Reeling from the indignity of a double dumping on the same day, Georgina snatches at the next job that she’s offered – barmaid in a newly opened pub, which just so happens to run by the boy she fell in love with at school: Lucas McCarthy. And whereas Georgina (voted Most Likely to Succeed in her school yearbook) has done nothing but dead-end jobs in the last twelve years, Lucas has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but also has turned into an actual grown-up with a business and a dog along the way.

Meeting Lucas again not only throws Georgina’s rackety present into sharp relief, but also brings a dark secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows the truth about what happened on the last day of school, and why she’s allowed it to chase her all these years…

 

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

I love a good rom-com in book form so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Mhairi McFarlane’s latest book, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’.

I find that one of McFarlane’s biggest strengths as a writer is creating characters who feel like your best mates and/or your worst enemies. With these sorts of novels (and in all books, but particularly within this genre for me) I find if you aren’t invested in the characters the story can drag- who cares about the plot if it revolves around someone who you couldn’t care less about! Thankfully, this story was full of people I either loved or completely detested and that made the reading experience really fun and just a bit infuriating at times.
Georgina is a gorgeous character and the fact she is surrounded by so many IDIOTS caused me to curse aloud at times. I found myself speed reading passages desperate to see how situations with her ex-boyfriend and stepfather would be resolved, wanting to reach into the book and give them a thump on the head on her behalf.
I was hooked on the plot from the first chapter (which is set 12 years in the past) desperate to understand what had happened and how it had impacted Georgina’s life since. The story unravels really well and explores really important topics such as grief, peer pressure and societal expectations. Most importantly I like that the story concentrates on Georgina needing to find happiness within herself, and her love story was additional to her personal development. She stays strong in the face of abhorrent treatment and extreme gas-lighting from her ex and her stepfather and fights back time and time again without giving in.
Amongst the serious topics within the book is a lot of humour, and the scenes between her and the McCarthy brothers in the pub she works in are some of my favourite in the book. Not to mention that fact that her blossoming connection with Lucas is ridiculously romantic and sexy.
Don’t You Forget About Me is a fantastic chick-lit novel. Hilariously funny, full of emotion and fantastically romantic, I loved Georgina from the first page to the last.

Playgroups and Prosecco by Jo Middleton

ppPlaygroups and Prosecco: The (mis)adventures of a single mum by Jo Middleton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

January 3rd 
Jaffa Cakes – 7. Times I was forced to watch a small child do a dance involving a dusty piece of ribbon found under the sofa – 4. Inappropriate thoughts about Zac Efron – undisclosed. 

Single mum Frankie’s whole life revolves around her kids. But when your toddler has a more active social life, something has to change. Forget ‘me-time’, Frankie would settle for some adult conversation, and watching something other than the Disney channel.

The local playgroup may be ruled by Instagram mums with perfect husbands but Frankie accidentally forms a splinter group of single parents. After all, Mummy really needs a playdate of her own. (Now pass the prosecco.)

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

Playgroups and Prosecco is one of the best mum books I’ve read, it had me absolutely howling with laughter at the relatable toddler behaviour and playgroup mafia wars.

It isn’t an aspirational parenting book, but Frankie’s way of mumming through life was just so accurate to what is a lot of mum’s reality. We are all doing our best, and sometimes we’re a bit rubbish but we try! The book was extremely funny in a very natural way. Some of these types of books exaggerate somewhat to the point of spoiling the joke, but Jo Middleton just tells it as it is and recognises that kids acting like normal kids are far funnier than any amount of made up over the top stories.

As well as a lot of relatable mum stories, I really enjoyed Frankie’s progression throughout the book with her friendships and work life. It was fantastic to read a book where the focus wasn’t on her love life and finding a man to save her from single mum life. Frankie’s Tinder experiences were funny because they were framed around Frankie’s obvious contentment to live alone with her girls. Focusing on making friends and finding a fulfilling and yet flexible working life was a far more positive, uplifting plot and I really love that this shift away from always having to put a romantic relationship at the centre of women’s fiction is happening.

This is the perfect book to curl up and read with a glass of wine having just had the bedtime struggle with the kids. I sped through the pages and truly felt like I was one of Frankie’s friends.

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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The Princess and the Fangirl, by Ashley Poston

pfThe Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

I was gifted an advance reading copy of this book from Quirk Books in return for an honest review.

I read Geekerella quite late in the year, last year, after having it sitting on my TBR shelf for quite a long time. It was one of those books that I knew I would love so I kept saving it for a time when I would really need a good book to get lost in. As predicted, I adored it, so much so that I found myself sitting in a cold bath in my darkened bathroom, hours after getting in and only coming to my senses when it became too dark to continue reading. The dreamy romance combined with the geekiness of the con and Starfield and the fairytale retelling trope (undoubtedly my favourite trope ever) was just completely perfect.

With this in mind, I’ve been desperate to read The Princess and the Fangirl since the moment I turned the last page of Geekerella and went online desperately searching for more books by Ashley Poston. Where the last book was a retelling of Cinderella, this book is a modern gender twist take on The Prince and the Pauper and it works SO well.

More of a companion novel than a true sequel, The Princess and the Fangirl follows a new protagonist as well as several reoccurring characters from Geekerella. Darien pops up enough for plenty of swooning opportunities, but at the same time the story is pretty much brand new and you could probably get away with reading it without having read Geekerella first without too much confusion (though you should definitely read it because it’s great.)

Everything I loved from the first book is present in this companion book. The Starfield fandom is so intricately developed that I absolutely forget it isn’t a real thing. I’m sold on it completely and really invested in what’s going to happen to the franchise. Romance is again central to the story, with a f/f relationship as well as a m/f one, which both develop so beautifully. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jess when reading Geekerella, but she definitely grew on me in this book and I enjoyed reading her chapters and getting to know her character and the reasons for her prickliness. I wanted to enjoy her blossoming relationship more than I could initially. I found myself really focused on the lies that I knew would catch up with her and it gave me minor anxiety thinking that they were going to crash and burn when they had such promise! Having said that, even with the lies there’s no denying that the chapter where she’s having a private dinner in a hotel room with her love interest was electric, so much chemistry.

Imogen was possibly my favourite character. I loved the simplicity of her love for Starfield and her, at times overzealous, passion. Another of my favourite tropes is hate turning to love, and Imogen and her love interest were the perfect depiction of this. I was rooting for them with every snide comment they flung at each other, hoping they would end up together.

I loved the Princess and the Fangirl so much. The romance, the con setting, all the geeky references and the continued story of the Starfield franchise. It was everything I wanted in a companion novel.

The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen

mummyThe Mummy Lessons: The laugh-out-loud novel for all exhausted parents and parents-to-be by Helen Wallen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a tough pregnancy, Emily is determined to tackle motherhood like a pro. But she quickly learns that Insta-Perfect-Parenting (and sleep) is hard to come by, no matter how much money you spend in Mothercare.

Irritatingly, her friend Molly seems to be breezing it. But with a business venture as well as a baby, is she taking on too much?

Liz looks as though she might have it all worked out. But when a tragedy derails her new relationship, she has some serious decisions to make.

Celebrating female friendship, the highs and lows of motherhood, and the lifesaving power of a jumperoo, THE MUMMY LESSONS follows a year of highs and lows for Emily, Molly and Liz as they learn the hardest lesson of all: life doesn’t always follow the rules . . .

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

I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Wallen’s first novel, “Baby Boom” so I was really keen to get stuck into book 2, “The Mummy Lesson’s” and find out what Emily, Molly and Liz were up to.

From the first page it felt like I was catching up with old friends and I sped through the pages getting lost in Emily and Molly’s mummy journeys. Everything I enjoyed from the first book was present in this sequel, the warm natural friendships between the women, the honesty about what it’s like to be a mother and the hilarity of the Whatsapp chats, but with an added dramatic storyline for Liz which kept me firmly on the edge of my seat terrified that Gerard and Liz might come to an end (Team Giz forever!)

I enjoyed the character development between books for Emily and Molly. Becoming a mother changes you in ways that are deeply personal and individual and it was so good to see each woman handle her new role in her own way. Equally, it was nice to see that when all three friends met up their friendships were exactly the same and none of them were left out.

As well as the realistic parenting parts of the book, the dramatic storyline added real tension to the plot. Liz is the character I relate to the least and I felt like we got a bit more of her in this book. She became a bit more vulnerable which was really interesting to read. I can’t help but feel like Liz’s story wasn’t completely resolved though, which has left me really hoping that book 3 is in the works!

I really recommend Helen Wallen’s books to anyone who enjoys a fun, hilarious contemporary page-turner. You don’t have to be a parent to enjoy these books, there’s plenty of plot and character for everyone to enjoy them. If you are a parent though you’ll laugh at the sheer accuracy of some of the descriptions in these books.