Reviews

A Heartfelt and Deep Romance- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“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? “

Review

This book has had a lot of media hype and so I was interested. I read the summary and was intrigued, but book readers if you like romance books or (like me) you aren’t a huge fan of romance, this book is amazing! I generally don’t enjoy romance, because having a plot focused on romance is generally uncompelling to me. This book had so many elements that I enjoyed though. One, it was a relationship that was actually built on deep feelings. Alex and Henry don’t get along at first. The reason seems a bit petty, but we’ve all been there I suppose. But, after they take that first step of friendship it just slowly builds into more. They talk about their families, their worries, and eventually secrets with each other. It’s just beautiful and is so much of what I’ve been trying to find in any book that has a bit of romance in it at all. It made me feel so warm inside. This is the healthy relationship I want to see in novels.

               I want to talk more about these characters. Alex is a biracial man who is the son of the president of the USA. It’s smart, fun, and a bit clueless about his feelings. We get him at his best and sometimes not his best. He’s so full of hope and has big dreams of change. I wish he was real. He’s also bisexual though he doesn’t quite realize that at first. However, this is not a gay for you story. Those always make me a bit squinty eyed and uncomfortable. No, Alex has had an attraction for both genders for a long time, but it just didn’t really sink in. I love this aspect of him. As someone who is also bisexual if nice to read about the confusion and sort of eureka moment in someone who’s in their 20s. It felt more relatable to me since that’s when it also sort of clicked for me.  Then, we have Henry. Henry is soft, anxious, and deep. We don’t even get Henry’s POV, this book is purely from Alex, but we still learn so much about him. Henry has had the weight of being in the royal family really take its toll on him. He shares the hardship with anyone who is told to lie about who they are or pretend to be something they’re not. There’s also a group of family members and friends throughout the book that are just really great. Most everyone if so supportive of these two that it makes me want to cry. Also, we don’t get a ton about him, but just wait until you read about Pez.

               There’s not much world building in this novel since it’s contemporary; however, there was enough with creating a completely new first family and monarchy that I thought it deserved at least a bit of recognition. What I love most about this book and its mirror world of ours is that it’s so hopeful. The current state of the USA has really been hurtful and frustrating and honestly so embarrassing. This book makes me feel hopeful though. That even though there might be those out there who want to be so conservative and traditional that if we pull together out of love and respect for each other we could really build a country that is headed in a direction I would like to see. It gave me a bit more faith in us again for better or worse.

The diversity is nice in this book. Alex is a bisexual who is also biracial. Henry is very gay. We also have some supporting characters who are gay and bisexual as well. Henry also has some briefly mentioned anxiety which is some minor mental health rep.

Overall, this book lived up to the hype. I am in love with it and hope to see more from this author soon. The characters are well-rounded and lovable. The plot is great, a read through it so quickly and easily. It gave me so much hope and all the warm fuzzies. If you have even a little interest in romance (for more than the sex) then I think you will so easily fall in love with this novel. Couldn’t recommend it enough!


Have you read this book? What do you think? Do you love it, hate it, somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts/feelings.

Authors

Kingdom Cold Blog Tour: Author Interview, Excerpt, and Review!

Hello my lovely readers, welcome to a stop on the Kingdom Cold Blog tour. I’m excited to share this with you! I hope all this information may pique your interest!

Author Interview

Q: What inspired you to write Kingdom Cold?

A: It started as a Wattpad story I was messing around with. I wanted to do an arranged marriage princess book and the story got really popular, so I decided to take it off of Wattpad, edit, and publish it.

Q: Did you do any research before or during writing Kingdom Cold?

A: I researched King Arthur a lot and details from the time period. About halfway through each book, I go brain dead and I find myself looking up basic words like “chair” or “map”.

Q: Currently, #ownvoices is an important movement in the book community, did you use    any of your own personal experience(s) to shape Charlotte or any other characters in your book?

A: I put a lot of my own experiences into Kingdom Cold, specifically the subtly of certain racially charged situations. Being an African American girl living in South Korea, I found myself trying to include as much of the cultural confusion as I could slip in, because that’s what I experience day to day.

Q: Kingdom Cold is a book containing diverse, multicultural characters. As an author, how important is diverse representation in books to you?

A: I think it’s essential. There are heroes from every culture, customs worth exploring, and battles worth facing–ones that have yet to see the light of day. At times, the world feels so divided and unfair but fiction can be whatever we want it to be. Why not diverse?

Q: If there was one thing you wanted readers to know about Kingdom Cold, what would it be?

A: Kingdom Cold has no heroes and no villains.


Kingdom Come Excerpt


The moment I saw Young, all the power I’d felt moments ago melted away. I was a blood-spattered princess standing amidst a murder scene, one I’d starred in. My gaze met his, and I searched for the horror I felt, in his dark eyes, but couldn’t find it. I glanced over the gentle lines of his expression and drank in the easiness of his parted lips. He exhaled relief and I felt the sudden pull of my body towards him as I breathed it in. I couldn’t discern how he could look upon me, with such reprieve, then I took a step forward. And another. He was my cage, my captor, the death of my freedom, but in one kind glance, in my darkest hour, he granted me a modicum of comfort. I ran to him and threw myself into his arms. I didn’t care that he didn’t embrace me. I didn’t care that his body tightened with discomfort. He was alive and, to me, that meant that my father could be too. “Milly’s over here,” I sniffed as I motioned to the door. I felt the pulse of my hand as I released the fire poker from my finger-numbing grip. It fell to the floor with a clang and I stared at my hands as they shook. Blood was everywhere. It dripped from my fingertips and pooled on the stone floor. As
the adrenaline waned, the horror of what I’d just done sunk in. I bit back the urge to scream. I backed away. “Hey,” Young called, dragging my attention back to him. He shook his head. “Look at me.” My heart pounded as my mind slipped back towards the lifeless heaps on the floor, dragging my gaze to them. “Charlotte,” Young called, but he was a distant voice floating negligibly through the back of my mind. Young stepped in front of me, blocking my view of the corpses. He took a firm grip of my wrist as if to hold me to the earth. I felt the warmth of his breath on my forehead, and the steady beat of his heart as his chest pressed against mine. My body numbed. My gaze crept up to his chin and stopped at his lips. My breath synchronized with his. I lifted my chin, my gaze meeting his. His dark eyes peered down at me, black as a moonless night with just as many stars. I searched them for clues, but if he felt something, he showed nothing at all. Feeling rushed back to my body all at once. I reached for my wrist and pried it out of his hand just in time to feel the bile rise from my stomach. I doubled over and vomited an acid more bitter than the emotions that caused it. When I caught my breath, I stood, feeling a sense of frailty in my legs that wasn’t there before. I looked up at Young. “Where’s—” “He’s still out there,” Young replied, his voice so even and smooth it sounded like a lie. A voice shot out from behind Young. “Prince Young, you found the princess.” A brown-haired boy in a soldier’s uniform approached. He couldn’t have been older than me. He had a baby face, softly curved features, and not a bit of hair on his chin. He looked more like a boy in costume than a warrior. “Leon,” Young said as he walked over to shake his hand. “Yeah, thanks to you.”
Young turned to me. “Charlotte, grab Milly. I’m going to… uh,” he tucked his dark hair behind his ear, “clean up.” I nodded and returned to the dining room where I knew Milly was hidden. “Milly, it’s me,” I looked around. “It’s safe.” I said the words, but I wasn’t sure how true they were. Milly crawled out from behind a sofa. Her eyes widened. “You’re covered in blood.” She lifted her arms in front of her body and clutched the hand-carved cross hanging from her neck. “No, it’s okay. I’m fine,” I said, moving toward her. She backed away, terror still in her eyes. “You killed them?” I shook my head. “N-no. I saved us. If I hadn’t done that, they would have—” Blood. So much blood. I shivered. “Passed by,” she whispered. “Milly…” Guilt seared my skin. It was the last emotion in the world I could stomach in this situation. I clenched my jaw with rage. They’d invaded my home, they might have killed my father, they could have killed us. I’d acted in the way that I thought was right, but looking into Milly’s eyes, it was obvious she felt different. Doubt started to creep in. The guilt slithered down my spine as Milly backed away. She thought I was a monster and maybe she was right. The door swung open and Leon and Young hustled in. “Leon has a plan,” Young said. He paused, noticing the tension in the room. His gaze moved from Milly to me. His eyebrow raised and he spoke, “That was a brave thing you did to save your friend, Charlotte.” He turned to Milly, his jaw clenched. “Let’s go.” I felt a warm vibration of gratitude pulse inside me. Before I could give it another thought, Young and Leon ushered Milly and myself out of the room and down the hallway. They carefully checked each corner before moving us along. I stared at Milly’s back and bit down hard on my bottom lip. I wanted to reach out to Milly to tell her it was okay—to let her know we were in this together—but she wouldn’t look at me. I saw the queasy look on her face when she’d seen the bodies of the two Drethen soldiers slumped into the corner in the hallway. It could take a while, but I’d get her back somehow—she was all I had left. We rounded the corner to the staircase in the east tower. The stone platforms wrapped around the tower led up to several bedrooms, one of which I had used to shoot an arrow at the prince when he arrived, and another down to a tunnel below the castle that exited a mile in the opposite direction. If we could make it out, we’d have a decent chance of escaping. I whispered, “I think they’re getting in this way.” Leon nodded and took the lead, followed by Milly, me, and Young just behind me. We descended the stairs into the poorly torch-lit tunnel. We paused at the entrance to listen for the enemy, but all we heard was the occasional drip of something leaking and the distant sounds of battle. We hustled through, still on our guard. The darkness reminded me of the fear I’d felt as a child. My mind always twisted the shadows into monsters. Now, as I trudged along, the monsters took a new form. Did my mother make it out? Was my father really dead? I reached out for Milly’s hair for comfort as it shone in the torchlight as we passed, but I stopped myself as I remembered Young was behind me. We walked single-file in a tense, uninterrupted silence the entire mile, expecting to hear someone shout. As we shuffled through the darkness, I picked at my hands, trying to focus on the faint light at the end as it grew nearer. We stepped out into the sunshine. My eyes locked onto two men in blue standing nearby.


My Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

Worldbuilding: 2/5

Characterization: 4/5

Diversity: 4/5

I was lucky enough to receive this series free of charge as a participant in the Kingdom Cold book tour. Princess Charlotte’s disinterest in marry was the first part of this series that drew me in before I had read anything, but these books are fast-paced with multiple POVs that really draw you in and keep you paying attention.

This book is in fictional, medieval countries that take inspiration from our own countries. It’s not fantasy so there’s not tons of world building in this series, but there are definitely different countries that have their own cultures and norms. It comes through more in the characters we are introduced to then written description.

The characters are what really keep this book moving. They’re all unique with very distinctive voices that definitely give them some depth. I think the alternating POVs is my favorite aspect of this book. You really get a large picture of what is happening and everyone’s motivations. Charlotte’s personality is a bit hot and cold for me at times, but I think that really highlights how young she and sheltered she’s really been. I’m not a huge fan of her and her mom’s dynamic. There’s a bitterness that I just don’t enjoy. I need moms empowering daughters, not dragging them down. Something that did also bother me was the general portrayal of men in these books. Unless there’s a specific reason otherwise all the men in these books are shallow and petty. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a spin-off of Arthurian stories and that was just a general vibe they gave off, but I’m disappointed in the men’s lack of depth. Very one dimensional.

This book is culturally and racially diverse. Charlotte is a character of color as well as Young with both of them being from their own cultures. There are also other characters of color throughout the books. There are also some minor gay characters though nothing really happens with them except period typical homophobia which I wasn’t a huge fan of and some minor mentions of them maybe getting together.

Overall, this series was pretty enjoyable. I think I most enjoyed the first book. The characters have distinctive voices and there’s a bit of internal conflict that made the characters interesting to read. I felt kind meh about the second book in this series. It introduced a lot of new characters and set the scene which was interesting, but it really felt like the book was just to set the stage for the third and final book. The third and final book is where the story starts to really amp up. It’s the climax of the series after all. There are dragons, mages, and the dreaded love triangle. If you like Arthurian spin-offs with a diverse cast then this could be the series for you.


Want to know more?! Check out the other tour stops!

Reviews

Epic Read: In This Land by Matthew Haldeman-Time

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

In This Land Summary (taken from the website):

Bade, prince of the tiny, overlooked country of Nosupolis, doesn’t have a plan for his life. His ambitious older brother Tiko, heir to the throne, seems to have everything under control without Bade or his twin brother’s help. Bade hopes to marry well and find some way to be a credit to the crown, but never in his wildest dreams does he expect an invitation to court the Pharaoh of Orina Anoris, the divine ruler of the most powerful country in the world. Bade always thought that Tiko would be the one to change their homeland for the better, but now he has a chance to wed the pharaoh, ally their two nations through marriage, and do more for Nosupolis than anyone in centuries. Suddenly whisked away by Prince Orinakin, royal diplomat and handsome purple-haired child of the gods, Bade finds himself in an exotic land that dazzles his senses and opens his eyes like never before. The people of Orina Anoris are uninhibited, expressive, flirtatious, and don’t seem to know the meaning of sexual repression. The handsome Seven Siblings are no exception. Boyfriends, lovers, harems–it boggles Bade’s mind to witness a freedom he never even imagined. But the endless parade of beautiful men pales in comparison to the Pharaoh Anosukinom. Tall, gorgeous, and physically flawless, Anosukinom’s beauty is literally perfection. And if that weren’t enough, the rumors are true: he really is both god and man. Crackling with power, intimidating yet friendly, he is as unconventional as he is traditionally Anorian. Daunted in the face of his divinity, Bade isn’t sure if he can win the heart of a deity, but at the very least he hopes to bring attention to the plight of his ignored, forgotten country. After being exposed to a vibrant, colorful new world, nights of sizzling passion, and the possibilities of true love, how can Bade face the thought of being rejected and returning home? Will he be able to win the pharaoh’s heart and finally help his people? Experience the rich, luxurious fantasy world of Orina Anoris only in Matthew Haldeman-Time’s series, “In This Land,” and watch as eight handsome brothers try to balance ruling a nation with finding true happiness. Find out what happens to Bade, Anosukinom, and the sexiest siblings in the world.

The Review

I titled this an epic read, because this is a massive ongoing web serial that is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Now, please don’t let the fact that this stories isn’t complete stop you. This story has been going on for years and its updated EVERY SINGLE Friday/Saturday depending on your time zone. Also, if you haven’t read it before then even if you binge read it’ll probably take you at least 3-4 days (probably more honestly) to be all caught up on this story. There are hundreds of chapters. It does cost $5/per month to read, but that is pocket change compared to what I feel like this story is worth. This story makes me want to be a better person. Why you might ask? Let me tell you,

Love, positivity, and acceptance are the ongoing themes of this whole series. It’s such a long series that it’s hard for me to really explain all that goes on within the story without giving away some serious spoilers and everyone hates spoilers. But, let me tell you what I can. This series is full of lgbtq+ characters and it’s not even seen as a big deal, it’s just accepted as love is love. It smashes some gender norms. There are guys in dress, there are women in men’s clothing and it’s seen as a generally acceptable way to dress. There are people of color though I will say most of the main characters are what I would describe as white. Its sex positive which means that sex is seen as a normal and healthy part of a person’s life without the slut shaming going around. I could continue gushing about it, but those are the big hitters for me. It doesn’t hit every type of diversity in the world, but the message is very clear in this story.

On that note though while I love this series I would not say that it could be categorized as fantasy or paranormal more like perhaps speculative fiction and it would obviously fall in the romance section. This is not like a George R. R. Martin book where there is lots of murder and death and political intrigue. While there are discussions about politics and the negative things that are happening in the countries outside of Orina Anoris it’s not the main focal point. This is a fairly light read in that regard, but I do believe that this book gives you things to think about and consider. There is tension and struggle within this story it’s just more personal than political.  You’re guarantee to fall in love with at least one of the brothers and each one is getting or already has their own story with them as the main focus.

This series also has well thought out and detailed world building.  As I’ve mentioned in posts before I’m a sucker for excellent world building. This series has a multitude of countries in it and they all have histories to them, different cultures, and religions. Some countries are more explored than others, but the author has spent some serious time creating unique places for us to enjoy.

With that all being said I hope you’ll check it out. You can read it here. Also, if you are completely against monthly subscriptions Matthew Haldeman-Time has published some of his series into printed books. You can buy the first one here. A word of warning though, there is a copious amount of the online story that hasn’t been published into print. The author doesn’t seem to plan on releasing printed versions in the near future either so if you want the full story then you’d need to subscribe.