Red, White & Royal Blue Review

41150487._SY475_Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre: romance; contemporary; LGBT; new adult; fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads): What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, 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 the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable 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 campaign and upend two nations and begs 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?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

Review: 4 Stars

Casey McQuiston’s 2019 romance was as funny as it was tender. It was sweet and kind but also witty and full of banter and sexy flirting from the millennial characters McQuiston created. It was so well done too. All of the millennial / gen z generation characters felt fully dimensional. In fact, the characters that fell flat for me were the older generation. The ones I didn’t really care about, even if they were the ones apparently leading the nation. *shrug*

Alex and Henry had me from Cakegate. Their energy was electric. From the moment Henry called Alex out and was like, “you’re the one always coming to seek me out, Alex,” I was hooked on them.

When McQuiston wrote in the banter from the people following them on internet, the newspaper, Twitter, on Buzzfeed, etc. I felt like it literally could have been me. Particularly the “OMG just make out already” comments after their first television filming.

But it’s not just about their snark and witty repartee. It’s also about their tender moments and their private email exchanges. I loved how they sent excerpts from actual letters in history. I loved how that began with Hamilton and John Laurens. It was a fun, and particularly pop culturally relevant way to start their love story.

The author was, in my opinion, particularly brilliant with how she allowed their love story to unfold. The clandestine meetings, their secret texts, their private emails, their innuendos, and the help of the seven people they trust. It just works. It helps build the suspense but also brings with it this reminder that it has to end. Logically, as a reader, I knew somehow they would get exposed, and from some of the repeated phrases, I guessed (SEE! I CAN GUESS THE ENDINGS!!! TAKE THAT LAST TWO BOOKS) correctly. It was a really volatile coming out for both of them and it felt like a real invasion of their privacy, but I really like how they all handled it.

I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to whether McQuiston handled this with grace and empathy, but I thought Alex and Henry were strong and brave AF. They stood up to the MF Queen of England for Christ’s sake.

The LGBT representation in this book was awesome. Nora and Alex pulling it out for the bi team, Amy for the trans community, Henry and Raf for the gay community, Cash for the pan community, and then all the other characters as strong allies. (I don’t think I missed anyone, but I’m writing this review without the book to skim through, so if I am, please comment below).

Getting back to the older generation for a second, they all seemed so flat. The only one that really gave me anything was Alex’s dad. When they were in Texas for their weekend away from the world, I really loved how the father just accepts Alex. He even teases him and calls himself the patron saint of genderless bathrooms in California I think.

But they have a good conversation about how it’s different when it’s your own kid, which I think is a good distinction to have. Oscar (dad) says it isn’t any different for him, and Alex is his kid and he loves him just the same— but it really is for some parents. I’ve heard parents say that they’re okay with it as long as it isn’t THEIR kid. (Gross, btw)

So for Oscar and Alex to have this conversation, it’s pretty cool.

POTUS has a moment of humanity when she kicked her staff out and asked if Alex was okay, but other than that, she was just a politician, through and through.

I think in general, the book is one written in response to what happened in the last election. It’s a HEA, and it’s FICTION, so it’s not this super realistic account of what could happen tomorrow. This was one of the concerns I read about when I got the book— “it’s too unrealistic, it would never happen” — in my opinion, that’s why it’s uh, FICTION? And that’s also why I like it. It’s the dream election for 2019, that’s what makes it good.

The POTUS is also a Democrat, so the politics mentioned in the book, naturally, swing left too, but that didn’t bother me either. I figured that would be the case so I didn’t get caught off guard by it.

Another criticism I read was about how Henry hates the monarchy while still benefitting from it. I lol’d at that. Henry’s character literally struggles with being part of an empire built on genocide and war the whole book, going so far as to never spend any of that money. I liked his character development. I don’t really understand the criticism I guess. *shrug*

Overall, this book is driven by more than just Henry and Alex. It’s also Nora and June and Pez and Amy and Cash and Bea and supported by the POTUS and a double agent (triple agent?) and a senator and two protective agents who care deeply, even if they pretend they don’t.

It was an idealistic HEA and I loved it. Pick it up today.

Moxie Review

Title: Moxie
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: contemporary; feminism; ya; realistic fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Moxie girls fight back!Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Review: 4 Stars. I read this book on the heels of Samira Ahmed’s Internment. (You can read that review HERE). To say Moxie was a departure from that would be a gross understatement. However, this book was fun and a delight to read. Vivian was a strong and caring and carried the book the whole way through. She was a three dimensional character and really well written by author, Mathieu. She was nerdy and unsure, but strong and caring when she saw others needed her to be so.

Inspired by her mother’s glory days, she creates a zine for her school to empower the girls to fight back against the patriarchal structures in place that hold them back.

What I like is that Mathieu brings up events that are relevant for all girls in all high schools. Dress codes, rape culture, inappropriate groping, lack of administrative support… these are all things girls face in countless high schools.

What’s more, these girls, through their collective coming together because of the zine get actual results. It’s really cool.

The boyfriend character is interesting. He keeps doing this “not all guys” thing and I think I get that he’s trying to learn, and Mathieu is trying to make a point, but his repetitive “I’m not those guys, I’m sensitive, look at me, I get it, you’re cool,” schtick didn’t really sit well with me. I’m wondering if she did this to point out how annoying it is, but the fact that Viv and he stay together in the end makes it all the worse. Like, sure, he’s trying, and sure, he’s quasi-supportive, but like… just because he’s the first guy that ever showed interest in her doesn’t mean she has to stay with him and teach him how to be “not all guys.”

I don’t think it was Vivian’s job to teach him how to be a decent guy. It’s not her job to teach him to shut up and just listen. It’s not her job to realize that girls who say the administration tried to cover up a rape or attempted rape aren’t lying.

/rant
Either way, this book was GOOD. Really good. That boyfriend piece is really just a small part of the plot and the rest of it is really female empowerment centered. The female friendships are strong and the driving force of Vivian’s kickstarting Moxie in the first place. The girls in this high school stand proud and tall together, even when they aren’t sure how to do so, and it’s really remarkable. This book is inspiring. And quick. It was fast paced, fun, well-written, and going in my classroom library.

Moxie girls fight back!

Internment Review

image1Title: Internment
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genre: contemporary; ya; science fiction; dystopian
Synopsis: Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Review: 5 Stars. Internment was exactly as described. Chilling. It was haunting and hard to read, and yet, I couldn’t put it down. I was transfixed by Layla’s horrible reality in our too-close future. Ahmed writes that it’s fifteen minutes into the future of America and it did indeed feel that way.

My heart was in my throat as I turned each page, hoping for a decent ending for the people in Mobius. Not a happy ending, because there could be no happy ending for this book, I knew that for certain.

This book was HARD. I hated every single thing this book made me witness. Every single horror I had to be complicit in, almost. You know? Like… it made me think about what I would do after the 2020 census, if things played out like they did in the book. It makes me wonder if I’m doing enough now. People are literally in cages at the border right now.

Samira Ahmed wrote this book in response to the 2018 refugees being taken from their children (see Author’s Note). Layla and her family were in a liberal town, in a liberal state, and her neighbors, her friends, they just let them get captured and taken and stamped with a permanent barcode, and put in an internment camp.

Where there are unspeakable horrors and atrocities, there is Hope. Layla and the people of Mobius do the unthinkable in the face of the unknown, because the fear helps them focus on the end goal. Her bravery and her endless faith was inspirational.

This is the type of book that makes you think about what side of history you need to be on. It reminded me of The Hate U Give (see my review for that one HERE), of Night by Elie Wiesel.

It was painful and hard, but necessary to read it. It wasn’t my usual book, but I needed to read it, especially right now. Ahmed’s use of timely political rhetoric, unfortunate and unpresidential rhetoric, and current events makes this book a must read in this day and age.

The Author’s Note is something I want to make copies of and read with all of my classes. Often I tell my classes that if we don’t read our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Ahmed writes that we look back to our history to use its rhetoric for instances like this.

As hard, horrifying, and raw as Internment was to read… it was worth it. I would recommend this book to everyone.

Where the Crawdads Sing Review

image1.jpegTitle: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Genre: fiction; historical fiction; realistic; mystery; romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Review: This novel was selected for me as part of an impromptu book club. If you’ve seen my usual book choices, you can see that it doesn’t exactly fit in with my book choices, but I wanted to give it a fair shake. I read this as a kindle read so as I provide this review, I’ll be giving percentages instead of page counts to talk about how I felt as I read along.

To be 100% honest, I almost DNF’d this book around 23% through. I was BORED. I get the appeal of a girl and a place. I truly do. But that’s not my story and there are too many books on my tbr that ARE my story. But, it was for book club, so I kept going. There was an element of crime drama and the non linear storytelling that I kinda liked, so regardless of whether I liked Kya or not, I kept reading.

But then it got so, so, so predictable that by 50% I did DNF it. I was totally done with it, book club be damned. I was 100% sure I knew how the crime plot was going to shake out, I didn’t have any strong tie to Kya or Chase or Tate or anyone else, except for maybe Jumpin.

The one thing I didn’t count on was being shamed for DNFing it at book club. I thought I had enough to speak on when we started talking about it… (50% is a LOT to talk about AND I’m an English major and an English teacher tyvm) I guess by me not finishing it in the first place I was bashing the pick of it? Or maybe I made my opinion of it too well known, but anyway, I was made to feel guilty enough that I went home and stewed over finishing it so much that I did just that!

I finished the dang book. And you know what, it was exactly what I thought it was going to be. The crime plot shook out exactly as expected, the good guy was the good guy, the bad guy was the bad guy, the the marsh was the marsh.

Here’s the good:

Delia Owens is a beautiful descriptive writer. Her description is out of this world. She created the marsh as it’s own character and imagery is her god damn forte. Holy cow can she paint a picture.

Here’s the not so good:

It felt predictable from the start.Maybe it was supposed to. Maybe you’re supposed to guess it from the beginning. This wasn’t for me.

I just felt like I wasted my time. Like I said in the beginning… There are too many books on my TBR for me to feel guilty over DNFing a book.

 

The Education of Margot Sanchez Review

image1Title: The Education of Margot Sanchez
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Genre: ya; fiction; contemporary; realistic; own voices
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:
Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

Review: The Education of Margot Sanchez was pretty dang cool okay. It starts out with this bratty little girl who thinks she’s too good for all these BS family “the more you know” teachable moments, but then she gets educated in multiple ways.

She makes all these lists of all the things she thinks she knows or hates in the moment, but as she goes along through her journey, these lists evolve right along side her.

Margot’s real journey begins because she’s trying to follow advice from her mother. She’s reminded of her mother’s own struggles coming to the US from Puerto Rico when she begins her high school career at a fancy rich private school. She’s immediately an outsider and she does everything to change herself— changes her physical appearance and her personality.

I tend to shy away from stories like this because they irk me. I hate female characters who do this, but because the author writes in this part of Margot’s backstory as her justification instead of me having to read her going through it in the present, I could buckle down and get through it. For a long time, Margot sees no issue in this— which is part of her education.

I love the way Lilliam Rivera writes Margot in this book. It feels authentic. She doesn’t automatically learn her lesson the first time. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know I love a character that falls down a lot. I think any real reader does. I don’t like the character that does everything right. Who can like a character like that?

Rivera’s Margot reminds me a lot of Zoraida Cordova’s Alex in Labryinth Lost. (You can check out my review for that book HERE.) She’s a bit on the whiny annoying bratty teenager side, but it so fits her character. She doesn’t get it right or do the right thing every time. She’s real. And so are her relationships and friendships.

I like the way the author brings out the real world issues just as clearly as she brings up the more intimate family and cultural issues. Gentrification comes up right along side machismo and gender roles. Rivera makes it clear in her text that YA readers can handle these mature topics just as easily as they can handle school yard crushes, fitting in, and broken hearts.

 

Spotlight: Policy of Truth

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Synopsis: (from Amazon) Five years ago, Tamra “Durty” Simon’s life was falling apart, and she had a one-way ticket to six-feet under. And if it hadn’t been for the Death’s Angels Motorcycle Club swooping in, dusting her off, and transforming her into the badass biker she is today, she’d be taking a dirt nap. Now, she has everything she ever wanted–or so she thought.

Brett “Sting” Jackson is on a mission, and nothing is going to stop him–not even the sexy, enticing female biker who makes him hard with a single look. Too bad he’s lying and keeping secrets from her. But the alternative could get her killed, and that’s not a risk he’s willing to take.

It took Sting crashing into her life to make Durty realize there’s something else in this world she wants to ride as hard as her bike–too bad fate has other plans for them. When a rival club makes a move against the Angels, all hell breaks loose. Lives will be lost, secrets will be revealed, and lies will be exposed. Because in the motorcycle world, lies may get you hurt, but the truth can get you killed.

Available on February 22, 2019

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Don’t want to wait? Check out a Rafflecopter giveaway for Policy of Truth.

You can connect with author, Scarlett Holloway, via social media here:

 

Don’t miss the last stop on the Blog Tour:
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The Hate U Give

9780062498533_p0_v10_s550x406Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: fiction; ya; contemporary; realistic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
ReviewBooks that make me feel both empowered and ready to take on the whole damn world are why I read books! Angie Thomas’ debut novel is inspiring. Important. Relevant. Engaging. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Activating. Starr is a brilliant protagonist who rises up and claims her voice. She begins her story by having two sides, the side she shows at school and the side she shows at home and they never mingle. B the end of the novel, she’s learned that both parts of her life are important and they need to be able to coexist for her to really be herself. She starts as a Tumblr activist, someone who retweets hashtags and shares posts, but by the end, she’s the one making moves for awareness.

The relevance of this book in the United States right now cannot be underestimated. With the help of social media and the internet, more and more cases of racially unjust acts of violence have come to light, and this novel highlights that brilliantly. This book isn’t about Starr having all the answers — that would be unrealistic. How could Starr have any solutions if there AREN’T any real solutions yet? As a teacher, I know that I will teach this book year after year after year.