Strange the Dreamer | Book Review

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 528
Format: Hardcover

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

You know, I started reading this book what feels like forever ago, and I put it down not because I was bored with it or anything – quite the opposite! – but because I was in a reading slump of sorts. Now that I picked it back up and finished it over the last two or three days, I’m SO glad I did because WOW, was this a great book.

Laini Taylor never ceases to amaze me with her works. She is one of my favorite authors, and this book definitely showed me why. The writing, of course, was elegant and poetic in many different ways. She has a way of describing feeling and the human emotion in such depth that it makes you feel like you’re experiencing what that character experiences, rather than just sitting back and watching it happen.

Among those well-written words are the characters and the plot of the story, both of which I feel are both dynamic as they are complex. The story unfolds in a fantasy world (though it feels a lot like Earth), with gods who lived among the people, great creatures that could tear a person apart, and many mysteries that have yet to be revealed. The world itself felt very large, but also very small, given most of it is told from Lazlo’s point of view (as well as several others).

Besides that, the characters themselves had such varying histories behind them that I felt drawn to learn more about each one. Lazlo, an orphan made librarian, seemed like such a dreamer that he felt very naive and new to much of the world. I loved his love for stories and how he would often describe the world around him as something very poetic and beautiful.

Sarai felt so troubled, so tired, and I felt like I could feel how tired she was. She was holding onto old anger that she no longer held in her heart, but a curiosity that was sparked in kind thanks to Lazlo and his dreams.

The other godspawn, as they’re called – Minya, Ruby, Feral, and Sparrow – had all such distinct characteristics and personalities, and powers. They each felt real and had their own share of problems, worries, etc.

Among other characters, such as Eril-Fane and Azareen, who share horrible pasts due to the gods, there was one that stood out a lot that I felt frustrated with but also very intrigued by: Thyon Nero. He’s the son of a king and queen who were losing their kingdom, until one day, Thyon managed to turn things into gold. But he has a lot of secrets, and a bad personality, but I can’t say that I don’t want to see more of what he’s capable of.

The story to save Weep – the town whose name was stolen – is one of adventure and many questions and uncertainties. I could feel the sorrow of the city even in the small bits and glimmers we got through the other characters.

Honestly, this book was so wonderfully done. If you’re looking for a book with fantastical elements, deep emotions explored, dark pasts, and hopeful futures, then you’d enjoy this novel.

★★★★★

2019 End of Year Survey

Every year I do this survey created by Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner, and so, to continue tradition, here we are again!

**2019 READING STATS**

Number Of Books You Read: 17
Number of Re-Reads: 6?
Genre You Read The Most From: Fantasy

best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2019?

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – This book touched and reached the darkest parts of my heart and mind as I could relate so much to the grief this boy had for his mother. It was hands down my favorite book of the year and I’m so incredibly glad to have given it the chance it deserved. You can check out my full review here.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Chase by Elle Kennedy – As far as guilty pleasures go, the romance series that Elle Kennedy has written were some of my favorites that I’ve read in a long time, so naturally I was excited to read about one of the main character’s sister from the previous series in this novel, but alas, I found her quite aggravating. I mean, there’s a lot of sex in these books, which I’m fine with, but man, sometimes there was just a bit too much sex drive even for me. You can check out my full review here.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – I didn’t except to enjoy this as much as I did, but I did enjoy it! Although some of it was kind of boring and dragged on, the romance was adorable and the finding out about ones was great. You can check out my full review here.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Since having a seasonal bookstore job, I’ve recommended a few books, including things like the Grisha trilogy, The Starless Sea, the Mortal Instruments series, etc. And they’ve gotten them, so yeah!

 5. Best series you started in 2019? Best Sequel of 2019? Best Series Ender of 2019?

Best series started: Fushigi Yuugi by Yuu Watase – this is a reread for me as I’ve read this entire series multiple times when I was a teen, and it’s just been super nostalgic for me.

Best sequel: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan – as this is my first time reading the Percy Jackson series, I’ve been highly enjoying the story and books, and this sequel was super fun and exciting with the stakes being higher. You can check out my full review here.

Best series ender: I haven’t read one yet this year, so… lol

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2019?

Probably Patrick Ness. I loved A Monster Calls so much, so I’d love to give his other books a try, too!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day – I read her first book earlier this year, and I’m still reading this one because it’s an activity book, but it’s so fun to just write and create with abandon. It’s something I need because I’m too focused on making things perfect that I need to be able to let go and be more loose with creativity.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson was definitely unputdownable, epic, action-packed, and thrilling. As an epic high fantasy there was just so much put into the world and the characters that I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was a really great book, for sure. If you want to check out my full review, click here!

 9. Book You Read In 2019 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Risk by Elle Kennedy – This next installment in the Briar U arc was so much more enjoyable for me, and it had a lot more in depth real moments that I was much more drawn to than The Chase. If anything, I’d reread this one for the angst, steamy bits, and that great hate-to-love dynamic I love haha! You can check out my full review here.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?

I have three favorites, don’t judge me lol

11. Most memorable character of 2019?

The cast of characters from Fushigi Yuugi just because I know them so well and love them so much lol

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – I love Laini Taylor’s writing so much, and this book is so lyrical and magical in its execution. I seriously love how beautifully it’s written.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2019?

Forever and always talking about A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness because this book means so much to me. A book about grief and how it can manifest into the world – not just internally, but externally, too.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read? 

The Percy Jackson series… Just like the Harry Potter series, I seriously missed out on some awesome books during my childhood lol I’m trying to make up for it in my adult years.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2019?

And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

Shortest book: Fushigi Yuugi volume 4: Bandit – 189 pages

Longest book: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 45 hours 37 minutes of audiobook (physical book is actually 1007 pages long, including appendix stuff)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Have I mentioned The Way of Kings, because my mouth dropped open so many times throughout listening to the audiobook that it was crazy. I also laughed out loud, cheered, grew angry, etc, with the audiobook. It was a really great experience.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Hades and Persephone foreverrrrrrrrrrr~ Lore Olympus is an amazing webcomic series and I want everyone to go read it. Go. Now. Do it.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

I loved the dynamic between the characters in The Way of Kings. Everyone was connected in some way through different people, so even if they didn’t meet in this volume, there was still a larger overarching connectedness between everyone that I loved seeing. The web grows bigger, my friends.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2019 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

As I’ve stated before, I loved her first series of the students at Briar University, and this book in the Briar U arc was super good.

21. Best Book You Read In 2019 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

This was the literal most hyped book I read this year, and it was really good, so thank you everyone across all social media platforms lol

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?

I quite liked Rook from An Enchantment of Ravens, not gonna lie. An immortal faerie lord who wants to learn more about humans and not just look at them like they’re objects for his own gain? Yes, please.

23. Best 2019 debut you read?

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

My dudes, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson was so immersive in its design from top to bottom. The way Sanderson writes his settings and worlds is second to none, I swear. From towering spires to rocky cliffs to war camps, small townships, and high storms. Oh man, it’s such an amazingly vivid world.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Lore Olympus, Castle Swimmer, The Four of Them, Plain Boy and Prince, to name a few, are all webcomics and all freaking good and adorable.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2019?

A Monster Calls actually made me cry at the end, so, yeah.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is one I haven’t finished yet, but it’s one that sucked me in pretty quickly and held onto me until I hit a reading slump earlier this year. It’s a book set in England with an American witch, a British vampire, forbidden romance, dark secrets, and mystery. It’s really good! I’d seen it pop up a lot whenever I was browsing books on Amazon, so I decided to give it a go and am glad I did.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I mean, none of the books or comics I’ve read have crushed my soul, so… I don’t really have an answer.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2019?

I read this autobiography by Felicia Day, and since I generally don’t read biographies of any kind, this was definitely the most unique in that aspect. But also, her book Embrace Your Weird is unique because it’s a book that makes you draw in it, create around it, rip out pages, cut things out, etc. I really like her as a writer!

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

*insert the bad shit that happened in Lore Olympus that has the entire fandom pissed off with good reason* 😀

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2019?

I’ve actually really pulled away from the book world in the last year, but I do have a couple of new favorite booktubers that I enjoy watching:

Rachael Marie’s Book Journey

PeaceLoveBooksxo

Codie’s Book Corner

2. Favorite post you wrote in 2019?

Do I Have That Book? | Challenge

This was a really fun post to make because I got my husband involved to help me find all of these books, and luckily we found one for each question (even if it did take a while lol).

3. Favorite bookish related photo(s) you took in 2019?

4. Best bookish event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events,  etc.)?

The Leigh Bardugo signing at Brookline Booksmith in Boston was so fun and Leigh herself was such a delight! You can read about my whole experience here!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2019?

Participating in challenges and tags again was really fun. I know I haven’t blogged much the last few years, but I still try to post when I can and when I have enough energy to do so. So I really enjoyed the Do I Have This Book? challenge and also attempting (and failing) to participate in readathons like the Medievalathon and the Book Junkie Trials.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I’ve been emotionally and mentally drained for years now due to my mom’s dementia diagnosis a few years back, plus work stress, moving states, etc. So reading and blogging have been put so far back on the back burner that I oftentimes don’t think about it anymore. I still keep up with comics, though, because I’ve learned to rely upon visual stimulation to bring about happiness into my life. It’s been a rough time, friends, but I’m slowly starting to piece myself back together and get back into the hobby of reading for fun again.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 had the most views, as far as I could tell by my stats. I might also be looking at the wrong figure lol

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

2020 Reading Goals & Challenges – this is my way of dedicating myself to reading, albeit a slow one, plus I just like hearing about and seeing other peoples’ goals (even if they don’t stick to them lol).

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

The bookstore I work at currently is an independent book store, which is cool, and the staff is very friendly and stuff. I don’t plan on staying there past the season, but the store itself is also cute. Plus, you know, supporting a small business is awesome.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I’ve completed one goal from last year, which was to have half or more of the books I read already exist on my shelf, which, thanks to my manga, I completed that goal! …that’s it. Didn’t reach any other reading or personal goals this year. Oh well.

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2019 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2020?

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I will finish it, goddamn it.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2020 (non-debut)?

Even though I’ll only be on the second book in this massive series, I’m excited for the fourth volume of the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson! One day I’ll get to read it. One day…

3. 2020 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I haven’t been keeping up to date with releases and stuff, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2020?

Other than the one I mentioned above, again, I haven’t been keeping super up to date with things, so… I don’t really have one.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2020?

Actually post more consistently again than once every few months would be cool.

6. A 2020 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):

Haven’t read any yet, but I have a few arcs from work of books coming out in December and January.

An Enchantment of Ravens | Book Review

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Kindle eBook

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This standalone fantasy novel was one that instantly took me into its pages, with its faerie premise, forbidden romance, and dangers in unexpected places, this book was a fast, fun read.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this because I actually didn’t know what it was about. I had read the synopsis a long time ago and had forgotten it, and so going into it completely blind was a fun experience for me. I found that the faerie aspect – the fair folk aspect – was done very well in the sense that Rogerson really captured the essence of the fae and their ethereal beauty and lack of human emotion or compassion, while also showing that each had a flaw somewhere in their glamour. It really tied in with what I hope for in faerie stories: showcasing the fae in such a way that they are “other” or “apart” from humans. It felt believable and real for the world it was written for.

The romance was a “slow burn” in the sense that the time that elapsed in the story was over months of time. Though the plot and story of the book itself was fast, the romance didn’t feel rushed or didn’t feel like it was instant. There was mutual attraction from the beginning, or something of the like, and it felt organic in the way that it grew.

I felt as though the plot was very centered around the romance, but it was also centered around the ego and how passion can turn something beautiful and dangerous. I did, however, find myself slightly upset when the plot didn’t go the way I was hoping – which isn’t a bad thing! I had hoped to see one part of the world it was set it, but we got a different part of the world, which was interesting to see how some of the fair folk lived and acted. But I also felt that some threads of the plot were off or thrown by the change and didn’t necessarily make sense or were very convenient. But again, there’s nothing wrong with this because it worked for the story.

I found myself enjoying Isobel’s character, while also finding her a bit too… mature for her age? I’m not sure if that’s the right word I’m looking for, but I was kind of hoping she would be in her twenties and be a prodigy painter and falling in love, but reading about a seventeen year old prodigy falling in love was still sweet. I’ve seen some amazing works teens can produce, so it’s not out of the realm of reality by any means. She was smart, careful, caring, and felt real.

Rook, as well, felt real and I enjoyed seeing how Rogerson portrayed him as having some sort of human emotion in him locked away. He was definitely powerful as a fae prince, and I really liked the aspect of how faerie magic could work in this world by using blood, and how the amount could affect how strong the effect was. He was a kind of stoic and broody character at times, but there were moments of tenderness, ferocity, and bravery that were great to see.

There were other characters along with the main two that really captured what deals with faeries could be like, and how just being around them could make a person more cautious. Gadfly, a patron of Isobel’s who has strong magic and a desire for art; March and May, Isobel’s sisters who were actually goats before being turned into humans; Lark, an excitable young fair folk who had never met a human before, and others who brought the story more depth.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! There were a few things that I found myself questioning, but I also found myself just enjoying the story for what it was, the rich world that was created, the monsters, the fae, the characters. It was an overall fun read and I recommend it if you’re looking for a standalone fantasy romance.

★★★★☆

The Risk | Book Review

Title: The Risk
Series: Briar U #2
Authors: Elle Kennedy
Publisher: Elle Kennedy Inc.
Publish Date: February 18, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Fiction – Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Kindle eBook

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes… 

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take. 

I’ve gotta say, I definitely enjoyed this book much more than the first stand-alone in the Briar U arc. It was funny, heartfelt, steamy (as always), but also showed more sides to people than just those in the universities, and I think that really played a big role in my overall enjoyment of this book.

Brenna is, probably, my favorite person. She’s tough as nails, she wears red lipstick as her armor, she doesn’t give two shits if someone doesn’t like her, she’s sassy, intelligent. She’s a woman after my own heart. I also very much admire her self-control of her temper in certain parts of the book, because I don’t think I’d be a big enough person to be able to hold my tongue to the kinds of comments she received numerous times from some of the men in the novel.

Jake is… well, he’s a steamy man, I’ll give him that, and he’s alpha, which, if you don’t know what that means, it means he’s the kind of person who’s in charge, who takes the lead, doesn’t take “no” for an answer, is very loyal to his team. Well, Jake will take “no” for an answer, so he’s not the kind of stereotypical jerk alpha that I’ve read in stories before. But he definitely exudes a presence in the book. People just notice him, and not just because he’s handsome as heck.

We also got to see smatterings of Summer from the first book, The Chase, as well as Fitz, Hunter, Mike Hollis, and one new character whom I LOVE and am soooo glad she’s getting her own book: Rupi. I fell in love with her almost instantly. She’s very quirky and determined and very much won’t take “no” for an answer.

The plot centered a lot around the hockey tournaments that Jake’s team, Harvard, and Brenna’s dad’s team, Briar, are preparing for and to face each other to go onto nationals, but it also centers a lot around Brenna striving to get her dream internship. I appreciated seeing that side of the field and how, yes, even today there’s a lot of misogyny in the sports broadcasting field. It was believable the way some of the men talked about women, and like I said earlier: I applaud Brenna for holding her tongue, because I really don’t think I would have been able to.

There was also a smaller second element to the plot that played into it about Brenna’s past, and let me tell you: the story behind her past was a shock that I did not see coming and I literally did a double take reading it. Definitely a good plot twist.

The dynamic between Brenna and her father is also one I understand, even if my own dad isn’t quite like hers. I understand how hard it is to want to be close, but not understanding how to get close, or when that closeness faded away. And the ugly shame that comes with feeling you’re a huge disappointment to your parent. It was very much a real moment, and I almost cried as a result of it.

The sex scenes were quite steamy, as expected of these Briar University books, which I’m not complaining about. The scenarios were different almost each time, the romance aspect felt a little rushed, but also the chemistry between the two had already been established, so it was an overall great element to the story.

I only wish there had been a different ending. Not that the ending was bad, I was just hoping we would have seen slightly farther into the future, or that there had been just one more chapter.

But I definitely recommend the book if you’re reading the Briar U arc, and even if you’re not and want a steamy romance, then definitely pick this one up!

★★★★½☆

Red, White, & Royal Blue | Book Review

Title: Red, White, & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: New Adult – Romance, Fiction
Pages: 425
Format: Kindle Books

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

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.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

I’m going to say it: if you haven’t heard about this book by now, have you been living under a rock? Even if you have no interest in reading it, I feel like the name has at least made its rounds through the book community and as such, many people have read this book and highly enjoyed it.

I am also one of those people. Also, this is a long review, my apologies.

Going into it, I didn’t realize that this was, in fact, a new adult LGBT+ romance novel. I knew there was a boys’ love theme, of course, but I didn’t realize just how steamy it was going to be (which I’m fine with steamy). I expected this to be a more YA book, but nope! And I’m actually quite happy with this surprise because I feel like it made it that much more entertaining and relatable to myself as a person in their late twenties.

Alex and his older sister, June, whom he affectionately calls Bug, like a junebug, and I think that’s the sweetest thing ever, are the First Siblings of the United States, and their personalities are so different, but also very similar. They both have party sides, they both are trying to protect their family no matter what, but where Alex is much more high risk and willing to take big chances (a big theme throughout the book), June is much more reserved, but still willing to take chances and prove that she’s enough on her own to do what her heart is set out to do.

I personally enjoyed seeing the sibling dynamic in the book because I don’t often see siblings interacting with each other in books, and this relationship felt organic. They fought sometimes, they got along great, they’d call each other names, they’d do anything for their family, etc. Even though this wasn’t the main plot of the book, I was still very glad to see such a presence of it.

As for Henry, I think I related to him the most. He’d been through a traumatic time with his own family, and part of him had been almost hollowed out because of the experience. His family dynamic, though very different from Alex’s, was also fairly organic, with a distant sibling, one who believes in legacy and doing what needs to be done for the crown; and then another sibling who goes off the rails, but is always there for her family when she’s needed. Henry, himself, is very reserved. Reflecting on it, he’s kind of the opposite of Alex in many ways, which is probably why they work together so much.

Henry cares for his family deeply, cares for many people deeply, but he also knows that he has a huge responsibility on his shoulders, a duty to the crown that can seem overbearing much of the time, and that can wither him and bring him down a lot. He has dark shadows of his past, an absentee mother (even if she’s physically there, she’s not there mentally or emotionally), and he seems to try to deal with a lot on his own. He has a lot of walls that need to be broken down, and I enjoyed seeing those walls slowly come down throughout the novel.

Now, let’s talk about their relationship because, excuse me but it was the cutest thing I’ve read in a while and I needed more, thanks.

I’m also glad this wasn’t a case of insta-love, but rather a build up of feelings over years of time – at least on one of their parts. Even though Alex hates Henry because he doesn’t really know him in the beginning, when he does get to know him, he learns so much about him and begins to realize many things about himself and his past. He’s in denial for a lot of it, which is also reasonable and believable, and I was glad to see that.

As someone in the LGBT+ spectrum, seeing that internal struggle was good because I could relate to it a lot.

I did, however, feel like him coming to terms with it was kind of abrupt? I don’t know, maybe there was a timeline happening that I didn’t pick up on, but I thought he figured himself out kind of quickly and didn’t struggle as much as I was expecting. Is that weird to say?

Anyway, once their relationship got started, it was full of those hot, passionate, romantic sparks that fly when many people enter a new relationship, especially one that’s been building for a long, long time like theirs was. Can you say “sexual tension?” Because goddamn, there was a lot.

It was hot and steamy, and the way their relationship blossomed and grew felt as organic as it could get, given that they’re two very wealthy boys in very high positions and could more or less easily reach one another at the drop of a dime across the world. There was a lot of emotions and feelings and buildup throughout the whole book that I could feel growing to a climax (ha), and when the thing happened that I kind of saw coming once it was getting closer to it, I was like, “You’ll be fine, go chase after him!”

And Alex did. He didn’t give up, and the two of them are stubborn enough to chase after each other even though they’re afraid. I thought it was very poetic and romantic, and my hopeless romantic heart was bleeding happiness.

Also, there were A LOT of great quotes in this book, and though I didn’t highlight all of them, I wanted to share three of my favorites from some of the emails they shared with each other:

page 245
page 300
page 321

So, all in all in the relationship aspect, I highly enjoyed it. They kept it a secret as long as they could, and honestly, I was waiting for everything to go to shit at some point, and it did. But again: names in high places. I AM, however, glad to see a lot of rallying support in their ever growing and ever accepting world, even a fictional parallel universe version of ours.

Let’s briefly talk about the politics aspect, because this is where the half mark comes in my rating.

I… zoned out through a lot of the politics stuff, especially early on in the book. Like… I have no clue what the hell I read regarding the politics, kind of zoning out. It’s just not my thing. I’m not interested in them in real life, so reading about them in a book just wasn’t that exciting to me. Some bits were interesting, but a lot of it was just something I could easily zone out and skip over and come back to things I found more interesting for myself.

I did, however, cheer and smile at the end. If you’ve read it, you know why.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. It was sweet, romantic, funny, organic, raw, political, and wholly a good book. I highly recommend it.

★★★★½☆