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.

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 Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner


51KtYHzaUfL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Go-Away Bird
by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A gorgeous story about friendship and working together from a star picture-book partnership, the inimitable Julia Donaldson and award-winning Catherine Rayner.

‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest, With her fine grey wings and her fine grey crest.’ One by one, the other birds fly into her tree, wanting to talk or to play, but the Go-Away bird just shakes her head and sends them all away. But then the dangerous Get-You bird comes along, and she soon realizes that she might need some friends after all . . .

The Go-Away Bird combines brilliant rhyming verse from much-loved children’s author Julia Donaldson, creator of the bestselling picture books The Gruffalo and What the Ladybird Heard, with stunning illustrations from the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Catherine Rayner.

A charming story about the power of friendship from a thrilling creative partnership, this beautiful book is perfect for reading together.

 

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

I read this with my 2 year old, who is a massive fan of all Julia Donaldson books. I find most of Julia’s books consist of a really strong story line with an important underlying message which allows a parent or teacher to open up a conversation about the topic.

The Go-Away Bird is a wonderful example of this, and a timely arrival for me personally as my daughter has reached the age where socialising, sharing, being kind and forming friendships are entering her small world and we are hearing the words “go away” more than we would like to as parents!

We settled down and read the story together. My daughter enjoyed pointing out the birds in the pictures and I found the rhyming text very easy to read out loud. We both enjoyed saying “go away, go away, go away” together and when the Get-you bird appeared, my daughter was immediately concerned and invested in the Go-Away bird finding help.

After we finished reading we went back through the book to look at the pictures again and I talked to my daughter about how it is important to have your own space, but how having friends is important too and it’s nice to be kind to people and help them. She seemed to connect with this idea quite well and definitely understood that telling the colourful birds to go away wasn’t very nice of the Go-Away bird.

I’m sure The Go-Away Bird will become a firm favourite on our shelf. It’s a wonderful story, with beautiful illustrations and it provided a great jumping off point to discuss friendship themes.

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One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk

One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

When I was younger I used to steal my mums Marian Keyes and Jill Mansell books to read, even though a lot of the references went over my head. I loved the stories and the romance and the feeling after you’d turned the last page that you’d made good friends within the pages of the book.

“One in a Million” is the first book I’ve ever read that gave me these exact feelings but also was aimed at my age group and actually referenced things I understood. Oh, the joy I felt when I read the words “Just 17”.

Aside from mentioning magazines I obsessed over as a teenager, the whole plot felt really relevant to my life. I could imagine being friends with Annie and Miranda and it was easy to understand their lives and priorities and motivations.

The plot itself was really original and although it wasn’t hard to imagine how the story would end (who reads a romance hoping for a sad ending?!) I was captivated until the end and had to stifle some ugly happy sobs for fear of bewildering my toddler.

I couldn’t put this book down and it’s left me with such a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart.

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I have lost my way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read any Gayle Forman before so I was really interested to see what I though of “I lost my way” when I won a copy via Twitter.

From the first page I was completley drawn into the story and I binge-read it in one sitting. I couldn’t help it!

The book follows three people who have “lost their way”. Freya, an up-and-coming recording artist who had lost her voice; Harun, a gay muslim who is about to leave his secret boyfriend behind and enter into an arranged marriage with a woman; and Nathaniel whose home life has completely fallen apart leaving him all alone.

All three stories converge at the beginning of the book, whcih follows them over the course of a single day. During this day they help each other find themselves and discover what life can be like if you’re true to yourself.

I think part of the reason this book was so easy to read is Gayle Forman’s writing style. She has a really clear, simple way of putting accross a lot of complex emotion. The three main characters all jump off the page at you and their voices are all so individual. I love POV books for this reason; I enjoy hearing the inner workings of each characters minds and in this book it really helped me to see why each character so desperately needed the support of their new friends. Vitally for a POV book, each of the story arcs were captivating and well developed so there was no feeling of being desperate for a different story line to continue. They were all as strong as each other and beautifully interwoven.

Each of the three protagonist’s stories were incredibly sad, however, when I finished reading the book I felt really positive and happy. The way they all came together to protect and save their new friends after only a day of knowing each other was so beautiful and I loved the dynamic between them.

There is potential for a sequal to be written and I would welcome one with open arms because I am not ready to leave these characters yet. Having said that, this book did beautifully conclude this chapter of their lives so it could just as easily be left as a standalone novel.

*This book does deal with difficult themes such as suicide and homophobia so please be aware of this before you decide to read*

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