Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura

For the love of Jupiter, Nozomi was such a detestable main character.

It had been a while since I so wholeheartedly hated and rooted against the main character of a novel…but here we go. Love and Other Natural Disasters is the kind of romance YA novel that pretends to critique and be self-aware of the tropes that populate this genre but in actuality offers the same recycled ideas and an avalanche of cliches (we have one character saying something along the lines of “you are in love with the idea of love”…come on).
A quick rundown of the story: Nozomi is our narrator, who supposedly is in her late teens (17?18?) and is sad because her parents have split up and her mother is now with a former teacher of hers (boo-hoo). She and her brother go off to visit their uncle in San Francisco where thanks to his connections—ahem nepotism— she gets an internship working at a museum (do we learn anything about this internship? not really). Her grandmother is homophobic and has only recently ‘rekindled’ her relationship with her son (nozomi’s uncle). Nozomi is gay and understandably she is unhappy about having to keep her sexuality a secret in order to have a ‘good’ relationship with her grandmother. Alas, the plot is less concerned with Nozomi & her family than her love life. Before setting off to San Francisco Nozomi overheard a girl she was crushing on making fun of her and comparing her to grey wallpaper or something along those lines. Nozomi wants a GF real bad, and she falls in insta-love with Willow, who turns out, also works at the museum. Willow is beautiful, well-off, and wears makeup (that’s it. that’s her character). She’s also reeling because her girlfriend just broke up with her and seems now to be already dating someone else. Willow and Nozomi decide to do the fake-dating thing, Willow because she hopes to make her ex so jealous she will want to get back together, and Nozomi because she has watched a lot of rom-com movies and according to those the fake-dating couple always ends up falling in not-so-fake-love. Willow’s ex is maybe dating this girl who, you guessed it, is also at the museum as she is working on an installation for a show or something. This girl and Nozomi do not get along at all. At first, the girl is an asshole to her but then it becomes apparent that Nozomi is actually the brat. And that’s my biggest problem with this novel. Nozomi is a real stronza. The kind of nice person who often talks and thinks about how nice, kind, and selfless she is. She’s also low-key into virtue-signalling (telling off this girl for dismissing someone’s ‘i wish world hunger was no more’ wish, claiming that you never know who could be inspired by those words, maybe a person will come across it and decide to volunteer at the food bank…which, if you are wondering, nozomi does not do). Nozomi has also no growth. Her self-pitying ‘I’m a nice person really and any mistakes I do, I do in trying to be good and kind to others so can you blame me, really? ’ shtick got on my fucking nerves. The story tries to spin it so her only ‘flaw’ is that of being too much of a romantic and of trying to orchestrate a romance with Willow (her whole attitude towards willow is creepy af) . The last few pages make it seem as if being called out on her shit has made her mature in no time but I do not believe it for a second. Even after that ‘showdown’ scene, Nozomi seems still firm in her belief that because she didn’t mean to hurt anyone and that after all someone was mean to her so isn’t understandable that she tried to recreate the kind of romance you see in the movies? She has to be told to give someone space and that even if she apologizes that person can refuse to accept said apology. What is she, 14? And don’t get me started on how awful and pathetic she is when it comes to her mother. At one point puts the phone down on her mom because she can’t stand her ‘self-pitying’….pot kettle much? Her behaviour towards her parents was so childish, from the way she assigns them into good/bad roles to how she demands to be in the know-how of their private affairs. I mean, how is this girl meant to be 17/8? She acts like a child! Worse than a child. And she uses the words monstrous all the time. Her grandmother is a monstrous homophobe. She never seems willing to understand that her grandmother, who is Japanese, elderly, and religious, grew up with different social norms. At the end, Nozomi seems to resign herself to her grandmother being the way she is because she’s showing early signs of dementia. And as Nozomi loves to believe she’s a nice person this (her ‘accepting’ her grandmother’s homophobia) works with that narrative.

The characters were one-dimensional, they lacked substance, history even. Nozomi never talks about her high school or mentions any friends/hobbies. It seems to me that she came to be in that very first page of the novel, and that her life before that was…blank. The story was too focused on the drama between these four girls and I would have much preferred for the narrative to be more of a coming of age than a typical YA love story. There were lots of needlessly cringy scenes in which Nozomi does something incredibly stupid (out of the kindness of her heart) that I could have done without.
All in all, this novel irritated me. I kept reading hoping that Nozomi would grow but no. Her character arc is nonexistent even if the last pages will have you believe that she has become a better person and deserves to be forgiven for playing cupid. Her mistreatment of her parents, her obliviousness to her own rather privileged lifestyle (she’s not as wealthy as willow but come on, also, that internship? she cares nothing for it!), and her binary way of thinking (in which people are either bad or good)…all those remain unaddressed. Nozomi is a ‘nice’ person who’s been fooled by those damn romance movies and someone she liked made fun of her so of course, she gets a—frankly undeserved—happy ending.
The author’s writing was decent enough. It didn’t amuse me nor did it engage me particularly but it’s very much run-of-the-mill YA writing. Her dialogues were awkward, her portrayal of teenagers left a lot to be desired, and her mc was bloody awful.
If you liked this, good for you, I guess? If you have this on your tbr list don’t let my review deter you so you should maybe check out some positive reviews instead.

my rating: ★★☆☆☆

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Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

This is the fifth novel that I have read by Mhairi McFarlane and it is her best one yet. I said this in my review for her previous novel, If I Never Met You, but McFarlane is always improving as a writer. While Last Night presents readers with her trademark blend of humor of realism, the tone of the narrative sets it apart from the author’s previous novels. Rather than focusing on a character coming to terms with a breakup—as with It’s Not Me, It’s You, Don’t You Forget About Me, and If I Never Met YouLast Night centers around grief. The beginning of the novel informs us that our narrator and protagonist have lost someone close to her but we do not who or how until further down the storyline which looks back to the time before this loss. Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been best friends since they were in school and are now navigating their thirties together, still as closer as ever. Eve’s feelings towards Ed however may be more than friendly which is not easy given that he has a girlfriend. After ‘that night’, this group of friends is no longer the same, and Eve discovers that perhaps they did not know each other, as well as they’d thought.
Last Night captures in painful clarity Eve’s grief and sorrow. Throughout the course of the novel, Eve is forced to confront how her life has irrevocably changed. Not only did she lose one of the people she loved most in the world but to discover that that person was hiding something big from you only complicates matters. I found Eve’s narrative to be compellingly introspective, and McFarlane depicts her feelings and emotions with great empathy. I really appreciated that the story focused on forgiveness and on nuanced characters capable of change. The humor was a bit less PG than her previous novels and it honestly made the story and the characters all the authentic. The romance here takes the backseat to Eve’s character growth, and in some ways, it made those more romantic scenes all the sweeter. Also, at last, this novel avoids the unnecessary ‘miscommunication’ that always seems to happen in this genre. Then, to be fair, unlike McFarlane other books, I would not call Last Night a romcom (even if it has both romance and comedy).
I loved the cultural references, even if many of those references were lost on me, and the story’s strong sense of place. Also, I am a sucker for stories with road trips and this had one so…

I thought that this was a very moving and funny story that definitely resonated with me. I loved the themes the author explored in this story and I was sad to reach the last page. McFarlane has truly outdone herself.

my rating: ★★★★★

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Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

Her Royal Highness is the book equivalent of cotton candy: fluffy and sweet. This was an exceedingly cute, occasionally silly, and thoroughly enjoyable f/f romance. Her Royal Highness is escapist fiction at its finest.

Her Royal Highness is an easy read that delivers a sweet romance between two very different girls: we have Millie, an aspiring geologist who is rather down-to-earth, and Flora, an actual princess. The two end up being roommates at an exclusive school in Scotland…and well, their first impression of each other isn’t great. But as they spend more time together sparks begin to fly…Their relationship is a light take on the enemies to lovers trope. The story mostly focuses on their romance, so readers who were hoping to see more of the school might find this a bit lacking on that front. But if you are looking for to read a fun f/f romance (with ‘royal’ drama) look no further!
PS: I didn’t read the previous book and that didn’t really hinder my overall enjoyment.


my rating: ★★★½

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How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black

“I am nothing,” Cardan said, “if not dramatic.”

Holly Black’s prose is as tantalising as ever.
The tales collected in How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories focus on Cardan. We learn more of his childhood and get to see certain scenes and events from The Cruel Prince through his perspective.
Stories are at the heart of this volume as Cardan has various encounters with the troll Aslog who presents him with different spins on the same tale (in which a boy with a sharp tongue is cursed with a heart of stone…sounds familiar?).
Although Cardan is as capricious and dramatic as ever we do get to see why he is the way he is. Black does not condone his behaviour and there is some great character development on his part.
The illustrations are simply stunning. There are quite a lot and they are all beautiful. Rovina Cai’s style and the tones she uses really suit this Black’s faerie world.
If you are a fan of The Folk of the Air trilogy I would definitely recommend you pick this one up.

my rating: ★★★★☆

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The Binding by Bridget Collins — book review

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“Bindings are for desperate people. People who can’t go anywhere else.”

Surprising, occasionally frustrating, and relentlessly sad, The Binding never seemed to reach its full potential. I was genuinely intrigued by the premise (an alternative history in which book binders get rid of people’s ‘bad’ memories?) even if I know that the whole ‘memory-erasing’ idea isn’t wholly original (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, More Happy Than Not).

Throughout the first section of The Binding Bridget Collins’ keeps her cards close to her chest. We gather that the setting is in an alternative 19th-century England and that our narrator, Emmett Farmer, has just recovered from a mysterious illness. When Seredith, an old and secluded binder, requests that he become her apprentice, Emmett is left no choice and has to leave his parents’ farm. While working under Seredith’s roof Emmett briefly meets a young man whose appearance and behaviour stick to his mind.
When Seredith finally reveals Emmett what ‘book binding’ truly is, he’s uneasy about the whole thing.
The second and third section of the book take us down slightly different paths, although I must admit that the final part of the novel felt like a rehash of the first part.
I liked the ambiguity created by Emmett’s not knowing what happened to him or why Lucian Darnay’s face haunts him so. The book binding itself raises some thought-provoking questions about consent, and the characters do discuss the ethics of erasing someone’s memory. Sadly it seemed that it was mostly older men using binders to ‘erase’ their crimes (making binders wipe the memories of their victims/witnesses who were often women, quelle surprise).
The setting is rudimentary: vaguely historical, with little about this England’s history, and the narrative mostly focus on the class divide between those like Emmett and those like Lucian, without really expanding on other aspects of this ‘alternative’ English society. A few characters mention terms such as the ‘Crusades’ or ‘deportation’ but other than that we have little information about this country. I would also have liked at one point or another to have more details about the book binding itself (when did it start? how many binders are there? etc…).
The romance was a bit disappointing too. One of them always seemed to hate the other, and I couldn’t really see why all of a sudden they were in love. The whole plot involving their horrible families was frustrating. Emmett and his love interest are manipulated time and again (Emmett’s sister was a HORRIBLE little monster, and I should feel sorry for her? As if!). The story seems to fall into a pattern where Emmett and Lucian are made to suffer. They are sad, and sad, and some sad some more.
Towards the end they both do some questionable and out-of-character things, seemingly disregarding the safety and lives of other people…which okay.
The story didn’t feel all that ‘solid’, there were some rather shaky aspects that made sense for ‘plot reason’, too much time was spent on the two leads mistrusting one another, the few secondary characters were pretty one-dimensional, and the final part went all over the place, and eventually lead to a rushed ending that left so many things unresolved.
Still, Collins’ does create an intriguing atmosphere and the changes in tone and pace in the story kept things interesting.
All in all, I liked it more than not and I would definitely read something else by Collins.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel — book review

71d1PrbuEaL.jpgAs much as I wanted to love The Trouble with Hating You, I found its storyline frustrating and I’m ready to spill some tea.
While I appreciated the way in which Sajni Patel incorporated serious issues into her narrative, I couldn’t push aside my annoyance towards her main characters. Yes, they did have chemistry and their own character arcs but I wasn’t a fan of the way in which Liya Thakkar was portrayed. She’s a self-proclaimed feminist who more than once states that she’s not a ‘damsel in distress’.
Her storyline is very much focused on why she feels ‘broken’ and on her refusal to let her ‘weaknesses’ show. Given her backstory her distrust of men is understandable. However, even if you have most of the characters describe one character as a ‘feminist’ doesn’t mean she’s automatically one. Case in point, Liya repeatedly tells men that she’s not the kind of woman they think she is (‘loose’). She stresses that she’s not a ‘whore’ or a ‘slut’, and every-time she used or alluded to these words it was clear that her stance towards ‘these’ women (those who fall under these labels) isn’t good. Way to stand up for your fellow women Liya, just worry about your own reputation and push ‘women who are like that’ under a bus.
I’m just really tired by these female leads who made into these big ‘feminist’ when in actuality they perpetuate sexist notions and actually end up being ‘saved’ by this hot man with abs. Here there is one of the most clichéd scenes ever: Liya injures her ankle and has to be carried by the male lead. Why can’t it ever be the guy who hurts himself ? Not only that but what led to Liya injury seemed to emphasise that nothing good will come by going out with men who aren’t the fabulous hero.
While Jay Shah has slept with three women with 0 angst, only horrible men are interested in Liya. Jay is the only decent guy she’s encountered. There was something vaguely moralistic about it. Liya’s more casual attitude towards sex is shown to have negative consequences.

Back to the story: after a clichéd first meeting these two are forced to spend more time together because of their work. Liya ‘dislike’ towards Jay lasted longer than it was credible. I understand that initially they didn’t get along and Liya had few reasons to like Jay. But after he ‘rescues’ her, he turns into this helpful and caring guy. Yet, even then she childishly insist that they shouldn’t even be friendly towards each other. Mmh…grow up?
Jay trauma struck me as corny. He has scars and doesn’t want to talk about his ‘dark’ past. Yet he forces Liya to open up about her traumatic experiences.
There are a few other things that kind of grinded my gears: Liya’s friends being rude to the woman who’s interested in Jay, Jay saying ‘I’m a nice guy’ more than once (yet he stubbornly pursues Liya, inserting himself into her private affairs, all the while assuming that she will reciprocate his interest) with a single- what Jay says to Liya’s father (view spoiler)….which 1) that was private you asshole, 2) he makes Liya sound like Georges Simenon (who claimed to have slept with 10,000 women).
I hated the judgemental way in which Liya’s completely normal lifestyle is portrayed as (and I don’t mean that because within her community she’s labelled as ‘bad’ but because the way the story unfolds suggests that her ‘carefree’ attitude towards sex lands her in trouble or with troubled men). By the end it seemed that the only reason why Liya no longer feels ‘broken’ is because of Jay.
Overall, I probably wouldn’t recommend this. The more I think about this book, the more I dislike it. If anything I found it incredibly hypocritical. Here we have a narrative intent on making Liya into this cool and independent ‘feminist’ when she herself is incredibly judgemental about other women, views all men as ‘bad’, but then needs to be saved by Jay after her ‘liberal’ attitudes land her in danger.

My rating: ★★✰✰✰ 2 stars

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Beach Read by Emily Henry — book review

9780241989524.jpgRomance enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy Emily Henry’s Beach Read.
Personally, while I do enjoy romance books, I usually prefer them to be less cheesy…and while certain scenes or lines in Beach Read did make me smile, it wasn’t quite the ‘laugh-out-loud’ read I was hoping it would be.

This is yet another novel that seems to hint at an ‘enemies-to-lovers’ romance but in actuality the two leads are never truly enemies or hostile towards each other. January, our lead and narrator, has a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to Augustus. While they were in college Augustus made a comment that January interpreted as disparaging both her person and her writing. Years later the two find themselves living in the same town.
January needs a place to write her novel. Not only is she financially ‘broke’, but her boyfriend recently broke up with her. January, who is still grieving the loss of her dad, has few options lefts, so she decides to move into her father’s secret home. As she tries to make sense of the secret life her father kept, she finds it hard to envision writing a story with a ‘happy ending’.
January is quite ‘shocked’ to discover that her new neighbour is Augustus, aka Gus. She is sort of envious that his books are seen as ‘highbrow’ whereas hers are dismissed as ‘women’s fiction’. The two strike up a deal: January will write a book without her trademark ‘happy ending’ while Gus will try to write a ‘happy’ book.

While I liked the premise of this book I soon found myself rolling my eyes at its cliches: Gus has an ‘inky gaze’, a ‘crooked’ smile, he is ‘tall’ and ‘dark’. January’s backstory with her father was rather superficial: she feels betrayed, that much she states early on. Other than that I found that she would often merely rehash her story (her mother had cancer, twice, her father wasn’t the man she thought he was, their marriage was far from perfect). Her relationship with people other than Gus were very feeble: she has a best friend who lives in another city so the two of them keep in touch through texts…which were often very silly and seemed to be included only to add humour. Her mother was mentioned now and again but her personality remained undisclosed. We know she had cancer and that she doesn’t want to speak about her husband’s ‘secrets’. It would have been a lot more compelling and challenging if January had actually loved her ex-boyfriend but she admits early on that she loved the idea of them rather than him…which seemed to go against the book’s proclaimed self-awareness. Given that January writes romcoms it would have been more refreshing if we were presented with a story in which there isn’t such a thing as ‘you can only have one true love’…
Gus…he was very much the epitome of the angsty love interest. At one point he says: “I am angry and messed up, and every time I try to get closer to you, it’s like all these warning bells go off”….which yeah, who says stuff like this? And how is this romantic?
Not only does Gus have an appropriately Troubled Backstory™ but he is just sooooo angsty. Just because his eyes are ‘flashing’ or he smirks a lot doesn’t negate how annoying his ‘you can’t possibly understand me/I am a walking tragedy’ thing he has going is.
Most of his lines sounded unbelievable. At one point he tells January that she is “so fucking beautiful” and “like the sun”. Like, wtf man.

Another thing that I was hoping would receive more focus was their books. January once says that if she were to swap her ‘Janes’ for ‘Johns’, her books would no longer be labelled as ‘women’s fiction’ but as ‘fiction’…which is a statement I don’t entirely agree on. There are lots of female authors who write books with female protagonists that do not fall under the ‘women’s fiction’ category. Perhaps January should have been asking herself why certain genres are seen as inferior to others, or why the ‘chick-lit’ is seen as ‘rubbishy’ whereas the popular books by male authors (such as James Patterson) are not similarly dismissed.
There a few paragraphs of January’s own writing which were really cringe-y. I could not take her ‘serious’ story seriously, it was ridiculous. Also, why perpetuate this stereotype of the writer only being able to write about their own lives?

January is immediately attracted to Gus, so there is never a slow build up from friends to lovers. During their first few scenes together her stomach is already ‘flip flopping’.
Their make out/sex scenes were…okay I guess (?). Although I’ve read far worse there was one scenes which was just yuck-y: one moment January compares herself to a ‘toddler’ sitting on Gus’ lap, the next they are making out. Most of their flirting revolves around ‘junk food’ which yeah, I am not a huge fan of this ‘bonding over our mutual love of donuts’. It just strikes me as juvenile.

For the most part I didn’t particularly hate or love this book. I do enjoy reading ‘feel good’ books (some of my faves are by Sophie Kinsella and Mhairi McFarlane) but Beach Read didn’t really work for me. I guess I was excepting a more ‘subversive’ take on the romance genre…but here there are tropes upon tropes.

My rating: ★★★✰✰ 3 stars

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The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black – book review

71sHbfc2H9L.jpgCourt intrigue ahoy!

“We have lived in our armor for so long, you and I. And now I am not sure if either of us knows how to remove it.”

Holly Black’s sensual and lush writing style perfectly complements the menacing world her heroine inhabits.
Black’s silvery prose brims with lavish descriptions: she renders the extravagances of the fairy realm, from their wild and dreadly revels to their taste for grandeur and riddles. Whether she is describing their dresses or foods Black truly succeeds in conveying how decadent and unpredictable the faerie world is. Black’s depicting of the fae and their ways is simultaneously alluring and threatening. Regardless of their appearance—whether they are painfully beautiful or possess disturbing attributes (I’m fairly sure there were a few fae who resembled spiders in here)—and personality, Black’s faerie’s speak in an invitingly mellifluous language. Given their inability to lie there is an emphasis on how they phrase things. Even when making threats or bargains the fae retain their ability to form beautifully articulated phrases.
Black’s faerie world is thrumming with the tantalising presence of magic. While this world offers many glamorous and temptation we are always aware of the danger it poses (to mortals in particular it’s definitely not all fun and games).

“[I]n the great game of princes and queens, I have been swept off the board.”

Jude is a compelling main character and her arc is one of the most interesting aspect of these novels. Perhaps this is due her being the narrator of these novels but she is definitely the most fleshed out character in this series. In this last instalment we really see how much progress she has made. Her resilient nature is stronger than ever. She is brave, if occasionally foolish, and can definitely spin a tale or two. Rather than letting herself be blinded by her thirst for power and revenge, she demonstrates how much she cares for her siblings and the faerie world.
The other characters, although entertaining enough, struck me as occasionally being a bit one dimensional. Jude’s sisters in particular. Taryn is given a sort of ‘redemption arc’ (similarly to other previously ‘wicked’ characters in this series) that just didn’t convince me. Her personality is…pretty bland. Vivi seemed to be the series’ comic relief…which in some ways worked, given that most of the other characters take themselves rather seriously.

“It’s ridiculous the way everyone acts like killing a king is going to make someone better at being one,” Vivi says. “Imagine if, in the mortal world, a lawyer passed the bar by killing another lawyer.”

Cardan is as amusing as ever. I was once again not entirely convinced by some of the reasons we are given about his ‘wicked’ past…I’d preferred for him to have grown into a better person rather than having been somewhat misunderstood. Nevertheless, I still loved his presence in this volume (still not a fan of his tail though, my best friend and I had a similar knee-jerk reaction when we read this: “His tail lashes back and forth, the furred end stroking over the back of my calf.”)

“Mortals are fragile,” I say.
“Not you,” he says in a way that sounds a little like a lament. “You never break.”

Usually romances are not my favourite aspect of a story or a series but in the case of Jude and Cardan…well, their chemistry is off the charts. Their scenes are just pure enjoyment.
It was also refreshing to see the way their relationship changes and develops throughout the course of this series. Their deadly romance is the perfect combination of angsty and dazzling. Now this is how you portray a convincing enemy-to-lovers romance.

“It wasn’t an accident, his choice of words. It wasn’t infelicitous. It was deliberate. A riddle made just for me.”

While the scope of this series is rather narrow Black has plenty of tricks up her sleeves and the dynamics between the various characters are always shifting. The fast paced plot of The Queen of Nothing has quite a few surprises along the way (maybe not as twisty as the ending of The Cruel Prince but still…).
The resolution felt too neat (the epilogue was particularly cheesy) but I still enjoyed seeing (or reading) how things unfolded.
At times I craved for a more leisurely pace amidst the heart-in-throat action, the many double-crossings and face offs.

While I did prefer The Cruel Prince to its follow ups, I would still heartily recommend this series (even if The Queen of Nothing makes for an entertaining, if a bit rushed, finale).

My rating: ★★★★✰ 4 stars

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Red, White & Royal Blue: Book Review

disclaimer: I amended my original review which was low-key harsh. I know everyone and their grandma loved this book and I’m sorry that I don’t feel the same way. McQuiston is by no means a bad writer, it just so happens that her book did not work for me.

Red, White & Royal Blue has the merits and demerits of a piece of fanfiction.
If you LOVE tumblr or BL manga and you want to read about two hot guys making out, look no further (added bonus if you are American, because there are an abundance of cultural references—almost one on every page—that went way over my head). It wasn’t a bad novel, I even liked the first 20% or so but by the halfway-mark I was starting to get bored and ended up skim-reading the last few chapters.
I will try to break down the reasons why I wasn’t able to enjoy Red, White & Royal Blue :

TONE/THEMES
One of the biggest drawbacks to me was that the tone of the novel kept vacillating between being a light & fluffy YA to a steamier NA.
The story seems to shy away from tackling political issues seriously, which I can understand, given that this is meant to be a “romcom” but towards the end the story tries to make it seem like Alex actually cares about his country so there is a sketched out impression of his mother’s campaign.
The story fails to depict realistic political parties or issues. The simplified depiction of “good guys vs. bad guys” assigns the characters in either the “democrats (super uber good)” and “conservatives (aka villainous grinches)”. Look, I admit that I sometimes do the same thing but here this binary was just so over-the-top.
Also, the way in which Britain and British culture are depicted is full of not so funny clichés. I got the impression that the story elevated America and made fun of Britain. I do not identify as British nor do I like many things related to Britain (its history, recognising that the ‘goold ol’ empire was far from good, the glorification of Churchill) but it didn’t seem fair for it to be the ‘joke’ of the novel. Also,Brexit was only mentioned once! Wouldn’t Henry want to talk about it more?
The book tries to make it seem like it cares about important matters, ending up instead with a lot of ‘cute’ scenes that interrupt would could have possibly been important and serious discussions (about race, sexuality, etc.). Having one character mention once how bad the British empire feel insufficient. There are some many one-liners about how a certain thing or person is “bad” (bad how?! Tell us!) but then the characters don’t go on to develop their arguments. A few comments on how homophobia and racism are bad are not really enough.
The humour too seems to waver between a young one and a more mature one. Having characters eat pizza or talk about Star Wars doesn’t make your book into a comedy. There were a few one-liners that were funny but they are drowned by an endless sea of cultural references.
This book shies away from portraying political issue or acknowledging how privileged the two main leads are. Instead we get ‘cute’ scenes that are meant to show us how relatable these two are. They eat pizza, just like us!

CHARACTERS
A lot of the female characters (Alex’s sister, his best-friend, his bodyguards, and his mother) are interchangeable with one another. Really. They all incredibly supportive, passionate, and have a no-nonsense attitude towards everything. They often speak a weird ‘tumblr’ jargon that just grated on my nerves. Just because they swear doesn’t cancel out the fact that everything else they say sounds unbelievably soppy or make them into unbelievable adults. Additionally, having one of your characters use ‘mansplaining’ does not make them into a feminist…
A lot of the time I just found myself not really believing in what the characters were saying.

ROMANCE
It happens far too quickly! They are already ‘lovers’ by the 30% mark. Arch-enemies ? Enemies? Where?! For two seconds?! Maybe I would preferred the romance more if it hadn’t been reduced to how hot/cool they are. Maybe I did not like the romance because I found both Alex and Henry to be…unrealistic..I didn’t care for their relationship. These two just came across as teens rather than young adults men.

my rating: ★★½

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

unpopular opinion in 1…2…3….

While I’m no longer an avid YA fan, I still do like to check out the new YA titles. Reading the blurb, and the general hype, for Children of Blood and Bone I was so sure that I would too love it that I bough a hardback copy. The design of this book is gorgeous. The cover, the title, the map. Wow.
Sadly the actual content of this novel left me feeling rather…cold. While I do understand – and I am thankful for – what Tomi Adeyemi is trying to do, her story is loaded with YA tropes. The West African inspired setting was the only thing that spoke to me. The characters and plot were the same overused YA archetypes: oppressed magic people, special hot-temperated-acts-before-thinking kick-ass heroine, the naive princess, the angsty anti-hero (a wannabe Zuko/Kylo) and his villainous father.
That the three first-person povs sounded exactly like one another didn’t help. I tried to feel something for these characters, but I didn’t. I only felt something when Amari was recalling her friendship with Binta, but that was the only affecting and credible relationship in this novel. I grew tired of Zélie’s predictably petty attitude towards Amari, and the romance felt so forced and unbelievable that I ended up skimming large parts from Inan’s pov (who keeps referring to Zélie as ‘the girl’…so romantic). And of course Amari and Zélie’s brother have to be romantically involved too. How convenient!
The action-orientated storyline doesn’t allow much character development: a good old ‘hero’s journey’ where our protagonists encounter a number of obstacles that help her restore magic.
Racism, classism, culture clash, have been done before both in YA, ex. An Ember in the Ashes and The Winner’s Curse, and in adult fiction, anything by N.K. Jemisin, and I would recommend Children of Blood and Bone only to those who have are new to YA. Otherwise, well, you’ve probably read this before.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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