ARC REVIEW: RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE BY CASEY MCQUISTON

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

3.5 stars

3.5 stars 

(Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley!)

CUTE

I really, really enjoyed this. I was in the mood for something quick and cute and Red, White & Royal Blue delivered exactly that. First and foremost, McQuiston’s biggest strength here is her dialogue. Her characters’ conversations are organic, genuine, and funny. I also appreciated the representation in this book. Alex is biracial—half-white, half-Mexican—and bisexual, Henry is gay, Nora is a lesbian, and there’s also a lot of discussion of what it’s like to be queer and/or a person of colour in politics. Oh and also, the romance was cute as hell. Thought I’d mention that since, y’know, this is a romance book, lol. ANYWAY, I really enjoyed this. It only gets 3.5 stars just because I found that the plot elements started to drag down the story bit, especially with all the stuff about the election.

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ARC REVIEW: NORMAL PEOPLE BY SALLY ROONEY


Normal People is a novel that moved me. It’s a book that could’ve so easily veered into the grandiose, but instead asserted a quiet kind of significance, a reclamation of the momentousness of the everyday. Its story hinges on two central characters—Connell and Marianne—their thoughts, their flaws, their conversations, their relationship(s). On the surface, the story’s plot isn’t much: two people living their lives, coming together and drifting apart. But what draws you into this story is not the structural but the personal. Rooney’s characters are so tenderly drawn, so well-realized. Their conversations feel authentic, filled with pockets of humour and hints of vulnerability and the undercurrent of things unsaid. More than anything, though, the novel’s moments ring true. They are not disembodied Deep Literary Moments, but individual, particular, personal moments—not about meaning as a distant concept, but about meaning as a lived experience. 

Like I said, this book moved me. I finished it crying but not knowing why, only feeling that I’d read something that struck me as remarkably honest. 

(Thank you to Penguin Random House/Knopf Canada for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley!)

ARC REVIEW: A LADDER TO THE SKY BY JOHN BOYNE

I tried not to have high expectations for this, I really did. I absolutely ADORED Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies, so naturally I was eagerly looking forward to whatever he would release next. But try as I might to moderate my expectations for this novel, A Ladder to the Sky still disappointed me. By and large, my biggest problem with this novel is that–and this is gonna sound harsh–its story felt like nothing special. The main character was a horrible person, sure, but not in a particularly interesting or compelling way. The plot was very linear and predictable; once you establish what kind of character Maurice is, nothing he does comes as a shock. The other POV characters of the story didn’t interest me in the least; they seemed like a means to an end as far as Maurice’s story was concerned. And then on top of all of that the ending was just underwhelming, a that’s it? kind of ending.

This book is definitely not gonna deter me from reading Boyne’s other books, but on its own it was just not a standout book for me.

2019 RELEASES I NEED RIGHT NOW


So I’ve been looking up and adding a lot of 2019 releases to my TBR shelf lately, and I thought I’d share them with you today! My excitement over these books needed to go somewhere, so I figured I’d make a post and remind myself how ridiculously excited I am over them.

1. Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

I can’t describe to you how excited I am for this. Emma Mills is by far my favourite contemporary author so the fact that she has a new book coming out is basically gonna be the highlight of my year. I should give this 5 stars already because it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m gonna love it.


2. The Wicked King by Holly Black 

This one should probably go without saying. I love this series and cannot wait to see where Black takes this story (in all likelihood, in very dark and twisted directions).


4. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo 

I may not have read the Grisha trilogy, but man am I excited for this. The moment I heard Nina from Six of Crows had POV chapters in this I was hooked. I’ll probably get around to reading the Grisha trilogy soon though as I’ve heard so many good things about Nikolai.

5. Lovely War by Julie Berry

I would’ve read this regardless because I LOVED Julie Berry’s Passion of Dolssa, but omg this book’s premise sounds AMAZING.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.”

Does this not sound amazing to you?!!!! I need this now.


6. If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka 

I recently read and loved Always Never Yours from this fantastic author duo and vowed to read anything else that they happened to be releasing next. And then they announced this book–as well as another one–and I’m so glad they did!!! This one is a Taming of the Shrew retelling and sounds wonderful and cute and lovely, just like Always Never Yours.

7. When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

Emily Berry’s A Million Junes was one of my favourites of this year, so when I heard she’d be coming out with a new book I was very very happy, to say the least. Her books have such diverse premises and this one sounds just as amazing. It’s giving me found-family, Stranger Things vibes, too, so that can’t hurt.


8. And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors, so this one was a no-brainer. It has beautiful illustrations too, so that’s definitely gonna be a plus. You never know what to expect with Ness’s books, so this should be interesting.


9. Enchantee by Gita Trelease 

I know basically nothing about this book, but it’s been getting such amazing reviews, and I’m a sucker for any kind of retelling, so sign me up.

10. The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta 

Melina Marchetta is my all time favourite author, and this book includes characters from Saving Francesca (JIMMY), and I’m SO EXCITED for this. I’m 100000% into anything Marchetta decides to release, really.

11. Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

LOOK AT HOW CUTE THIS IS ALREADY. Rainbow Rowell is a contemporary queen, and Faith Erin Hicks is one of my favourite graphic novelists, so this is basically a match made in heaven. Cannot wait for this.


12. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Anything by Leigh Bardugo will automatically make it onto this list. This sounds AMAZING (mystery? Yale? protag with a mysterious criminal past????). Yes please.

ARC REVIEW: STRANGE GRACE BY TESSA GRATTON

Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley! 

Strange Grace has such a compelling, eerie premise: every seven years, a boy is sent into the Devil’s Forest as a sacrifice to allow the village and its occupants to remain safe and prosperous for the next 7 years. Except, one day, this spell is inexplicably interrupted 3 years into the 7 year interval. THE MYSTERY. THE SUSPENSE. And I gotta admit, the first couple of chapters of this book were very exciting. I wanted to find out what would happen and the air of mystery surrounding the whole thing was enticing. I also really appreciated the prominent role that diverse representation played in this story. There’s great LGBTQ rep (it’s hard to tell what the characters identify as since they don’t explicitly use labels, but to me it seemed like the main characters were bi- or pansexual), gender identity rep (again, I can’t tell for sure, but one of the main characters read to me as non-binary), and also one of the POV characters is black. Regardless, my initial interest in all of these things–the premise and the rep–waned and I was just left feeling more underwhelmed than anything. About halfway through the book I realized that I wasn’t enjoying this story anymore. 

I think my issue with this is that the story feels very static. It has plenty of highs and lows, and yet they never really feel all that high or low. Consequently, neither the story nor its characters end up reading as dynamic. Also, something about the writing style made this quite hard to follow. I don’t know if this was just me, but I had a lot of trouble visualizing scenes because the logistics were so hazy and the transitions very abrupt.

Strange Grace wasn’t a bad story, but the fact is, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I loved the outline of its story, but its characters and writing ultimately fell short for me.

BOOK REVIEW: THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES BY JOHN BOYNE

YALL BETTER BUCKLE UP BECAUSE I AM ABOUT TO GUSH

I haven’t felt this excited to review a book in so long and IT’S SUCH A GOOD FEELING. Like I’m sitting here staring at my screen vibrating with energy because I have so much love for this book and I need to put it into words somehow and I have so much to talk about and GAAAAH i loved it 

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^ me writing this review right now


I mean, WOW. First and foremost, I ADORED THIS BOOK. Out of the 81 books I’ve read this year, The Heart’s Invisible Furiesis the FIRST book to get a 5 stars, so yeah, not to exaggerate or anything but this book was nothing short of perfection.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies was: 

1) COMPELLING: Here are two facts: This book is 600 pages. I read it in two days. Look, I get distracted very easily. When I read books, I often get antsy and start obsessively looking at the page number like every other page to see if I’m making any progress. I tend to take a lot of random breaks in between reading because of said tendency to get distracted. But while I was reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies, I was so utterly and completely engrossed. I warmed up to this book almost immediately, basically within the space of a chapter. (I’m not kidding. This book had already made it to my favourites shelf by page 200.) And after that, nothing and no one could pry my hands away from this book. I wasn’t tempted to check my phone, I didn’t watch any TV—for those two days, my goal was to do one thing and one thing only: READ THIS BOOK. Ultimately, that’s what I mean by “compelling.” I just could not stop reading this book. I cannot emphasize this enough. I know words like “captivating” and “riveting” are thrown around a lot, but damn this book really was captivating and riveting, intoxicatingly so.

2) CHARACTER-DRIVEN: One of my favourite things to read in books is conversations. And guess what? this book is like 99% conversations. It’s basically comprised of a bunch of conversations between a bunch of people about a bunch of stuff. And let me tell you, I just ate. that. shit. up. Boyne is a master at writing organic, funny, profound, momentous, heartfelt conversations. And never for a moment does his dialogue feel stilted or forced. Actually, this aspect of Boyne’s writing really reminds me of Jane Austen’s writing. Just like Austen gives each of her characters idiolects—a style of speech specific to the character’s personality—Boyne writes dialogue that is not just effective in its structure, but also in its ability to both uncover layers from and add layers onto his characters.

3) FUNNY AS HELL: THIS BOOK IS HILARIOUS. Yes it’s filled with tragedy and and bigotry and trauma, but it’s also so consistently and undeniably funny. And it’s never funny in a way that belittles its darker moments, either. The humour doesn’t deflate the book’s drama or undermine it—it coexists with it.

4) SWEEPING: This book tracks protagonist Cyril Avery’s entire lifetime in 7-year increments, from 7 years old onwards. So, remember when I said this book was character-driven? Yeah, it’s because it does such an amazing job crafting its protagonist’s life. Its format allows you to watch Cyril grapple with so much as he grows up and comes to terms with his identity and relationships. The result? CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT GALORE.

5) SO, SO ENDEARING: This book made me cry so much, and not even because it was sad or tragic. (Though that’s not to say that this book has no sad moments because it does and they are SAD.) I cried because I was just so overwhelmed by how far Cyril had come since he was a confused lil bean struggling with his identity and place in the world. I was so proud of him and what he’d managed to accomplish given his circumstances and…I was just very emotional ok. 

What more can I say? The Heart’s Invisible Furies was just a brilliant story, and that’s really what this book comes down to.