Hello readers! It’s time for another round of Mini Reviews, where I talk about some of the books I don’t write full length reviews for. This installment, let’s chat about four books: Red, White & Royal Blue, Ghosts of the Shadow Market, Romanov and Once & Future.
Red, White & Royal Blue | Casey McQuiston
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.
The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him… Goodreads
“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that.
History, huh? Bet we could make some.”
Have you ever come across those books that just have you smiling throughout? Romantic comedies are usually not among my go-to genres (in fact, I tend to avoid them like the plague if they’re contemporary), but the minute I heard about Red, White & Royal Blue, I just knew I’d love it. This book was as much fun as I expected it to be, and it’s books like these that are making me add more contemporary novels to my TBR.
Among the best debut novels I have ever read, Red, White & Royal Blue had me swooning in delight one moment and giggling away the next. Alex and Henry are completely adorable and it was such a delight to watch these two, practically opposites in personality, but thrown together by circumstance, go from enemies, to friends to so much more even as they deal with the weight of their responsibilities and living life in the public eye…I’d say the best part of this book is how human the characters are, how real the feel of the story is. Their back and forth banter was so perfectly written, their text messages and emails…well, if more books were like this, I’d be reading a lot more romance novels.
This is a book that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve finished reading it – I don’t remember the last time a book made me so genuinely happy. This was an instant addition to my best of year shelf and I recommend it as a must read for this summer!
Publishing Date: May 14th, 2019 (St Martin’s Griffin)
Ghosts of the Shadow Market | Cassandra Clare
The Shadow Market is a meeting point for faeries, werewolves, warlocks and vampires. There the Downworlders buy and sell magical objects, make dark bargains, and whisper secrets they do not want the Nephilim to know. Through two centuries, however, there has been a frequent visitor to the Shadow Market from the City of Bones, the very heart of the Shadowhunters. As a Silent Brother, Brother Zachariah is sworn keeper of the laws and lore of the Nephilim. But once he was a Shadowhunter called Jem Carstairs, and his love, then and always, is the warlock Tessa Gray.
Follow Brother Zachariah and see, against the backdrop of the Shadow Market’s dark dealings and festive celebrations, Anna Lightwood’s first romance, Matthew Fairchild’s great sin and Tessa Gray plunged into a world war. Valentine Morgenstern buys a soul at the Market and a young Jace Wayland’s soul finds safe harbor. In the Market is hidden a lost heir and a beloved ghost, and no one can save you once you have traded away your heart. Not even Brother Zachariah…Goodreads
By far my favourite set of short stories in the Shadowhunter world, Ghosts of the Shadow Market follows Brother Zachariah (aka Jem Carstairs) over the decades and through many shadow markets around the world. Each story is unique, giving a glimpse of different generations of Shadowhunters and their lives even as Jem continues his search for the lost Herondale through the centuries. The glimpse into a young Jace, Izzy and Alec’s first meeting was definitely fun. I also particularly enjoyed the last two stories checking in on Kit and Ty, showing the state of things after the war and it gives us an idea of what things might look like leading into The Wicked Powers. And it was so lovely to see Jem and Tessa get their happy ending at last! Reading all these stories largely from Jem’s POV made me want to go back and read the Infernal Devices all over again, which is exactly what I’m doing now. Highly recommended!
Publishing Date: June 4th, 2019 (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Romanov | Nadine Brandes
Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.
Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her. That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad…and he’s on the other. Goodreads
My second Anastasia retelling this year, Romanov was an intriguing take on an old tale. It was also nice to see one version of the story where someone apart from Anastasia (or Nastya as she goes by in this book) survived. The family dynamic was really well done, and getting to know the Romanov family during their years of imprisonment through Nastya’s eyes was definitely something new. I did like the bit with the matryoshka doll and how important it was throughout. Pacing wise, the first half, the part based on fact, was rather slow and considering most readers likely have a good idea of what happened historically, this much detail was not necessary in my opinion. The second half was when the story really started to get interesting and though I’m still quite skeptical of the magical aspect in this retelling, it was woven into the story well enough. Overall, a unique historical fantasy which does surprisingly well at portraying some deeper themes like family, kindness and forgiveness.
Publishing Date: May 7th, 2019 (Thomas Nelson)
Once & Future (Once & Future #1) | Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.
Now I’m done hiding.
My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind. No pressure. Goodreads
Nudge Arthur onto the nearest throne.
Defeat the greatest evil in the world.
Unite all of mankind.”
Once & Future is woven around the legend of King Arthur. Merlin is charged with finding each reincarnation of Arthur and basically training him to save the world. It’s no small task though, and Merlin has been trying and failing for centuries – but this might be his last chance. With every rebirth that Arthur goes through, Merlin wakes up younger and younger, and this time not only is the revered and powerful Merlin a teenager, Arthur has been reborn as a girl.
Honestly, I have to say I was kind of disappointed with this one. After such a catchy and intriguing premise, I was expecting more out of this. While the characters had so much potential, especially given the diversity and representation in the cast of heroes, there wasn’t enough character development all around in my opinion and the plot was what really held the story together. The sequel promises to be an interesting one though as it seems to be hinting at some time travel to the original King Arthur’s timeline. So although I didn’t really like this one, I’m still on board for the sequel.
Publishing Date: March 26th, 2019 (Jimmy Patterson)
Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!