Friday, May 14, 2021

Past Due Reviews [8]

 

Have you ever read a book and then forgotten to review it? Yeah? Well, that happens to me all the time! That's how I got the idea for Past Due Reviews. They won't be long posts, they'll likely contain a lot of comics, and my memories of the books themselves probably won't be that great (some of them were read months ago, and I didn't sit down and review them for this or that reason). Hopefully the content is still relevant and helpful! 

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Synopsis (via Goodreads): One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.


I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Sadly, In a Holidaze didn't wow me like other Christina Lauren books I've enjoyed in the past (The Unhoneymooners, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not DatingAutoboyography). I think it was supposed to be a warm and fuzzy romance, but it was very light on both. Romance-lite? Diet Romance? The story and characters were mostly meh (think Roomies and The Honey-Don't List). I believe this book would have benefitted from a duel POV, but we only get Mae's perspective. When she finally admits her feelings for Andrew, he just seems to go with it. There wasn't any tension or buildup to their relationship. It was kind of like she said, "Hey, I really like you," and he said, "Cool." ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ’ค

Uncle Benny was easily my favorite character and I wish he'd been given more page time. (Obviously, we need a Benny spinoff now.) I liked his hippy vibe. The weird love-triangle-that-wasn't-really-a-love-triangle was unnecessary and really should've been left out. Mae ends up admitting to something that didn't actually happen in her current timeline (don't you just love time loops?), which starts a conflict with Andrew that didn't need to happen. It was also a really weird thing for them to "fight" about, to be honest. It happened, but it also didn't happen. I think this is why I dislike books that mess with time without fully explaining how everything works. You can't just scream at the cosmos every few pages looking for answers. WE need the information, too.  After a while, everything just started to feel repetitive (her days AND her relationship with Andrew). What exactly was Mae supposed to be doing? Finding her happiness? It was very vague, and some of her resets didn't really make sense. Why couldn't she be happy in any of the other versions of her life?

We're also told from the start (by Mae) how much she loves Andrew. She has always loved Andrew, but I never actually saw their connection. I wish we'd seen more affection (and not the brotherly kind) between the two of them instead of simply being told over and over again that it was there. They only saw each other once or twice a year, so when did she have time to fall deeply and madly in love with him? Why was his affection immediately returned without anything really leading up to it? It was a little corny and a lot unbelievable. I also hated that she avoided Andrew's brother (can't even remember his name) instead of smoothing out the weirdness that only she was aware of. He felt avoided and didn't know why, and then she dismissed his feelings without a second thought (remember the love-triangle-that-wasn't-really-a-love-triangle?). 

Additionally, there were a lot of secondary - very flat, one-dimensional - characters, which made it hard to keep up with who was who at the start (so many family members and their many children). Overall, In a Holidaze was a quick read that wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't memorable. (★★★☆☆)


Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Narrated by Ramon de Ocampo

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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 REALLY loved this book! Red, White & Royal Blue was one of my favorite reads last year, and I cannot wait to read the author's next book, One Last Stop. Alex and Henry were amazing characters, and I enjoyed their family dynamics (though they did have completely different experiences and lifestyles). Seeing a female President was the icing on the cake - bonus points for Alex being of mixed heritage and from Texas - and the fully fleshed out secondary characters were the sprinkles lovingly tossed on top. They really came alive in my mind, and most of them were people I wanted to be friends with. Casey McQuiston has written a brilliant, thoughtful story about impossible love and what it means for different people.

If you're looking for your next enemies-to-lovers romance, look no further. Alex and Henry hated each other, despite not always knowing why (so many laugh-out-loud moments). Their animosity at an event landed them in hot (international) water, which resulted in them being forced to play nice and go on outings together. They started off pretending to be friends (old chums from way back), but it quickly turned into something more. Their late night (or early morning depending on the perspective) phone calls melted my heart and made me love them both so much. They really opened up to one another, and I enjoyed seeing them grow together and on their own. There were some obvious roadblocks, but I thought they were handled well and thoughtfully resolved (even if the outcome wasn't always what they wanted). 

Everything about this book felt authentic and was so believable I wanted it to be real. I wanted these characters to exist so their story wouldn't end. Sadly, their story did come to end, but I was happy with where the author concluded things. Alex and Henry were left feeling hopeful about their respective futures, and McQuiston made me feel hopeful for ours. She showed us an America that chose to do better. Be better. Red, White & Royal Blue was such a refreshing read. It's definitely one to look for, if it's not already on your list! (★★★★★)

8 comments:

  1. I liked RW&RB but I felt like the author's need to be political overshadowed the romance at times. I mean, the whole ending failed to tap into the romance at all. I loved Holidaze though. I felt so festive when I read it last year, and I wanted to be invited to that holiday vacation

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    1. I really liked the political aspects of the book! Both Henry and Alex were being defined (at least partially) by their families and responsibilities, so it played a role in their relationship and romance. I thought the ending was sweet, but do wish we'd ended with more of a focus on the two of them. :)

      I'm happy In a Holidaze was a hit for you! I just didn't think their romance was all that believable, and I didn't feel invested in their relationship. Especially when Mae kept getting to start over and Andrew had no idea what had happened previously. The conflict with Theo (I looked up his name, haha) was also a little farfetched. It happened, but it also didn't happen? Her family also took her time-traveling WAY better than I thought they would.

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  2. I haven't read either of those but I saw them making their way around the blogs.

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    1. Both very popular reads last year! I'm just finally getting around to reviewing them, haha. ;)

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  3. Red White and Royal Blue was a favorite of mine last year so I'm happy to see you enjoyed it too. I liked In a Holidaze better than you did but really like your idea of the dual POV. I agree that it would have been an even better read.

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    1. I'm about to start One Last Stop, so I'm hoping it's just as good as Red, White & Royal Blue! Right? I think knowing what was going through Andrew's head would have been beneficial to the overall story. Did his thoughts change each time she reset their timeline, or were they pretty consistent? Has he always like her and just thought she liked his brother? His acceptance of her feelings seemed believable, but then everything escalated. When did he have time to develop those feelings, if he's always thought she liked his brother?

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  4. I got In A Holidaze in my BOTM last year and I don't really know why I picked it? It doesn't sound super interesting to me and your review backs that up lol

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    1. Awww, bummer. I can't commit to things like BOTM, because I like to read books (ARCs or library copies) before I buy them. I want to know I'll like it before spending money on it. There are very few authors I auto-buy from.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless