Thursday, December 12, 2019

Review: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Title: Red, White, and Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction (romance, LGBTQ)
Pages: 418
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (DC, NY, TX) and UK

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius--his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, US/British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Review: This is the third book in this genre that I've read recently, the other two were Royal Holiday and Get a Life, Chloe Brown. They have all suited my mood well as we get nearer to the winter holidays, but this one is my favorite of the three. And it was just voted best romance and best debut on Goodreads. 

This book is well written, reads quickly, is funny and serious, and has much more depth than I expected. Yes, I knew I was reading a romance about two young men who are leaders in their country, but that happens before the mid-way point so what else is there to cover?! Lots, it turns out. 

Now, I'm a Harry Potter fan, so sprinkle a bunch of HP references into a book and you've got me, but this novel also tackles racism, heterosexism, LGBTQ issues, love, politics (both US and UK), women in politics, and friendship. There's lots about friendship and how friends can support (or hinder) one another. There is also a lot of drinking and swearing. Too much drinking for my taste, but that's just me. The main characters are in their early 20s so I just hope when they are older, they cut back. :-)

I liked the characters, each of whom has their strength (charm, data analysis, writing, policy, etc) and they each bring a different perspective on life and the events at hand. If you want a fun read that has more depth than you expected, read this one for sure.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Salon: December 8, 2019

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz has taken over running The Sunday Salon.

My life in books over the past week: 
    Challenge progress:
    • Diversity Reading Challenge--I have read 65 books.
    • Literary Escapes--I have read books set in 39 states so far, adding none in the past 2 weeks. I have read in 58 countries so far, adding none in the past 2 weeks.
    • Motif Reading Challenge--The December motif is "Last Chance" (read a book you've been meaning to read this year. I counted Odd Child Out by Gilly MacMillan
    • Non-fiction--I have read 26 books so far.
    Completed challenges:
    • My Own Books--I read 21 books off my shelves from March 15 to May 15, 2019.
    • Big Book Challenge--I read 8 books over 400 pages during the summer.
    • YA Award Winners--I have read all 11 winners
    • A to Z Reading--I have read books with titles for al l26 letters
    My life outside books:
    The fun thing of this past week was that my brother was in town (poor guy, this is him right as I picked him up at the airport so he's crazy jet lagged). He lives in the UK so we only see each other once or twice a year. It was great to have him here for 5 days! We've just been hanging out and chatting, having dinners, and we got our Christmas tree today. I can't remember the last time just our nuclear family did that!

    I also had a good week last week at work, which felt really good. I realize it's because I had more interaction with colleagues, ran a professional development session, and did some curriculum writing. Those are all my favorite parts of my job.

    This is my 2,000 post! Compared to many of you, I realize that's not a ton, but it feels like a milestone to me. And, November was my 10 year blogoversary. So, two things to celebrate! 

    Saturday, December 7, 2019

    Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown

    Title: Get a Life, Chloe Brown
    AuthorTalia Hibbert
    Year Published: 2019

    Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
    Pages: 369
    Rating: 4 out of 5

    Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)UK

    FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost--but not quite--dying, she's come up with seven directives to help her "get a life," and she's already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamerous family's mansion. The next items?

    • Enjoy a drunken night out
    • Ride a motorcycle
    • Go camping
    • Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex
    • Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage
    • And... do something bad
    But it's not easy being bad, even when you've written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

    Redford "Red" Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten thousand Hollywood heart-throbs. He's also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

    But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe's wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really likes beneath his rough exterior....

    Review: I chose this book from Book of the Month club and am glad I did. It isn't the type of book I normally read (heavy on the romance and there is quite a bit of raw sex), but it was a fun diversion.

    Chloe has fibromyalgia and is in pain all the time, but she has allowed it to control her attitude toward life and people who are close to her (or who want to be close to her). She comes off as snobby and rude. Although it made me want to scream at her, it also made me realize how much of people's attitudes are based in how they physically feel in the moment.

    Red is a good guy, but also a bit tortured and broken from a devastating break up that made him doubt his talent and worth. There are no surprises in this story as the two have conflict, come together, experience trouble, and in the end are together. But, the author's bio at the end explains that this book has a purpose in addition to fun. "She [the author] writes sexy, diverse romances because she believes that people of marginalized identities need honest and positive representation." Well said!

    Challenges for which this counts: 

    Friday, December 6, 2019

    #AMonthofFaves (favorite things edition)

    I am joining this year’s hosts Girlxoxo and Traveling with T for their annual #AMonthofFaves blog event. They have a schedule of topics planned, so bloggers can join in anytime for some or all of the topics.

    Favorite Things Edition

    I am not someone who tends to think about having favorites so this post was a bit of a challenge for me, but here goes for my favorites of 2019....

    Favorite food

    This is a tough one. Do I pick Indian or Mexican? I have Mexican food much more often, but I think that's because I live in southern California and it is so readily available. But, I think I am going to go with Indian. In particular, I choose Dhaal, Naan, rice pilau, and vegetable somosas. Yummy! Now i want to go out for Indian food.

    Favorite book
    Ugh. This is the most difficult one for me. Some years it just presents itself, but this year one particular book did not stand out so easily. I will narrow it down to 2, both of them nonfiction.

    Favorite indie bookstore
    My all time favorite bookstore in the world is in my town. It's called Chaucer's. They have everything (or will get it if they don't have it), there are books on the floor, on the shelves, on the counter, everywhere), and the workers know their stuff!

    Favorite vacation

    This is easy for me to pick. I went on my first river cruise this year and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. In fact, it was so good, we're doing another one next year. This summer we went from Prague to Berlin with Viking. I enjoyed the food, the history, the people, and all the walking tours we did.

    Favorite way to get cozy
    Another easy one for me. Give me a pair of pajamas, a cozy sweater, my couch and a book and I am good to go for hours.

    Favorite purchase
    Ah, this year my favorite purchase is my Tesla Model 3. I am pretty obsessed with it. Combined with our solar panels, it's good for the environment, drives like a dream, and updates via the internet. And, it wasn't all that expensive ($29K with rebates). What are you waiting for?!

    Favorite part of my job
    This year my job has been a bit challenging for me. No, wait, that's not a totally fair statement. January through June it was great and I enjoyed creating curriculum and doing professional development workshops for our social studies teachers. Since August it's been not quite as satisfying, but I am working to get those two favorite elements to play a larger role again.

    What about you?
    What are some of your favorites from this year?

    Wednesday, December 4, 2019

    #AMonthofFaves (books that deserve more buzz)

    I am joining this year’s hosts Girlxoxo and Traveling with T for their annual #AMonthofFaves blog event. They have a schedule of topics planned, so bloggers can join in anytime for some or all of the topics.

    Underrated books that deserve more buzz

    I love it when I read a book that I don't hear much about, but then I want everyone to read it. Here are three of mine from this year that I really liked a ton:

    • Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh (fiction)
    • Fire Priest by Stephen Murdoch (ok. I'll be totally honest about this one. My brother wrote it, it's self-published, and it's total YA fantasy/dystopian, but I really enjoyed it)
    • Hero Dogs by Wilma Melville (nonfiction)