Romance

My Review: The Unhoneymooners: by Christina Lauren

Publish Date: May 14th, 2019
Number of Pages: 400 Pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

I can treat this trip like an actual vacation on a tropical island. Yes, it’s with my nemesis, but still, I’ll take it.”

– Christina Lauren, “The Unhoneymooners”

The co-author duo of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings have come together to write another swoon-worthy, romantic comedy title that I think many readers will enjoy immensely!

I for one will always recommend their work towards anyone looking for a funny, romantic, witty, easy going beach read, but lately for me it seems like their books aren’t getting that extra oomph factor that I felt in their Beautiful Bastard series. I still enjoy their books, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t seem like their standalone titles coming out now measure up as much to me.

This title is a great addition to anyone who likes the hate to love, enemies to lovers, fake relationships story tropes, and while it’s not the greatest story involving these kinds of storyline, it’s still a lot of fun to read!

What It’s About:

Olive Torres is a twin sister to Ami and while her sister is in better shape, always wins contests and giveaways, and is getting married to a gorgeous guy; basically Ami seems to have all the luck in the world…Olive does not. On the day of her sister’s wedding, Olive is forced to spend time with her arch-nemesis, Ethan Thomas, who is also the best man and older brother to the groom.

Like they always do, they bicker and get on each other’s nerves, but when disaster strikes and the whole wedding ends up getting violently ill at the reception (Yes, this includes the Bride and Groom), they have an unusual task before them…go on the honeymoon together!. Ami won the whole trip through entering her name countless times into a drawing, it’s non refundable and not able to be rescheduled, so with her luck seemingly about to change, Olive and Ethan unwillingly go to Maui together instead of the bride and groom.

They both expect the absolute worst to happen, and it definitely starts out pretty rough, but when more craziness ensues, and they have to pretend to be happy newlyweds in order to not tip off the other guests and the hotel staff, they just might discover that there might have been some hidden, unrequited feelings beneath all that anger and frustration…

What I Liked:

  1. It Takes Place in Minnesota! Being a native Minnesotan myself, I enjoyed the fact that this story took place in the Twin Cities whenever Olive and Ethan weren’t over in Maui. It gave me a little spark whenever Loring Park, Edina, Dinkytown and other known locations are mentioned because in my head, I’m like: “OMG, I’ve been there! I know exactly where they are! I live here!!” It’s also a little refreshing that it took place in places that are always used in books; like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or San Francisco. Switch it up on the locations and settings of contemporary books, authors!
  2. The Massage Table Scene! I’m just going to leave that there for you to ponder about, so read the book to find out more!
  3. The Boat-Bathroom Scene! Another iconic scene within the story like the one above, but for entirely different reasons! Basically, if anyone’s seen The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock, get back to me when you’ve read this bathroom scene!
  4. The Ongoing Theme of Luck! The idea of people being lucky or having luck on your side and how it affects your outlook on the world shows up quite a lot in this book. I personally related to Olive a lot on this level because like her, I constantly believe I am unlucky in all aspects of my life, and so I’m a Debbie Downer a lot of the time because I feel like the universe or fate or whatever is against me…um actually bitch, I prefer the term “Rita Realist.”
  5. The Family Dynamics! Olive comes from an extremely large Mexican-American family, and some of the scenes of how much they’re willing to do for each other, how far they go to take care of each other and show their love & support was pure fluff and so heartwarming, so adorable that it became one of the highlights of the book for me!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Really? They’re Each Other’s Worst Enemies?…What I mean about this is that at the beginning of the story, when Ethan and Olive are still in the “hater” phase of their story, it honestly didn’t feel like they actually hated each other all that much. Sure, they were usually annoyed at each other while both trying to rile each other up, but it felt like the back and forths between them could’ve gone further, or have been more dramatic and over the top. It felt more like they were just an old married couple who just had to say some comment on everything the other did, or it was just plain old foreplay and neither one really even realized it until they are trapped in a honeymoon suite in Maui together. The backstory of their rivalry also felt a little weak to me, to be honest. It didn’t feel like something that would cause such a tense relationship over the years, and then to have her completely forgive him right away when he screws up again…It just didn’t add up to me.

Conclusion:

Christina Lauren continues to put out another story that is hilarious, fun, easy-going, and lighthearted rom-com of a book that fans of the romance genre will soak in like a 99 cent Mai Tai 😉

I recommend the title to anyone who wants to read a fake relationship, enemies to lovers story trope that has plenty of awkward, laugh inducing moments with a quirky, clumsy heroine and a cynical, aloof guy who turns out to be amazing with a huge heart of gold!

I still wanted a little more from the authors; this title is good, but still not their greatest in my opinion. I feel like they just need to stop playing it safe and really go somewhere, you know? Drive it home and really just go wilder with it. Despite my subtle disappointment, I did enjoy this book of theirs, and will continue to read their stories until my wish is granted!

Side note: If they ever make this into a movie, PLEASE cast Gina Rodriguez to play Olive and maybe someone like Sebastian Stan to play Ethan…I will accept nothing else!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult Romance

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

Publish Date: May 14th 2019
Number of Pages: 423 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): Contemporary, New Adult Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

One thing that I love to see is that there is so much more LGBTQ representation in literature nowadays. Identifying myself as a part of the queer community, it really is uplifting and feels like I’m not only acknowledged, I feel like I’m more understood and accepted amongst in this world when there are authors that write these stories, there are publishers that release these stories, and there are fellow readers who also enjoy these stories.

Representation truly matters. People who are different and who don’t fit into the typical social criteria need to feel like they are seen and that they matter, because they do! They need to feel like that when they read stories with characters that are just like them. It normalizes the exposure of LGBTQ+, and thus, helps create a society that realizes that there is no social agenda, only a want and need for unity and respect for our differences.

Yes, books are powerful tools if they can be tools to help us achieve that!

This is a debut novel, so some could say that the writer’s style reads similar to a royal romance fan fiction, but it’s still a great love story that is receiving a surprising amount of publicity as being the big queer romance story of the summer! One of the main aspects of the story is politics, which was expected when the two main characters is the bisexual fictional half-latino son of the president and the (fictional) gay prince of Wales.

I am by no means a big fan of politics, in fact I only skimmed the parts of the story where there’s a substantial amount of information about how it all works, I can still say I immensely enjoyed this title despite all that. Compared to the love story, it’s truly such a small aspect of this book, so don’t let that be the reason to deter you from picking it up!

What It’s About:

It’s a sweet, hilarious, and thoughtful love story between the son of the President of the United States and the second born Prince of Wales.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, along with his older sister and best friend, are the “White House Trio,” the marketing strategy designed by his mom, President Ellen Claremont (Yes, a WOMAN president). They are America’s version of royalty, and are treated as such with the paparazzi that follows them around, and the rumors written in Us Weekly and People. They get invited to the Royal Wedding overseas, to which Alex is less than enthused about because it means he’ll have to see Prince Henry, his long time rival. It turns out worse than expected, and a confrontation leads to an international scandal.

With re-elections on the horizon, President Claremont issues a fake friendship as a PR stunt in order to do damage control, but Alex unintentionally starts a bigger news story; he falls for the royal prince. They begin a hot and heavy secret relationship, and everything Alex thinks he knows gets blown out of the water and he questions everything: Is it all worth it? How can you do the things you still want to do with everything stacked against you? and What can you do to be remembered in history?

What I liked:

  1. The Romance! I am a hopeless romantic at heart, and while I’m not the biggest fan of “fluff,” this story had equal fluff with steam and humor to this a definite worthwhile story. Alex and Henry had a great relationship and were incredibly easy to like and support as they fight for their love despite all that threatened to tear them apart.
  2. The Theme About The Importance of Family! It was a major theme of the story and was shown in many different ways: Alex and his relationship with his best friend along with his sister, Prince Henry and his sister, Alex’s relationship with his estranged father, Henry and his older brother and mother, his friendship with his BFF Pez (picture a flaming male version of Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians) even both of their relationships with their heads of security. One of my favorite scenes was one where President Claremont organizes a family dinner one night, and turns off the “power suit” and just switches personas and becomes just their mom again; it was a warm and really touching scene.
  3. There is a Woman President! A female President who’s a badass in the office, and a badass mom who loves her family on top of it, and still makes time for them. I totally picture her being portrayed by Connie Briton if they ever make this into a movie!
  4. The LGBTQ Representation! Like I said earlier, it’s so relieving to see a novel with two gay male characters get so much attention and so much mainstream hype. Back in the earlier 2000’s, it felt like these kinds of books, or any books where LGBTQ was a main aspect of the story, it was pushed aside or kind of taboo, so they didn’t get as much hype, and there was no big excitement over the release of titles like that. Now it’s 2019, and this book is on the New York Times Best Sellers list! I hope to keep seeing this as more and more titles come out in the future.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Politics…I’m not a big fan of Politics; while it worked for this story, if they could’ve had parents in different occupations, that would’ve been fine too. This has nothing really against the story or how it was written or even against the author, it’s more just a small personal quirk for me. Luckily, the author didn’t become too technical in matters of terms or explanations behind anything that happens concerning Politics.

Conclusion:

It’s a sweet and sexy romance that’s perfect for the warmer months of summer, and I enjoyed this story so much, it was such a joy to read. Alex is a strong willed, smart mouthed protagonist that I would just adore having as an actual friend. The author crafted such a heartwarming story in the aftermath of the 2016 elections and what it’s done to our country ever since.

I won’t ever really talk about Politics or what my opinions are with anyone, not even most of my family, but it was interesting to read an almost alternate-universe kind of story where a woman actually won and became a great President. Even if it stars two men as the two romantic interests, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, well written romance, fiction about politics and stories that showcase the importance of family.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Again, but Better: by Christine Riccio

Publish Date: May 7th 2019
Number of Pages: 373 Pages
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre(s): YA Fiction, YA Romance

Total Stars Rating: 4.25 Stars

FIRST EVER BOOK REVIEW FOR THE WEBSITE!

Upon finding this book as a highly anticipated release for early 2019, I was immediately drawn towards it. While I’ve never followed the author on her YouTube channel or read any of her reviews, I decided to give it a chance.

What a great decision it was!

Not only did I love this book, but I didn’t realize how much I needed it on an emotional level; how it gave me strength and hope when I wasn’t in a good place mentally and emotionally, but I’ll get more into that later. This book was just such a feel-good journey about second chances, first love, self acceptance, and finding oneself in this crazy world we all live in!

What It’s About:

The story is about Shane, an incredibly shy girl who impulsively decides to study abroad in London for a semester her junior year of college because she had the overwhelming need for change. She was sick of her old ways; staying in and binge watching whatever show she could find on Netflix, not making any deep friendships, not going out with guys, not having her first kiss, and going home every other weekend. She knew she had to make a major change, a fresh start. She gets to her flat and meets four new people that she will be living with: Babe, Sahra, Atticus, and Pilot. Together, they continue their studies, work at their internships and travel on weekends, and Shane soon discovers that feelings develop for a certain someone. The big question to start off was: can she overcome her doubts, her fears, her insecurities and truly change for the better?

The book is split into two parts. Her time in London in 2011 and 2017. Years later in 2017, Shane returns to that person, full of regret and disappointment over how she left things with them and the path she chose to take in life. They reacquaint themselves, and without revealing too much, have an opportunity to have a second chance at the choices they both made. Do they do it? Is it worth it? Will it all work out in the end?

What I liked:

  1. The Story’s Themes/Message! It’s about change and growth. Shane was a relatable character to me because so much of my life I’ve also been that shy, wallflower type that cares way too much about what others think, and sometimes I’m still like that. She really grows through the story, and when readers see her later on, she’s much more bold, brave, and outspoken. The story made me really think about the path I’m on and reflect on the decisions that I’ve made along the way, and if I’m still on the right path. Honestly, there is no clear cut written way, everyone’s is different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all have the same successful ending.
  2. It Gave Me Hope! This book gives me hope for me, and for my future. The piece of advice it gives readers is to never give up on your dreams, no matter what. Go for it, whatever it is, and stick with it. In the story, Shane realizes the struggle of balancing everything going on in her life: specifically boys, her classes and her internship. She became so enamored with a boy that she doesn’t realize how little she paid attention to the other parts of her life until it all blew up in her face, and she felt the rug ripped from under her feet. The end of the book was so warm, so fluffy, that I could imagine how that must’ve felt for the characters, and the inspiration it gave me to want to experience those feelings for myself someday. It gave me a drive to keep going on the WIP that I’m currently typing away at.

What I didn’t like:

  1. The Datedness of the Different Time Periods…At first, it was incredibly charming how the author mentions things that were important to the certain year, like with books and movies. In 2011, She was reading the third Mortal Instruments book to prep for the fourth one releasing soon, the mention of a new app game that just came out named Angry Birds, and T-Swift’s new album, Red. In both parts of time, the author makes it a point to remind readers of what year the story was in, and it became kind of “ehhh” for me. I think it makes the book incredibly dated for the current moment in time, and even five years later, this will affect the overall quality of the story for whatever GenZ, Q, TQ47 or whatever terms they come up with for the next generation.
  2. The Magical Twist…Halfway into the story, when Shane meets up with a certain someone in 2017, there’s a twist that comes along with a mysterious woman who had appeared out of nowhere on occasion, and I’ll admit, I was not all that excited about it for the overall story. After reading further into the story, it grew on me a little bit, because its dramatic, unrealistic addition to the story allowed the two main characters to have a second chance at their time in London that changed not only their relationship, but their futures in general. It gave them something we all wish to have and ask ourselves constantly: “What would we do differently if we could go back in time with what we now know?” I ended up liking this aspect simply because its a major component of the plot and drove it forward, but it does feel incredibly random, cheesy, Disney Channel Original Movie-esque from the 90’s at some points.
  3. The Prose…It’s pretty plain to see that this is the author’s first book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For a debut work, its an incredibly strong one, but her prose/ word choice seemed very amateurish and basic at certain parts. an example was how she used the same words a lot. “Snorted” was probably the worst; there was lots of snorting going around. Another one was “the fluffy sponge” I just didn’t like that sentence for some reason…

Conclusion:

Overall, this book does feel like a young author’s first release, but that’s okay. No book is ever perfect, and the overall message that the book sends to the reader is still very strong and heartwarming like a classic Disney Channel Original Movie.

It’s a coming of age, romantic, with international travel kind of story that reminds me of another similar story, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Both are about a girl who goes to a foreign, European country and find friends, romance, and themselves. Both, however, have what the other needs: AATFK was a much better written story, but A,BB was so much more impactful of a story. This book, while it has its faults, now holds a special place in my heart because it reminded me to keep going for my dreams, and to work hard to get where I’m at.

It’s like what I said at the beginning: I didn’t just love this book, I NEEDED this book. It even helped convinced me to finally start this blog!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell